Friday, April 29, 2011

The 12 Most Memorable Non-Title Winning NBA Teams Since Jordan Started Winning Everything - Part One

12. The “Dream Team” Lakers

Peak years: 2003-04
Best result: NBA Finals ‘04
Key players: Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, Gary Payton.

This team barely qualifies for this list, as Shaq and Kobe won multiple titles with the Lakers, and this line-up was only together for one season. But with four future Hall-of-Famers it’s still a memorable team, made even more so by their Finals loss to the non-superstar-studded Detroit Pistons in 5 games. In that series, the cracks in this heavily favoured Lakers team were burst open, as Chauncey Billups obliterated Payton, Kobe couldn’t hit the side of a barn, and Malone spent half the series grizzling on the bench (I have fond memories of that series). At season’s end Shaq was traded to Miami and Malone and Payton were let go, leaving Kobe as the lone star of the team - needless to say, it would be a few years before the Lakers were a force again.

11. The Pre-Brawl Pacers

Peak years: 2001-05
Best result: Eastern Conference Finals ‘04
Key players: Jermaine O’Neal, Ron Artest, Reggie Miller, Brad Miller, Stephen Jackson, Jamaal Tinsley.

The Pacers were on the rise in the early/mid-‘00s, earning the best regular season record in 2003-04 before losing to the Pistons in the Eastern finals. Jermaine O’Neal finished 3rd in the MVP voting that year and Artest won Defensive Player of the Year, and they looked like they would be a contender for years to come. The team is more memorable though for their spectacular flame-out as a result of Artest and Jackson’s infamous brawl with the spectators at Auburn Hills. From that game, Artest received a 73-game suspension, Jackson received 30 games, and O’Neal received 25 games, effectively killing their ’04-05 campaign. Artest would be traded the next year and the Pacers never recovered. Funnily enough though, O’Neal has emerged the worst from the Pacers’ collapse for earning big contracts and putting up mediocre numbers, while Jackson earned a measured of respectability as captain (!) of the Warriors and Artest won a championship and recently the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award (!!) as a member of the Lakers.

10. The Barkley Era Suns

Peak years: 1992-96.
Best result: NBA Finals ’93.
Key players: Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Mark West, Danny Manning, A.C. Green.

Barkley’s arrival in Phoenix changed the team from moderately successful to championship contenders, and they were only stopped from winning it all in ’93 by Jordan’s three-peating Bulls. Actually, what I remember most from this era in Phoenix is the awesome ads they produced, including the “Godzilla vs. Charles Barkley” series and the Nike ad of Dan Majerle diving around the court. This team could be higher, but no-one really remembers anyone in the team outside the “Big Three” of Barkley, KJ and Majerle (oh, and Richard Dumas... let’s not forget him).

9. The Late-‘90s/Early-‘00s Blazers

Peak years: 1999-2001.
Best result: Western Conference Finals '99, ’00.
Key players: Rasheed Wallace, Scottie Pippen, Steve Smith, Damon Stoudamire, Arvydas Sabonis, Bonzi Wells, Brian Grant, Detlef Schrempf.

No team has ever been more stacked than the 2000 Trail Blazers, and no team is better remembered for losing a big lead in a pivotal game, as they lost a 15 point fourth-quarter lead to hand the Lakers the Western Conference finals. They were so stacked that a young Jermaine O’Neal could hardly get on the court, which some say may have been their undoing given the difficulties involved in getting everyone ample minutes. But if they could have just held on to that lead against the Lakers, then maybe people would have ended up singing the praises of having a deep roster over having two superstars and nothing else. Two years later, another team with a deep roster would come even closer to knocking off the Lakers, forging some of the most painful-ever memories for us Lakers-haters ... we’ll get to that...

8. The Cuban Era Mavericks

Peak years: 2000-present (it’s all a blur, really ...)
Best results: NBA Finals ‘06
Key players: Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Jason Terry, Michael Finley, Jason Kidd, Josh Howard.

Since Mark Cuban took over ownership of the Mavericks in the early 2000s they have been successful for a remarkably long period of time, and through a considerable number of roster changes without ever winning it all. Apart from the aforementioned key players, other former All-Stars that the Mavs have employed include Shawn Marion, Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Devin Harris. Many observers think they should have won in the ’06 Finals, when Dwyane Wade was famously awarded more free throws in one game than the entire Mavericks team. Then the next season they were even more famously ousted in the first round by the 8th-seeded Warriors, after they had won 67 games and Nowitzki was named the MVP. But still, all those 50 and 60-win seasons are hard to ignore. What keeps this team from placing higher is that they haven’t really had a stable core throughout this era: their most memorable line-up was when Nash and Finley were on the team, but their greatest successes came after those two left.

7. The Mid-‘90s Magic

Peak years: 1993-96.
Best result: NBA Finals ‘95
Key players: Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, Horace Grant, Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott.

In the mid-‘90s the Orlando Magic were cooler than “Seinfeld” or Pearl Jam, with Shaq and Penny coming to prominence in the era where mass-marketing was at its peak for young, high draft picks. If you were a teenager playing basketball in this era, the rules were simple: if you were a smaller guy you thought you were Penny, if you were a big guy you thought you were Shaq. When Grant joined in ’95 they shot up the standings and into the Finals, beating Jordan’s Bulls along the way (the only team to do it in this era), only to get swept by Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets. The next year, Jordan’s Bulls destroyed everything in their path, and the year after that Shaq was in LA. Fans in the mid-‘90s would soon get used to seeing potential dynasties rise up and then get suddenly dismantled; no-one encapsulated that more than Shaq and Penny on the Magic.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 5

Only a couple of surprise results this week, so very little change in the rankings.

(What may be a surprise is the relatively low rankings of Fremantle and Essendon, given their current ladder positions. The Dockers' position reflects their mediocre form over the second half of 2010, and their win in Adelaide was their only result this year that has had a notable change on their ranking - that is, all their other results (including their recent win over the Bulldogs) have been fairly much in line with their current rating. As mentioned before in this space, the system may be under-rating the Bombers: they had some dreadful results late last year, but seem to have significantly improved this year - if they can keep up this form, they should soon be able to break into the top half.)

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 44.1 (Last week 45.1)
2 (2) Geelong 29.6 (28.9)
3 (3) Hawthorn 13.9 (13.5)
4 (4) Carlton 8.5 (8.9)
5 (5) St. Kilda 5.6 (5.9)
6 (7) Sydney 3.7 (3.8)
7 (6) Western Bulldogs 3.5 (4.0)
8 (8) Adelaide -0.5 (-2.4)
9 (9) Melbourne -3.8 (-4.1)
10 (10) Fremantle -4.0 (-5.4)
11 (11) Essendon -5.6 (-8.0)
12 (12) North Melbourne -14.4 (-13.0)
13 (14) West Coast -19.4 (-19.6)
14 (15) Brisbane -20.1 (-20.9)
15 (13) Port Adelaide -20.7 (-18.9)
16 (16) Richmond -21.3 (-24.1)
17 (17) Gold Coast -39.5 (-42.2)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Finger Points Outwards - No. 33

I've often experienced a feeling similar to that expressed in this article about the 'two eras' of pop music history, or any other medium for that matter.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 4

A match against Gold Coast is the gift that keeps on giving - this week it's the Demons who benefit from playing the Suns, moving up from eleventh to ninth. The top eight remains the same, but the Crows' position is looking more precarious.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 45.1 (Last week 44.3)
2 (2) Geelong 28.9 (29.0)
3 (3) Hawthorn 13.5 (16.4)
4 (4) Carlton 8.9 (11.4)
5 (5) St. Kilda 5.9 (5.8)
6 (6) Western Bulldogs 4.0 (5.3)
7 (7) Sydney 3.8 (3.7)
8 (8) Adelaide -2.4 (1.3)
9 (11) Melbourne -4.1 (-10.8)
10 (9) Fremantle -5.4 (-5.6)
11 (10) Essendon -8.0 (-9.4)
12 (12) North Melbourne -13.0 (-12.4)
13 (14) Port Adelaide -18.9 (-23.2)
14 (15) West Coast -19.6 (-23.3)
15 (13) Brisbane -20.9 (-21.6)
16 (16) Richmond -24.1 (-23.5)
17 (17) Gold Coast -42.2 (-35.7)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Greatest De-Motivational Poster Ever

Yeah, it's an oldie, but it still hasn't been topped:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 3

The Bombers continue to re-shape the rankings after another big win over a highly rated team, moving them up to 10th, and knocking the Saints out of the top four.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 44.3 (Last week 44.1)
2 (2) Geelong 29.0 (28.4)
3 (3) Hawthorn 16.4 (13.7)
4 (5) Carlton 11.4 (12.1)
5 (4) St. Kilda 5.8 (12.7)
6 (6) Western Bulldogs 5.3 (4.2)
7 (8) Sydney 3.7 (3.1)
8 (7) Adelaide 1.3 (3.8)
9 (9) Fremantle -5.6 (-9.0)
10 (12) Essendon -9.4 (-15.9)
11 (10) Melbourne -10.8 (-9.8)
12 (11) North Melbourne -12.4 (-12.2)
13 (16) Brisbane -21.6 (-23.6)
14 (15) Port Adelaide -23.2 (-22.4)
15 (14) West Coast -23.3 (-22.3)
16 (13) Richmond -23.5 (-20.6)
17 (17) Gold Coast -35.7 (-33.2)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 2

Well, the Gold Coast make their first appearance this week, and given their 119-point capitulation at home to Carlton, they rightly bring up the rear. They are joined down the bottom by Brisbane, who were well beaten by the Bulldogs, and Port Adelaide, who were beaten at home by our previous bottom-ranked team, the Eagles.

Up the other end, Carlton have made the largest jump in ranking points, almost grabbing a spot in the top four. Time will tell if it's a sustainable leap, or if other teams that play the Gold Coast Suns also experience a boost in their ratings. Other clubs that have considerably raised their standing this week through strong wins are the Bulldogs (up a couple of slots to No. 6), Hawthorn (up to No. 3), and of course, Collingwood, who now look to be nearly three goals better than their closest rivals. Sydney, despite their win over Essendon, fall to eighth, partly because the teams just below them had great weeks, although the ranking system may still be under-rating the Bombers at this stage.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 44.1 (Last week 39.9)
2 (2) Geelong 28.4 (28.7)
3 (4) Hawthorn 13.7 (10.5)
4 (3) St. Kilda 12.7 (14.6)
5 (7) Carlton 12.1 (3.1)
6 (8) Western Bulldogs 4.2 (0.7)
7 (6) Adelaide 3.8 (3.1)
8 (5) Sydney 3.1 (3.4)
9 (11) Fremantle -9.0 (-11.5)
10 (9) Melbourne -9.8 (-7.2)
11 (10) North Melbourne -12.2 (-9.8)
12 (12) Essendon -15.9 (-18.2)
13 (15) Richmond -20.6 (-24.4)
14 (16) West Coast -22.3 (-26.1)
15 (13) Port Adelaide -22.4 (-20.8)
16 (14) Brisbane -23.6 (-21.3)
17 (-) Gold Coast -33.2