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Brother Ferry's Travelling Salvation Show
by: Sham
February 2, 2009
Danny Ferry has gotten it wrong for a while now. In trying to surround the most awe-inspiring player in twenty years with enough talent to compete for a title, Ferry has waddled into a bevy of anti-climactic and ill-founded moves, which somehow saw the Cavaliers land an NBA Finals appearance, yet never really saw them as feared competitors. These retreads and nobodies have included such seminal names as Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, Eric Snow, Ira Newble, Damon Jones, Scot Pollard, Alan Henderson, David Wesley, Martynas Andriuskevicius, Shannon Brown, Cedric Simmons.....and so on. Armed with max cap room only four summers ago, only one of the players that it was used on (Zydrunas Ilgauskas) is still with the Cavaliers, or even still in an NBA rotation. The others - Marshall, Hughes and Jones - now wave towels for a living.

This time last year, on January 30th 2008 versus the Portland Trail Blazers, the Cavaliers "boasted" a starting lineup of Larry Hughes, Ira Newble, LeBron James, Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Devin Brown and Daniel Gibson were the main contributors off the bench, with Anderson Varejao inactive and Sasha Pavlovic disinterested. Somehow, this supporting cast was supposed to propel one of the finest talents in the sports history in a championship winner. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it didn't. Not even close.

However, Ferry did something I wasn't expecting - he got it right. In the three-way trade with Chicago and Seattle at the last trade deadline, Ferry turned unwanted parts into Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak, giving the Cavaliers a starting guard and an offensive focus for the second unit. They also got an anchor for their interior defense, in Ben Wallace, and all it cost them were parts they didn't want anyway. After this, Ferry turned more unwanted spare parts into Maurice Williams, giving the Cavaliers a brand new starting backcourt, while giving up nothing of any significant value. To put it into perspective, the Cavaliers upgraded their backcourt about tenfold in those two deals, with the best outgoing player being Joe Smith. Joe freakin' Smith.

The moves didn't end there. On draft night, Ferry addressed his weakest position (power forward) with both of his draft picks, selecting J.J. Hickson in the first round and Darnell Jackson in the second, both of whom provide some interior offense and defense from the frontcourt positions. Ferry also brought in the consistently overlooked Tarence Kinsey, who is due for a Von Wafer-like breakout one of these days. (Note: for argument's sake, discount the one he's already had.)

Cleveland has also been bolstered by internal improvement, as Ben Wallace decided to start trying again, and Anderson Varejao has gone on to become the player that he would have been last year, if only he could have been bothered. Even Sasha Pavlovic is effective again, as long as he's starting. On the flip side, Lorenzen Wright is more valuable to the team when he doesn't play, Jawad Williams is insignificant, and Daniel Gibson has forgotten that he is any good. But in spite of that, the Cavaliers can conceivably go twelve deep every night, with the kind of depth and supporting cast (particularly the perimeter shooting) that they simply never had before.

More importantly, they have James, partway through completing one of the best seasons in the sports history. James would be leading his team in every statistical category, were it not for the 0.3 blocks per game that he trails Ben Wallace by, and he is also on course for the second highest PER for a single season in NBA history. He's even hit some buzzer beaters, finally. LeBron is also an integral part of the Cavaliers defense, which currently ranks 2nd in the NBA, up from 11th last year. This comes in spite of some of the Cavaliers's recent imports (Williams, Szczerbiak) being regarded as poor defensive players, yet somehow they have fashioned a system that sees a pesky, frustrating brand of defense, one that denies too much penetration and which sees a terrific individual defensive player (Delonte West, Ben Wallace, LeBron James) for every conceivable matchup on the court. If they didn't keep losing to the Bulls, this Cavs team would be relatively flawless.

It pains me to admit it, because I don't like him very much (it's the chalk thing, definitely the chalk thing), but LeBron James is the best player on the best team in the best league in the world. If he wins the MVP award, it won't be debatable. If he wins a championship ring, it will no longer be a surprise.

Feedback for this article may be sent to admin@shamsports.com
 
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Because That's What Brian Boitano'd Do
by: Sham
September 8, 2008
Two weeks ago, I personally saw to it that everything that society thought it knew about genetics, biological science and the design of the human anatomy was shown to be little more than a disjointed symposium of bollocks. I ensured that the vast compilations of research data handed down through generations that we today know as "science" were callously undermined, never to be referenced again. I challenged the very fabric of modern society, shaking modern medicine to the core. And I did this by playing a game of Wii Sports Baseball.

Wii Sports Baseball is a fantastic game that involves repeated wild and overexuberant flailing of the arms in a concerted effort to hit an invisible pixelated baseball. The more extravagant the swing, the more enjoyment you will derive from the game. If you don't impinge your shoulder, or rupture your spleen, then you haven't really tried. The obvious flaw in such a game is that you need a rather big area of humiliating flailing room in which to play it without breaking anything. For me, this need is twice as pressing, as my invisible baseball swing is modelled around that of Cliff Floyd, when Cliff is swinging for Cruithne on a 3-0 count, combined with a pre-pitch wiggle reminiscent of a coked-up Gary Sheffield on a particularly jittery day. My rotator cuff and wrist surgeries have been booked in advance.

To get the space required to tear my shoulder ligaments, I needed to either visit the flood plains of Egypt and rig up one hell of a long multi-plug power cord, or to go instead to the front room of my house, the only part of the building with enough space. Since my lounge was a bit nearer than Egypt, I opted for that, even though I was flying in the face of a long established bit of my personal history in doing so: I'm allergic to my own front room. Spending any significant time in it leads to wheezing, swelling, discomfort, leprosy, dropsy, terminal gout and spontaneous combustion. [Readers note: the author is exaggerating a bit. But only a bit.]

But I'm no quitter, and I went ahead with the plan regardless. After inviting some friends over, we took turns to play Wii Baseball, each striving to strike out more elaborately and immaturely than the player before. This carried on for about three hours, occasionally interjected by a game of unsighted Wii Tennis. (Never let it be said that we don't know how to party.) However, it wasn't long before I was nursing a face the size of sub-Saharan Africa, as my long term allergy to some unknown element of the room returned with a vengeance. We ploughed on regardless, with me suffering from breathing difficulties and unable to see out of my left eye, before being all partied out at about 9pm and going our separate ways. By this point, I was really labouring, if an unemployed man can in any way labour.

With the lung capacity of an asthmatic dust mite and the unerotic facial swellings of a heavily beaten Michelin Man, I went to have a bath, because I was strangely convinced that this would be the cure. It was in my bathroom, while looking in the mirror to inspect the damage, that I realized I had changed the course of human evolution forever. Somehow, the combination of the intense allergic reaction and endlessly rubbing them had made my eyes change colour, from their normal and sexual sky blue to a shade that the Dulux Paint Colour Chart labels as "Jade Cluster". I don't know this happened, but it happened. And if Jade Cluster sounds attractive to you, she wasn't.

(This all actually happened, by the way. I have photographs to prove it, as well as the testimony of eye witnesses (pun!). After seeing that my eyes had changed colour, I excitedly rang people and made them witness it, to act as my guarantors for this story. That's my style, you choose your own. Also note: since this did genuinely happen, there must be an explanation for it, other than saying that I'm a genetic freak or a deity or something. If any scientists out there have an explanation, let me know. Unless the reason is unspectacular. In that event, I'll stick with the deity thing.)

Panicked, I went to bed. When I woke up the following morning, Jade was gone, without so much as a note or a phone number. (She never writes, she never calls, and that's why I'll never truly love her.) Still somewhat suffering, but at least armed with the correct eye colour, I downed a gallon of Piriton allergy and set to work on the task of uncovering quite what it was about that room that defied scientific convention. After spending a few hours uncomfortably snuggling potential stimuli, waiting for my face to again evolve into that of Joseph Merrick, I have finally been able to pinpoint the cause of the problem - the feathers in my cushions. So that's any prospective pheasant plucking career over with, then.

Such a steady and structured approach to my problem helped find the solution. By carefully eliminating all potential options one by one, I was able to rule out all possible outcomes to this problem, and instead found a sensible, measured and logical resolution to the situation.

Unfortunately, Ben Gordon's contract negotiations have not been handled with the same degree of reasoning.

The Bulls got off to a great start this offseason, unjustly winning the draft lottery, and getting a good laugh at Mike D'Antoni in the process. Prior to this, General Manager John Paxson had set to work on clearing out their coaching staff, and replacing them - eventually - with Vinny Del Negro (about whom nothing much can be said, although at least he's not a retread) and an All Star lineup of assistants to replace whatever the hell you want to call what went before. They even cleansed the commentary booths, dispensing of Tom "Look at the bench!" Dore and "Ring It Up" Wayne Larrivee, while bringing in one of the game's best announcers in Chuck Swirsky. So far, so good.

But then came the players. Luol Deng's contract was secured comparatively quickly, a resolution brought about when the Bulls agreed to overpay him because of his great smile and because the owner likes him more. [Readers note - the preceding reasons were entirely speculative and shouldn't be regarded as respectable.] However, they have not made such a concession with Ben Gordon - their leading scorer and best shooter - and so, unlike Usain Bolt, his situation continues to run. What the Bulls have offered is a 6 year, $59 million contract. What Ben Gordon wants is a 6 year, $72 million contract, one which would make him the highest paid Bull, as well as the recipient of the largest contract in the franchise's history.

Two months in, and neither side has backed down yet.

The Bulls have not improved on this offer partly because of its reasonable value, partly because they're the ones holding all the cards (if you'll excuse the tired old cliché), and partly because of their precarious financial position. Staying under the luxury tax while retaining all their core players has been a priority of the Bulls for several years now, and they've pretty much achieved it, even if it cost them Tyson Chandler in the process. Kirk Hinrich, Ben Wallace and Andres Nocioni all took the unusual step of accepting declining contracts that helped the Bulls maintain future financial flexibility, and even the signing of Joe Smith was done with this summer's budget in mind. The unexpected salary of Derrick Rose notwithstanding, the Bulls have gotten their budget about right, being able to overpay the players that they love and hardball those that they don't, without ever paying the luxury tax, as doing so would be the work of Satan. Puppies would be left out in the rain. Kittens would cry. Little babies would spontaneously combust. Stricken parents would kill themselves with grief. The $59 million offer represents the most that the Bulls can offer without going over the threshold and paying and tax, thereby saving the lives of young families everywhere.

Similarly, Ben Gordon has also not backed down from his hard line stance, because......well, we don't really know why.

Consider for a moment Gordon's options. He could sign the Bulls more-than-fair offer, but he's said he won't. He could sign the decently sized $6.4 million qualifying offer, but he's said he won't. He could sign an offer sheet with another team, but the Bulls would match anything equal to or lower than their current offer, and only the Memphis Grizzlies can make a bigger one, something which they've shown no intentions of doing. He could work out a sign and trade deal, but no team wants to pay him equal to the Bulls offer, let alone top it. He could sign in Europe, but the big spenders don't want him. Or he could hold out forever and ever and ever and never play professional basketball again.

The last one is where we appear to be headed. Olympiakos don't want to know. Neither do CSKA Moscow, despite Gordon's agent Raymond Brothers wanting it so much that he's willing to tell everyone they do. Memphis would rather have Josh Smith and Zach Randolph. Everyone else spent their money. And no one but the Bulls thinks he's worth $10 million a year, let alone $12 million. Therefore, since no one else wants him, surely Ben must be destined to sign with his lone suitor? Mustn't he?

Apparently not. We have worked through this, and there remains only one offer on the table. We have eliminated all other avenues, and found the solution. We have discussed that I'm allergic to feathers, and that Ben Gordon is destined to re-sign with the Bulls. And yet, for some reason, we continue to wait.

Sooner or later, this saga will conclude itself. It has to. Two months of holding out has so far seen no one other than the Bulls make a competitive offer, and the Gordon camp's endless search for some leverage in their negotiations have served only to weaken their position. One more month will achieve no more good - the Bulls are missing out on possible contingency plans, Ben Gordon's public image is taking a serious beating, and the Chicago fan base is becoming increasingly alienated. We continue to wait for common sense to prevail. So far, it hasn't.

The Bulls are once again mired in a sticky and protacted contract negotiation. This time, it's not their fault.

Feedback for this article may be sent to admin@shamsports.com
 
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BasketBollocks - your ultimate Bollocks source
by: Sham
August 20, 2008
Hello. My name is Sham, and I am your new DraftExpress blogger.

Sham isn't my real name, obviously. Even if it was, my real name would have to consist of more than just that solitary syllable, because I'm not a Portuguese footballer. No sane parent calls their son by a one syllable all-inclusive name, and only Maybyner Hilario, or those in some kind of intensely religious and/or professional hip-hop artist capacity, will opt to abridge their name in that way. Also, I'm a bit too English for all of that. We have a monarchy, you know.

My nationality is something that will feature in everything that I write, for it serves as my substitute for any insightful facts or opinions. I'll often talk of English pop culture references that you won't understand, and I'll also occasionally break out some mild English swearing that will make literally one of us laugh. (This explains the blog title.) So, with that in mind, let's clear up the obvious England questions:

a: No, I do not drink tea.
b: Actually, my teeth are perfect in every way.
c: No, I do not live in London.
d: Luol Deng is fantastic and I won't hear criticism to the contrary.

My mission, since I've chosen to accept it, is to provide insight-free general NBA commentary, daubing the pages of DraftExpress in misplaced adjectives, while talking about my real life friends slightly less than Bill Simmons does. However, in direct defiance of that last point, I also often advertise the British pop-indie group Scouting For Girls, because the bassist hugged me in a bar once. (Readers note: Liberal usage of hypocrisy is to be expected in these posts, as is the often poor grammar that is so unbecoming of an Englishman. Oh well.) The art of 'making a valid point' is thankfully not mandatory in this blog, which is good news for me, although some valiant and inevitably fruitless efforts to do so will be made nonetheless. Such 'points' often feature Salim Stoudamire and Devin Brown, because I kind of like them.

My other reason for visiting is shameless self-publicity. I am the sole owner, proprietor and visitor of the overwhelmingly blue NBA website, ShamSports.com. Every word on that website is of my doing, unless you're richer than me and want to sue me for slander. (In the event of such a scenario arising, then whatever it is, I didn't do it.) The website tries to combine accurate NBA info with a whimsical, devil-may-care approach to NBA commentary. However, since I'm in charge of it all, and since I'm an idiot, this premise is undermined immediately.

I will try and write more frequently than Jared Reiner, but I can't promise to write more interestingly. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee the opposite. After all, he's the one with the NBA experience and the professional basketball career. All I can offer you is lower middle class English colloquialisms and some lavish sexual metaphors. (Then again, I am Uros Slokar's Facebook friend. Jared Reiner, to my knowledge, is not. Therefore, which one of us has really made it? Correct answer: Jared Reiner. Obviously.)

I hide behind a soubriquet partly because it makes me feel like a champion of the people, and partly because it makes me feel like a spy. However, more importantly, I just want my name to be remembered, which is why I have shortened it to four letters. It worked for Nene, it worked for Cher, it worked for Bono, and by God, it will work for me.

Maybe.

Feedback for this article may be sent to admin@shamsports.com
 
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