Thursday , Nov , 08 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Loose Balls: Yi is Mean; Shaq is Tired; Stevie is Missing

1. Steve Francis might be dead. Once, the name “Steve Francis” evoked images of rainbow jumpers, crippling crossovers and facial dunks of the “I feel sorry for the other guy” variety. In fact, he once threw down a tomahawk over Jahidi White so dirty that he had to register as a sex offender in the District of Columbia. True story.

[For legal reasons, I’m obliged to note that this is not, in fact, a true story. Steve was actually acquitted. It turns out that stepping into the lane constitutes consent.]

Fellow HVibe scribe Chris Sells wrote about Stevie earlier this week, and he evidently still holds out hope that Houston might see some numbers from their former captain. I’m also confident that Francis could once again become The Franchise. I’m just concerned that said franchise will be McDonald’s.

2. Yi Jianlian is a bad motherfucker. I didn’t have to monitor Christina Milian’s booty for a year before I decided I’d be happy to let her take me out to dinner, and I don’t have to watch Yi tear it up for a whole season to know that my boy (that’s right: I claimed him) is going to be one of the league’s better players before long.

With a moist jumper, surprising mobility and the wingspan of a pterodactyl, Yi already has the tools to be a productive four in today’s NBA. What he needs now is a sandwich. If he can add enough size to develop a legitimate back-to-the-basket game without losing his basic foot speed, we’ll be looking at one of the most dangerous dudes in the league.

3. Shaquille O’Neal no longer looks invincible. Know this before we start: Shaq is my all-time favourite player, and there’s nobody I’d take above him in his prime for my fictional playground pick-up team. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, it seems as if weighing three hundred and fifty pounds and jumping up and down for a living has taken its toll on the big fella’s joints. He no longer seems to have the je ne sais quoi (that’s as classy as we get here) we loved him for, and now his game just ain’t the same. Rejections have become deflections. Emphatic dunks have become lacklustre layups. The Man of Steel has become human.

Let’s not get it twisted, though: The Victorious B.I.G. could still snap me like a twig and eat my bones. I’m just hoping he remembers how to do that to the mortals expected to guard him.

4. Joakim Noah signed with Le Coq Sportif. If you thought you’d seen the most pointless product partnership possible when LA Gear signed up Luke Walton, you were wrong. Someone is getting fired for this one, and they deserve it. This is the worst idea since the Sam Cassell School of Modelling.     

Joakim Noah is big, ugly and part-French. I am regular-sized, ugly and part-French. Le Coq Sportif is very small, very ugly and fully French. Even with that degree of similarity, do you know what really binds me, Joakim Noah and Le Coq Sportif together? None of us sell shoes.

5. The Bulls are very bad. The Celtics are not. What in the world happened to da Bulls? The pieces are in place and seemingly half of the roster is in line for a career year, but as of today the number in their win column is rounder than Mike Sweetney. I’m not sure what’s going wrong over there, but I do know who’s going home: Coach Skiles. If Chi-Town are still rolling at .000 at the end of the week, you can expect to find Scott on the sofa watching his stories with a box of bonbons come Monday.

Meanwhile, The Big Three – or “Cerberus” as I call them (look it up, kids) – are beating up on chumps like Nelson Muntz. It takes consistency to be considered a contender, but it’s clear after just three games that Boston, on their day, has the potential to tear apart any team in the league. Question their depth at the one and the five, but don’t forget that the middle three form one of the top trios in league history.

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