Monday , Jan , 10 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Trash Talk: Volume VIII

Hi, all. Let’s skip the small talk and get right to looking at a few of your responses to last edition’s question. Needless to say, the responses were eclectic, if that’s not a euphemism. Here’s the question, exactly as it appeared:

“In particular, I’d like to hear about your feelings concerning three players: Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter and Shaquille O’Neal. All I’m interested in here is whether you like them or not, and why. In fact, to make things a little more scientific, you can vote on a scale of one to ten, with zero showing no love at all and ten indicating that you like them like Iverson likes tattoos.”

<b>NBA Trash Talk</b>: <I>Volume VIII</I>“/>And your responses: <BR><BR><I>“I like Shaq and Vince. I hate Kobe.” – Anonymous</I><BR><BR>This is about what I was expecting. Shaq is as popular as he’s ever been (especially around South Florida) and only has a select band of Kobe fans against him. It seemed as if his beef with Mr. Bryant has helped boost his popularity of late, leaving his jersey at the top of the sales charts, while Kobe’s fell below number ninety at one point. Obviously the fact that Shaq has changed teams will help the numbers, but for Kobe’s sales to drop so drastically, having formerly been one of the most popular jerseys, there must have been a corresponding dip in his popularity. <BR><BR>What I did find a little surprising is that, judging by the responses I received through email and the comment box, not many people seem to have turned their back on Vince through his recent troubles. Despite allegedly tipping the Sonics off as to what play Toronto were about to run in the crucial moments of a game and subsequently admitting to not always having played his hardest as a Raptor, he’s still not public enemy number one. That said, he has been a perennial All-Star voting leader, yet this year has dropped to number six in the early returns, one place behind Mr. Love-Hate himself, Kobe Bryant, who has drawn the ire of this particular respondent. <BR><BR><I>“i dun like shaq cause he makes bad music i like kobe cause he’s on my fantasy team i use to like vince cause he jumped over someone, but didnt do much since then so im so-so wit him” – Anonymous</I><BR><BR>This is one of the less scientific responses here. However, Shaq does indeed make terrible, terrible music. I’m ashamed to say this, but I actually own the album <I>Respect</I>, a crime against music. As much as I appreciate what the man has done for the game, I can say fairly confidently that his greatest contribution to music has been to make other artists sound better in comparison. At points, it was bad enough that I considered suing. <BR><BR>That said, this respondent forgets Kobe’s ill-fated and short-lived rap career, which lasted a few cameos and an unreleased album. I managed to get hold of a few tracks (I’m not sure why I tried) only to find that Kobe’s lyrics were about as meaningless as Shaq’s, although his flow was significantly sloppier. He does receive bonus points over Shaq for producing less material and keeping the bulk of it away from the general public, though. <BR><BR>It’s fair enough to be a Vince fan simply because of <I>The Dunk</I>. Those two points were as important as any in basketball history even if they made little difference to the game, and will be something we’ll be mentioning twenty, thirty, forty years down the line. Regardless of whether or not he’s always played up to his potential or worked his hardest, Carter will always have the fact that he managed to clear a seven-footer and put one down to his name. It ranks among the most ridiculous plays in sporting history and continues to amaze me every time I see it. Thankfully, it looks like Vince has remembered what he’s capable of and is starting to pump up the volume on his dunks again now that he’s a Net. We can only hope that he makes good on his promise to enter the dunk contest and wows us with a performance similar to his first one, which has to rank as the best all-round effort since the inception of the event. <BR><BR><I>“Shaq: 7 (incredible at what he does, but not versatile enough) Kobe: 10 (the greatest since Air Mike) Vince: 8 (hasn’t been himself since T-Mac left, but I think J. Kidd can re-unleash the vincanity)”</I><BR><BR>Shaq’s lack of versatility is something Danny Fortson called him out for only this week, encouraging the Diesel to shoot a jump-hook in the Miami-Seattle game. Why Fortson thought angering the most dominant player of our times would be a good idea, I can’t tell you. Although Seattle came away with the W, Shaq finished up with 28, 11, 4 assists and 5 blocks on 11-18 shooting, including a few jump-hooks and appropriate celebrations for Fortson’s benefit. <BR><BR>As for the opinion that Kobe is the hottest thing to hit the hardwood since Jordan, well, I won’t comment. There are <I>very</I> strong opinions on either side of this debate and there has never been, to my knowledge, anything approaching a solution. Some will tell you Bryant is as good as (or, gasp, better than Mike) and others will claim that he wasn’t even the best player on his team until Shaq left town. There’s no use trying to reconcile the two sides, so I think I’m better off leaving that one well alone. <BR><BR>Anyway, that’s enough of that question. We move on to discuss the surprise performers of the season, starting with the Sonics. Seriously, who saw these guys coming? If you answered “me,” you’re a liar. Somehow this squad of moderate talent led by a relatively inexperienced coach is taking names all over the place, leaping out of the blocks to a 24-8 start, good for third-best in the league. <BR><BR>Of course, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, and Vladimir Radmanovic form a formidable trio, but who would have thunk they’d be the giant-killers they are now? They’ve taken down Miami, heavily tipped to come out of the east, twice in a week. They’ve beaten the Spurs (twice), Indiana, Sacramento and Dallas, along with a whole host of other mid-to-high quality squads. Is this run of form soon to come to an end? I have no idea. It seems to have gone on long enough that we can’t call it a fluke any more, but whether they can keep it up or not is a different matter entirely. Do you think they’re really this good or are they about to fall back off? Get at me through the comment box below or via email ( <BR><BR>The Suns are the other big story right now, rampaging their way through the schedule to one of the best starts in league history. In fact, at 30-4, they’re currently tied for the most wins a team with four losses has ever had, along with the 1960 Boston Celtics and the 1972 Milwaukee Bucks. Perhaps more impressively, the Suns have eclipsed (excuse the pun) their win total for last season already, thanks in part to the stellar (sorry again) play of Steve Nash, a perfect fit with their run-and-gun style of play. He and young Amaré seem made for each other, and while The Matrix and Q keep doing their thing, this will be a very potent squad, capable of notching up big wins all year long. That said, their style of play might see them come unstuck in the playoffs, when the tempo of the game shifts and the focus moves to defence. They should be alright if they can continue to score anywhere near their current 110 points per game, though. <BR><BR>That’ll do us for this week. Until we next meet, keep your eyes open for these big match-ups: <BR><BR><B>Monday</B> San Antonio @ Utah <BR><B>Tuesday</B> Detroit @ New Jersey & Miami @ Phoenix <BR><B>Wednesday</B> Houston @ Dallas <BR><B>Thursday</B> Cleveland @ Lakers <BR><B>Friday</B> Phoenix @ Indiana & Dallas @ San Antonio<BR><BR>So, until then, try to catch as much hoops as you can. As always, if you have comments, questions or any basketball-related thoughts, use the comment box below or email me at <A href=[email protected] Take it easy now,