Friday, June 29, 2012

Best Undrafted NBA Prospects

Scott Machado, PG, Iona
In the fall, Machado was the biggest reason preseason pundits had Iona pegged to make the NCAA tourney. Although the Gaels lost to BYU, Machado posted 15 points and 10 assists in his final college contest. The numbers were in line with his season averages of 13.6 points and 9.9 assists per game.

At 22, Machado is more mature and polished than some of those drafted, and although his upside may not be as high, he has a better assist average than anyone in college basketball this year. That stat should translate to the NBA. And, oh yeah, he can score.

Less than 10 hours after the draft ended, sources toldYahoo! Sports that Machado had received calls inquiring about summer league play from the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets, New Orleans Hornets and Toronto Raptors. (Read: he’s a lock to make an NBA roster.)*

*Personally, I think the Knicks would be foolish not to make a play for a guy whose college is within shouting distance from Madison Square Garden, especially when the roster is unsettled at his position. Jeremy Lin is the starter, for sure, but last year Baron Davis and Mike Bibby were the backup point guards. Machado could be a traditional PG and the Knicks would suffer little drop-off with him relieving Lin.

All-Pro Photo

Kevin Jones, F, West Virginia
There is talk every year of an SEC bias in college football, and a case can be made for a Big East bias in collegiate hoops. That being said, Jones led the conference in rebounding (11.1 boards per game) and scoring (20.1 points per game) and spearheaded an NCAA tourney berth for the Mountaineers in their last season before departing for the Big 12.

Couple his hard work with proper coaching – a workout routine that will switch fat for muscle on his 6’8”, 260-pound frame – and Jones becomes a reliable role player who impacts the paint on both ends of the floor.

AP Photo

Tu Holloway, PG, Xavier    
Tu Holloway won’t be the last player left undrafted because he isn’t the prototypical size to play either guard position in the NBA. At 6-foot-nothing, 187 pounds, he’s a tweener, but Holloway probably missed out by entering such a deep draft.

After pulling out of the 2011 draft, Holloway completed his senior season at Xavier averaging 17 points and 5.1 assists per game. If he winds up on a pro roster, he’ll likely be called upon as a scorer with occasional chances to run the point.

One thing going for Holloway is that he didn’t shy away from playing defense in college, but rarely will he have a size advantage against NBA players. Time will only tell if that is the difference between a stateside career or an overseas calling.

Hollis Thompson, SF, Georgetown
Thompson is trending upward after three seasons at Georgetown, finishing his college career averaging 12.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Neither stat makes him a lock – it’s not unusual for high-scoring college players to ride pine and toil in the pros (most recently, see: Jimmer Fredette).

His jump shooting skills are Thompson’s most coveted asset, but he needs to improve dramatically in other areas if he’s serious about playing in the NBA. Defense counts in The Association, now more than ever, and while big men often get free passes for being poor free throw shooters, the same cannot be said for small forwards.

Icon SMI

Henry Sims, C, Georgetown
Historically, centers from Georgetown have good basketball reputations. That said, Sims had paltry numbers relative to the system in which he played – 11.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.

He’s also not ideally sized for a center, but at 6’10”, 245 pounds, he can still be a presence in the paint. Pair him with the right big man coach, cover his less-than-stellar athleticism with smart play, and Sims can be useful.

Honorable Mentions
Garrett Stutz, C, Wichita State
Good centers are hard to come by in the pro game, and while Stutz will get some long looks simply for being a legitimate seven-footer, he’s a little slender at 255 pounds. As a major piece in the Shockers’ game, Stutz averaged 13.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game as a senior. Playing mid-major competition also hurt his draft stock.

Casper Ware, PG, Long Beach State
Ware is point guard that made The Beach a preseason darling much in the way Machado helped Iona’s standing, but for different reasons. Ware has court vision (3.4 assists per game), but is primarily a scoring guard, as evidenced by back-to-back seasons averaging 17+ points per game. The stats may be skewed since he played in the relatively weak conference, and at 5’10”, Ware lacks the size of archetypal NBA point guards. But if scouts can get past his stature, they’ll see a quick, smart prospect who can play defense.

William Buford, G, Ohio State
As a senior in a power conference, Buford recorded 14.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. He also had Jared Sullinger and a solid supporting cast that made other teams work. Still, his final season at Ohio State saw his 3-point percentage drop nearly nine points (from 44.2 as a junior to 35.8 his senior year) despite his unquestionable stroke. He struggled down the line until the Buckeyes were booted late from the NCAA tourney by Kansas.

Drew Gordon, PF, New Mexico – college center
Gordon is another prospect who played against questionable competition in a small conference. His 13.7 points and 11.1 rebounds per game made him an All-Mountain West selection last season. He’s a Derrick Williams-type who has fantastic game around the rim and pops the occasional mid-range shot. The best thing that Gordon can offer a team, though, is that he knows how to position his 6’9”, 239-pound frame to get rebounds. He was a leader in that stat category in college, and rebounding translates to the NBA. If you think different, ask Kenneth Faried how he’s doing these days.

Yancy Gates, PF, Cincinnati
There are questions about his dedication to staying in shape, and his role in instigating the Xavier-Cincinnati brawl caused only one of numerous suspensions. Worse yet, he picks and chooses when to play. That doesn’t change the fact that he has good size at 6’9”, 287 pounds, and a wingspan of 7’3”. If he can refine his game and find a way to continue bullying defenders around the bucket, there is hope for Gates yet.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Few Thoughts on the NBA Draft First Round

Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilcrist were the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the NBA Draft -

The first round of the NBA draft is in the books and now that the dreams have come true, it's time for reality to kick in.

And still the biggest takeaway is we know nothing and won't know anything until they take the court. We don't know if Dion Waiters jumping up to No. 4 is a good pick or if Perry Jones III, taken at No. 28 and has the talent of a lottery pick, was worth the drop.

Since I cannot see into the future, I don't do much predicting of who will shine, but instead hit you with the big takeaways from the first round, in case you missed it.

According to Plan: Just as I tell you we can't predict the future, the first round picks stayed pretty true to what the experts expected. Some jumped higher than thought and others dropped out of the lottery, but those worries were known heading into the night. Dion Waiters seemed high at No. 4, but other than that, the lottery picks weren't very surprising.

Watching Stocks Plummet: Based on the household-style of the names involved, it would be a shock to see how far in the draft Jared Sullinger, 21st pick, and Perry Jones III, 28th pick, if we were still judging them on the beginning of the college season. Injuries were the question marks for both guys, but both - Perry Jones III especially - have been placed in systems in which to succeed. Jones III had top-10 talent, and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook should be able to get him to play like a star.

Seas of Blue: The players of the first round had two common themes; teammates traveled in packs and the blue bloods were prominent. For the first time in the modern draft era, two teams, Kentucky and North Carolina, had four players each selected in the first round. Throw in Austin Rivers of Duke and Thomas Robinson of Kansas and the powerhouses of college basketball were well represented.

First Round Winner: 
New Orleans: It's hard to not rule the team who has the No. 1 and No. 10 picks as a winner and nearly impossible when the two picks were Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers. For all we know they could both be busts, but that's not likely. From a potential standpoint, those are two solid picks.

First Round Loser:
Cleveland: With a team still hurting from the loss of a talent like LeBron James, the Cavaliers selected two shooting guards (Dion Waiters and Jared Cunningham) both of which were taken with talent left on the board. Cunningham was projected as the No. 37 pick, while big men like Jones III and Festus Ezeli could have made solid backups for Jamison and Varejao.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

NBA Draft Suit Up Game

John Wall -
In a few hours, NBA Commissioner David Stern makes the dream comes true for the next batch of superstar hopefuls at the NBA Draft in New York City.

It’s a night of celebration, so let’s have some fun with it. Welcome to the NBA Draft Suit Up Game.

Let’s be honest, the fashion craze in the NBA is getting a little out of hand. I’m pretty sure Steve Urkel dresses Russell Westbrook and now crazy shirts and no-lense glasses can be found in post-game press conferences everywhere. The NBA is treading dangerously close to a wealthy junior high school, where once someone shows up with a new shirt or accessory, everyone else must have it. 

Russell Westbrook during the NBA Finals - Sports

While it is a family-friendly game, I understand some of our of-age readers might enjoy converting the rules to a drinking game. Therefore, the number of drinks will be identified in () next to the number of points.

Here are the rules:

Pick five or 10 teams (depending on number of players) that will have first-round picks. You will earn points, or drinks, if the fashion of player selected falls under one of these categories:

Bow-tie - 5 points (2) - Bruce Bowen may be retired, but his legacy lives on. Just hope your pick wears it better than Joakim Noah.

“Geek Glasses” - 5 points (2) - You know what we’re talking about; those black, thick-rimmed glasses started by Amare and replicated by nearly everyone. Give yourself 2 additional points (1) if the glasses are red.

No-lens Glasses - 10 points (3) - Yeah, we have a feeling glasses are going to be popular in the draft this year. The next D-Wade, or Harry Potter, is out there ready to rock the spectacles with perfect vision.

Dwyane Wade sporting no-lens glasses -

Backpack - 10 points (3) - For those who aren’t quite ready to be done with college yet. Extra 20 points (4) if they have a prop hidden in the backpack that is pulled out on stage.

Mismatched Suit - 10 points (3) - Don’t know why the black pants and white jacket are Draft-worthy, but we’ve seen it before and may see it again.

Flannel Suit - 15 points (4) - Surely there’s some “Home Improvement” fans in the draft that want to give a shout out to Al. Still give yourself half the points if only the vest is flannel.

A flannel vest like Cole Aldrich will earn you points -
Paisley - or any floral design - Suit - 15 points (4) - Because nothing says macho NBA player like paisley.

Crazy Socks - 20 points (5) - Robert Griffin III made a statement in the NFL Draft. Anyone care to do some one-upping tonight?

Suit Color Matches NBA Team Color - 25 points (5) - This one can be purely by chance, but could be a big winner early if Anthony Davis goes NOLA with his suit. It also shows what players really think about who is taking them or how high.

Shorts//Cape/Spacesuit - 100 points (finish and drink another) - This is a fun one for the really bold potential picks. If your team gets this guy, congratulations because you won.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Steve Nash -

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Power of Music in Sports

Kobe Bryant sporting Lakers color Beats headphones -

Title aficionados and observant readers will notice the first word of this blog’s title is Beats. No, beats isn’t in reference to defeat in sports, or Dre’s headphones (don't worry, no copyright infringement going on here), but music.

While this is a basketball blog, it is also a platform to discuss the tunes that soundtrack our world. It sounds random; basketball and music. Did we just choose two topics we enjoy and throw them together, irregardless of how you, the reader, feels about it?

No. As surprising as it might sound, we actually know what we’re doing. The sounds on your iPod have a greater correlation to sports than you might think.

Athleticism will get players on the court, but the mental game will decide their fate. Here is where music enters the equation. The mental game begins before tip-off, when players are telling media members they need to “stay focused” and “concentrate on the task at hand.” We hear it countless times.

Players - superstitious or not - live by routines. The schedule two hours before the game is the same as the game before and will be the same as the next game. And when the camera pans to the players getting off the bus or sitting in the locker room before a game, the most common item in the room is the pair of headphones resting in their ears.

The music is everywhere. In players’ headphones on the plane or bus and blaring through the stadium sound system during warm-ups and timeouts. Go into any high school or college weight room while a team is working out and tell me what you hear. Music. Everyday people going out for a morning run grab their iPods to accompany them on the journey. Music is playing in football stadiums up until the last second before the ball is kicked. College marching bands swaying while they play the school’s fight song are the most popular people in the stands. Baseball players even get to personally select the song that is played as they walk to the plate. And you don’t think music matters in sports?

It is a mental tool. A song can make you excited, happy, focused and ready to play. The bass beats at athletes’ chests until they’re ready to unleash the athleticism bottled within. When a player listens to a song, he doesn’t have to be thinking about all the other thoughts in his head that are holding him down. The lyrics sweep out the nervousness and the doubts and instead allow the focus to be on something familiar and friendly.

The relationship between players and music is the most common combination, but I can’t neglect to touch on music’s role as it pertains to the sporting experience as a whole. Fans are human too, and get just as excited or nervous as athletes for big games. And nothing tops off a live sporting experience than listening to 20,000 fans scream and clap before tip-off while “Thunderstruck” or “Welcome to the Jungle” leads the way.

What would college football be without fight songs? What would a Yankees home win feel like without Frank Sinatra’s voice singing “New York, New York?” What would athletes do if they were left in silence with only their thoughts before a game or while walking up to the plate?

Music doesn’t define the sporting experience. Its role goes mostly unnoticed; its power being masked by its expectation. But as is the case with most important aspects of our lives, we would sure notice, and miss, it if it was gone.  

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

BDD is One Week Old
Happy one week of BDD to all our readers. Here's to hoping BDD and all of you do like Taj Gibson's birthday cake and dunk over the competition for weeks to come.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Metta World Peace May Host Barbecue in OKC

Anyone that busied themselves Monday night with things other than Metta World Peace’s Twitter feed missed out. One day after sending out a picture of himself in a Knicks hat, the New York native declared his intent to either host a barbecue or go to a club in Oklahoma City on Friday.

(Photo-Illustration by Mary-Louise Price. Getty Images/Victor Decolongon)
MWP said the barbecue will be “fan friendly” and committed to tell beer jokes. Then – either realizing clubs rarely host barbecues or talking about a different event – he uninvited all boring people, and possibly proposed a wet t-shirt contest.

Much is uncertain: whether this was the work of a hacker, whether Post-Artest is actually going to be in OKC to begin the weekend, or if anyone can vouch for the quality of his beer jokes.

The Artist Formerly Known as Ron-Ron has a history of lighthearted interactions with fans recently, anywayso an event like this is not out of the question. If it does go down, though, one thing is certain: James Harden will not be attending.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Report: T-Wolves to Offer Brandon Roy Two-Year Contract

For all of his questionable roster decisions, Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn tentatively redeemed himself by bringing in Ricky Rubio to form a one-two punch with Kevin Love. 

In addition to acquiring Chase Budinger in a trade with the Houston Rockets on Tuesday morning, Kahn is now poised to take the first step in adding another veritable competitor, as ESPN Radio 1500 Minneapolis reported Monday night that the T-Wolves plan to offer Brandon Roy a two-year contract. 

Brandon Roy to Minnesota? (Getty Images/Jonathan Ferrey)
This comes less than two weeks after Roy took to his former college teammate’sTwitter account and announced his intention to return to the pro game. Roy retired prior to the 2011-2012 season due to degenerative knees.

Bringing Roy into the fold would give the Wolves a reliable scoring guard to compliment Love’s bucket-filling forward role. But it’s been well documented that the cartilage missing in Roy’s knees is not something that can be grown back or replaced.

Given starter’s minutes, Roy averaged 22.6 and 21.5 points per game as a Portland Trailblazer in ’08-’09 and ’09-’10, respectively. When it became obvious that Roy’s knees could not support 37 minutes each contest, he took a diminished role, posting an average of 12.2 points during his nightly 28 minutes on the floor in ’10-‘11. Productive, yes, but at a price – Roy played in only 47 games that season, sometimes on an every-other-night basis.

Another issue that could make the Wolves’ offer a dream rather than a reality is that Roy has also been tentatively linked to the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers, according to the New York Post's Peter Vecsey. Of the three, only one team can contend for a championship immediately, and no one could blame Roy if he committed himself to chasing a ring now, given his circumstances.

Due to the amnesty clause the Blazers used on him, Roy is not constrained by the rules applicable to other free agents. He can talk to teams at his leisure, and take his time in signing anywhere.

Minnesota does hold a couple links to Roy, though. Swingman Martell Webster shared a Portland jersey with him as recently as 2010, and Wolves assistant coach Bill Bayno is apparently the driving force behind convincing head coach Rick Adelman and Khan that Roy is worth the risk.

A year off means Roy's joints have had time to rest, even with the training he's been doing in his hometown of Seattle to get back into NBA shape. The story of an All-Star career being derailed by injury is already set in stone, but it hasn't written out the possibility of a postscript to retirement.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Monday, June 25, 2012

Kevin Durant - OKC's Humble Superstar

Getty Images
Kevin Durant is the modern-age superstar we’ve been waiting for.

It’s amazing what success and talent can do to an athlete’s image. We want our athletes - and therefore our role models - to not only be great on the court, but be friendly, charismatic, down-to-earth and stay out of trouble off the court.

It’s asking a lot. They are only human. Jordan gambled, Kobe was accused of rape in Colorado and LeBron crushed an entire city on national television. But we still love them. Tiger Woods and Michael Vick taught us that success on the field can figuratively heal the wounds of their indiscretion. We want to watch physical specimens reach the height of their sport, and if they happen to take time for autographs and give time and money for a good cause - and act like we expect our children to act - that’s just icing on the cake. We assume the better the player, the more arrogant he is, and we learn to live with it.

Then there’s Durant. He’s the man who gives his mom a hug and kiss after every game.

He’s the man who didn’t make excuses against the referees for a missed foul call on the biggest stage, but simply said he should have made the shot.

He’s the man who thanked the media for all their coverage after losing the NBA finals.

And most importantly for Oklahoma City, he’s the man who signed a long-term deal in a small market to share the spotlight with other up-and-coming stars and give an area of the country that is new to the limelight a chance to make some noise. The announcement wasn’t made on primetime television, because that’s not who Durant is.

Not to mention he continued to behave like this while being the NBA’s scoring leader, second in MVP voting and while taking the Thunder to the NBA Finals. That’s pretty close to the summit of the sport.

It’s sad this column even has to be written. Why should we be so surprised? There are many other athletes, including in the NBA, that we’re told are all-around good guys. But for every one of them there is Gilbert Arenas with a gun and Dwight Howard trying his best to get his coach fired.  

Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Derek Fisher are among those who should be praised for their leadership and service. They understand they are in a position to make their community better, and they are taking advantage of that opportunity.

All of these guys mentioned are talented, veteran players, but none of them rose through the ranks of the NBA quite like Durant. Remember, he’s only 23 years old. He’s not supposed to be this mature, and he’s not supposed to be this good.

What makes him so humble; so seemingly genuine and kind?

His location could play a factor. Oklahoma City is a small market in terms of NBA cities and in the Midwest, where national news travels less. The logic makes sense, although he is still a household name with billion-dollar companies wanting to put his name on their products. Not to mention a big-fish-in-a-small-pond situation like Durant in OKC can often lead to more arrogance on the part of the superstar. Plus, the Thunder are the only game in town, which means Durant stands out more there than, say, Kobe Bryant in LA, where celebrities are everywhere.

Another explanation could be he didn’t know how good he really was. By that I mean, I’m sure he always knew he was great at basketball, but it’s different when you have millions of people reminding you how good you are. Durant got a lot of that this year, and there’s no sign of that going away anytime soon. But Durant’s season ended on the sport’s biggest stage, three games away from a title, and he still was the class-act he’s always been.

Maybe the reason behind it is the simplest reason; that’s who Kevin Durant is. He is a pure shooter with ice in his veins who after staring down the final shot, goes over to his mother, and then thanks everyone who made the win happen.

I want this to be the case. We need a Kevin Durant to show us you can be the best in aspects of your life off the court, as well as on it, and to show kids how to conduct yourself when everyone is looking.

Only time will tell, but I hope this is the real Kevin Durant we saw this June, because if so, he’ll have the love of more than just Oklahoma City.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Deviousness of Dwyane Wade

"LeBron's over there, you guys. Look!" (Reuters/Benoit Tessier photo)
The most obvious – and rightly so – storyline coming out of the Finals is LeBron James procuring his first NBA Championship. Dwyane Wade getting a second ring is notable, and Chris Bosh getting title number one will either be lost in the shuffle or mentioned with the same importance of Mike Miller’s maybe-retirement.

Last night’s series clinching, Game 5 win proved the Heat’s formula can work. Get some superstars, surround them with the right role players at the right (low) price, and with a little luck (see: Derrick Rose’s first-round knee injury all but eliminating the Chicago Bulls’ title hopes; Avery Bradley undergoing surgery for a shoulder injury when he could potentially have swung the seven-game Eastern Conference Finals to the Boston Celtics), win the NBA’s most coveted trophy.

It’s been a long two years for players, fans and media members alike. The path has been fraught with actions and statements now familiar to anyone with a passing interest in the pro game. And while James has been under a microscope, Wade has been under decidedly less pressure.

At least where outsiders are concerned.

Remember, prior to the Heatles, Dwyane Wade ran the show in Miami. But when Boston was making a push toward the Finals, at least one pundit was putting Wade’s head on the chopping block if the Heat failed to overcome the Celts.

That’s one reason it was so important that James have a huge season. If not, he would remain in a ringless purgatory and ideas about trading Wade would be more and more common.

LeBron had a banner year – statistically speaking, and by reigning in MVP awards for both the regular season and the Finals – and was at least partially correct when, before Game 5, he said, “I’m the leader of this team.”

Not a leader. The leader.

The situation called for big talk, and James delivered. Wade stayed silent, swallowing his pride and taking the backseat as he did all season. His less-than-stellar postseason didn’t matter because LeBron could have been playing 1-on-5 and won at least two games in the Finals. The patter of LBJ’s footsteps to South Beach were heard by critics as a proclamation of him accepting a secondary role to Wade.

But, after sharing the court for a season that ended with the Dallas Mavericks hoisting their O’Brien Trophy, Wade got it. It clicked. There would be no more trading opportunities to make plays. No more two-superstar routine. James would be the Heat’s centerpiece and Wade would share the glorified role player status usually reserved for Bosh.

Wade made a conscious decision to be the Mega-Pippen that LeBron was supposed to be upon arriving in Miami.

Still, there’s a nagging feeling that James is the brawn to Wade’s brain. It was, after all, Wade who first embraced the bad guy tag attached to the Heat after the Big Three convened, showing LeBron there was no need to apologize after any perceived misstep, no need to hold back. With a little push, LBJ took the same attitude to the court, allowing Wade to take the backseat on a championship run in which No. 6 did all the heavy lifting.

Even from the very beginning, didn’t it seem like Wade was pulling the strings? He didn’t spurn a city where he endeared himself. He attracted two other top-tier players to join him. Wade even let James have the spotlight, avoiding a Decision-like debacle by appearing on SportsCenter with Bosh to jointly announce their respective re-signing and signing with Heat.

Bosh, James and Wade all made their official announcements on July 7, 2010. More than a month before, Yahoo! NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted something that resounds now more than ever. In response to LeBron calling himself the ringleader of the free agent class, Wojnarowski said, “No, Dwayne Wade is the ringleader – with one.”

Thanks to his maneuvering and management, Wade now has two championships to his name. But that’s not the story. The narrative now shifts from LeBron’s struggle to get his first ring to LeBron’s first title defense. Wade will be under the radar, and he’s alright with that.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Look Out, Kids

Deron Williams and Steve Nash: on-point for new contracts ( photo)

NBA free agency starts one week from today. Mark your calendars and check in for updates.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Saturday, June 23, 2012

NBA Social Media Awards: Winners & Watermarks

 The New Jersey Nets' Gerald Green throws down -- and snags The Social Slam Award.

The digital carpet rolled out this week for nominees of the NBA’s inaugural social media awards. Honors were doled out for 13 categories by hosts Rick Fox and Shaquille O’Neal, with additional entertainment coming from SLAM magazine’s Lang Whitaker and stalwart Canadian bloggers J.E. Skeets and Tas Melas of The Basketball Jones.

Marked by a one-hour telecast on NBATV, the official NBASMA press release states that nominations were dependant upon “which [moments] resonated with fans and sparked the most social engagement this season” – meaning which plays received the most attention on Twitter and numerous other social networking avenues.

The Los Angeles Lakers were the night’s biggest winners, claiming “The Social MVT (Most Valuable Team)” award as Kobe Bryant received individual recognition by winning the “#Trendsetter” and “Thumbs-Up” awards, which both tallied mentions and likes on their respective social networks.

The Lakers did have to revisit their Feb. 12 meeting versus Jeremy Lin, though, as the sophomore’s 38-point performance was named “Epic” by fans voting for their favorite regular season game.

A full list of winners can be seen at the official NBA website, and while the awards are a fun addition to The Association’s programming, they’re also something more. They’re a watermark for social media and how pervasive it has become to society. As athletes become increasingly willing to share personal thoughts, daily routines and behind the scenes peeks with fans – and as the NBA continues to be the savviest sports league in social media – how far behind can other organizations be?

Whether it’s brilliant or merely the beginning of equalization between national sports leagues and, say, the local Lion’s Club, the NBA Social Media Awards are definitely one thing right now – unique.

Friday, June 22, 2012

LeBron James - Good or Bad, The King has his Ring

By: Kyle Davis

Sports media personalities are salivating this morning.
LeBron James won his first NBA title last night, and whether you love him or hate him, everyone has an opinion of him and everyone wants to share it. I thought this event might shut down Twitter as fans, observers and "experts" rushed to let the world hear their thoughts. It was the biggest story of the night and will continue to give those in the business ample ammunition for some time. 

AP Photo
So I suppose if everyone else is chipping in two cents, two more in the jar isn’t going to hurt. I believe I’m in a rare group of feelings when it comes to the all-encompassing whirlwind that is LeBron James. I don’t love him or hate him; constantly view his character through a magnifying glass; or shun/praise every move he makes. I appreciate his ability and what it means to the game of basketball. And isn’t that really what matters most?
I don’t care if he went out after the game or what book he is reading -- although I’m guessing ‘how to succeed’ books are now off the list. “The Decision” was a PR nightmare and the Heat introduction that gave us such memorable quotes as “not five, not six …” was probably not the best way to handle the situation. LeBron and the rest of the team put a mountain of weight on their shoulders before the ball was even tipped that first season, and that was a consequence they had to live with.
It’s a magically dangerous, technologically savvy world we live in. Every second of a superstar athlete’s life is critiqued, and the actions in the previous paragraph were enough for some people to write him off as an arrogant jerk who had yet to achieve the only prize that truly mattered in the eyes of the public. If you want to get through the rest of LeBron’s career, don’t compare him to Michael Jordan. Just don’t. Jordan’s career is over, and we’ve had years now to reflect and analyze (not like we really need to). Plus he played in a different era, one that didn’t have the power of the Internet and social networking. But you know what, ignore what you just read, because we’re not even comparing them. 

LeBron is polarizing -- he broke the heart of a city, and although I’ve never seen his agent and PR team, I’m sure at least one of this is balding from the aftermath of June 2010 -- but do you know what else he is? He’s really good at basketball. Watching him play, the thought keeps popping into your mind that he is on a level where if he doesn’t want to be stopped, he won’t be. He shouldn’t be so fast for as strong and big as he is, and he shouldn’t be able to make some of the ridiculous, in-traffic, circus-style shots he makes.

There’s no one in the league that has the combined ability to create a shot, score, rebound, pass and block more than LeBron James. And whether you love or hate him, you watch him every night to see what he’s going to do.

As someone who appreciates the sport and art of basketball, all that really matters is what LeBron does on the court, and I can appreciate that.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Nike Ad Chronciles LeBron's Path to a Title

By: Alex Skov

Well, that didn't take long. One of Nike's premier clients won his first NBA championship last night, and the shoe-company-cum-basketball-overlord capitalized by airing the above advertisement shortly after the Miami Heat clinched a five-game series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Nike's connection with LeBron James extends back years, and to say that the company's admen have been waiting for King James to have some bling to compliment his crown would be an understatement. With the addition of a couple seconds' footage of a newly ordained champion, Nike rolled out an ad that follows James' path from Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary High School through some perfunctory highlights from his early Cleveland Cavaliers days, before picking up steam by capturing moments from his coming out party as a major player against the Detroit Pistons in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals then giving time to LBJ's first two ill-fated Finals appearances.

For one viewer in particular, it pays off. Needless to say, it works out alright for LeBron, too. The heft of the Larry O'Brien trophy, the tug of gravity on his championship ring -- it's the weight of the world coming off James' shoulders. New criticisms will surely replace old ones, and more titles will be expected with an initial championship secured. But for now, the young man will celebrate. So will Nike.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Thursday, June 21, 2012

NBA benefits from college fandom

By: Kyle Davis

It has the feel of a big brother, little brother relationship.

Everyone wants to hang out with the big brother. Big brother takes who he wants, leaving the rest for the little brother. It’s a relationship of respect but an understanding that the big brother has the upper hand. Little brother just wants to be invited to the party.

It is this dynamic that exists between the worlds of college basketball and the NBA. The majority of basketball fans are divided, choosing an alliance and rarely deviating. Sure, die-hard sports fans who are passionate about college basketball will still watch the NBA playoffs and the big-time, regular season matchups, and vice versa. But rarely do you find a person who hangs out with the little brother one night and big brother the next. They have different personalities, and thus different friends. 

Why? One reason is because the games are so different, and I believe apparent enough that I won’t waste 200 words explaining how. There’s also some hostility between the two leagues due to the one-and-done rule. Whether it means having elite players stay in college longer or not at all, college fans feel like they’re getting a raw deal. Big brother is taking all the good stuff and little brother has what’s left.   

Now’s the time in the poorly produced metaphor where little brother proves worth keeping around.  The NBA needs the college game in a way that has become more clear to me during these NBA Finals. It’s not that players will be better prepared, playing against stiffer competition, or older or more mature. It’s because of the fans.   

The bond between devoted fans and their athletes is much stronger on the college level. Players give their school four (or three, two or one) years of memories in which fans are eternally grateful. New players come in and carry on the legacy of the school, but alumni are not forgotten or less loved by their alma mater. Maybe it is because fans feel more of a connection watching players develop and mature from skinny freshmen to All-Americans, or because they are naturally moving on to another level in their life instead of leaving you for the guy down the street with a Ferrari in the driveway. 

Regardless, this isn’t a one-way street. For the majority of players, especially from elite programs, it is a thrill to come back to campus in the offseason and reconnect with fans. For most, the college campus is where it all began, and because of this, the connection runs deep. 

I’ve been observing these Finals in the heart of Kansas Jayhawk country. I won’t tell you my stance for fear you will close the page, but I have witnessed, firsthand, an aspect of the Finals that often gets overlooked.

KU has former players on both teams (Mario Chalmers on the Heat; Nick Collison and Cole Aldrich on the Thunder) and I have seen and heard from KU fans who normally would be watching The Bachelorette, but are glued to the games because they want to see one of their own win a ring.

And that’s the important part for the NBA; no matter what team’s name is on the front of these guys' professional jerseys, to passionate KU fans, Collison, Chalmers and Aldrich will always be Jayhawks. The same could be said for UCLA fans wanting to see Russell Westbrook succeed and Florida fans hoping for the same with Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem. They may not have enrolled in classes in eight years, but they will always be a Bruin or Gator. 

NBA teams don’t draft players based on their school, nor should they. While the market is small compared to passionate NBA fans who will watch playoff basketball even if their team has been eliminated, the NBA should take advantage of a college fan’s loyalties to their school’s former players. Is it a coincidence that the Sprint Center in Kansas City hosts a preseason NBA game each year, and it just happens to include former KU players on the rosters of the teams invited? In 2010, the Thunder and Heat met in KC, and the KU ties have been well documented by now. Last year was Houston (Marcus Morris) against Miami, and this year will be the Heat once again facing Washington (who has the No. 3 pick in the draft with KU’s Thomas Robinson lingering near that spot).   

The beauty of the college fan’s devotion is not defined, nor limited to geography or success. Kentucky fans are still going to cheer for John Wall when Washington isn’t winning. The NBA shouldn’t look at the college game as a competitor. When the college game is strong -- meaning outstanding teams, all-star players and large numbers of fans -- the NBA benefits. The college basketball season is over and its fans are searching for a fix for their postseason basketball absence. What those fans want arguably most, other than watching entertaining basketball, is to see players with their college allegiance succeed.   

Little brother is always going to want to hang around and see what big brother is up to, and in a business that lives by the numbers, little brother’s friends are useful.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thusly, We Start

And so it begins. Not with a bang, but with a cliché. A whisper in the vast ether of the Internet; not a whimper.

The seedling of Beats, Dimes & Drives couldn’t survive the winter of 2010. A vague blog idea named by an Eazy E lyric – as much as the BDD title is a bow to an A Tribe Called Quest album – never saw a proper template, logo or a single post.

Thankfully, that also means it never broadcast as much melodrama as the prior four sentences. What that not-quite-a-blog did accomplish is the foundation of what will appear here in future posts. BDD will be plastered with news and conjecture concerning basketball, both professional and collegiate, as well as similar features and speculation about music. Tears will be shed, laughs will be had, heartstrings will be pulled – yes, there are legitimate scribes working their pens until latent contempt is unveiled and this space is commandeered for more thoughtful works.

BDD is a small operation, the main members of which used to discuss sports and pop culture in a university dorm room until all hours of the night, only to wake up in time to do beat coverage or work the public address system at the next day’s event of choice. Some of us have adult jobs, some of us bag your purchases and others are tank top aficionados – but that’s a big reveal for later.

The universe isn't heliocentric or geocentric, but if, somewhere in a dark corner, there is the rhythm of a dribbled basketball or a particularly intriguing guitar riff, we'll be the first people to scrape together pocket change for tickets on one of Richard Branson's shuttle rides into space. Just out of interest, or to gain a fully informed opinion.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter