THE PALLILOG

Dream vs. Duncan and baseball in the balance

Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Jack Brame.

We're into month number three of a mostly sports-less world. Breaking news: it's not fun.

To fill some space this week ESPN.com released its ranking of the 74 greatest players in NBA history. The currently suspended season is the NBA's 74th. Unless you simply don't like the NBA, it's a fun list to discuss and debate. The ground rules for such rankings are never clear. Whose career would you rather have had: A. 10 times first team All-NBA, eight times first team All-Defensive team, two MVP Awards, or B. Five times first team All-NBA, five times first team All-Defense, one MVP Award? Easy call right? Hence, it's a Houston homer-ism issue to rail at Tim Duncan coming in ahead of Hakeem Olajuwon. Duncan placed eighth, Olajuwon twelfth. At his best Dream was greater than Duncan at his best, but for accomplishment and the longer span of greatness Duncan is the ranking guy. At their best Halle Berry or Salma Hayek? You can't go wrong. Ditto Timmy and Dream. Shaquille O'Neal split the difference between them in landing at number 10.

Couple of other notes and thoughts on the ESPN rankings. James Harden was slotted at number 32, Russell Westbrook at 42, Tracy McGrady at 52, Clyde Drexler at 57. All four of those guys are/were greater than Allen Iverson who is too high at 29. Iverson was tough as nails, played with ferocity, and it is spectacularly impressive that at six feet 165 pounds he led the NBA in minutes played per game seven times. Iverson averaged more than 25 points per game for 10 consecutive seasons. By my tally only six other guys in NBA history have done that. Shaq also 10 seasons in a row. Jerry West, Karl Malone, Kevin Durant, and Michael Jordan did 11 (asterisk on MJ, one of his 11 was his comeback season in which he played only 17 games). Counting the currently suspended season LeBron James is at 16 (16!). Awesome company for AI, but he was also a low percentage shooting inveterate gunner who was sometimes referred to as "Me, Myself, and Iverson" with some justification.


MLB

As the only non-salary cap league of our major professional sports, Major League Baseball needs its owners and players to negotiate stickier financial terms if there is to be roughly a half regular season plus postseason. On the macro level shame on the billionaires and millionaires if they can't arrive at a compromise. On the micro level there are legitimate bones of contention, though the 36 million Americans who have lost jobs over the past two months (and plenty still with jobs) have zero sympathy for the owners or players. Early on in the shutdown, the players agreed to take 170 million dollars which was theirs to keep if no season wound up being played at all. Beyond that the players agreed to basically a pro rata season salary tied to what percentage of the season was played. The players' position is that's the deal. The owners now say, hey, that was before we knew no fans at games would be real, and as a result all ballpark game day revenue would be lost. The owners say park-related revenue accounts for about 40 percent of the overall take.

The players' union leadership says the owners' offer of a 50-50 revenue split for 2020 and 2020 only is still a non-starter. When owner profits are through the roof the players don't get additional cuts. So why should the players give back additional money in time of losses? Answer: because in a "bad deal" the players would still divide a couple of billion dollars (give or take). With no season the players get nothing beyond the 170 million already received.

GET A DAMN DEAL DONE!


Respect for former Astros

Sad news with the passing of Bob Watson at 74 years old. On the field he's perhaps the most underrated player in Astros' history. Off the field, a class act and the first black General Manager of a World Series Champion (1996 Yankees). As one frame of reference for the "Bull" as a player, he had a seven-year stretch with the Astros that was clearly better than Michael Brantley was last season. Brantley was outstanding last season. Watson's power numbers were dragged down by home games in the Astrodome.

Meanwhile, send good thoughts the way of former Astros' player and manager Art Howe. He's 73 years old and hospitalized fighting coronavirus. Howe was the first Astros' manager I covered way back when. What an absolute gentleman. His 23 game hitting streak in 1981 stood for 19 years as the Astros' franchise record. Three Astros since have topped 23. Name them? Answer below.


NASCAR is back

NASCAR returns this weekend. Outstanding for NASCAR fans, but the idea that we're all so starved for live competition that millions will suddenly become auto racing enthusiasts and hence NASCAR audiences will skyrocket? Come on. Similarly, the PGA returning next month is great for golf fans, but isn't going to create scads of new golf fans. The day-to-day heartbeat of sports is local teams that generate common passion and breadth of interest.


Buzzer Beaters: 1. Worst joke I heard this week (by far): what is Forrest Gump's login password? 1-Forrest-1. 2. My series catch up viewing this week has been HBO's Succession. Not family night viewing, but really good. 3. Astros' longest hitting streaks: Bronze-Tony Eusebio 24 Silver-Jeff Kent 25 Gold-Willy Taveras 30

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The Rockets selected Jalen Green with the No. 2 pick. Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images.

The city of Houston can finally rejoice as Jalen Green was selected as the number two pick by the Rockets at the 2021 NBA Draft. It was already suspected that the Rockets would draft Green from past reports. Shams Charania of The Athletic already reported that the Rockets narrowed their decision down to Green.

Green is an explosive shooting guard that can get in-and-out amongst the perimeter and paint. With the G-League Ignite, he averaged 17.9 points, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He is an excellent free throw shooter at 82.9 percent. Like James Harden, he is incredibly good at getting to the free throw line. Green has a good trigger from three by shooting 36.5 percent on 5.7 attempts a game. His mature status since high school has prepared him for the NBA.

"His down-hill playmaking is really hard to guard", as Joey Fucca, his ex-coach told TDS. "If he says he's going to get to the rim, good luck. He is very good at getting to the free throw line, he is also very explosive to finish above the rim. When his three ball is on, you're just going to have a long night. I wouldn't be excited to guard him."

Green has blistering speed with outstanding handles to blow by his defenders and score. Spectators have compared Green to a younger Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Bradley Beal, and Zach Lavine, which are superstar players. He is a particularly good midrange shooter underneath the perimeter, as he shot 35 percent on a small quantity of attempts in a shorter season.

"Jalen is a uniquely blessed guy. He's a transcendent athlete," as Rockets GM Rafael Stone said. "He can handle the ball, and he can shoot. Normally, people that athletic aren't as skilled. We think that combination of tools makes him an extraordinarily exciting prospect."

During his press conference on Thursday night, Green emphasized the achievements he wants to accomplish with the Rockets. Green even discussed his desire of being a better defender, as he wants to continue to get better. He has a great wingspan and lateral movement to stay with opposing players on defense and be disruptive in the passing lanes.

"They're going to say it's a great choice," Green said. "Rookie of the Year, All-Star, All-Defense, max contract. We're doing it big."

"Yeah, I think I can be that piece. I think I'm going to bring that dominant mentality, that defensive mindset…They already got a lot of star players"

As the draft continued, the Rockets sent future draft picks from the Wizards to land the 16th pick in the draft, which was 6'10 Alperen Sengun from Turkey. The 16th pick did belong to the Oklahoma City Thunder until Rafael Stone executed an interesting deal with Sam Presti.

"We did not think he would fall to us at 23, so we were really aggressive to try and move up all throughout the first round to acquire him," as Stone said.

Sengun's abilities on the court revolve around his post ups and skillful passing. He even maintains good feet along the baseline. In his press conference, he mentioned his passing skills can become better. There are clips of him looking impressive on shovel passes, passing the ball behind his back, and finding the cutting man towards the basket. Sengun looked good in double teams by showing he can still find the open man with his back turned.

While playing in the Turkish Super League, Sengun was an MVP at 18-years-old, averaged 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assist, 1.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game. He could be another huge figure next to Christian Wood on the court, and a safety blanket for the Rockets if they cannot bring back Kelly Olynyk.

Usman Garbua is similar to former Rocket Luc Mbah a Moute. He is 6'8 with a tremendous wingspan at 7'3 and can guard anyone on the court, which is 1-5. Garbua was seen guarding Kevin Durant in the Team USA vs. Spain matchup and had interesting battles. The Rockets will get a ton of energy out of the 19-year-old player. He knows how to run the floor in transition, so he can finish around the rim. As I see it, he could be on a defensive first team in the future as he matures more. Garbua will become a defensive nightmare against opposing players.

"I think he's the best defender in the world outside of the NBA, and he's just 19 years old," Stone said. "I think he potentially could be really, really impactful on that side of the ball."

As the Rockets made their last selection, they selected Green's AAU buddy, Josh Christopher from Arizona State. He impressed a ton of scouts during his draft workouts and scrimmage against other prospects. Christopher had a double-double during his third scrimmage, which was 16 points and 10 rebounds. He is a very shifty guard with a ferocious step back.

While playing with the Sun Devils, he averaged 14.3 points per game and shot 49 percent from the field. Just like Green, he loved the midrange opportunities, as he shot 49.6 percent underneath the perimeter. He is another shifty big body the Rockets will have in their back court at 6'5. Christopher is very good at rebounding and playing defense. Stone loves watching him in defensive one-on-one situations. Christopher has Sixth Man of the Year written all over him because of his stocky body type and upside.

Hopefully, the Rockets have an exciting summer league and training camp along with their season.

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