Saturday, June 28, 2008

Donte Greene's Gunnin' for the No. 1 Spot

Last night, my girlfriend and I went to see the opening night screening of the high school basketball doc, Gunnin for that No. 1 Spot directed by Adam Yauch (better known as MCA of the Beastie Boys). Unfortunately, its not playing in Houston yet and there's no real schedule to get it out there (its due in Dallas July 11). That's one of the perks of being in New York City, I guess, we get the little movies first, hopefully the box office catches up with the film's critical acclaim and Houston becomes a destination. Yauch was even there for a little Q&A after the screening, a pleasant surprise we didn't know about beforehand.

Anyway, Houston Rockets rookie Donte Greene is one of the eight featured players in the film shot in '06 that covers New York's Elite 24 game held annually for the Top 24 prep players (of any grade level) at Harlem's famed Rucker Park. If you're a basketball fan then Rucker is definitely a place worth visiting. The mystique is palpable. I actually got the chance to run some games there with Gunnin' expert and Elite 24 announcer Bobbito Garcia at the Rucker on Tuesday as they filmed a spot for local television. Just being there was an experience. Little crowds popped up just for a random midday game.

But back to Greene, if you liked him already, you'll like him even more after seeing this movie, which is the genius to Yauch's approach. He didn't just want to record a basketball game, he wanted to get to know his players. You'll see Greene, a Baltimore native, just trying to lift his family out of a bad situation. Like a lot of the players, he's singularly focused, just trying to get to the next step. You'll see how he's been compared to Carmelo Anthony (also from B-More) his entire high school career and how he's followed in his footsteps. You'll meet his grandparents, who've taken care of him since his mother died, his little brother, his family, and you'll genuinely like the guy. Its funny how knowing just a little more about someone can alter and re-inform your perception.

For one, I can see why Michael Beasley gets a bad rap for his attitude. It has nothing to do with being a bad person. The guy is just a cut-up. He can't help himself. He's an irrepressible force, a walking hurricane of personality with a sense of humor beyond his age. Any authoritarian would think he had an attitude problem, any teammate would think he was the funniest dude they ever met. He teases, he prods, he taunts, but its all in good fun. And sure enough, he dominates the movie like he dominates the court. Beasley is the kind of person that will be around the NBA for a long time... whether you like it or not.

All the featured players were very likable. From Kevin Love, Jerryd Bayless and Kyle Singler (my girlfriend's favorite because he reminds her of Ron from the Harry Potter movies) to still prep stars, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings and Lance Stephenson. You'll wish nothing but the best for their careers when the lights come up just as now, more than ever, I hope for nothing but great things for Donte Green as a Houston Rocket. Find a way to watch the movie. Petition the site, petition your local theater, its worth it.

Originally posted at Yao Central on June 28 09:21 AM

Friday, June 27, 2008

In Coveting the Rudy Incarnation

Well, Houston fans, you finally got your Rudy Gay. Or at least, you got his not yet ready for prime-time prototype, Nicolas Batum. Tall, talented, lanky, very athletic and at least three years away from really resembling what was the very NBA-ready Gay on draft day two summers ago, then he got traded. But in return, you got equally not ready for prime-time Gay prototype, but much bigger Syracuse SF Donte Green. Oh, and Memphis PF/C Joey Dorsey, too.

Morey's done it again,
the Carl Landry deal, but better and with more upside. He's taken a talented yet unproven international late first-rounder and dealt him for an arguably more talented slightly later first-rounder and a serviceable big man drafted early in the second round. Rather than settling for addressing only one position in their draft position, Morey managed two. And apparently, it was all according to plan.

I guess anyone who had Chris Douglas-Roberts on the Rockets board never actually talked to Morey. CDR might be proven on the big college stage and ready to contribute right away, but he doesn't seem to have the upside that Morey wanted--Green does. Then again, you never know until they play. Green is a project no doubt and not too unlike the other Green (Gerald) the Rockets just released last season.

Listed at anywhere between 6-9 to 6-11, this Green also isn't a great ball-handler yet, but he's offensively crafty in the half-court. And he's athletic (slightly less than Gerald) and a better shooter (than Gerald or CDR). Even if his college 3-pt numbers don't blow you away, it shows in his mechanics. Picking up Dorsey is just icing on the cake. Even though Darrell Arthur (who the Rockets initially had before trading him for Green) is a more offensively skilled big, his potential health problems are just another headache the Rockets don't need and he's not particularly strong.

Dorsey is a machine. Listed at 6-9, 265 lbs, Dorsey is Boozer-like in size. You hear me, Houston fans? Carlos Boozer-like in size. Morey is also quick to point out he was the best defensive player on the best defense in college. He's also a strong finisher at the rim, something of which Houston definitely needs more. Dorsey should fit in well. Meanwhile, second-round pick Maarty Leunen will start his career off overseas... where he'll probably make more money than Dorsey.

Here's a funny bit from HoopsWorld, under their
Biggest Draft Night Losers post:
Houston Rockets. It was surprising that they didn't draft a guard, but even more surprising they passed on Donte Green and chose Nicolas Batum instead. It seems as though Green is just a much better version of their second-round selection, Maarty Leunen, a small forward that is a perimeter scorer. If they were looking to add interior toughness, defense and rebounding, drafting Batum won't be the answer they need - he needs to be more aggressive underneath and learn to use his body more effectively.
Guess they went to publish a little early. I wonder what they'd say now that Houston pulled Green and Joey Dorsey out of the deal. Here's a link to the best Dorsey highlight reel to get you hyped about his acquisition.

The guy is a serious athlete--you'd say he was a tank except I've never seen a tank move like this. I can't remember the last big man I saw get out in the open court like this. He could play tight end for the Giants. Visions of not-blown transition baskets dance in my head. Here's a little clip of Green. Shades of a younger T-Mac, I'm loving the soundtrack. Silky...

Originally posted at Yao Central on June 27 07:44 AM

Thursday, June 26, 2008

It's Draft Time Already? has the Rockets taking Marreese Speights (C, 6-10, 245 lbs) out of Florida. But NBA-TV,, and all have Houston taking Chris Douglas-Roberts (SF, 6-6, 195 lbs). The fan consensus seems to think the Rockets need Georgetown center Roy Hibbert (C, 7-2, 275 lbs).

For the first time in a long time, I'm not too concerned with who the Rockets take. Morey imbues confidence already with a solid track record. And according to Feigen's report, Morey has options and likes them. He's not expecting Speights or Hibbert to be around at 25. Hibbert might have been a possibility earlier in the off-season as international bigs (Alexis Ajinca, Ante Tomic, etc.) started getting more hype but scouts seem to have come to their senses after workouts. Speights looks better anyway.

Hibbert is big and ready to contribute. He should transition fairly easily into the Rockets system but he's always looked a little stiff to me. Speights is more agile and athletic, potentially a Tyson Chandler kind of player. A strong finisher around the rim, something the Rockets need. But alas, on almost every other board, he's out of reach. The consensus seems to be Chris Douglas-Roberts who gained national attention after his performance in the NCAA Tournament.

He's not the big man Rockets fans want but he's a natural scorer that can bring some spice in off the bench. If you saw him play you know he has an awkward yet innovative game, the kind you can't read, a big part of what makes Manu Ginobili--and Jeff Hornacek before him--so good offensively. But what really lifted these players into elite NBA guards was their tenacity on both sides of the court. Douglas-Roberts has that. He hates to lose--in fact, he claims he's never lost a pick-up game in his life.

At best, Douglas-Roberts can be a less athletic (but not by much) Shawn Marion, another awkward baller. He's a lengthy player that gets after it on defense and just finds a way to get the ball in the rim around the paint. He won't be the rebounder Marion is, but he could be a better one-on-one defender. As far as most scouts are concerned, he's already NBA ready--limited upside but tools to contribute right away. His strength is questionable but as Tony Parker can tell you (or show you) its not how strong you look, its how strong you play.

Douglas-Roberts just looks like a good fit in Houston in that he doesn't fit the description of anyone else on the roster. Of course, this is assuming the Rockets don't want to go big or for a project to considered later down the line. Morey is open to these options but if last season is any indication, he'll take the best talent on the board.

Here's some more of that athleticism...

Yes, that's Kevin Love. See, not by much.

Originally posted at Yao Central on June 26 08:32 AM

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Yao's in Threes and Detroit Trade Speculation

Michael Rosenberg at (or the Detroit Free Press to the print contingent) has officially kicked off Detroit's trade speculation season. With Joe Dumars publicly stating his intentions to "shake up his Pistons core," Detroit is suddenly rife with possibilities. What, you ask, does this have to do with Houston? Among his three plausible options is a trade with the Rockets: McGrady for Chauncey Billups and Tayshaun Prince. How many Rocket fans would turn that down?

• • •

Meanwhile, the prognosis for Houston's other star is looking good. Yao's doctors are optimistic but still haven't cleared him to play. Nevertheless, pryuen over at YMM has a translated article from Titan Sports about Yao playing in controlled 3-on-3 games "with Mike Harris and Kenny, an assistant physical trainer," facing Loren Woods, Aaron Brooks "and a Rice University alumnus of Mike Harris."

• • •

Oh, and just one short series of observations... how about them Celtics? I didn't think a Kobe Bryant-led team could ever get blown out by 30+ in any game. The Celtics were mine and everyone not from or currently in California's favorites to win it but if they looked unbeatable last night and not terribly remorseful. Did anyone else notice the fans booing David Stern before he presented the Larry O'Brien Trophy? All Stern could do was smile like a child getting heckled on stage but for whom the show must go on. Isn't image everything to Stern's modern NBA? That was not a pretty image.

Originally posted at Yao Central on June 18 10:15 AM

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Yao Campaign

As promised, John at YMM is hosting the pics I took in Shanghai of Yao's Olympic-themed marketing campaigns. To give them some context, its not that Yao is saturating the market but that Shanghai loves its billboards. There was an equal amount of ads (or more) for other Chinese athletic stars such as Liu Xiang and the Chinese women's volleyball team.

Yao's shadowman, the indomitable pryuen, also has some great info posted on the YMM message board regarding Yao's pre-Olympic tourney schedule.

Originally posted at Yao Central on June 16, 2008 10:29 AM