Another night, another celebrity
Good morning, all.
Not a whole lot to report from here in Indy, except that it’s colder here than it is in Toronto (got down to about minus-35 with the wind chill overnight) and this whole winter thing can be over any time if anyone who controls such things is reading this.
Oh, and the JAMFest Cheer Super Nationals begin here today, which is why hotel rooms were at such a premium I guess. Not to mention the fact it’s probably going to get very noisy around these parts.
One other thing: I want the dude who was flying that USAir jet that crashed yesterday flying every single plane I’m on the rest of my career. It was pretty odd, and a tad disconcerting, to be sitting in the Pearson lounge waiting to fly here and watching the aftermath of a plane crashing into the Hudson River.
The decision to leave Andrea Bargnani in the starting lineup for now, proposed by Jermaine O’Neal but I’m sure fully endorsed and hinted at by Jay Triano, is the only thing that makes sense.
If O’Neal goes tonight against the Pacers – and that’s no sure thing until he sees how the knee feels later today – he’ll be the first big off the bench. But for how long? Even yesterday when he was talking to us, O’Neal said he wasn’t about to press for, or deserve, a start right now. But at no time did he suggest this whole backup thing would be something he’d like permanently.
And eventually, it’s going to come to a head unless Bryan Colangelo finds a way to move O’Neal.
Speaking of, here’s how Jermaine described his injury to us yesterday:
“The guy Azubuike in Golden State ran into my knee and most of the time when you get a contusion the last thing you want to do is get on an airplane for four hours. The problem was when we landed back in Toronto – after the air and the altitude – the knee swelled up on me.
“That was one of the toughest things to get going again, to get the swelling out of it and it just took quite a while to get out. We just finally got to a point where we tried a couple of different things and finally got a medication that was actually working.
“It was kind of sitting there waiting for the knee to calm down.
“There was so much swelling, I couldn’t bend the knee or move. It was quite a process but I feel like I’m better.”
The other big starting question for many of you is point guard, where Will Solomon will be back there again tonight, I presume.
It’s another tough one, leaving him starting and bringing Roko Ukic off the bench because Ukic seems to run the offence more smoothly and he has a much brighter future, especially with Toronto. But coaching is as much about massaging egos and handling personalities and the thought coursing through the minds of the coaching staff is that if they’re going to get the most out of Solomon, it has to be as a starter because they’re not sure how he’d react to backing up a rookie.
It’s probably wrong and speaks volumes to the wacky, out-of-order world that pro sports is sometimes but it’s also a fact and one staffs everywhere have to deal with.
Things you see in a restaurant bar, Vol. I’m not sure
So I’m sitting there Thursday night enjoying the greatest and hottest shrimp cocktail known to man at the world-famous St. Elmo’s steakhouse and there’s a bit of stir at table behind me.
I turn around and who do I see?
For real. He’s a wee little fella in real life but seems a likable sort. Didn’t mind stopping to have a cellphone picture taken with the woman sitting a couple stools down from me before blasting off into the night.
I tell ya, Julianne Hough one night and Donny Osmond the next? This has been a big week.
Keeping with our Bargnani stuff:
Q: Hi Doug, were you just in the "moment", when you said that Bargnani is the Raps’ second best defender behind JO, or you really mean it? If so, where do you think he stands as an offensive player and what is the sum of it all? My take is that he can't be ahead of CB and JO, because unlike those two, as he is learning to attack the basket in traffic, he is missing too many finishes at the rim.
Tino A, Waterloo
A: No, I meant it. I think you can make the argument for blocking shots on the ball and off, defending his own guy without help and being in the right place, Bargnani’s defensive improvement has been shocking. And the most impressive part of his evolution.
Offensively? Yes, he could finish better and be smoother on his drives but his mid-range game, the fact he’s shooting something stupid like 60 per cent from three-point range in his last eight games would put him, probably, right behind the other two bigs as Toronto’s best offensive weapons. You can certainly say he’s been more consistent than anyone but Bosh since he became a starter.
There is lots of room for improvement, no question, but considering where he was in November and where he is now, you can sure make the argument he’s the second best player on the team. Now, he’s got to do it for the final 43 games but I’m starting to think he can.
And in Indy, the folks reading the paper read this when they got up to turn on the heat this morning.
This stat came courtesy of the folks at TNT last night so if it’s wrong, put it on them (although I presume they check these things):
They said LeBron James, after missing a game-winner at the buzzer in Chicago, is 3-22 over his career on shots win or tie in the final five seconds of a game.
Wonder if the people in Cleveland are dogging for that under-performance? Somehow I doubt it.
Which brings us to …
This fits in quite well:
Q: Hi Doug. LeBron vs. Bird. A few nights ago, Jack and I can remember, mentioned that Jeff Van Gundy said that LeBron is a better small forward than Bird, which Jack responded with something like "being on TV has made JVG stupid". At first I thought LeBron hands down. Hey, if he's being called the next "Mike", and also is compared to Magic, he's got to be a better player than Bird. However, looking over the stats, they are very comparable. LeBron beats Bird in PPG, while Bird beats LeBron in RPG. Steals, Blocks and Turnovers are similar. LeBron has had only one season (his first) where he shot less than 30% from behind the arc, while Bird shot under 30% in four of his first eight seasons. Yes, Bird won Championships. LeBron still has quite a few years left in him to do it, which I'm sure that he'll win at least 1. What do you think? Is LeBron a better Forward than Bird? If he isn't right now, do you think that chances are that he will be at the end of his career.
Carl L, Barrie
A: Until LeBron wins one, he’s not in Bird’s class. He’s more explosive, an exponentially better athlete but he’s not as crafty, nor as good a clutch jump shooter (no matter what the stats say).
But LeBron can play more positions and probably defends better. When their careers are over and LeBron joins Bird in the Hall of Fame, you can debate their relative merits.
Right now? I like Bird better. For the rings.