Thursday, March 26, 2009

Our Monster Mash: Duke's “Just Win Baby” Attitude (Part 3)

Editor's Note: We're back again, with all most of the teams we've talked about (Missouri, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Gonzaga, Morgan State) still holding serve in the NCAA Tournament. (Yeah, our guest writers are kinda good at what they do.) However, the team that some of us thought would bite the dust is still hanging around, trying to ruin our fun. Yes, the Duke Blue Devils are still in position to make some noise. Unfortunately.

Since I can't talk about the Blue Devils without being disappointed in Candace Parker's husband selection (ugh, why marry a Dukie?), and wishing for Coach K to retire already, I've invited fellow Howardite DeMario Greene to talk about the "team everyone loves to hate." J.J. Redick is thrilled. Make sure to check out DeMario's commentary on politics and social issues over at his blog, A Requiem For Truth. Hey DeMario, you're on the mic, partner...

It's a bird…It's a plane…No, it's those damn Dukies again…lol…If there was ever a team to embrace the concept of "just win baby", it's Duke. This year has been an interesting one for the Dukies who came into this season somewhat certain of who they were and how they had to win and having to prove that each and every single night. The outside shooting, the ability to push the tempo, and the fluidity of the offense are the things that make Duke a potent threat. But we are all left to ask, "Got anything else?" While true Big Men appear to be on hiatus throughout the sport, it appears as though the post has been officially abandoned in Cameron.

They have to be one of the most unbalanced "big name" teams. However, Duke has a knack for winning. Just based on experience and craftiness alone, I have them headed to the Elite 8. I know it's wrong to look past the other teams on the schedule; but, Binghamton, Texas and Villanova don't have the kind of defense to stop a turned-on Duke team. I look forward to seeing Duke use its buzzsaw of a backcourt and marksman sharp shooting to clear that cluttered forest known as Pitt. If they can beat their almost complete antithesis, the championship is theirs.
Gerald Henderson is the kind of player who simply makes things happen with no excuses and that, in and of itself, is refreshing. He's everything you want- intense, intelligent, and athletic. Duke will only go as far as he takes them and from here, it doesn't look like his shoulders are anything close to tired. And Scheyer, while definitely no Gerald Henderson, is a Magician, and as consistent a scoring threat as there is in the NCAA. Duke is loaded with athleticism this year which makes it easier to carry the dead weight of some of the stiffies (ahem Paulus).
Coach K, love him or hate him, is the coach of the past 30 years in college basketball. He gets his guys ready. He's done a good job of managing his tendency toward rigidity and allowing for natural explosiveness of some of his players this year. His decision to bring Freshman Elliot Williams in has paid huge dividends this season because it allowed him to move Scheyer to the point. Duke is a team without pressure this year, able to truly define itself, which is what makes Duke so dangerous. A light heart lets wings soar. Soon we may be saying, "It's a bird…It's a plane…No, it's the national champs!" Suck on that Duke haters…!!! lol.
LOL, indeed. We'll see who's laughing last once Duke loses tonight.
Thanks for the post, DeMario.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Monster Mash - The Madness Continues (Part 2)

Editor's Note: Because both of these teams decided to hang around for another round of the NCAA Tourney, let's run with J-Till's second contribution to the Monster Mash before this post becomes irrelevant. I was trying to wait up for the other contributions (you know who you are), but I can't chance either one of these teams going down in the meantime. Remember to check our Tillman's stylings at Fundamentally UnSound. It's all yours, Tillman-san...

Oh YEAH. Sorry to interrupt, but my Final Four picks are as such: Louisville, Memphis, Xavier, and Gonzaga. If you have a problem with that, COME SEE ME IN THE COMMENTS! Also, did anyone from Morgan State even bother to read my post about them from Monday? Geez. Todd Bozeman's guy almost killed a guy.

That's the last time the MEAC gets a #15 seed for a WHILE. At least it got the MEAC some negative press without Joseph Okoh's name in the byline. Yikes.

(I'm going to stop rambling now. Promise. J-Till, back to you...)


When I first started watching basketball with an analytical mind, it was around the time that Lute Olsen had the University of Arizona atop the college basketball mountain. I was particularly influenced by Jason Terry, because he is the influence behind me wearing the high socks and he has the same first and last initials…just like me. Today, he's still one of my favorite players to watch. I only give you that brief moment of nostalgia because looking back on me at that time; I understand now why I enjoyed watching them. To me, if there's one flaw in the spirit of college hoops is that it's so focused on making the coaches the stars. Instead of giving praise to the individual and the true ideal that players make coaches (see: Gillespie, Billy), they favor the false understanding that coaching is paramount. Arizona is one of the few schools that actually lets players be themselves and adjusts accordingly; instead of putting them in a box for the "greater good." It's the reason why they've churned out so many NBA and overseas players over the past decade or so; while other programs have enjoyed similar or greater success, yet have their best players be scrubs in the Association. Let me stop and take a rest break before this becomes a full-on rant about Coach K. Enjoy a random picture while I go calm down…

Okay, where was I? Oh, right. This year's U of A Wildcats. Sure, they underachieved for a good part of the season and down the stretch. And yeah, teams like Saint Mary's and Penn State have legit arguments about why they should be in over them. But if you look at it closely, you'll see that Arizona's better than both of those teams and have one of the ten most talented teams in the country. Chase Budinger has been a lottery pick at forward since he was a freshman, and big man Jordan Hill will go very high in next year's draft. Guard Nic Wise has filled in nicely at the point for a team that lost lottery pick Jerryd Bayless; and that #1 high school recruit Brandon Jennings jettisoned for the quick paycheck in Italy. The 'Cats underachieved so much that they squeaked in the tournament as a #12 seed, and have a first-round matchup against Utah (I see what you did there, NCAA Selection Committee). I look for Arizona to make a little ruckus and further destroy brackets around the globe.

On a lesser, still not-so-heralded plane, Mark Few has built a very sturdy program at Gonzaga. He has taken Lute Olsen's methodologies and tweaked them to get the higher-caliber West Cost players that the big schools (and certain coaches) pass upon. For example, I bet plenty of teams would love to have Stephen Gray and Austin Daye, 6'5" and 6'10" athletic scoring machines, respectively. They're like shorter and taller versions of Adam Morrison, only with more ability and less horrendous moustache. But the beauty of the 'Zags is that they don't have one guy with the ability to take over a game: they have five. Moving guard Matt Bouldin to the point has steadied the previously erratic Bulldogs' offense, and it allows Jeremy Pargo do the things that show that he's vastly better than his brother. Center Josh Heytvelt has his head on straight now, and with the addition of Kansas transfer and former HS All-American Micah Downs, and that's a starting five with tremendous size and length at their respective positions, coupled with outstanding shooting and scoring ability. Mark Few plays the uptempo style that gives his players the free reign to be themselves, and look to outscore their opponents at a frenetic pace.

Gonzaga, like Pitt, has been one of those teams that build bandwagon and true fans up to break them down with early tournament exits. If there's one hindrance to them is that they're not a physical as some of the elite teams and wouldn't stand up to 40 minutes of high-level defensive pressure. Plus, with all that talent they have, they were placed in the region with the team with the most talent, the team with the best player in the nation, and the team with all the momentum as higher seeds. A possible Sweet 16 duel with UNC is over the weekend's horizon, and that will probably be one the tourney's most entertaining games. This is where I see Gonzaga bowing out, but it won't be do to anything they could've avoided. It'll just be because North Carolina is better than them—their kindred spirit on the East Coast. The Tar Heels are like a sensei that has mastered the art of the uptempo game and teaching his pupil the Way of the Samurai, and the 'Zags haven't quite harnessed their full potential.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Monster Mash! - A Method to Our March Madness (Part 1)

Way to go, Howard University. You scheduled our Spring Break during the Tourney...AGAIN.

Yeah, I know some of you are sunbathing on Mexico's beaches, or ghost-riding your yellow buses to Alternative Spring Break, or even working on a cool project with your Engineers Without Borders team. choosing to schedule our Spring Break alongside the beginning of the NCAA Tournament, our Board of Trustees effectively rubbed out the only remaining remnant of passionate college basketball fans on our campus. Howard University, you are who we thought you were. Nice going. (Generating sports buzz on this campus is about as hopeless as a 2-3 zone once the other team starts draining trays. Maybe I should have chosen to go to Notre Dame after all....NOT.)

Since this is my last year as a undergraduate college student, I refuse to sit idle during March Madness. In a last ditch effort to inject some excitement into the 2009 NCAA Tournament, I've banded together a gaggle of writers from the World Wide Web, from print, and even from New York City (who has no area teams in the Tourney, mind you) to tell us, in as many or as little words as they need, why You Should Care About This Year's Tournament. This is not meant to be completely factual, or dispassionate, or even logical: We simply asked them to riff on some of the most intriguing scenarios present in this year's NCAA tournament, or whatever. Heck, this might shape up to be some fun.

Since I've already rambled about #15 Morgan State and the MEAC, I'll politely move out of the way for now. (Don't worry, I'll get into The Fray sooner than later...)

Because here at Points Off Turnovers we strive to be consummate gentlemen, let's start this party off with our friend Krystal Johnson, fellow English major at HU and huge college basketball fan. (Gentlemen, I'll start the bidding war for her phone number later....)

Her impassioned words about the Missouri Tigers (West #3) begin after the jump...

The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball

To understand Missouri's recent climb from oblivion to the NCAA tournament, you have to study head coach Mike Anderson's basketball ancestry. If you remember, Anderson was discovered by Nolan Richardson while playing JUCO ball in Birmingham. Richardson was so impressed by the opposing player that he offered him a scholarship to the University of Tulsa, where Richardson had been given his first head coaching job. And coach Nolan Richardson could COACH, having been mentored in the art by legendary Texas Western coach Don Haskins. After graduating from Tulsa, Anderson remained under Richardson's tutelage, serving as his assistant for twenty years− three at Tulsa, then seventeen at the University of Arkansas. During those championship-caliber seasons, Anderson became fluent in Richardson's patented 40 Minutes of Hell" approach to defense and transition. He retooled and renamed Richardson's style, and implemented the "Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball" first at UAB and now at Missouri, where the Tigers are making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2003.

Anderson's focus on defense and transition has served the Big XII tournament champions well, with the Tigers entering the Dance second in the nation in both steals per game and turnover margin. The squad boasts the Big XII co-defensive player of the year in J.T. Tiller, a guard who has locked down some of the most potent scorers in the conference this season. Mizzou's relentless defensive efforts are made possible by the team's depth. Their rotation, which regularly includes as many as eleven players, runs teams with more tightly-run benches to exhaustion. The Tigers' offensive game, while prone to inconsistency, leads the Big XII in scoring− a statistic bolstered by the inside play of forward DeMarre Carroll and the outside shooting of guard Matt Lawrence.

Missouri finds itself seeded third in the West region, outranked only by Connecticut and 2-seed Memphis− a team many analysts believed would draw a top seed. While Mike Anderson has his own history of upsetting heavy favorites (see UAB's 2004 tourney win over 1-overall seeded Kentucky), his Missouri team will have to add some inspired offensive play to their relentless defense if Anderson is to join the ranks of his mentors.- KJ

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------Krystal, way to step up and show us dudes how to bring the heat. To tell you the truth, Missouri's sounding pretty good right about now...(Running off to change bracket). On a related note, thanks for giving me an excuse to twist the knife in the collective backs of Duke fans. (How did it FEEL to lose that championship, Coach K?)

Next up, we've got fellow New Yawker, fellow short film actor, and fellow WeThirst! partner-in-Christ Michael James. Since UConn's the closest team to New York City in this year's tournament (Syracuse is FIVE hours north), he's decided to give us his musings on their chances. (Connecticut residents, just be glad that we decided to embrace you as our own for a change.) His words are after the random picture...

UConn: Navigating Their Way to the Motor City

UConn's road to Detroit will not be an easy one without Jerome Dyson.

The Huskies had the rare combination of clean defense and dirty offense this year; they had the fewest fouls committed, and most fouls taken. They have been able to strip, block, and board the ball with nothing but the ball and air molecules making contact with the hands. They have also been able to score in the paint with sweaty armpits, elbows, and palms to the face. In other words, the zebras and the huskies can share the same habitat just fine. However, the fall of one member of the wolf pack may cause a little bit of unrest between the two species, but it may not be too severe.

Dyson lead UConn in steals per game with 1.8 for the season. Ever since he got injured against Syracuse last February, he has been found difficult to replace. Three of their four losses came in the final six games of the season, which were all the games that followed Dyson's fall. Their last game was also a loss to the neighborhood friendly Syracuse by a score of 127-117. Statistical analysis is not needed to see the big difference of gameplay, as UConn surrendered over 100 points for the only time this season, and were forced to play Mike D'Antoni style, with a season high 117 points scored to no avail.
While Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien continue to command on defense, there will have to be an upset for UConn to not make it to the sweet 16. But come that time, UConn will be a top seeded team with a lot of vulnerability. To make up for Dyson's absence on steals and points/assists to turnover ratio, UConn will need a lot out of Kemba Walker to pick up the slack. A key player to watch will be Stanley Robinson, who will see more minutes in the tourney if he can step up on defense. A.J. Price has had a lot of defensive work done for him all season; without Dyson we will all see whether or not he is just a bad defender or was lazy this whole time.

While it is not healthy thinking for teams to get ahead of themselves, Missouri and Memphis players are probably gunning for UConn. They won't admit it unless either of them meet and beat the Huskies. My projection for UConn will be that they'll fall in the elite eight.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------To the REAL King James (lol), nice work as always. Yeah, I've definitely got Memphis coming out of the West region. (Sorry Missouri!)

Okay folks, let's now extend a round of applause for the infragable Johnathan Tillman, engineer of our first Guest Post here at Points Off Turnovers. Like I said prior to our last collaboration, J-Till's "currently finishing up at the University of Maryland and serves as the creative force behind the blog Fundamentally UnSound. However, Johnathan started his collegiate career in the city of Pittsburgh, and has agreed to share his insight in relation to the Pittsburgh Panthers. And now that's he's a regular, don't be afraid to let him have it in the comments. Take it away, Tillman-san...PITT: Walking Around the Borders of Success

There are teams that are consistently great. The Patriots (who New Englanders didn't know existed until 2001), the Lakers, and Duke Basketball fall into this category. Conversely, there are teams that are consistently terrible. The Clippers, the Lions, and any team with Stephon Marbury fall into this section (sorry, Mike). Then, there are those teams that hover around the periphery of greatness, getting their respective fanbase's hopes up only to crush celebratory dreams—usually with something completely ridiculous and avoidable. If you need help with some examples, I present the Buffalo Bills, the Dallas Mavericks, and the New York Jets (sorry again, Mike). Another one of these types of teams is a little closer to my heart; and that is the University of Pittsburgh Men's Basketball team.

Pitt, under Ben Howland's protégé, Jamie Dixon, has been a staple at or near the top of the Big East for about a decade. But I'd like to focus on the last four years, which is the time I became a fan at the school. Pitt's tournament exits, in order, are at the hands of Patrick O'Bryant and Bradley, Howland's UCLA team (excusable), and Drew Neitzel and Michigan State Spartans. The reason why the two bookend losses are inexcusable is because the Panthers were the better team in each game, yet lost because one player decided to be indefensible to a team that prides itself on defense. It also bears mention that Pitt, because of its lofty regular season success, has a rather large bandwagon proclaiming that, "This is the year!" only to be disappointed and solemnly saying, "Same ol' Pittsburgh."

But this year feels…different. The reason why I feel Pitt failed in previous years is because they didn't have that one guy that could put his team on his back for 17 minutes. I mean he doesn't have to be Mike Singletary (this one, not this one), but he has to be able to take over when duty calls. This year, like a terrible Spades hand, Pitt has two-and-a-possible game-changers; and in the Tournament, that's enough to win six games in a row. Point guard LeVance Fields is your prototypical college floor general: high assist-to-turnover ration, leadership intangibles, and the ability to make pressure shots when he fails to lead in offensive execution for his team. Sam Young, known as "The Grizzle" around the campus (inside joke) is quietly one of the best small forwards in the nation, even though he looks like Greg Oden's younger brother. He has taken a fundamental move—the pump fake—and made it an unstoppable weapon; so much so that Rick Pitino has to spend time coaching up his players on the move. Then, there's DeJuan Blair, the bullish big man and best offensive rebounder in the country. His progression this season is what Pitt has been searching for since the days of "Crafty" Carl Krauser. He gives the Panthers an added dimension–the superstar effect—that could get them over that Sweet 16 hump. If you don't know, ask Hasheem Thabeet. Throw in role players like Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown, and Pitt just may have what it takes to get to Detroit. As a fan, I've decided to reserve my Pitt boasting until they get past the Sweet 16. With a second round game against Tennessee looming, it's not a mortal lock…even though it should be. Pitt is the best team in their region by far, and has the best player in that region as well. However, with more bandwagon members than ever, either this is the year it comes together, or there'll be a massive collection of people letdown…again.


Folks, make sure to check out Part 2 a little later. Let us know how we did in the comments. And if you haven't done it yet...make sure to fill out your bracket!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rescuing Black College Basketball

"MY-KEY! Stop it! What are you DOING? Come ON! Change the channel! This is torture!"

My brother was pleading with me to change the channel, but I refused. The primary goal of college basketball is to enterta--, I mean, provide young amateurs with the opportunity to receive a higher education (ahem), and the MEAC championship was doing just that. No, not with the education part, but with that “Arrrrrgh, this is SO awful, but I just…can’t…turn AWAY!” entertainment value. Now I know why some people enjoyed watching VH1’s Flavor of Love.

“I’d rather watch the pregame show for the Syracuse/Louisville game than this!”

Yea, my brother was right. I know AAU teams that would scrap the floor with the two squads vying for this MEAC “championship”. Heck, I can probably grab five guys from the Rucker to baptize these cats. But I HAD to watch. I was ready to lavish praise on Morgan State, a team that had beaten Maryland (ACC) and DePaul (Big East) this year, and a team that I thought might make ripples in the NCAA Tournament this year. Someone had to document this atrocity, and it was going to have to be me.

A few minutes in, my bro and I agreed to a truce: We would watch the game until the next TV timeout or the beginning of the Syracuse game, whichever came first. I agreed because, well…the game was so bad. I’ve never seen such terrible execution of dribble drives, interior passes, and jump shots in my life. The real-life equivalent would be like going to a Dane Cook movie on opening night knowing full well that he was going to disappoint greatly, watching the movie in its entirety, and STILL being surprised at the amazing terrible film quality. (For the record, WHAT DO PEOPLE SEE IN DANE COOK? HE'S NOT FUNNY!)

Honestly, with all the bricks, you’d think that Habitat for Humanity was one of the sponsors of the tournament.

We began watching the game at around the 14:00 mark of the second half. Charlie Neal, ESPN’s black college play-by-play, mentioned that Morgan State was on a 10-0 run. But it was really more like a walk. Morgan State built their lead by living on the free throw line throughout the entire second half. At one point, Chris and I thought that Morgan’s strategy was to sit back. I don’t think that the clock moved more than ten seconds on any given possession. (By the way, how many black play-by-play announcers does ESPN have in their bullpen? I can only name three: Mark Jones, Mike Tirico, the babe-loving broadcaster, and Charlie Neal. For a company that swears by their minority hiring policy…that’s pretty shoddy. But I digress…)

My favorite moment of that stretch was when the ESPN cameras cut to Morgan’s coach Todd Bozeman, who had one of those “Not only am I the best coach in the MEAC, I’m the best coach by a WIDE MARGIN!!!” grins on his face. Classic.

I’ll admit the salient truth once and for all, even if it gets me stoned at my doorstep once I get back to college after Spring Break. The MEAC is UNWATCHABLE. Period. Whenever a school (Morgan State) can add one relatively marginal component to their team (a coach) and instantaneously eclipse the rest of the conference, you KNOW that things aren’t looking the greatest. The conference is almost as bad as the "Just for Men" advertising campaign. Almost.

Heck, most players in the conference don’t even pretend to work on improving their games in their free time. For example, on Howard’s team…we’ve got one guy (who will remain nameless) that can’t catch a pass if his life depended on it. Without fail, he’ll get an opportunity once a game to spin and get an easy dunk…but the basketball will always hit him square in the palms and then shamefully roll to the cheerleaders’ standing section. I mean, this unnamed player has athletic ability. Everybody who sees the guy in uniform can tell that said player’s got the potential to regulate the post area on both sides of the floor. But he can’t catch. You’d think that this guy would get hit in the face so many times that he’d be embarrassed enough to work on his hands over the summer. Nope.

In addition, the fans are a joke. I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain” before. Well, black college basketball students, if you never enter the gym during home games to support your squad, I don’t want to hear your mouth. I hate it when people say to me, “Hey, I’ll be there once we start winning games.” You don’t get it, do you? Players need fan support in order to push them to play their best basketball. That’s one of the secrets to improving your basketball team. Basketball players don’t have much motivation to work from on the college level. Players don’t get paid, but they have to commit to their craft in order to keep their rather paltry scholarships. Players live for the electric atmosphere. When HU basketball games are filled to capacity at Burr Gymnasium, you can feel the buzz. Players thrive off of that additional viewership. When the fans attend their team’s home games, a nonverbal contract is made with the players: either play your best basketball, or get clowned on campus. No questions asked.

Why do I spend so much time knocking the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference? Well, I absolutely LOVE basketball. I’m sick of seeing these other mid-major conferences get automatic bids to the Big Dance while our black college teams annually end up in the Tuesday play-in game. I can see the potential for greatness that exists in our conference. I’ve seen a disciplined Morgan State take it to the best teams in the nation without recompense. Heck, I’ve seen the Real HU prove the doubters wrong and beat a Pac-10 squad (Oregon State) on their home floor in front of a raucous crowd.

Sure, I might be making jokes and snide remarks…but I kid because I love. I don’t want MEAC basketball to go the way of MEAC football, a sport victimized by crappy Terrance Howard-led halftime shows and the BCS system, in that order. Heck, I know that most of my readers tapped out once they saw the words “MEAC” and “basketball” at the beginning of this article, but I didn’t care. I’ve got to do my part in order to inspire positive change for the sport.

But first things first. Morgan State, we need you to make some noise in the Big Dance. Let’s just pretend that yesterday’s MEAC championship debacle was just a big elaborate ruse set up to confuse the basketball world. I know you have the ability to play an impressive game. Show some pride. Go play a strong game against Blake Griffin and the Oklahoma Sooners. It’s time to show the basketball world that the MEAC conference means business.

Or not. Hey, Blake Griffin is a beast. No one would blame the Bears if they decided to keel over and get smacked. Which is precisely why Morgan State needs to bring their A game on Thursday.

No pressure.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"Real Recognize Real": J-Till's Search for "The Answer"

Before we get wrapped up in March's Madness, let's stop and indulge in Points Off Turnovers' first Guest Post, courtesy of the great Johnathan Tillman. J-Till's currently finishing up at the University of Maryland and serves as the creative force behind the blog Fundamentally UnSound. (Readers, you've definitely seen J-Till's rhetoric disseminated across various comment sections, and some of you have even dialogued with Tillman and myself ad nausea. But I digress...) J-Till's been writing his yin/yang series parallel to my Mo' Better Hoops thesis, and I encourage you to check more of this brother's writing. We've got some big collaborations in store for the Basketball Universe, but as J-Till would say..."Why spoil the surprise?" The man LOVES the game of basketball almost as much as I do (just kidding, perhaps MORE) and is one of those rare Knicks fans that lives outside of the state of New York (Maryland, to be exact). Hey, it's no problem...the more the merrier. (Haters, we'll see you in 2010...)

Today, sit back and enjoy this superpower's musings on the evolution of one Allen Iverson, a man whose swagger and personality continue to amaze even the most delusional "functional" basketball theorist. Even as his mystique begins to fade, one of A.I.'s more simple decisions (aka "THE HAIRCUT HEARD ROUND THE WORLD") continues to reverberate within the basketball underground. How can our hero, the patron saint of professional basketball's Hip-Hop Movement, remain relevant as his mortal body begins to deteriorate? J-Till gives us his "answer" after the random picture...

Searching for the Answer

Allen Iverson is my all-time favorite player. Yes, he’s ahead of His Airness himself. It’s not because I feel he’s a better player, because I don’t. Rather, it’s because he is the only player I’ve seen that has an untraceable style—a style that even perplexed MJ in his first personal view of it. For both supporters and detractors, AI is the assimilation of hip-hop into the Pros, in the way that the Fab Five was the same on the collegiate level. Hip-hop is rebellious in nature, and therefore seen by most of the mainstream as a fad that’s taking a little too long to pass. Because of this, the genre is somewhat seen for all its negatives (I’m looking at you, Stanky Legg song-makers), while the true artistry (probably NSFW) and creativity gets overshadowed but still appreciated by true heads. Allen Iverson is the same way. He is a Hall-of-Famer, but there’s a reluctance to accept him as an all-time great. For a good portion of people, he is the pioneer of what’s wrong with the game—from his isolation-based play to his braids and tattoos. But to the true heads, he is the very definition of Basketball: pure individualism equipped with a katana in each hand in the form of the crossover. With a supreme ability to render bigger defenders obsolete, and a gigantic willpower, AI is pound-for-pound the best scorer of the basketball in history. He carried a franchise for a decade, and helped another for a year and a half. Now, he has found true hardship in the latter stages of his career, and is forced to come to a decision within himself. I’ll explain after the random picture…

In Detroit, the Allen Iverson Project has failed—there’s no denying it. It’s becoming more evident now that he’s out with a back injury, and the Pistons have won five of those six games he’s missed; and Rip is flourishing. Iverson’s spontaneity doesn’t mix with Detroit’s rigidity through motion and screens. In short, The Answer is attempting to be that to a team that already finishes their offensive questions. This is the opening that AI’s naysayers have been looking for. Iverson in Motown exploits the one flaw in his game: it won’t lead to winning.

I apologize if this seems to be going all over the place, but this is the manifestation of the turmoil inside me whenever I examine my favorite player. Yes, he is amazing. Yes, he is a one-of-one talent. But his vision of Basketball won’t allow him to win, which is something he badly wants to do. Tony Kornheiser once said that, “if you close your eyes and listen to Allen Iverson, you hear Michael Jordan.” To me, that means that you sense the same determination that MJ had that led to his teams’ consistent winning. AI has that same drive, but has yet to find the equation that produces true team success. It pains me to see my all-time favorite player to look out of place on the court—for him to now be a journeyman in search of a ring as someone else’s missing piece. For a long time, I had gone to outside sources to find the solution. I’ve now discovered that The Answer is his own Answer.

With any transcendent talent, there must be the correct pieces around him in order for the chemistry to be Championship right. For example, Lebron needs standstill shooters and big rebounders for when he bulldozes to the basket. Magic just needed people to run and catch the end of his wizardry. At the height of his powers, AI still didn’t manage to get those complimentary guys essential to every superstar. Even that Sixers team that went to the Finals wasn’t the exact formula for AI. It just so happened that Iverson, with the aid of some stingy team defense, was able to fully tap into his inner abilities and be other worldly—sort of like what Dwyane Wade is doing now. It was then that I discovered that there is no correct formula for AI. It doesn’t exist.

I’m not suggesting that AI is a bad teammate as a person; but it is tough to coexist with him in Basketball. His vision is twisted by the Napoleon Complex, and fused with an unrelenting want to prove doubters wrong. Think of him as Gilbert Arenas with no conscience as a pure scorer instead of just taking jumpers. The result: one pissed off little man that can drop 50 but alienate the rest of his team just enough that they lose. Again, it’s not on purpose—it’s the way he was made. It’s not that he refuses to be Andre Miller or any other “pass-first” point guard that his body type would suggest; but rather that internally, it does not compute.

This brings me back to that decision that Iverson must make. AI has reached that point in his career in where he has to refine his game if he wants that elusive ring. Look at his yin/yang basketball soulmate Ray Allen. Jesus Shuttlesworth was coming off his best years in Seattle, yet had the presence of mind to sacrifice his personal talents for the sake of Championship glory. Allen Iverson, the Ultimate Rebel, must now rebel against his own teachings if he wants to win. He’s still capable of averaging 20-plus, and even in Detroit where he doesn’t fit, his point guard numbers are better than anyone not named Paul, Williams, Nash, or Harris. His talent, though slightly diminished, is still tremendous. He must now learn to be more cohesive and conjoin with another player’s formula, instead of having others blend into him. He must be someone else’s Answer.