November 29, 2011

An eventful basketball showcase at BFI’s Junior Expo in Delhi

The youngest kids were just eight years old, each with hands so tiny that even all ten fingers wouldn’t be enough to get the grasp of a large basketball. Standing opposite them were the specialists, ‘All Star’ basketball players to whom the art of dribbling a basketball came as easily as walking. In between, there were youngsters of every level, experience, and proficiency of the game. But to each of them, this day was about just one bottom line: having fun with the game of basketball.

On Tuesday, Kenny Natt, the American head coach of India’s Senior Men’s Basketball team, hosted the BFI Junior Expo, organised by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), at the Sri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) in New Delhi. The event was an exhibition of the talents of India’s finest Junior (U18) players, who had come together in the capital city for a grueling month of camp with Natt throughout November. The expo was a fitting conclusion, not only for the coach to see how much the youngsters had improved after the time spent with him, but also for the players to prove to the coach that they belonged to represent India at the highest level. 26 of the best performers at the camp were chosen for the U18 All Star Teams at the Expo on Tuesday, and Natt had hinted that their performances at the Expo could go a long way in ensuring their future with India’s Senior Men’s squad.

But first, it was time for the talented pupils to try their hand out in their master’s skill: India’s Junior All Stars stepped into the shoes of the coach as they helped Natt in organising a ‘Youth Basketball Camp’ at the expo. The Juniors taught simple basketball drills to a 120 basketball-loving kids from dozens of schools around the city. Ranging from ages 8-18, the school-children were immediately handed the challenge not only to keep up with the Junior All Stars, but to one day, replace them!

“You school-kids are the future of basketball in India,” Natt said as he opened the Youth Camp to the gathered youngsters, “I hope to see them becoming All Stars one day, too!”

Ashok Rangeen, the joint secretary of the BFI, requested the gathered audience to first take a moment to pray for the health of BFI’s CEO Mr. Harish Sharma, who has been hospitalised over the past few months.

Enthusiastic to learn, as the school-kids descended upon the court to face the Junior Stars and Coach Kenny Natt. It’s not every day that the average basketball fan in the city gets hoops tips from a former NBA coach! Children from different schools such as DPS (Mathura Road), Montfort School, Rockfield School, Modern School (Barakhamba), St. Michael’s School, Rosary School, and Nirmal Bhartiya School, improved their game in several ways through drills to achieve the perfect defensive stance, defensive movements, shooting technique, the right form for a good jump-shot, dribbling, lay-ups, and passing… The camp touched on each angle of basketball at the Youth Camp, and then some more!

After the camp, it was then time for the school-children to return to the audience, and the All Stars to become the center of attention: Natt organised several competitions to test the skill level of some of his players. The first one was the Skills Challenge, a competition which tested them for a mixed skill-set of dribbling, passing and shooting. This challenge was won by Nitin Chopade, while Siddharth Chouhan finished at second place. In the next competition – the Big Man Medley – Natt tested the taller players for their inside and outside shooting skills. This competition was won by Aravind A. with Karan Joshua ending at second place. Finally, a 3-point shooting contest was held, won by Loveneet Singh. Siddharth Chouhan ended at second place.

The eventful day concluded with an All Star Game between two sides amongst the Junior players: ‘Team Red’ and ‘Team White’. Team Red held a slim lead at the end of the first half of this 30 minute encounter, 27-25. In the second half, the Reds played stifling defense to hold back the Whites, and soon, found themselves comfortably up by 13 points with just four minutes left the contest.

But it was here that Team White regained their posture and scripted a strong comeback. Over the next four minutes, Team White outscored Team Red by 17-2, and suddenly, found themselves holding to a 54-52 lead. With just seven seconds remaining in the game, Team Red had the ball in their hands though: it came into the hands of Ajay Pratap Singh, who drove strong to the basket to score a lay-up, tie the game, and win a foul. With the game now tied at 54 at the last second, Ajay hit the free-throw to give this side the lead and a memorable victory, 55-54.

Aravind A. of Team Red was named as the MVP of the All Star Game.

At the end of the expo, Natt gave away the prizes for the individual challenges, the winners of the All Star Game, and the game’s MVP. He also announced that an ‘All Star First Team’ and an ‘All Star Second Team’ – consisting of five players each – would be revealed soon.

But the expo came to an end with a promise by the Coach: he would definitely be back to interact with more young talents around the country in the future, and he would keep his eyes open to scout each and every prodigal basketball talent that emerges. Even the eight-year-olds!

November 28, 2011

U18 All Star Teams released for Junior Basketball Expo on Tuesday

Pitting the best under-18 basketball players in India against each other, the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and the Indian Senior National Team’s head coach Kenny Natt have released two U18 ‘All Star’ Teams who will play in an exhibition game during the BFI Junior Basketball Expo at the Sri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) in New Delhi on Tuesday, November 29h.

Natt, formerly head coach from the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the USA, will be hosting the first ever Junior Basketball Expo on Tuesday, where he will be inviting India’s best Junior (U18) players for skills challenges and the All Star Game. The Junior players will also assist Natt in hosting a ‘Youth Basketball Camp’ with school-kids from across the city.

Over 30 Junior players have been taking part in a National Coaching Camp with Natt during the month of November. Natt has chosen the best performers from this camp to take part in the All Star Game. The Expo will also serve to help Natt scout for talented basketball players to recruit for the Senior Men’s team.

Here are the Junior All Star Teams:

Team A: Amit Kanarjee, Vinay Kumar Janbandhu, Kasirajan Muruthan, Sidhartha Chauhan, Kirti Goswami, Karan Joshua, Akhil M. Sunny, Nikhil Kumar, Manpreet Singh, Rana V. Singh, Yogesh P. Kumar, Fardin F. Khan, Jitendra Patidar.

Team B: Nitin Chopade, Loveneet Singh, Sivabalan Gunasekaran, Sukhjeet Singh, Ajay Pratap Singh, Suresh K. Bijamiyua, Aravind A., Abhishek Kumar Singh, Melvin Rego, Ankit Singh Parihar, Ashok A. Kumar, P. Visu, Baljit Singh.

2011 BFI Junior Basketball Expo

Hosted by: Coach Kenny Natt, head coach of the Indian Senior Men’s Basketball team and former NBA head coach.
Place: Sri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) at Guru Tegh Bahadur Road, New Delhi.
Date: Tuesday, November 29th.
Time: 9 AM onwards (approx. 4-5 hours)

Order of Events:

Youth Basketball Camp/Training Session
Skills Challenge
Three-Point Shooting Contest
Medley Shooting Contest
Junior Expo All Star Game
Awards Ceremony

November 26, 2011

India’s National Coach Kenny Natt encourages young wheelchair basketball players

It was a memorable union between basketball, goodwill, and fun at the Amar Jyoti Research & Rehabilitation Center in New Delhi on Saturday morning where India’s Senior Men’s Basketball team head coach Kenny Natt attended a clinic with primary school wheelchair basketball players. To raise awareness about athletes with disabilities, the National Trust hosted a Wheelchair Sports Event on November 25-26, 2011. As part of this event, American non-profit organisation Wheelchair Athletes Worldwide (WAW) donated seven sports wheelchairs to Amar Jyoti and conducted basketball clinics.

The initiative was part of 'Badhte Kadam', which is an awareness-raising campaign by the National Trust aiming to create opportunities and participation in the community of People with Disabilities. Amar Jyoti, the venue for this event, is an inclusive school where students with and without disabilities learn together.

Representing the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), Natt was welcomed at the event by representatives from WAW and accomplished wheelchair athletes Peter Hughes and Greg Hockensmith. This was WAW’s first donation: Unlike regular wheelchairs – which are used by disabled youngsters at Amar Jyoti when they play basketball – the sports wheelchairs allow for better mobility and efficiency when taking parts in sports such as basketball and rugby.

The American coach Natt is an accomplished name in basketball, as he has had stints as a player and a coach with America’s National Basketball Association. On Saturday, though, Natt took the role of student for a change as he was given tips on the rules and regulations of wheelchair basketball by experienced wheelchair athletes at the event. Hughes and Hockensmith then conducted short drills with several physically disabled under-14 students at Amar Jyoti to help them understand appropriate use of the sports wheelchairs.

The children, WAW athletes, and coach Natt then competed in a friendly wheelchair basketball game, as students from nearby schools gathered to watch and encourage the young hoopsters.

“I have played basketball at every level in my life, but this was completely new and different to me,” said Natt, “I had a lot of fun today: it takes a lot of hard work and practice to be an accomplished wheelchair basketball player. I’m sure I’ll be back here again!”

“Sport is great in several ways: it gives us an opportunity to compete and also to achieve together as a team,” Natt further encouraged the youngsters, “With sports, there is no limit to what you can accomplish, as long as you give in your hard work, your commitment, and practice. I encourage the young players here to focus on improving the weaker aspects of their game so that they can become better basketball players.”

“I’m honoured to be here, and I also commend Wheelchair Athletes Worldwide for their donation to the children.”

November 25, 2011

Wheelchair Basketball Showcase as part of ‘Badhte Kadam’ in Delhi

To raise awareness about athletes with disabilities, the National Trust will be hosting a Wheelchair Sports Event at the Amar Jyoti Research and Rehabilitation Center in New Delhi on November 25-26, 2011. As part of this event, American non-profit organisation Wheelchair Athletes Worldwide will be donating sports wheelchairs to Amar Jyoti and conducting basketball clinics.

The initiative is part of 'Badhte Kadam', which is an awareness raising campaign by the National Trust aiming to create opportunities and participation in the community of People with Disabilities. This is the third year of this campaign.

On Saturday, members of Wheelchair Athletes Worldwide will make their first donation of sports wheelchairs to the Amar Jyoti School. Unlike regular wheelchairs – which are used by disabled youngsters when they play basketball regularly – the sports wheelchairs allow for better mobility and efficiency when taking parts in sports such as basketball and rugby.

Wheelchair Athletes Worldwide will also hold an interactive clinic and demonstration on the use of the sports wheelchairs with the students and coaches of Amar Jyoti and from other schools. A wheelchair basketball game featuring disabled and non-disabled basketball players will be held at the end of the event.

India’s Senior National Men’s Basketball team’s Head Coach Kenny Natt is also looking forward to attending the function on Saturday morning to watch the demonstration and also to encourage the kids attending the event.

November 24, 2011

National Coaching Camp for Sub-Junior Boys & Girls in December

The Basketball Federation of India (BFI) has called upon 25 boys and 25 girls of the under-14 age level to take part in a National Coaching Camp for Sub-Junior Boys & Girls, set to be held at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in New Delhi from December 11-20, 2011.

The youngsters called for the Sub-Junior camp have been chosen on the basis of their performances at the 38th Sub-Jr. National Basketball Championship for Boys & Girls in Lucknow in September. The camp will help prepare the players for future international exposure matches.

Sub-Junior Boys for National Coaching Camp

SMA Salman (Andhra Pradesh)
B. Neeraj Kumar (Andhra Pradesh)
M. Siva Durga Prasad (Andhra Pradesh)
P. Durga Prasad (Andhra Pradesh)
Sugam Yadav (Chhattisgarh)
Mithun Deb (Chhattisgarh)
M. Hitesh (Chhattisgarh)
Abhishek Kumar (Delhi)
Sahil (Himachal Pradesh)
Rajendra Singh (Madhya Pradesh)
Jay Pradhan (Madhya Pradesh)
Zaid Shaikh (Maharashtra)
Sqlain Syyad (Maharashtra)
Ayum Khan (Maharashtra)
Aditya Astekar (Maharashtra)
Lalrem Sanga (Mizoram)
Gursewak Singh (Punjab)
Jaskaran Singh (Punjab)
Abhi Kumar (Punjab)
Akash Khatik (Rajasthan)
S. Kalidas (Tamil Nadu)
A. Deva Sendura Pandiyan (Tamil Nadu)
Amit Hooda (Uttar Pradesh)
Dheeraj Maurya (Uttar Pradesh)
Gopal Sharma (West Bengal)
Coach: Rajeshwar Rao
Coach: SSP Rayadu
Physiotherapist: Naved

Sub-Junior Girls for National Coaching Camp

Kiran Kumari Bappore (Assam)
Jonali Dutta (Assam)
Ragini Jha (Chhattisgarh)
Vandana Arya (Chhattisgarh)
Riya Verma (Chhattisgarh)
Rashmi Wankhede (Chhattisgarh)
Anamika Lakra (Chhattisgarh)
P. Divya (Chhattisgarh)
Nishita Sabharwal (Delhi)
Lopamudra (Karnataka)
Sanjana Krishnamurthy (Karnataka)
Sandhya CR (Karnataka)
Aleena Saby (Kerala)
Anusha IP (Kerala)
Sakshi Pandey (Madhya Pradesh)
Monika Vaishnab (Madhya Pradesh)
Vaishakha Kumar (Maharashtra)
Kriti Ranka (Maharashtra)
Veena Khanolkar (Maharashtra)
Avneet Kaur (Punjab)
S. Sindhuja (Tamil Nadu)
R. Teena (Tamil Nadu)
Mantaksha Ansari (Uttar Pradesh)
Pooja Yadav (Uttar Pradesh)
Paulami Chatterjee (West Bengal)
Coach: Bharat Bhusan
Physiotherapist: Naved

November 22, 2011

India’s National Coach Kenny Natt to host Junior Basketball Expo in Delhi


Kenny Natt, the American head coach of India’s Senior Men’s Basketball team, will be hosting a Basketball Federation of India (BFI) Junior (U18) Expo at the Sri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) basketball court in New Delhi on Tuesday, November 29th from 9 AM. Natt is inviting school kids from across the city to attend an open ‘Youth Basketball Camp’ with India’s best U18 basketball players. The camp will be followed by a skills challenge amongst the U18 stars and an ‘All Star Game’ of the best Junior players in India.

Delhi school-kids under the age of 18 are invited to take part in the Youth Basketball Camp with Natt and India's Junior players from 9 AM on Tuesday.

Natt, formerly head coach of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the USA, has been serving as the head coach of India’s Men’s squad for the past five months. He led the team to the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship in Wuhan, China, earlier this year.

Following the Junior National Championship in New Delhi in July, Natt picked around 30 of the best young basketball players from across India to take part in a National Coaching Camp with him in Delhi over the month of November. The showcase on Tuesday will serve as a type of exposure and evaluation camp for these probables for Natt to recruit players for India’s Senior Men’s side.

“I will be observing the future talent and observing their skill level at this showcase,” Natt said, “The event will be like an NBA combine, featuring a lot of basketball drills, practice, and fun!”

Natt has extended an open invitation to basketball loving children from High Schools and Junior Schools from across the city to attend a ‘Youth Basketball Camp’ with India’s Junior probable. The Junior players will help out in the Youth Camp to instruct basketball fundamentals and drills to the local school kids.

The Mini Camp will be followed by several Basketball Competitions for the Junior probables, including a Skills Challenge, Three-Point Shooting Contest, and a Shooting Medley Contest.

The last event of the day will be an All Star Game pitting the best Junior probable of India against each other.

An Awards Ceremony will follow to reward players for their performances in the earlier camps, challenges, and All Star Game.

“The BFI is always looking to expose the game of basketball and generating as much interest for it as possible,” said Natt, “We want people in India to realise that basketball is a fun and competitive sport. The future of the game is very bright. Hopefully this event will generate more interest for the game. I will look forward to organising more such events in the future in other parts of the country.”

2011 BFI Junior Basketball Expo

Hosted by: Coach Kenny Natt, head coach of the Indian Senior Men’s Basketball team and former NBA head coach.
Place: TBC
Date: Tuesday, November 29th.
Time: 9 AM onwards (approx. 4-5 hours)

The camp will feature India's Junior (U18) probables

Order of Events:

Youth Basketball Camp/Training Session
Skills Challenge
Three-Point Shooting Contest
Medley Shooting Contest
Junior Expo All Star Game
Awards Ceremony

November 21, 2011

Stripes Without Stars: 2004 Pistons were the NBA's most unlikely champions

When building a team to win an NBA championship, there seems to be a tried and tested and perfectly agreeable formula: 1 or 2 Superstars + 5 or 6 sturdy role players + 3 or 4 tough backups + intelligent coach. The management that helps stir up this combination behind the scenes and the professionalism of the support staff are a major factor, too, but the on-court performances ultimately depends on the player and the inspiration of their head coach.

Most, if not all, of the NBA championships (at least those in the post-merger era) have been won by teams that succeeded in following this formula. The Mavericks ('11), the Spurs ('04) and the Rockets ('94-'95) had 1 great superstar - Dirk, Duncan, Olajuwan - respectively, surrounded by a deep supporting cast. The Lakers of 2009-10 (Kobe, Gasol) and that of 2000-2002 (Shaq, Kobe) each had two legit All Stars on their way to the championship. The 2008 Celtics had the big three and Duncan had legit star help in his three other championships - Robinson, Tony Parker, Ginobili. Jordan, Pippen, and later Rodman won multiple rings, and of course, all of these teams had great role players too.

But there is one major example that bucks this trend, where a team won a championship without having any glittering superstars. Without having anyone with big names and bigger salaries. This team was the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons, who destroyed the formula to win the most unique championship of them all, and then continued to buck the trend for the next few years, as their previously-unheralded non-stars were finally given their due.

So here is the story of this unique team: You may or may not remember this, but the Eastern Conference, for the lack of a better word, were shite after Michael Jordan retired from the Chicago Bulls in 1998. Between 99-2005, only 1 NBA title was won by the East, the 2004 Pistons. The balance of power only returned to the East when Shaq left the Lakers for Miami in 2005, and a little bit more when Garnett and Ray Allen joined the Celtics in 2007. The parity during the horrid 1999-2005 period was so awful that, more often than not, the Finals were always easy for the eventual champions from the West (Lakers or Spurs), whether it was against the Knicks, Pacers, 76ers, or Nets. This was a period when the best players in the Eastern or (Least-ern) conference all stars were Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, and Stephon Marbury, and Tracy McGrady, while the west had Shaq, Garnett, Duncan, Kobe, Webber, Malone, Payton, Kidd, Robinson, etc, etc. However, if All Star Game results are any real measure (they're not), than the East were mostly competitive in this period.

It was sometime in this period that the Detroit Pistons started their dominance over the weakened East, until there came a point that they were so dominant that they became the only team in the East that Western Conference teams were afraid of. From 2002-2008, the Pistons finished in the top three of the East.

Their resurgence began in 2001-02, when they finished as the best team of the season in the weak East despite having any all stars. Jerry Stackhouse, meh!. They were on the top of the East a year later again, and this time they had a bonafide all star: Ben Wallace - who, really, only got named to the team because the other 'best' big men in the entire conference were Jermaine O'Neal, Brad Miller, and Zydrnas Ilgauskas.

But that off-season was supposed to change it all. In one of the dumbest off-season trades ever, the Memphis Grizzlies traded their SECOND PICK for Otis Thorpe to the Pistons. But just when we thought that the dumbness couldn't be overtaken, the Pistons walked into the draft with the second pick in one of the greatest drafts in NBA history. It's 2003, and on the board are LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade, not to mention decent other players like Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich, David West, and Josh Howard. LeBron was a lock to go to Cleveland with the first pick. And who do the Pistons take at second place? A relatively unknown Center from Serbia & Montenegro named Darko Milicic. Yes, him, over Wade, Melo, or Bosh. Darko played less than five minutes a game that season, but also became the first member of his draft class to win an NBA championship thanks to his illustrious teammates.

If that championship at the end of the season hadn't been won, we would probably be talking about the Darko pick as one of THE WORST picks on NBA history. Which it is, but we're not, because the Pistons convinced us that, instead of a superstar, all they needed was a system.

And that system was starting to take shape. The Pistons, under the tutelage of the legendary coach Larry Brown, continued to dominate the weak East. Coach Brown is famous for two things: incredible defense, and making below average teams above average. That is exactly what he was doing with Detroit. Their starting lineup was an underwhelming group to say the least: Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace, and either Mehmet Okur or Elden Campbell at the power forward.

No championship material, this, but Brown and his Pistons weren't fazed. But mid-season, they made the real splash that took them from good go great: A three-team trade close to the deadline in February 2004 brought Rasheed Wallace to Detroit. Rasheed was no superstar himself, but he was, at that point, the biggest name in the team, and they had to give up nothing but draft picks and role players to get him.

The best part of Rasheed slipping into the Pistons starting five wasn't his contribution on court, it was how he seamlessly fit himself into a well-oiled machine. The starting lineup of the Pistons now was about to go into basketball lore, starring only one current All Star: Ben Wallace. These were the modest averages of these five players that season:

Chauncey Billups: 16.4 ppg, 5.9 apg
Richard Hamilton: 21.5 ppg.
Tayshaun Prince: 9.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg
Rasheed Wallace: 13.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg
Ben Wallace: 10.3 ppg, 14.3 rpg.

By traditional thinking, none of these players were worth big money, but take a look deeper, and you realise that together, they were priceless. Ben Wallace was the best defender in the league back then, winning four Defensive Player of the Year Awards in five years, and he was also mostly the league's leading rebounder. Most of the offense came from their backcourt of Billups and Hamilton, both good shooters and leaders. Tayshaun Prince was one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. And Rasheed, apart from an offensive post presence (but who drifted too often to the 3-pt line), was a great post defender and the team's emotional leader, giving them the edge and the belief that they good really defeat anybody.

This five was then backed up by defensive, team-oriented cogs to the system, like Corliss Williamson, Lindsey Hunter, Elden Campbell, and Mehmet Okur.

Like a lot of weak Eastern conference teams did back in those days, the Pistons reached the NBA Finals. Finishing third in the East, they easily disposed of the Bucks, and won emotional tough battles against the Nets and the Pacers.

But this season - and these finals - weren't supposed to be about them at all. This season was supposed to belong the the Lakers. Because LA had their own, even more eventful off-season, as they added Gary Payton and Karl Malone to join them and bolster their team with a total of four future NBA hall-of-famers. The hype with this Laker side was incredible. Look at that Pistons lineup again, and now look at the Laker lineup: Gary Payton, Kobe Bryant, Devean George (weak link), Karl Malone, and Shaquille O'Neal. This team had just won against sides like the Rockets, the Spurs, and the Timberwolves. This team had the world's greatest coach - Phil Jackson - at its helm.

Sure, they had their problems too - Shaq and Kobe hated each other, Karl Malone had a niggling injury, Gary Payton never accepted the triangle offense, and Kobe was playing with the distraction of a very serious rape case - but even with these issues, it seemed that the Finals were going to be an easy ride. The hard work was already done, the toughest battles already won. Walk in the park, right?


Over the coming weeks, the Pistons pulled off one of the biggest Finals upsets in NBA history, beating the Lakers by 4-1. Even the 1 Laker win came in Overtime after some incredible Kobe heroics. The Pistons dominated the entire series. It was no fluke, they were the better 'team', and one of the greatest 'teams' ever. They had been playing the same way all season, except that they cranked it up a little more in the Finals, and finally, people began to see the genius of the system. Five players on the court, all defending together with incredible intensity, and none of them worrying about who scores the points on the other, just as long as someone does it. Between Billups, Hamilton, Prince, and the 2 Wallaces, a team so unselfish and together, it was even difficult to choose one Finals MVP. It went to Billups for his leadership and clutch play, but really, it seemed that the Pistons didn't really care. The only silverware that mattered was the NBA trophy.

While a team opposite them argued and fought over who was to be their best player, Detroit showed what a team should be: a collection of players all doing what is necessary for the team, not for any one individual. That's why, without any superstar, they won a championship. The only other team to do it in a similar fashion - without the biggest stars - in the last 25 or so years? The '89 and '90 Pistons! Isiah Thomas might've been a legend, but even he didn't average too many points on that squad. The late 80s 'Bad Boys' Pistons were also low scoring and defensive: the 2004 version would've made them proud.

The following season, the Pistons finally got their individual due. Now, four of their five starters, apart from Prince, were named to the Eastern Conference All Star team. This squad continued to dominate the East and scare the West for the next few years. They came agonisingly close to winning another championship a year later in the 7th game of the Finals to the Spurs. One game played a little differently, and we would've been talking about back-to-back champions.

Slowly, the team began to suffer from an ugly break-up. Ben Wallace became a free agent and signed with the Bulls, only to lose his incredible defensive swagger. Billups was sent to Denver in exchange for Allen Iverson, an experiment that failed spectacularly for Detroit. Rasheed Wallace left a declining Pistons squad for the Celtics and went on to the Finals with them. Hamilton and Prince are still in a weak Pistons squad today: Prince is still starting but is defensively a shadow of his prime; Hamilton is seeing his numbers suffer and has seen his relationships with teammates and coaches suffer, too. And in case you're interested, Darko Milicic bounced around the league, from Orlando to Memphis to New York, and is finally settled into mediocrity at Minnesota.

The surge of Miami with Wade and Shaq, and then the coming together of the Boston Big Three put an end to Detroit's dominance of the East, but their legacy remains untouched. Here was a team that earned its stripes without any stars. Here was a team that didn't need an MVP, or an All Star starter, or a scoring leader, to win a championship. Watching the Pistons play back in those days was, depending on your mood, both a beautiful and a frustrating affair. Beautiful for their fans and for those who cherished hard work, teamwork, and defense; frustrating for those who wanted basketball to just be offense and highlights.

The 'championship formula' continues to work in today's NBA. That's why the Mavericks build around Nowitzki, why the Heat got the Wade/LeBron/Bosh triple threat, why the Thunder are basing their future around Durant and Westbrook, and the Knicks around Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. The Bulls have their own MVP in Derrick Rose to bolster a team around.

But the 2004 Pistons have proved that, with the right mix of talent and selfless egos, a superstar isn't necessary for a ring. So much so that, those same 'non-stars', when looked from a different angle, are bigger superstars from their achievement than those who achieve the fame without deserving it.

November 19, 2011

BFI announces 12-member girls’ squad for U16 FIBA Asia Championship

The Basketball Federation of India (BFI) has announced the 12-member roster of U16 girls who will represent India at the 2nd U16 FIBA Asia Championship for Girls, slated to be held from December 4-11, 2011 at Jinan, China.

The squad will be led by coach Vinod Vachani, and will feature some of the best young Indian talent from across the country. The team consists of upcoming stars such as Kerala’s Poojamol KS, Maharashtra’s Shireen Limaye, Chhattisgarh’s Poonam Chaturvedi, and the duo of Barkha Sonkar and Kavita Akula, who are students of the IMG Basketball Academy in the USA.

The Indian delegation will be accompanied by two coaches, a physiotherapist, and FIBA Referee Norman Isaac.

India U16 Girls Team

  • Barkha Sonkar (Uttar Pradesh / IMG Academy)
  • Elizabeth Hilarious (Kerala)
  • Ishwari Pingle (Maharahstra)
  • Kavita Akula (Chhattisgarh / IMG Academy)
  • Kirubanandhan Devirajalakshmi (Tamil Nadu)
  • Krittika Divadkar (Maharashtra)
  • Madhu Kumari (West Bengal)
  • Poojamol KS (Kerala)
  • Poonam Chaturvedi (Chhattisgarh)
  • Sangeeta Kaur (Chhattisgarh)
  • Sharanjeet Kaur (Chhattisgarh)
  • Shireen Limaye (Maharashtra)

  • Head Coach: Vinod Vachani
  • Coach: Shiba Maggon
  • Physiotherapist: Sudhir Singh Rathore
  • FIBA Referee: Norman Swaroop Isaac

    India have been drawn in ‘Elite Level 1’ of the 2nd FIBA Asia Championship, along with defending champions and hosts China, Japan, Chinese Taipei, Korea, and the Philippines.
  • November 18, 2011

    NBA's loss is CBA's gain

    When the NBA and it's players failed to agree on a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and thus, put an end to the current lockout, there is another CBA that seems to have gained: the Chinese Basketball Association. And now that the NBA's player's union has disbanded, and the 2011/12 NBA season is seemingly slipping away, China will start looking like an even more attractive destination for NBA players.

    Of course, going overseas isn't a newly-discovered option for former NBA players - bit players who couldn't find NBA jobs and those who were past their prime have occasionally taken the leap overseas and taken their talents to Europe, South America, and in rare occasions, to Asia.

    But the change in economy has also directly influenced the change in preferred basketball-player destination. The NBA, which is the richest and the most competitive basketball league in the world, is obviously the dream destination for every basketball player in the world. But the NBA is no more (for now): and so, during this lockout, more and more players are thinking China. Europe is in serious recessions, while China has become the world's second largest economy. It also happens to be a country crazy about hoops - of course, the cultural barrier in the Far East as compared to Europe may be a tougher hurdle for the average NBA player - but the CBA has rising competitiveness and relative financial strength in its favour. No team outside the NBA can really match NBA salaries, but in today's economy, it seems that the CBA comes the closest.

    The CBA was only founded 16 years ago - in 1995. The first American player to play in the league was James Hodges. There are 17 teams in the league.

    The first American to play in the CBA was James Hodges, back in 1996. Since then, former NBA players slowly made their way back and forth, but the biggest breakthrough in NBA to CBA history was the arrival of former All Star and Timberwolves/Nets/Suns/Knicks/Celtics guard Stephon Marbury. One of the most exciting (and possibly crazy) players in the NBA, Marbury shocked the world when he joined China's Shanxi Brave Dragons in 2010. Since then, Marbury has played for the Foshan Dragons and has now signed for the Beijing Ducks. In the process, he has become one of the most popular players in China, all while also promoting his shoe company there. For a former perhaps-nutcase, Marbury has flipped his career around for the better with the China move.

    Now, to promote their own talent, Chinese teams have quite stringent rules for allowing foreign players on their rosters and for the playing time that the foreign players get. All teams except the Bayi Rockets can have a maximum of two foreign players, although the bottom five teams in the league are allowed to sign an additional Asian player to their roster. When facing an opponent in any game, the foreign players are allowed to play a combined total of six quarters, except for when teams are facing the Bayi Rockets, in which case the foreigners can play up to five quarters.

    Why the Bayi Rockets exceptions, you ask? Well, the Rockets are China's Army Team, and thus, they feature only Chinese players. The Bayi Rockets also happen to be the squad that beat up players from the Georgetown University team in a 'friendly' game a few months ago. They also happen to be the most successful team of the CBA, winning 8 of the 16 titles so far.

    Until last season, a few former NBA players did manage to make their impact on the, although none of them were as well known as Marbury. These included former Kings player Quincy Douby (Xinjiang Flying Tigers), who was last year's China All Star MVP, former Knick/Hawk Randolph Morris (Beijing Ducks), former Spur/Clipper/Bobcat Marcus Williams (Shanxi Brave Dragons), former Clipper/Mav/Wizard James Singleton (Guangdong Southern Tigers), former Rocket/Wizard Mike Harris (Shanghai Sharks), former NBA journeyman Andre Emmett (Fujian Sturgeons). Another former NBA big name - Steve Francis - had a shot with the Beijing Ducks, but it never really worked out. Former Kings player Bonzi Wells had a pretty successful 1 season in China with the Shanxi Brave Dragons.

    Still, nothing prepared China for what was going to happen across the pond this year. When the NBA went into lockout, most of the players took the wait-and-see approach before deciding on their futures overseas. But some of them were more proactive and decided early. Now, compared to basketball leagues in other countries, China has strict rules that are still keeping NBA-ers at bay: once a player signs with a Chinese side, he has to play the whole season. In other countries, players can break their contract and return to America if the lockout ends; not in China.

    But many players have made the jump eastwards anyways, and from the looks of things, many more are now considering it. Already, a major portion of the former Denver Nuggets have traded the Rocky Mountains for the Great Wall: Wilson Chandler (Zheijiang Lions), Kenyon Martin (Xinjiang Flying Tigers), and JR Smith (Zheijiang Golden Bulls) signed for CBA teams a few months ago. They were joined by the Nets' Dan Gadzuric (Jiangsu Dragons), and the Hawks' Josh Powell (Liaoning Dinosaurs). Chinese stars Yi Jianlian of the Wizards also headed back to his homeland to play for the Southern Tigers, who are the league's defending champions.

    And a few days ago, the Suns' Aaron Brooks became the latest to accept a contract with the Chinese team, signing with the Southern Tigers. Chinese teams have been showing interest in bringing over Shane Battier, too.

    And of course, there was a major push a few months ago for Kobe Bryant - it didn't resolve to anything back, but since the NBA's status has gone from bad to worse, I'm sure that even the Mamba would be thinking about expanding his horizons. Kobe would definitely become the biggest basketball name in country, and perhaps the best NBA player to ever play in an overseas league. But Chinese fans shouldn't get too carried away about that, yet, as he has a lot more international options and offers to choose from.

    The NBA, our favourite league, is unfortunately slipping. Who knows when, and if, there will be a settlement between the two sides, especially now that they're going to court. But the NBA's loss has become the CBA's gain. And while the world's best basketball league in the world's strongest economy squabbles and shuts down over money matters, the second-strongest economy in the East seems to be becoming a brighter option for the basketball starved players.

    November 17, 2011

    Pete Gaudet - India's Women's Coach & former Duke assistant - congrats Coach K

    Experienced American basketball coach Pete Gaudet was hired as the head coach of the Indian Senior Women's team earlier this year. Gaudet, who has over 30 years of experience of coaching at the American collegiate level, spent over a decade working with as an assistant coach with the legendary Mike Krzyzewski - 'Coach K' - at the United States Military Academy (Army) and then at Duke University.

    Still at the helm of Duke, Coach K made NCAA Division I history when Duke defeated
    Michigan State 74-69 on Tuesday, becoming the winningest coach in NCAA Division I history with his 903rd victory with Duke.

    On Coach K, Gaudet said, "I was fortunate to coach on Mike's staff for his five years at the United States Military Academy and for eleven years at Duke University. The commitment to excellence, work ethic and drive to have each of his teams continually strive to reach their potential has become the identity for recent decades of Duke basketball."

    "The record of wins for 'Coach K' reflects the high caliber of players who have developed physically and matured mentally as they strive for Championships each season."

    Gaudet began his coaching career as an assistant to Krzyzewski at Army. When Krzyzewski left for Duke in 1980, Gaudet was named his successor as head coach. After leaving the Army program in 1982, Gaudet rejoined Krzyzewski as an assistant coach at Duke from 1983-1995. When Krzyzewski took a leave of absence in early 1995 because of back problems, Gaudet was also briefly promoted to interim head coach of Duke that season. Gaudet worked with Vanderbilt and Ohio State University before accepting the job with the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) to coach the Indian Women's side.

    In the past few months, Gaudet has led the Indian side to the William Jones Championship in Chinese Taipei, the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship in Japan, and the South Asian Beach Games in Sri Lanka. He also been the head coach of India's U18 Girls team at the FIBA 3x3 World Championship in Italy.

    November 16, 2011

    Locked out NBA players should play a 1-on-1 tournament, Part 2

    If the NBA's best players took part in a 1-on-1 tournament, who would win?

    In Part 1 of this article, which I wrote yesterday, I argued that right now, with the NBA's players locked out of playing in the NBA, and with the common fan too bored out of his wits, the players need to play in an epic 1-on-1 basketball tournament. An event like this would bring more attention than any meaningless charity game, and spike fan interest like never before. We have all dreamed about the NBA's best players facing each other: now's a chance for them to actually do it.

    Read my article from yesterday to know about all the logistics of making it happen, and the rules of the tournament. Basically, each half-court game will be up to 21 points, or up to 15 minutes. We play 'Loser's Ball' after each basket. I've also chosen to carbon copy the FIFA World Cup format for this tournament: 32 players in 8 groups of four each, and then the top 2 from each group move on to the knockout stage of 16, and so on and so forth.

    Now, a little about the 1-on-1 format: to anyone who has played basketball 1-on-1 (which means, pretty much anyone who has played basketball, ever), you know how it differs from the 5-on-5 full-court game. The 1-on-1 game favours players with different talents. The best 1-on-1 players will be those who are good ball handlers, good shooters, players with speed, players who can finish well around the basket, good man-to-man defenders, players who can steal and block well, good rebounders, and those with good stamina. Big players who can't dribble well, create their own shot, or have a bad jump-shot wouldn't do too well.

    So here is my fantasy tournament. I first picked the 32 best players in the NBA - not the 32 best 1-on-1 players - I mean the absolute best. This way, we can actually see how much better certain players are in this format than others. Secondly: I divided the players by their talent into four 'pots': 1-8, 9-16, 17-24, 25-32. Third step: I wrote the names of all the players of each pot separately, and then, one by one, I picked a chit of paper from each pot to make each group in my tournament fair. This was just like the FIFA draw, y'all! You'll have to go by my word here: I kept the system a 100% honest. Each group had a Pot 1, Pot 2, Pot 3, and Pot 4 player. Finally, I played out the fantasy tournament using my own knowledge and opinion.

    Now, a lot of you will debate my decisions: my decision of the top 32, my decision of which player goes in which 'pot', and my decision of which player beats whom. I'm sure that no one will agree with everything, but I hope that you are able to see some sort of logic in my decisions by the end of it. If not, you're welcome to tell me how your own fantasy tournament would play out!

    Players Qualified for 1-on-1 Tournament (Alphabetic Order): Al Horford, Amar'e Stoudemire, Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, Danny Granger, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, John Wall, Josh Smith, Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Kobe Bryant, LaMarcus Aldridge, LeBron James, Manu Ginobili, Monta Ellis, Pau Gasol, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, Tyreke Evans, Zach Randolph.

    Player Seeding

    Pot 1 (1-8): Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Dywane Wade, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant
    Pot 2 (9-16): Amar'e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Pau Gasol, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Zach Randolph
    Pot 3 (17-24): Blake Griffin, John Wall, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Monta Ellis, Paul Pierce, Steve Nash, Tyreke Evans
    Pot 4 (25-32): Al Horford, Danny Granger, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Kevin Garnett, Manu Ginobili, Stephen Curry, Tim Duncan.

    Then followed the group draw... After fairly picking one chit each from each pot, these are the eight groups we got. Remember, each player plays against the three players in his group, and the top two players from each group move on to the next stage. The standings will be based on wins, head-to-head win, and then, on point difference.


    Group A: Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Kevin Love, Joe Johnson
    Group B: Dirk Nowitzki, Amar'e Stoudemire, Monta Ellis, Kevin Garnett
    Group C: Kobe Bryant, Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan
    Group D: Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Tyreke Evans, Manu Ginobili
    Group E: LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, LaMarcus Aldridge, Danny Granger
    Group F: Derrick Rose, Zach Randolph, John Wall, Josh Smith
    Group G: Kevin Durant, Chris Bosh, Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry
    Group H: Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, Paul Pierce, Al Horford

    As you can see... We already have some interesting match-ups already. Wade vs. Paul, Rose vs Wall, etc. Now let's move on and quickly decide who wins each group.

    Group A: A lot of you may be questioning my decision to keep Chris Paul in the second pot, but he wasn't top 8 to me (he was 9), and thus, we have this interesting match-up straight away between Wade and Paul, two of the best 1-on-1 players in the world. Joe Johnson will be a dark horse here, of course, but although he has the talent, I don't think he has enough heart to defeat Wade or CP3. Kevin Love isn't going to win any games - the 3 guards will be too quick for him. Wade finishes this group at the top, beating Chris Paul in their head to head match. Paul ends at second place.

    Group B: This will be an amazing group, I think - each player brings their own specialty to this format. Dirk will have the best perimeter pull up jumper, and thus, the best fake-and-attack-the-basket move. Amar'e is quite athletic for his size, and will be able to hit the mid-range jumper. Monta Ellis is brilliant in 1-on-1 format, as quick, can shoot well, and can hit tough layups. Kevin Garnett, though old, will be a great defender and a good mid-range shooter for his height. It will be very tough to score on him. I think Dirk will be able to beat Amar'e quite easily, but will struggle against Monta's speed and KG's length: still, I'll favour Nowitzki to survive those two tough games and end at the top of the table. Second place will be interesting: I think Garnett will beat Amar'e, because of his sheer intensity which Amar'e won't be able to match. But Monta Ellis will be the surprise package here, as I think he'll speed by both the big men to end at second. A young KG would've probably topped this group, but he's much older and slower now.

    Group C: OOOH! This is a group of vets, and all technically gifted players: Kobe, Deron, Nash, Duncan. I'm looking forward to see Kobe go toe to toe with his two great playoff nemises: Nash and Duncan. Duncan will honourably lose all three games he plays in, but Nash, because of his shooting ability and speed will remain a pest. Kobe though is too gifted for anyone in this group and will finish at top. The game to watch will be between Deron and Nash - Nash has the better jumper and can score quickly, but Deron Williams is stronger and Nash, a bad defender, may not be able to stop him. I say a close 21-19 win for Deron Williams decides this group and takes Deron into the next round. On a sidenote: Kobe beating Duncan in this group will be the largest win of this tournament. I expect Kobe to win around 21-5 here.

    Group D: First off, this group satisfied an old fantasy of mine: Dwight Howard vs. Pau Gasol, two players who visited India last year, and two of the best post players in the NBA. Although I admit now that Howard is a better overall basketball player, the 1-on-1 game will favour Gasol, and he will win this iconic match-up. But really, none of the two are moving on to the next round (Yes - I said it!). Because both Tyreke Evans and Gibobili will be specialists in this format and will cause upsets against the big names. My older brother believes - and I agree with him to a certain degree - that Evans may be one of the best suited players for this format, because of his size, strength, ball-handling, and ability to finish around the basket. Tyreke will top this group, Ginobili will come second.

    Group E: LeBron's fodder? No one but Rondo is going to give LeBron any trouble, and even against Rondo, LBJ should do okay. LeBron will steamroll past all three opponents to finish on top. Danny Granger may cause some trouble to Rondo, but I think Rondo's speed and fighting spirit will be too much. Too many 1-on-1 games are won by players solely on confidence, and Rondo's confidence may make up for his lack of a jumpshot. He'll finish second.

    Group F: Derrick Rose vs John Wall, I'm already salivating. Two of the fastest, most athletic point guards in the history of the game. This group belongs to them. Randolph and Smith will be too big and slow to keep up with the PGs. And in the dream game, Rose will have the better of Wall because of his better outside shot and his experience. Rose finishes 1st, Wall 2nd.

    Group G: Three athletic forwards - Durant, Bosh, and Griffin - make this group exciting. And then there's Stephen Curry, who is as good a shooter as he's a dribbler. Expect nobody to have an answer for Durant - his jumpshot will be on fire, and he has the length to matchup to the other forwards. Durant will finish on top, and I predict that Curry will surprise the other two to finish at second place. Bosh vs. Griffin will be an interesting game: although Griffin is more athletic, I think Bosh can post up and shoot better, which will help him win the close game in over time.

    Group H: I'm calling upset here, folks. This group has Melo, Westbrook, Pierce, and Horford. Horford will lose all his games. The other games will be incredibly close. Melo vs. Westbrook, Westbrook vs. Pierce, Pierce vs. Melo. Carmelo Anthony may be the most talented player here, but he has one glaring weakness: comfortable creating his own shot from the perimeter. Melo needs to find his spot, get the ball, and then drive in or shoot - with a man constantly guarding him, this may not be possible. Plus, Melo is the worst man-to-man defender here. I say Westbrook wins all the games and tops the group. This leaves an amazing Paul Pierce vs. Carmelo Anthony game to decide second place. And guess what? I'm calling Pierce. It will be a grueling game, but Pierce has the ability to dribble, create his own shot, and get contact better. Anthony will have the better mid-range shot, but Pierce's isn't too bad, either. The game will go into overtime, Pierce wins, making him the final and unexpected entry into the last 16.

    Second Round

    I'm sticking really close to the FIFA model. So this is what happens in the second round, the knockout stage of the 16 remaining players.

    A1 vs. B2 - Dwyane Wade vs. Monta Ellis
    C1 vs. D2 - Kobe Bryant vs. Manu Ginobili

    E1 vs. F2 - LeBron James vs. John Wall
    G1 vs. H2 - Kevin Durant vs. Paul Pierce

    B1 vs A2 - Dirk Nowitzki vs. Chris Paul
    D1 vs. C2 - Tyreke Evans vs. Deron Williams

    F1 vs E2 - Derrick Rose vs. Rajon Rondo
    H1 vs G2 - Russell Westbrook vs. Stephen Curry

    Wade vs. Ellis: Ellis is good, just not Wade good. This game will be one on Wade's defense versus Ellis lack of D. Wade will attack the basket at each opportunity, win fouls, and on the other side, hound Ellis. Wade wins.

    Bryant vs. Ginobili: Oh boy! Another match-up of two guys who have fought many playoff battles against each other. And by fought, I mean literally, fought. But Ginobili, for all his wily skill, is now way past his prime, while Kobe has remained skilled and deadly. Kobe will end this old rivalry with a win. I'm assuming that flopping wouldn't get Manu any calls.

    James vs. Wall: Wall will try to speed past initially, but LeBron James, with his length, athleticism, and strength, will be way too much for the young Wall. LeBron is a better shooter too, and Wall wouldn't be able to defend him. LeBron wins.

    Durant vs. Pierce: This is where the Pierce fairytale end. He'll meet a bigger, better version of Carmelo Anthony vs. Durant, and Durant will use every trick in his offensive skill-set to get past Pierce.

    Nowitzki vs. Paul: Two completely different dominant players, two completely different styles. How will this play out? How will Paul defend Dirk's jump-shot. How will Dirk defend Paul's drive to the basket. Dirk isn't a good 1-on-1 defender, and to me, that will finally be the difference. Trailing in this game, Dirk will start relying on three-pointers to make a comeback, but Paul will be able to pester him and take advantage of Dirk's below-average dribbling ability. In a close fight to the finish, Chris Paul will win to advance to the Quarter-Finals. Sorry Dirkophiliacs.

    Evans vs. Williams: Evans is suited for this format, yes, and will be trouble, yes. He is stronger and taller than Deron Williams, but Deron isn't too weak himself. Plus, Deron's advantages are shooting ability and quickness. It will be a battle which will leave Deron bruised for the next round, but he will survive to move on.

    Rose vs. Rondo: Another amazing matchup. If you aren't excited to watch these two play against each other, then you don't like basketball. Rose is slightly quicker, Rondo slightly stronger. Both can finish well around the basket. But Rose's jump-shot is better, and when these two start getting tired and settling for outside jumpers (it happens all the time in 1-on-1 games), Rose will prevail.

    Westbrook vs. Curry: Russell Westbrook has a similar skill-set to Rose, and with his confidence to attack, he is a very dangerous 1-on-1 player. Curry will have moments of brilliance, but this game belongs to Westbrook.


    I couldn't have scripted the line-ups better. Through my random picking and groupings, we have now reached a stage of four games, each of which more amazing than the last. These are my Quarter-Finals. Hold your breath tight.

    Dwyane Wade vs. Kobe Bryant
    LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant
    Chris Paul vs. Deron Williams
    Derrick Rose vs. Russell Westbrook.

    Oh. My. God. If I asked four people to vote on their favourite match-up, we would get four different answers. I'm dying just thinking about it. In each game, both the players play the same position, and in each game both are amongst the best in their position.

    Wade vs. Bryant: The league's best shooting guards. The two best shooting guards since Michael Jordan (sorry, Iverson (But on a sidenote: if there was a 1-on-1 tournament 10 years ago, no 1 would be touching AI)). In their different ways, these two players have embodied MJ like no other. Wade finishes like him, has the winner's mentality like him. Kobe has the same style of movement, shooting, and of course, the winning mentality. If there are two players who hate to lose in the world, it's these two. So who wins this amazing match-up? Kobe's a better jump-shooter, he's taller, better free-throw shooter, and he's smarter. Wade is far more athletic now, can finish better than anyone in the world around the basket, is better at creating his own shot, and is quicker. Both are great defenders, but Kobe's slightly taller. My prediction: Dwyane Wade's drives to the basket will be the key to this game. Two years ago, Kobe could've stopped him, but Wade today has the edge today. Still a tough call though. Kobe will hit his outside shots, and he'll beat Wade off the dribble a few times. But with the game tied at 20, it will be Wade who will pull his deadly two step/euro step, and rush to the basket, leaving Kobe behind and qualifying for the Semi-Finals. When I had asked about this tournament to Indian followers on Facebook, an overwhelming majority had voted for Kobe. Sorry guys, but 2011 KB24 isn't 2008 KB24 or 2005 KB24 or even 2001 KB24. He faced a tough opponent too early and he's eliminated.

    James vs. Durant: The league's best small forwards. One is the ultimate all-round player, one of the greatest the world has ever seen. The other is a shooting guard in a power forward's body, and also the league's best scorer. Because of his size, Durant matches up well with LeBron, even though he is weaker. Durant will be dangerous from the three-point line and might take a big early lead. But LeBron will crawl his way back, defeating Durant on the defensive end first, and then tiring him out with his strong drives to the basket. LeBron may be a better team player than a 1-on-1 player, but in this instance, he will be good enough to defeat KD. Only a few people can stop Durant's outside shot, and I think LBJ is one of those few.

    Paul vs. Williams: Two of the best 'pure' point guards. Drafted in the same year, into similar teams, with similar needs, and picked just one spot apart from each other. There is little to say between Paul and Deron, who PGs whose careers have been eerily similar. There is very little to call between these two: Williams is stronger, but Paul is quicker. Both have equally good outside shots. Deron could post up against Paul, but Paul is good at taking contact and finishing lay-ups + floaters around the basket. In another game that will go to the wire, Paul will win by two or three points.

    Rose vs. Westbrook: Two of the best new-age point guards. Rose is the MVP, Westbrook is a very similar style of player and Rose's toughest challenger in his style of play. Still, I think that, in everything that Westbrook is good at, Rose is a little bit better. And Rose seems to have more of a level head on his shoulders, which will help him when the going gets tough. Rose wins.

    Slam Dunk + Three-Point Championship

    Hey! It's time we take a break before the last two rounds - so, as I had suggested yesterday - we need to have some exhibition competitions here.

    Slam Dunk Competition: Blake Griffin wins, duh. If you doubt me, go here and see. It doesn't matter who else is participating, but just so you know, the runners-up will be Dwight Howard, John Wall, and Amar'e Stoudemire.

    3-point Competition: The field is set with self-proclaimed 'best shooter in the world' Paul Pierce, the Warriors' sharp-shooting duo of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, Steve Nash, Danny Granger, and Carmelo Anthony. This will be Dirk's opportunity to make up for his early departure, and he'll defeat his old teammate and friend Steve Nash in the last round to win.


    Back to business, then. Things are getting serious, and so are the matchups.

    Dwyane Wade vs. LeBron James
    Derrick Rose vs. Chris Paul

    Wade vs. James: Obviously the pick of the round, and perhaps the most important game of the tournament. Two close friends, two team members, two team leaders, two scorers, creators, two guys from the same draft class, two of the most similar dominating players of the league, and in my opinion, the league's two best overall basketball players. Could you really ask for more drama? The world has been wondering ever since Miami paired these two together about who is the alpha dog amongst them, who is better. They took turns dominating the league the whole season. In the NBA Finals, with LeBron playing passively in Game 3, Wade finally called him out, showing the first sign of friction between the eternal super-buddies. It's time to capitalise on that and build a spicy rivalry. Who do you think wins in a 1-on-1 game? LeBron may be a better all-round talent, but can he really match Wade, who is a 1-on-1 specialist? LeBron is bigger and a slightly better three-point shooter. Wade is quicker, more creative, and can finish better. LBJ will use his size advantage defensively, and will also test Wade's iffy outside shooting. Wade will counter it by driving hard to the basket and winning fouls. LBJ will do the same. This will be a tough, defensive game, and I say both of them will have a tough time in scoring. After 15 minutes, both LeBron and Wade will be tied on 17 each. We go into a 3 minute overtime. It is here that the winning mettle will show, and LeBron's close-game crisis will overcome him. Wade lives for tense moments, LBJ has recently died by it. Both players will get to the line, Wade, a better free throw shooter, will make more of his shots. Wade wins the emotional game, hugs his team-mate, and heads to the final.

    Rose vs. Paul After the emotional roller-coaster of the last semi-final, this one will be relatively underwhelming. Chris Paul doesn't have the deadly scoring instinct that Derrick Rose has. Plus Rose is a quicker player. Paul will be settling for his jump-shot a lot and will rely on tough defense to stop Rose, but Rose is another player designed to be unstoppable in this format - he will beat Paul and enter the final.


    Dywane Wade vs. Derrick Rose Fitting, I think, because before starting this tournament, I would've imagined these two to be the best 1-on-1 players in the NBA. Well, here we have it now: two incredible guards, both hailing from Chicago, and players with similar styles and intensity, going head to head in the final against each other. Rose will rely on his speed once more, but Wade matches him in ball handling ability and quick change of direction. The one advantage that Wade has is that he can dominate defensively and play well even when the game is slowed down. Rose will get quick early baskets, but with both of them tiring out, it will be Wade who will be stronger towards the end. Both players will use similar weapons from their arsenal against each other, but being bigger, stronger, and better on the defensive end, it is Wade who will hold the advantage. In a down to the wire game, Wade will be the first to the finish line, beating Rose 21-18.

    WINNER: Dwyane Wade

    So there you have it: After several exciting match-ups, close games, upsets, and with the settling of many old rivalries, the creation of many new ones, Dwyane Wade will be the last one standing and the winner of the 1-on-1 championship.

    Agree? Disagree? Overjoyed? Fuming? With the format that I have presented, how do you think the tournament will proceed? Who do you think will the ultimate 1-on-1 champion? Let me know your thoughts, where I went wrong, where I went right, whom I overrated, whom I underrated.

    Whatever your opinion, I'm sure we'll agree on one thing: THIS NEEDS TO HAPPEN. This will be every fans dream, and will settle numerous debates and confusions about 'who is better' (1-on-1 at least). And after that, we can start hoping to finally seeing these guys do what they do best: play REAL 5-on-5 basketball for their NBA teams. Until then, enjoy the court(room) drama.

    November 15, 2011

    Locked out NBA players should play a 1-on-1 tournament, Part 1

    Go ahead and mourn first: The NBA is in a lockout. The owners gave the players a terrible collective bargaining agreement 'final' offer. Yesterday, the player's rejected the deal, dissolved the union, and are now threatening to take the matter to court. The 2011/12 season which should've begun 2 weeks ago is still locked out, and it seems that, with the court battles and the chaos that is now following, we are a long way away from seeing NBA basketball again.

    No matter what side you think is the bigger 'villain' here, I think both share some fraction of the blame for this 'nuclear winter'. But one thing is clear to me: the NBA is famous, and thus the players and the owners are rich, mostly because of the players. Not anything else. The Cleveland Cavaliers weren't a popular team because of their owner, Dan Gilbert, they were popular because of LeBron James. With him gone, I wonder how many former 'fans' are rooting for the owner. Fans like players, and therefore, the players need to prove that it is they who have the power to draw more fans.

    Now, few voices spoke out in support of NBA players creating their own, separate basketball league if they can't agree on a deal with the NBA. But this kind of operation is much easier said than done, especially in the short term. The NBA is too well-organised, connected, and popular around the world: any new league created by the players will of course be attractive, but still, it would take a long time before it will reach the standards of the NBA. It will have problems with the infrastructure, TV deals, etc etc. Plus, it would be a long time before a league like this would be organised enough to take off, and honestly, by then, they might as well fix their problems with the current NBA.

    The players have tried other ways to play basketball and enjoy their 'freedom' from the NBA during the lockout. They have taken part in streetball championships, in numerous box-score stuffing charity games, and even planned (and failed) to take part in an All Star World Tour. These charity/streetball games are exciting for a while (OMG LEBRON CARMELO WADE PAUL MELO ON THE SAME TEAM OMG!!!) but eventually, they get boring and useless, since their is little at stake in terms of competitiveness and player legacy.

    So here's my ultimate solution to the current state of affairs we find ourselves in, a solution that will help temporarily satisfy the NBA fans, give the players a competitive platform to flaunt their star power, and of course, satisfy the behind-the-scenes sponsors who would like to continue promoting their brands with the big-name players they pay:

    The NBA's best players need to take part in a first-of-its-kind, historic, 1-on-1 tournament.

    First off: 1-on-1 basketball is not REAL BASKETBALL. Let's get that straight. Basketball, in its purest, and most beautiful form, is a 5-on-5 unselfish, full-court game, where ideally every person on the court runs, passes, scores, rebounds, and defends with equal effort.

    That said, for a short time (perhaps just 4-5 days), a tournament like this will be incredible. Every NBA player has played 1-on-1. As a matter of fact, every living, breathing soul who is a casual or a serious or a professional basketball player has played 1-on-1. It is not the purest form of the game, but it's still a fun form. I want to see 32 of the league's best players (will explain that number why later) play in a short tournament to decide the league's best 1-on-1 player, and thus win bragging rights to call themselves the 'best player', too. There is too much peace and love in today's NBA, anyways. With money and hype over everything, players don't go hard at each other individually that much anymore.

    Case in point: LeBron James vs. Kobe Bryant, everyone's favourite 1-on-1 dream scenario. Yes, they have very different styles, and yes, they are in different stages of their careers, but Kobe and LeBron are nearly the same height, play nearly the same position, and are the league's most popular, divisive, and amongst its most talented players. Most NBA fans are either on the Kobe corner and on the LeBron corner. The 'who's better' argument has been raging for years, with no way of truly finding an answer. Same goes for other similar players, such as Deron Williams vs. Chris Paul, Derrick Rose vs. Russell Westbrook, or Kevin Durant vs. Carmelo Anthony. Or how about, players in the same NBA team for a pinch of drama: LeBron James vs. Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony vs. Amar'e Stoudemire, Kevin Durant vs. Russell Westbrook. This is a chance to really play out those countless video game fantasies that you have been harbouring.

    And now listen to this: Last October, Kobe Bryant claimed that he would beat LeBron 1-on-1. A few weeks ago, Kevin Durant said that Kobe would beat LeBron, too. Yesterday, a video surfaced where LeBron was asked if Kobe would beat him 1-on-1, and he said that he would be 'victorious' over anyone. The players are already talking about it, the wheels are in motion, it's now time to make this happen!

    How to 'make it happen', though? Here is the main stipulation that will have to be taken into consideration: The players will have to ignore the risk of injury and the perhaps bigger risk of public embarrassment. With no NBA future on the cards, this may not be as far-fetched a stipulation as you may think.

    There are a multitude of sponsors who will be able to fund this type of massive event, especially since many of their sponsorship deals are suffering with the absence of an NBA season. I had first considered shoe companies like Nike/adidas, but they have too much power over who plays or doesn't play and may try to only field players signed under their banner. No worries: there are plenty others, and this is a lucrative venture. What will make it even better is if the proceeds go to charity.

    The tournament doesn't need to be stretched out longer than a 4-5 days, as with the format I'm about to suggest later, any player will play a maximum of only seven short 1-on-1 games. ESPN can broadcast it (hey, they broadcast the friggin' Decision).

    Now, I was thinking about what would be an ideal venue for an event like this, and I thought no further than Las Vegas. The city of Vegas has already been rumoured to be a future destination for an NBA team. The 2007 NBA All Star Game was held there. Players head to Vegas for the Summer League before every season (not this one, though!). And of course, the 'Impact Basketball League' was held in Vegas two months ago. It will be a neutral floor but a place which will guarantee investor interest.

    And the fans - I'm sure - will watch this tournament in flocks. Fans will watch it in the arena, watch it on TV, see highlights on YouTube, and discuss it on blogs and social networking sites in great numbers. We're DESPERATE. And the only thing second to the news that the real NBA season is returning will be the news that the NBA's best players will be putting their talents, their egos, and their legacies on the line against each other. Because, let's face it, 1-on-1 basketball is the ultimate ego-showcase. No one has to pretend to win for the team anymore. It's going go be every man for himself, a prospect that will create unique drama like never before. Hell yes, the fans will be excited. There are too many arguments to settle here.

    Now, on to the tournament rules. I'm going to unabashedly steal from a very simple and efficient, tried-and-test format: the FIFA World Cup. The World Cup has 32 of the best teams, divided into eight different pots of four teams each. Each team plays three games against those in the same group. The best two teams from each group goes into the knockout stage. The knockout stage starts with the Second Round (16 teams), Quarter-Finals (8 teams), Semi-Finals (4 teams), and Finals (2 teams). I think this is a good and fair system, and it means that a participant plays a maximum of seven games.

    In the middle of this tournament, I also propose a Slam Dunk competition and a Three-Point Shoot-Out. Why not?

    I propose that in each game, a coin toss wins starting possession. The games will be on the half-court, of course, and after each basket, the possession will start from the three-point line. I want the players to play the 'loser's ball' system, meaning the player who has just scored will then have to defend his opponent in the next start of possession. The scoring will be normal (two pointers, three pointers, 1 point for free throws) up to 21. But I'm willing to give the players 15 minutes max, after which the game stops and the higher score wins. There will be no breaks/time-outs. If scores are tied at the end of regulation, add three more minutes of overtime.

    A big issue in 1-on-1 games is fouls: I want the foul calling to be much laxer, meaning, only rough and very obvious fouls should be called. Any shooting foul will be free-throws, as normal. But to stop players from fouling bad free-throw shooters too much, I want to set a five foul limit - any player who fouls five times will give up 1 point to his opponent.

    So there it is: these are my proposed scenario and rules for my dream 1-on-1 tournament. But I'm not done, because why dream up such an incredible scenario and not dream of how it would play out? That is why this is just Part 1 of this story. In Part 2, I'll pick the 32 players who will be making the cut, divide them into the groups, and then, based on the style of the 1-on-1 format, play out the entire tournament.

    So for all the times that the NBA promoted the 'There can only be 1' ads, we will finally have an appropriate platform for determining the last '1' standing. Yes, this is indeed going to be epic.