Jerryd Bayless: Finally Home

November 12, 2012

by Jack Maidment

The first time I saw Jerryd Bayless for any length of time was when he appeared in Adam Yauch’s frankly excellent documentary Gunnin’ for that #1 Spot.

Telling the tale of the top high school basketball players in America as they took part in the Elite 24 game at Rucker Park, the film provided what would be a telling glimpse into the lives of a handful of players who within two or three years would be playing in the NBA.

Just like they said they would.

Every featured player, whether it was Michael Beasley, Kevin Love or Brandon Jennings, spoke of their drive to make it to the league and shine.

But at the time only one player made me feel like he would go through walls, actual walls, to make it and that was Bayless.

It was the way he spoke of commitment and the virtues of hard work, the way he carried himself off the court (in yoga), the way he reacted when he was told Tyreke Evans was on the cover of a magazine instead of him, but more than anything it was his eyes.

It seemed like he wanted to make it, and to win, more than anything.

His eyes burnt. They were flat out on fire: There was no way Jerryd Bayless, the undersized, ridiculously hard working scorer from Phoenix, Arizona, was not making it to the NBA.

So after two years on the outside in Portland and two more playing for the perennially poor Toronto Raptors, Bayless wound up in Memphis, Tennessee – eyes dimmed, perhaps a little tired, but still burning, still working hard: And no where is hard work more appreciated than in the land of the Grizzlies.

Bayless is a perfect fit. A blue collar player for a blue collar team in the most blue collar of towns.

Finally Bayless is in a situation where he can succeed and where his contributions will mean more than lottery balls.

Backing up Mike Conley in Memphis means 16 minutes a night. It means steady point play. It means hitting open shots and playing defense. And so far this season Bayless has been stellar.

Maybe not statistically but certainly in helping his team win.

Some games it’s been key steals. Others it’s been a big block. Others still, a three down the stretch.

Put simply the man with the fire has found a home.

I always knew he would.


The Time Is Now

August 11, 2010

by Jack Maidment

The year of the veteran or the year of the end?

This past off season has seen a passing of the torch of sorts with one generation’s past superstars begrudgingly and without acknowledgement stepping aside to make way for the next.

This means two things. The old guard are gone. Tracy McGrady, Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson are the symbols and their end will in all likelihood be without the fanfare that they still hear in their heads.

Age has caught up with these players who used to sit atop the very pinnacle of basketball excellence. In all three of their respective careers they were, at one point or another the best in the game.

For T-Mac that moment was all too fleeting, the odd game, the odd month. For Iverson and Shaq their shine was more durable, more enduring and they shone the brightest.

The very best.

But now, the dream has died, the fantasy has been lived and it is time to go.

Only one of the three has a job for next year and any chance to start is down to injury and injury only. Would Boston have gambled on O’Neal or for that matter O’Neals had Kendrick Perkins not gone down with a knee injury

As for Iverson and McGrady? The bottom line is that no one wants them. And that has got to be tough. Another season might happen for both, more likely for McGrady than Iverson, but any dreams of a contract without some sort of release clause should things turn pear shaped is pure fantasy.

The second thing is that the time is now for LeBron, Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and all those guys drafted between 2003 and 2008.

The NBA is now theirs. This is their peak, their history. They are now The Generation.

The reality is they now have 5-7 years of gold to make their bid: for wins, for titles, for legacy, for the Hall.

It is time for the changing of the guard.

LeBron James + Miami Heat = Disappointment

July 9, 2010

by Jack Maidment

LeBron James announced last night that he would join the Miami Heat.

‘The Decision’ has to rank highly, perhaps number one, on the death of society/car crash television moments.

He sold out his home-town on live, national television. Surely a move of someone with absolutely zero self awareness since the damage to Brand LeBron will be irreversible.

The Cleveland Cavaliers did everything they could to help LeBron win in his 7 years there. They spent money and gave him any number of sidekicks and the support of the fans never slipped below adoration, even when the Cavs crashed or limped out of the playoffs year after year.

Yet, instead of operating with some class and filling in the team that has been his since he turned pro with advanced news of his decision he left them blind, finding out with the rest of us.

Dan Gilbert’s response of fury and capitals is absolutely understandable.

All of Ohio will be rooting against him now, along with everyone else who isn’t a Miami fan.

By electing to join Wade and Bosh on South Beach LeBron has thrown away the chance of ever being in the same category as the NBA’s previous great players and winners.

What separates the greats from the also rans is the fact that they are driven to win, but more than that they need to win on their terms.

Would Bird, Magic, Jordan, Kobe or Russell have deserted their respective teams after 7 years of hitting the wall? No, because any set backs acted as fuel to add to their competitive fire.

For that reason LeBron’s decision will be viewed as a cop out, the easy option.

The most physically gifted player possibly in the history of the game decided to take the short cut and for that reason only Heat fans and network television executives will have anything resembling love in the years to come.

It is time to accept that LeBron is not the best player in the game. Nor will he ever be. The best player doesn’t defer. Basketball is not a sport played by committee. He just isn’t wired to be a winner on his own.

The Miami Heat and LeBron James. The team and player you (now) love to hate.

Let the backlash commence.

Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh Miami Heat bound

July 8, 2010

Miami: two for three, one day to go

by Jack Maidment

Dwyane Wade has agreed to re-sign with the Miami Heat – and he is bringing the most coveted big man in this year’s free agent class with him.

Chris Bosh will make his long anticipated departure from the Toronto Raptors to head for the sunshine and tax breaks of South Beach.

Details of each player’s respective contracts have yet to be discussed, with one eye on LeBron James and his announcement on ESPN this evening at 9pm, ET.

Should James decide to join Wade and Bosh in Miami the three of them would be setting an unrivalled precedent in the NBA: taking a significant pay cut to play together in the name of a championship, or championships.

It seems at this stage that James is more likely to re-sign with his home town Cleveland Cavaliers because of his stated desire to be a global icon and billionaire.

Leaving Ohio without delivering a championship would be a serious smudge on his legacy and winning with two other All-NBA talents in Miami would not bring the same benefits and respect that winning with himself as the main man would.

The other problem with Wade, Bosh and James playing on the same team, aside from whose team it will be in crunch time, will be signing other players to fill out the rest of the roster, with the Heat only being offer to offer the veteran minimum of $1 million after taking care of the Big Three.

Can three players win a championship with little help?

A tandem of Wade and Bosh with money to fill out the roster might almost be the better option with plenty complimentary talent and no question over who gets the last shot of the game.

Carlos Boozer is a Chicago Bull

July 8, 2010

by Jack Maidment

A long courtship was finally resolved yesterday with the announcement that Carolos Boozer will be wearing the red white and black of the Chicago Bulls for the considerable future.

The 28-year-old power forward agreed to a 5-year, $80 million deal.

The move will give the Bulls the low post threat that they have been lacking for many seasons and the addition of Boozer should make for one of the better front courts in the NBA, teaming with Joakim Noah and Luol Deng.

Boozer moving to a new team was the most predictable of any of the free agent moves this year given the number of times he has said he wanted to leave the Utah Jazz in the past two seasons.

The move will also be seen as a boost for Chicago’s chances of landing LeBron James ahead of his decision live on ESPN tonight, 9 ET.

Joe Johnson Commits to Atlanta Hawks

July 5, 2010

by Jack Maidment

The Atlanta Hawks offered Joe Johnson a six-year, $119 million deal on July 1 and he has agreed to sign, making him the first of this year’s premier free agents to commit to their future.

A cynic would say that any meetings the 29-year-old had with other teams in the past four days were a highly visible way of compelling the Hawks to offer Johnson the money that he wanted.

Or perhaps he just loves Atlanta and was glad to make the deal.

Either way the Hawks kept the man that matters most to their franchise. Regardless of any playoff exits in the past few years the fact is that Johnson has led a team long a basement dweller into the light of the post season.

A Championship is far from realistic but number 2’s signature means the Hawks can carry on being relevant at least.

If Johnson can start to thrive in the playoff atmosphere, something he has not done up to this point, the Hawks could yet surprise someone in the Conference semis in the next few years.

Or the deal could turn out to be a crippling financial burden; too much money for an ageing shooting guard who has never shown he is capable of carrying a team when it needs him too.

As for Amare Stoudemire and the Knicks it seems that regardless of how convinced he is that he will be playing in New York for the next 5 years he will have to wait for LeBron to say no before he can say yes, or wait for an invite from James.

It is understood that the Knicks have given LeBron the chance to pick his own big man as part of their pitch.

NBA 2010 Offseason: One to Cherish

June 22, 2010

by Jack Maidment

With one Game 7 victory the Los Angeles Lakers brought to a close another NBA season and ushered in the much vaunted free agency class of 2010. Beyond that and the Draft? Not much, so let us savour every last morsel of relevant basketball related information until the League goes in to its recuperation period.

In a matter of days those who can will be making their runs at the player(s) who they believe can save/help/resurrect their franchises.

For New York it means persuading LeBron that there is more to life than winning.

For Chicago it means showcasing Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah as the two-three punch on a potential championship team.

For Miami it means retaining Dwyane Wade.

Everyone else will flail and fail; or at least try and pass off Joe Johnson as a saviour.

And Chris Bosh will tell all that will listen that he can be the centre piece of a winning team.

All of this will take place while the Lakers sit on a roster that looks good to dominate the NBA for the next three years.

With the undoubted demolition of the Boston Celtics, LeBron’s contract status and Vince Carter still playing for the Orlando Magic, the standard out East will be no where close to the challengers this year gone.

Something major will have to take place in the West to turn the race for the Conference Crown into something more than a one horse cake walk.

In short: LA is the King. And the King stay the King until.

As for the Draft the Wizards can look forward to a future with John Wall in charge. What happens to Gilbert Arenas (he stays, plays, doesn’t explode) will have a large bearing on how big a turnaround the Wizz can hope for.

Meanwhile Evan Turner’s move to Philadelphia should inject some life into a Sixers franchise long bereft of relevancy.

Beyond that the draft is a mixed bag but cherish it because in a few weeks all there will be is Summer League.