Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Much ado about nothing?

Andrew Enum in the NYT:

“Anyone who has spent the past two days reading through the 92,000 military field reports and other documents made public by the whistle-blower site WikiLeaks may be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about. I’m a researcher who studies Afghanistan and have no regular access to classified information, yet I have seen nothing in the documents that has either surprised me or told me anything of significance. I suspect that’s the case even for someone who reads only a third of the articles on Afghanistan in his local newspaper.”

I don't even pretend to have looked through the paper mountain that WL dumped, but I was already familiar with the things Enum cites in this piece, so maybe there really is no "there" there.

Not that it would excuse the extreme lack of ethics and general sleaze of the whole exercise, mind you.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quick hits

Some political quickies:

I’m sorry, I just fail to see how the exposure of a group of major media figures coordinating efforts to suppress news damaging to the Obama campaign and to propagandize in an attempt to get him elected is news. Are people seriously surprised to hear that this was happening? Could anybody have thought it was not?


Looks like one Obamacare lie has been exposed pretty quickly:

The Obama Administration will give Pennsylvania $160 million to set up a new "high-risk" insurance program under a provision of the federal health care legislation enacted in March.

It has quietly approved a plan submitted by an appointee of pro-abortion Governor Edward Rendell under which the new program will cover any abortion that is legal in Pennsylvania.


How perfect is it that the president of a former civil rights organization which, having become obsolete, devolved into a garden variety hate and grievance group is named…Ben Jealous? It’s downright eponymous.


Tom Sowell echoes my feelings on said organization: “[T]hat an organization like the NAACP, after years of fighting against genuine racism, should now be playing the game of race-card fraud is especially painful to see.”


More Sowell: “[Voting for Obama thinking that he would be a post-racial president] was an honest mistake of the kind that decent people have often made when dealing with people whose agendas are not constrained by decency, but only by what they think they can get away with.”


Jack Kelly on Obama’s curious decision to object to al Qaeda because, of all things, racism:

Objecting to al Qaida mainly because its leaders may harbor racial prejudices is kind of like objecting to Hitler mainly because he gave preference to tall blondes with blue eyes.

Al Qaida is objectionable because of the many murders it commits in pursuit of its Islamo-fascist ideology, which is objectionable enough in itself. The president's comments -- and more so those of his aide -- give the impression he'd think better of these terrorists if they had a diversity officer and an affirmative action program.

Barack Obama pledged to be America's first "post-racial" president. But in office, he's been more obsessed with race than any president since Woodrow Wilson, who imposed segregation on the federal government.

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Review and preview: DJ Mbenga

Strengths: Humanitarian work.

Weaknesses: Basketball, except for blocking shots as a help defender.

Last year: In 7.2 minutes over 49 games, he put up 2.1 points and 1.8 boards with 0.6 blocks on his typically poor shooting (.471 TS%) shooting. Put up an 11.6 PER, driven primarily by what was a good rebounding year for him. Played only 12 minutes in 4 garbage time playoff appearances, putting up 5 points and 5 boards total.

Next year: Is an unrestricted free agent who will look to make a team to serve as an emergency big, with the D League or Europe also being possibilities. He will not be back with LA.

First off, I have to point out that DJ is a great man. His father was murdered after a government overthrow in his native Congo (then Zaire), but was able to pay a bribe to secure his son’s release, after which DJ was able to escape to Belgium. His philanthropic and volunteer work in the land of his birth and his work with Basketball without Borders is the stuff of real heroes.

As a basketball player, he is a borderline NBA roster level guy. He is 7 feet tall, and you can’t teach that. He is a fine shot blocker. He plays hard, which sometimes leads him to be a little too eager to leave his man to go for the block and usually leads to too many fouls. He is a black hole but cannot shoot. His rebounding and man defense are not as good as you would want from a center.

I hope he is able to catch on somewhere, but as minimum wage laws destroy unskilled labor jobs, so the CBA’s requirement that the minimum salary increase with experience hurts the employment chances of marginal vets. I root for him, but fear that DJ will be one of its victims this fall, although he could still make his way back via the D League/10 day contract route.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Review and preview: Josh Powell

Strengths: Can hit a jumper out to 18 feet or so. Is a willing and hard-working rebounder and defender. Has the respect of the team, beyond anybody save for Bryant and Fisher. Leader of the second unit in the way those guys are of the team as a whole. Always keeps himself prepared to play mentally and physically despite spotty usage.

Weaknesses: Lack of athleticism makes him a poor finisher and unable to handle quicker players he has to guard. Shot is more for show than an actual weapon. Not really a rotation-worthy NBA talent.

Last year: In 9.2 minutes over 63 games, he put up 2.7 points and 1.8 boards and had an off-year shooting (.407 TS%) shooting, although he did hit 7/16 from behind the arc for some reason. The shooting woes drove his PER down to a career worst and below replacement level 6.7. Played only 40 minutes in 13 playoff appearances, almost all garbage time, chipping in 9 points and 6 boards total.

Next year: Is an unrestricted free agent who may draw some token interest as teams look to fill out their rosters later on. A possibility for the Lakers to bring back at the minimum, but if he gets a better offer would likely take it. The poor shooting looks like a fluke, he should return to his career norm 10-11 PER level of play.

You can’t talk about Powell without using the word “respect”. The players respect him as a teammate and an all out practice player, the coaches respect him for his approach, readiness and professionalism (again, the anti-Farmar), and the fans respect him because it’s easy to see how much the team respects him. He is the only guy who really has the ear of Kobe and Fish, and may be the most popular guy in the locker room.

As a 4th-5th big to sop up some minutes for foul trouble and minor injuries, you can do a lot worse. When he has to be extended due to a longer-term injury situation, as he has with Bynum missing, he is not really up to the task, leaving the others playing more minutes than you would like. Ideally, he would be the 5th big with the team bringing in a vet like Kurt Thomas to be the 4th, but his popularity in the organization and doubt that there will be much of a market for his services combine to give him a decent shot at returning. And I don’t think anybody involved would be upset at that.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Kobe on Fisher

Kobe's comments on Friday tell you all you need to know about why Derek Fisher will return to the Lakers: because Kobe will demand it.

"We need to have him back, it's as simple as that. It's not a question of if he will be back; it's a matter of when. I don't care what [the cost] is,They need to work that out and get him back because his significance to our ballclub and to me cannot be understated.

"He's our big-shot maker, he complements me in terms of leadership in the locker room because he's the guy that puts his arms around everybody and he's our emotional leader and that allows me to be the taskmaster. We need to get him back and have him be a part of this group and in the fold.

"I'm optimistic that it will happen but we got to get that done."

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Review and preview: Shannon Brown

Strengths: Athleticism, effort and attitude. He has freakish hops, which make him a great finisher on the break and allow him to bother taller shooters. He always brings it, never pouting about playing time or role, and that effort translates into solid defensive work for a backup wing. And he is the anti-Farmar in that he does what the coaches ask of him and is constantly trying to do whatever he can to help the team.

Weaknesses: His shooting is inconsistent. And he will sometimes settle for poor shots on the break or early in the clock, instead of working for something better. His decision-making comes and goes, as if he knows what to do but sometimes loses that in the excitement of the game. While a great finisher, does not make good decisions when leading the break.

Last year: in 20.7 minutes, he put up 8.1 points on subpar (.517 TS%, 32.8% from the arc) shooting, with nothing standing out in his other numbers enough to push his PER above 12.4. In the playoffs, he put up 4.9 points on poor (.474 TS%, 28.1% from distance) shooting, dragging his PER down to 9.7 and costing him some minutes to Sasha Vujacic at times. Solid work for a backup wing, but nothing more.

Next year: Opted out of the $2,149,200 second year of his BAE contract, and is thus a free agent. Will draw some interest and while the Lakers would like to have him back and he is willing to give them a discount, with the tendency to overpay role players off of champs (see Posey, James) there is a good chance he will not return.

He has been a valuable role player in his year and a half with the team, and his willingness to work on his game and take instruction have made him a favorite of the staff and team leaders. He has his limitations, but as a 15-20 minute backup wing you could do a lot worse, so I’d like to see him return. I’d like to see him work on his three point shooting, as the system leaves him open on the arc a lot and you have to make opponents respect your shot out there.

That said, with funds tight and offers probably coming after the big boys sign (and with some teams left with too much cash for too little available talent), I have a hard time coming up with a scenario whereby he comes back in this market. I like him and will hope for the best, but just not expecting it.

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