Thou Shalt Not Rock Braids!

February 16, 2009

It still seems funny!

It still seems funny!

Consider it a sin to wear cornrows if you are in the NBA! If Allen Iverson has decided to cut his, then David Stern should incorporate a new rule for the rest of the league to follow in Iverson’s direction (…just kidding).

 Although he wasn’t the originator of rocking the braids, he sure as hell was the most popular person of all-time. The two just went together so swell. It was like seeing Michael Jordan sporting a bald head, Steve Harvey with the high-top, or Don King with his nappy crown…they just fit! Any other look would seem pinchbeck. 
I will admit, I was very shocked when I seen him with the crispy cut at the All-Star Game this past weekend. It was like seeing him in his rookie season or during his Georgetown University days when he had the nastiest crossover on the planet to go along with his stupid hops. The day that Allen Iverson decided to cut his braids was also the day that he decided to cut away a piece of his life.
For the past decade, his braids have made him a force to be reckoned with. They helped him to reach MVP status in the 2001 season, win multiple scoring titles, lead a team to the NBA Finals, as well as establish him as one of the toughest players in the league!
These braids were not just any ordinary braids! They had such rich tradition and history. As he seeks to write another chapter in his life, he may not want to admit it, but he will be missing an integral piece of himself.
So much has changed for “The Answer” this year and I have witnessed it first hand (…due to the fact that I am a resident in the state of Michigan who is blessed with the opportunity to cover some of the Detroit Pistons games). 
With a new team, a new number, a new attitude, and a new look, only time will tell if we will be blessed to see the Iverson of old lead the Pistons to another historical run during the second half of the season. With his career gradually coming to an end, I expect Allen Iverson to put forth an interminable effort as he continues to play every game as if it’s his last. 
*click on the pic to also view this post at It’s Just Sports!
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Morris Peterson Interview

February 11, 2009

Mo Pete's Big Day

Mo Pete's Big Day

I caught up with Morris Peterson when the Detroit Pistons hosted the New Orleans Hornets on Jan. 17, 2009. I was covering the game for the SLAM mag and I was elated to do this game in order to talk to one of my fellow Flintstones. “Mo Pete” had his jersey retired earlier in the day at Michigan State University and he was more than happy to talk to me about it after the game when he found out that I was from Flint.

Here is what he had to say.

Eric Woodyard: First things first, you got your jersey retired today at Michigan State University which had to be big, how did that feel?
Morris Peterson: Man, that’s an unbelievable feeling to see your name and your jersey go up next to some greats. To be mentioned with Magic Johnson and Steve Smith and Mateen Cleaves is an unbelievable feeling.

EW: I know Mateen got his number retired before you, being the type of person he is, did he ever tease you about it?
MP: Naw, he called me and was like, ‘Welcome to the club, you’re officially a boss now.’ That’s what he told me so we laughed about it and talked about his night and he just said it’s going to be a special night for me and it was. I had a lot of people in attendance, a lot of family and friends, and it was just an unbelievable day for me.

EW: Coming back home was it a lot of people bugging you for tickets?
MP: Yeah. My phone rings a lot when I come back home, especially that week before I come. A lot of people know I’m coming back so, yeah, they do. I had about 25 tickets today to get.

EW: Back to Mateen, I know he’s great and Chris Paul is great. Who is the best point guard that you’ve ever played with?
MP: I got to say Mo Cleaves. I think when we played together and what he brought to the table, he brought that toughness and I see a lot of that in Chris Paul. [Paul] fell out of the sky and into this team and it’s unbelievable watching him play and watching him grow. I think he’s going to be a Hall of Famer one day.

EW: Besides the championship, what was your favorite memory at MSU with Mateen?
MP: There’s one day that really sticks out in my mind. You know, a lot of times when you’re trying to reach a goal and you’ve got two competitors like him and I…We had such great respect, if I felt like I should’ve got the ball on a play and I wanted to say something to him then he’s going to say something to me. Well, one day we were playing, I can’t remember who we were playing. I was wolfing him and I said, ‘I was open man, throw me the ball.’ He was like, ‘Alright, I’m going to throw you the ball, but you better do something with it.’ Then the next time down, he threw me a lob and I caught it backwards and I was like, ‘Man, that’s what I’m talking about,’ and he’s like ‘Well, catch it then.’ So we kind of went at it but it was all out of just the love of the game, and I think that’s what it’s all about.

EW: Obviously, this organization has roots with Flint with Glen Rice being a former Hornet. Do you ever confide in him?
MP: You know what, Glen is a great friend. Every time I see him, he shows me love, he always gives me pointers. It’s been a couple times early in my career where I might have had a bad game and I saw him and the next time we were playing he was like, ‘Don’t lose your confidence, keep it going.’ The best advice he gave me was: ‘Any time you miss a shot, just always think you’re going to hit the next one and keep it moving.’

EW: So with all of the talent in Flint, who was your toughest opponent?
MP: My toughest opponent I ever played against? Man, we have so many great guys to come out of Flint but I would have to say
Cory Hightower because we’re the same size and the same kind of body type. He was a lefty, so people often compared us to each other. But one of the guys who I think could’ve really made an impact in the college level and in the NBA level was Jody Allen. He was cold! Jody was ahead of the game even back then and he did some unbelievable things with the basketball, and I just wish he could’ve had a chance to get to this level. He would have been something to watch.

*you can view the game notes at slamonline.com at this link: http://slamonline.com/online/nba/2009/01/game-notes-hornets-at-pistons/

Jason Richardson Interview

February 11, 2009

J-Rich back in the day

J-Rich back in the day

Jason Richardson tries his hardest to put Saginaw, Mich., on the map.

Since his high school days at Saginaw Arthur Hill, where he graduated from in 1999 before attending Michigan State University, he has determined to raise others as well.

As a pro, Richards was part of that memorable Golden State Warriors team that took out the No. 1 seeded Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs. After being traded to Charlotte for a minute, he is back in a winning situation in Phoenix.

During his visit to the Palace of Auburn Hills with the Suns, I caught up with the high-flyer for a few minutes in the locker room.

Interview after the jump.

What is it like to return home and play in front of your home crowd?

It’s great to be home. Anytime you get a chance because you don’t play here much. You know, my family and friends don’t really get to see us play because of the late games but it’s always good to be home.

Tell me about them Flintstones, I know that you played with them in college, how was that to play with the players from Flint at Michigan State University?

It was a great time. I’m still; I don’t even say friends, brothers with those guys. Everybody that I played on that team with, especially Mateen (Cleaves) and Morris (Peterson), we’re all like brothers. Every summer, our families get together and have a picnic and just enjoy each other but you know all of them guys are great and they’re great friends.

Do you keep in touch with them?

Often, very often. We at least contact each other at least three or four times a month to make sure each other’s families are doing well and the things that Mateen did for me are things that you can’t really explain. He’s a great guy that you always wanna pull for and I definitely pull for him and I’m definitely gonna have his back with whatever he does.

Do you do the same things with the younger guys coming up from Saginaw like Dar Tucker and Tory Jackson?

I definitely do those things! I keep in contact with those guys and help those guys out as far as what it took to get to the next level, what it took to survive at the level they at now and all those guys. There’s so many guys from Saginaw playing college basketball right now so I just try to help them out as much as I can.

Do you think any of them can play professionally?

I think they all have a chance, you never know. People thought I didn’t have a chance. If they work hard at it, they definitely have a chance to be professionals

*click on the pic to view this at It’s Just Sports!

Game Notes: Suns at Pistons

February 11, 2009

The Pistons need help!

The Pistons need help!

*Seeing Amare, Shaq, Nash and the Suns was amazing! Grant Hill also brought back some memories… click on the pic to check out my game notes on slamonline.com

by Eric Woodyard

Growing up in Michigan in the 1990’s there were a few things in the world of sports that you were spoon fed: Barry Sanders’ prowess, The Bad Boys’ toughness, The Fab Five’s swag, The Detroit Red Wings’ greatness and Grant Hill’s dominance. We often forget about Hill’s popularity. The man had his face on the front of the Sprite machine in my elementary school to remind me of it every single day.

If you didn’t have a pair of his FILA sneakers, it was almost like a sin. Fortunately, my parents blessed me with a couple of his signature joints so I can place myself in that category of being “cool” during that period of time.

Although he has been out of the F’s for almost a decade, it was still funny to see him wearing a pair of black and white Nike Hyperdunks in the visitor’s locker room at the Palace of Auburn Hills when the Detroit Pistons hosted the Phoenix Suns as Hill made his annual visit back to his professional roots.
1995 Grant Hill FILAs
I attempted to get an interview from him but he shunned me (in a nice way, though).

“Can I ask you a few questions Grant?” I asked.

“I will take interviews after the game,” Hill responded as he watched tape of the Pistons.

Besides studying film, there was not much going on inside the Suns’ locker room. I caught Shaq’s big toe peeping around the corner of a room in the back as he was being stretched. Steve Nash was walking around fly in his Nike Zoom MVPs. The rest of the team was just relaxing while only Amar’e and JRich participated in shoot around.

Over on the other end of the spectrum in the Pistons’ locker room, everyone was chilling while listening to a few tracks from Nas’s latest album “Untitled” and watching highlights of the games from earlier in the day on the big screen television.

Without much going on prior to the game, I decided to get a bite to eat in the pressroom and engaged in casual conversation with former Piston John Long, as we both ate fresh salad and slurped on chicken soup. Long played in the backcourt along Isiah Thomas before Joe Dumars was drafted. He played eight seasons for the Pistons, and he averaged a career-high 21.9 ppg in the 1981-82 season.

SLAM: What do you remember most about being a Detroit Piston?
John Long: The ultimate thing was winning the NBA championship in the 1988-89 season and playing with Isiah (Thomas), Joe (Dumars), (Dennis) Rodman, Vinnie (Johnson), and (John) Sally and all those guys. You know everybody talks about the money part as far as playing basketball and that stuff is great but the bottom line is winning a championship because you have more bragging rights when you win championships. So that was the biggest moment in my career and being part of that triple-overtime game that was the highest scoring game in NBA history that’s in the Guinness Book of World Records. Being part of that is another thing that you can cherish. I watch that on classic sports a lot.

SLAM: Does seeing Grant Hill in that Phoenix Suns jersey bring back any memories of watching him as a Piston?
JL: Well, Grant has always been a competitor, he’s always played hard and he’s always been a leader. Unfortunately the last few years he couldn’t stay healthy and that really hampered him from really being a really great player in this league. You can tell that with the time that he’s had off, he has really prepared himself because he still has his legs and that’s he’s saved himself a little bit because he’s not burnt out. He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now, and I’m happy for him because he’s a really great guy.

Immediately following our conversation, I decided to step onto the court and take my courtside seat in the press row. Seeing that ESPN would be televising the game nationally made me excited because I thought that the players’ intensity would increase. I was slightly wrong.

Although the game was credited as an official sellout, a blind man could see that all of the seats were not filled. It still seems funny that consecutive sellout banner was absent after franchise-record sellout streak was stopped at 259 games when the Pistons hosted the Miami Heat on Wednesday night. Replaced in its spot was a bland “Thanks Fans” banner.

As the game began, it was apparent that it would not be the most exciting. The timeouts were longer, the lights were dimmer, and it was just one of those days where everyone started pretty slow.

The most exciting were the hecklers sitting directly behind me. They made a few inappropriate comments but for the most part they were pretty funny.

“The Big Aristotle’s out of gas,” one guy said.

What's a Kwame's for.“Hey Terry Porter what’s your diet, you look really skinny,” another one added.

The most compelling comment came near the end of the fourth quarter when Amar’e Stoudemire was getting set to come out of the huddle in a time-out.

“Hey Stoudemire,” a heckler says as Amar’e looks in his direction. “You’ll be here next week!”

Amar’e shook his head slightly as he walked onto the court as though he was in agreement. Missing was the eagerness to dunk on opponents. Missing was that usual grimace. He was just out there.

Prior to this, I didn’t believe a trade could happen, but it was at this moment that I began to think that there could be a serious possibility of Amar’e coming to Detroit.

Acclimating another player into an already struggling Detroit Pistons roster may cause some serious problems but there is really only one direction for them to go, and that is up. Although they are still in the phase of trying to transition Allen Iverson into their roster, if Amar’e was to join the crew before the Feb. 19 trade deadline, he may improve their chances.

After the Suns defeated the Pistons, 107-97, I caught up with STAT in the locker room. Even after he dropped 18 points and grabbed 7 boards his frustration with his role on the team was evident.

SLAM: There was a lot of heckling during the game about you coming to Detroit, did that bother you at all?
Amar’e Stoudemire: They just want me to come to Detroit, man. That’s all that’s saying. You know, “Come to Detroit.” They want me.

SLAM: How do you feel about that?
AS: That’s a good feeling knowing that the fans want you and the teams want you. So it’s a good feeling.

SLAM: Would you like playing here in Detroit?
AS: You know, I’ve never played here before so I’m not sure, but I think from a fan standpoint, they definitely have a pretty good fan base here.

SLAM: I hear a lot of comparisons to you and a young Antonio McDyess, you agree with that?
AS: Yeah, we were kind of similar. We have similar games. McDyess [was] a super athletic player and he was a freak of nature out there on the court. He’s still playing well even though he went through his injuries.

SLAM: Do you ever watch old film of him?
AS: Nah, none of that. I think McDyess had a pretty solid career coming back from his injuries and persevering, but I never watch film or anything like that of him.

Leaving him really had me thinking, could he be the next Michigan sports figure that we spoon feed to the younger generation? Anything is possible. Following our interview I decided to talk to Steve Nash, who handed out a season-high 21 assists.

SLAM: Does it scare you at all seeing that the Pistons fans seem to like Amar’e so much and that he could be possibly traded?
Steve Nash: Yeah, obviously we don’t want to lose Amar’e, and we don’t want to think about trades during the season. We’re just going to ignore all of that stuff and keep working.

SLAM: Why do you think you were able to pick the Pistons’ defense apart so well tonight?
SN: I was just trying to get in the paint and make plays. We got out in transition as well, and I just tried to be aggressive and create open opportunities form my teammates.

SLAM: Were you at all amped to play against Allen Iverson or Rodney Stuckey to prove that you are still that MVP-caliber player?
SN: No, I don’t really feel like I have anything to prove, I just want to win and do well for my team so I just went out there and tried to be aggressive on both ends of the court.

SLAM: Speaking of MVPs, two possible MVPs faced off today (Kobe and LeBron). In your opinion, who has the better chance of getting MVP this season, Kobe or LeBron?
SN: I think it’s whoever has the better season. Whichever team has the better year.

SLAM: Do you still think of yourself in that caliber?
SN: No, not really. I think this year especially I’ve sacrificed a lot of my game to incorporate all of these other great players so I don’t have necessarily the same impact as I had tonight all of the time so maybe we’ll get back to playing a little more of that way but so far this season it hasn’t been that way.

SLAM: As far as point guards, where do you rank yourself right now?
SN: I don’t know. I think it’s a lot of great point guards in the game right now and, obviously, in the history of the game, there’s a ton of guys that I admire. So if I’m mentioned in the same sentence as those guys then that’s a great honor.

Only time will tell if Amar’e will become a Piston, but all I can say is that he will be welcomed with open arms. Forget 2010, change needs to come now! Standing Tall and Talented, he seems to be the perfect fit for the franchise.

To be continued…

SportingNews.com

SportingNews.com

*SportingNews.com linked my story to their page, click on the photo to check it out! 

He’s Definitely Not Him!

February 5, 2009

espn photo

espn photo

He’s alright but he’s not him.

Rodney Stuckey is good but he is no Dwyane Wade. In fact, he’s far from him. Not even on his planet!

There has been talk all around town about how Stuckey is just as good as Wade and how he could possibly be better than him but this is absolutely absurd! The Pistons fans in the state of Michigan are way to eager to place him in the same caliber with the elite players of the National Basketball association way before he pays his dues.

I can see where the Wade and Stuckey comparisons stem from but I am not ready to entertain them in any way, shape, or form. They do have similar slashing  ability, as well as a similar body type and overall agressiveness (…and the same jersey number) but that is where it stops.

Wade’s abilities are unmatched, especially from someone of Stuckey’s stature.

Despite the Miami Heat’s, 93-90, loss to the Detroit Pistons last night at the Palace of Auburn Hills, The Flash was still in the place with style and grace. Wade laced the Pistons with 29 points, 7 rebounds, 13 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks.

Stuckey held his own though as he dropped 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists on the Heat.

This was a decent win but the Pistons are still struggling as they finally snapped thier four-game losing streak. It’s kind of hard to be optimistic about the franchise when they continue to struggle so badly. 

The fans are even realizing this as the Pistons’ franchise-record sellout streak at 259 games was also snapped last night. 

When the league leader in points can’t fill up the house then there is more than a problem.

*click on the photo to view this at It’s Just Sports!

AP Photo

AP Photo

When Kobe erupted for 61, I wonder what was really going through LeBron’s mind?

Was it hate? Joy? Despise?

The one thing that we found out just two days later is that he couldn’t be outdone! He had to give us 52 buckets, 11 dimes and 12 boards in a 107-102, Cleveland Cavaliers victory over the New York Knicks last night in Madison Square Garden.

Prior to the game, James told the everyone everything they wanted to hear.

“Kobe Bryant’s performance was unbelievable. I watched every last second of it and he won the game,” James said Tuesday night. “But it’s not about individuals in this league — it’s about the basketball game. I’m not trying to out-do Kobe or anybody on their team. I’m just trying to win the game.

“I just go out and play my game,” he added. “I’m not a video game where you can expect me to go out there and score 60 or 70. I play the game and I’m not about individual accolades.”

These were great words but his actions clearly overuled them. His actions gave us a great performance (…very great one) but it still doesn’t mean as much as the Mamba’s performance when the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Knicks, 126-117, on Monday. 

The King’s efforts were forced and corny. Kobe’s was more smooth and virtuoso as he picked his spots and struck at just the right moments.

Kobe’s skill level is on another level and LeBron just has to look in the mirror and realize this. I respect his efforts and competitive spirit when it comes to outdueling Kobe but he’s just not there yet.

I have to admit it though, this is great for the game of basketball. These games have added more anticipation for their final head-to-head matchup of this season which will take place this Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

LeBron better have his ankle insurance.