Archive for March, 2012

Tonight was a good night to be at the Wells Fargo Center.  Not only did the Sixers exorcise some of their demons, but they got a much needed win to stay in the hunt to win the Atlantic Division.  There are a few quick interesting elements of the game worth covering.  Doug Collins didn’t seem to suggest that any of the following were any more than fluke or circumstance, but the following happened in the last five minutes of the Sixers game tonight:

1) Lou Williams and Thad Young didn’t even sniff the court.  Doug states that they were both exhausted, and that Jrue, Evan, and Meeks were on the court because they were energetic.

2) The Sixers ran their offense late, they played the way they typically play for the other 43 minutes of the game.  They did not have a single possession of “hero ball,” and they looked for the open man, the mismatch, they passed out of double-teams, and they ran the offense primarily through Elton Brand.  Who was seriously clutch.


DeAndre Jordan Gets Mozgov’d/Perkins’d in the Staples Center (courtesty of Get Banged On)

While Blazermaniacs seem to be waivering in their ethusiasm for their squad post trade deadline, and probably pre-deadline, the pick-up of JJ Hickson off the waiver wire has at the very least provided more offensive energy and atheleticism than they’ve shown all year.  While coach Canales will have to work on their defensive schemes, the duo of Hickson and Aldridge could be both offensively devastating and very solid on the glass.  Combine them with a solid pick and roll point guard, and Matthews and Batum in on the wings, and this could be a mix that’s tough assignment for any NBA team to defend.  With potentially two lottery picks this year, things are certainly looking brighter for the Blazers, as early as next season.  And if nothing else, he should give blazer fans a reason to keep that sellout streak alive, which must keep the Vulcans happy.


Blake making the decision to try and avoid this poster after watching what Hickson did to Jordan (via Mij305)

Hickson’s 29-13-3 Line was certainly nasty on the offensive end, although one can’t help but notice that someone as atheletic as Hickson did not manage a single block or steal.  While small sample size is certainly rearing it’s ugly head in these statistics, and Hickson won’t often get the chance to be the primary offensive option he was last night, with LaMarcus out of the lineup, Hickson has posted career shattering advanced stats in his brief time with the blazers, including a PER of 25.5, a 63.6 TS %, and 65.5% eFG.  But it’s important to note that his usage rate is his highest except in 10-11 in Cleveland when there were really no other offensive options.  It’s also important to note that his rebounding percentages are at career lows, but his assists are higher than any season except his last year playing with Lebron.  I wouldn’t make much of all of this, other than he’s playing at a high level through his first five games on the blazers, and should easily warrant an extension, unless he proves to be overly knuckleheaded and refuses to play d (both possibilities it would appear).  But for now, Rip City gets to enjoy one of the elite atheletes in the NBA, playing at a very high level. 

Thabeet and Babbitt both got new season highs in minutes for the blazers last night, and Babbit played decently (despite the fact that he had no business lining up with Blake Griffin), while Thabeet managed to flirt with fouling out in just 8 minutes.  Flynn played well in 15 minutes as well, and looks like he might be worth an extension to me as a combo guard off the bench.  It’d be nice to see Flynn’s numbers continue to go up a bit, but it’s understandable as well as Felton has run the pick and roll with Hickson, why Canales would want to keep him on the floor.   

Hardwood Blacktop’s Sixers coverage has been a little bit spotty (or non-existent) of late, thanks to the series the “royal we” put together on some of the best hip hop albums of the first quarter.  That said, it’s still the mission here to cover the Sixers, the Blazers, and rap music, and various other things.  So – no change in venue.

I came across a couple of really interesting reads immediately relevant to the Sixers, one of which was March’s issue of ESPN the Magazine from John Hollinger on “Hero Ball,” which breaks down the ineffectiveness of the isolation offense in clutch situations.  The article raises something I’ve often believe, which is that teams do themselves a tremendous disservice by limiting their offensive options down to putting the ball in the hands of one player (even if he is their most efficient offensive player), during crunch time.  Theories that I’ve heard to support hero ball, generally revolve around the notion that defenses become tighter, during crunch time and it becomes much more difficult for teams to run a play involving multiple parts effectively.  That explanation has always seemed simplistic to me, for two main reasons:

1) if teams could play tighter defense for 48 minutes and routinely drive a much higher level of offensive inefficiency in their counterparts, you’d think coaches would’ve figured that out by now (although some might argue that Coach Collins has).

2) when teams overplay on defense, usually other options open up on plays (like backdoor passes, lobs, open shots in the corner, etc)


Mista Thug Isolation’s first track begins with the white noise and ringing of a bad bout of tenitus, and quickly developes into extraterrestrial feedback behind a ghoulish piano loop – something like an alien abduction inside a haunted mansion.  There’s no denying the overt homage paid to mid and early nineties Three 6 Mafia and Hypnotized Minds affiliates here, and given that Lil’ Ugly Mane is not the long-lost cousin of DJ Paul, fresh off a 17 year bid, it’s reasonable to qualify Mista Thug Isolation as “nostalgia rap.”  While most of the members of today’s southern rap scene can trace their ancestry to artists like Three 6, Eightball & MJG, and UGK, very few make music that is as sonically reminiscent of the many underground tapes from ’91-’97 Memphis (with hints of Texas not to be ignored).  There are important factors to consider before outright dismissing Mista Thug Isolation as an unintriguingly derivative niche throwback album.  The most important factors being is the fidelity to the technique and the originality of the artist’s craft, as well as the overall quality of the music itself.  While Lil’ Ugly Mane sounds like he could’ve fit in with the Hypnotized Minds posse, his delivery is not consistent with anyone in that camp, and he maintains diversity in his vocal techniques while exhibiting his own perverse sense of humor.  As a producer Lil Ugly Mane also known as Shawn Kemp – his beat making alter ego – cooks up cuts that could’ve starred on records for likes of Hypnotized Minds affiliates or even UGK or Ball & G, but the subtleties and juxtapositions across this lo-fi opus generally belie direct comparison.

“Radiation (Lung Pollution)” is perhaps the most eclectic track on the album, with a beat that moves seamlessly from a smooth and jazzy trunk rattler to pure chopped and screwed devilishness as Lil’ Ugly Mane and Supa Sortahuman exchange braggadocio and marijuana honorariums.  On “Slick Rick,” Shawn Kemp brings a combination of definitively 80’s soundscapes with a few classic 90’s southern hints, as Lil’ Ugly Mane displays his reverence for the forefather of hip hop misogyny with details of a couple of humorously self-indulgent sexual encounters.  Perhaps the album’s defining cut, “B*tch, I’m Lugubrious,” mixes a few chopped up somber keys, flutes, and some trunk rattling bass as Lil’ Ugly Mane weaves his morose sense of humor into a double-time flow with lines like “uzi aimin’ low, shoot a playa in the prostrate.”


If Kendrick Lamar is the natural evolution of Ras Kass, then Schoolboy Q is somewhere between Kurupt, WC, and Crooked I on one end of the spectrum, and Micah 9 and Pharoahe Monch on the other, with the perversion of Akinyele thrown in for good measure.  On his new album Habits & Contradictions it’s often difficult to determine where Schoolboy sees himself on this continuum, and that may be a question for years to come.

Q made a splash last year with the release of his debut album Setbacks, which quickly endeared him to thousands of digital fans of both LA gangsta rap and innovative bohemian rap alike.  While it is always inspiring to hear a West coast artist continue to evolve the constraints of the defined notions of acceptable Gangsta rap, Q’s vocal stylings frequently outclass his lyrical machinations on Habits & Contradictions.  For what it is – sexually depraved, misogyny laced, violent, drug influenced, gang culture inspired storytelling – the level of vocal artistry may be unparalleled.  Over the course of 367 days, Schoolboy Q has twice managed to release the album hip hop heads dreamed Crooked I would release for ten years (and never did).  Of his two albums, Setbacks is the more accessible to the uninitiated and Habits & Contradictions is more likely to send someone into convulsions and fits of gangbang slang Tourette’s.


“Cold loaded, waiting for a reason/praise me when I’m dead, make bread while I’m breathin’/Can’t take it when I’m leaving/Judge me too quick, mistake me as a heathen/cause I had tools moved weight it was thievin’/when I was broke out the gate, I was grievin’/had a cold heart cause my apartment was freezin'”

– Ka, “Cold Facts”

It seems like every few years you come across a New York rap album that avoids the impulse to sound remotely modern, and yet somehow manages to navigate the pitfalls of the misguided intentionality of “nostalgia rap” (see Termanology, Celph Titled, and numerous releases after about ’03 or ’04 from washed up NYC golden age rappers).  In 11 brief tracks, Grief Pedigree manages to cement itself into an elite group of 4 or 5 rap albums from the last half a decade that manage to remove modernity from the auditory equation, without sacrificing the authenticity of the listening experience.  It’s a very rare group of records indeed that can make you feel like you’ve stepped into 1995 musically, without asking you to reminisce or revisit – they just take you there.

It would be a total anomaly for an emcee with Ka’s aptitude for DIY artistry and 92-98 grimy New York authenticity to appear out of nowhere and Ka is not unlike NYOIL (UMC’s), MF DOOM (KMD), and Roc Marciano (Flipmode and The UN), hailing himself from the 90’s group Natural Elements.  Like the other emcees on shortlist, Ka has a unique skill set on the microphone and shows a dedication to his craft both on the mic and on the boards that is seldom exhibited in the quality of the artistic output among modern rappers.  For example, the rhyme schemes and vocal cadences are so thoroughly structured that at times the committment to the practice feels equal parts eccentric and devout.  Religious and spiritually inspired imagery and advice litters the album without coming across as overbearing or preachy, much in the way that 5%er linguistics and lessons were woven through the fabric of Wu-Tang albums for years.


If you’re 7’2″ then do you think my release is 13’9″ish?

JJ Hickson made his debut with the Portland Trailblazers last night against the Lakers add proved to be pretty efficient offensively, even if he did not show much on the defensive end.  According to Hoopdata’s advanced box score for the game, Hickson and LaMarcus Aldridge each lead blazers who took more than 1 field goal attempt, with a 66.7% Effective Field Goal percentage.  At the same time, Hickson posted a very pedestrian 5.3% rebound rate (to put that in the context of other blazers last night, the rebound rates for Kurt Thomas (22.5%) LaMarcus (12.8%) Przybilla (6.9%) and Wes Matthews (8.1%) were all superior and every member of the Lakers who played (except for Troy Murphy, who played only 3 minutes) was over 6.5%.    Obviously, the blazers got godbodied on the boards last night in general, and it’s a small sample size – so it’s too soon to draw any definitive conclusions.  By all accounts and metrics Hickson was one of the most efficient and effective players on the court for the blazers last night offensively, while playing against some pretty solid defensive bigs.

More importantly, the blazers lost.  They didn’t eek out another meaningless win against a solid western conference opponent and jeopardize the quality of their potential draft picks.  Combine that with the fact that NJ won tonight, Detroit lost, Washington lost – this was a pretty important loss for the blazers last night.