As our summer mainstay, Aaron's writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. Intent is to get you talking, thinking, and appreciating the myriad of wonderful folks who play in our favorite sports league. Today we continue with Andrew Goudelock, Brian Scalabrine, and Ben Wallace.
_Follow Andrew Goudelock on Twitter at __@3goudelock.___
There's not a ton to say about Goudelock. It's not necessarily that he lacks the talent to play in the league, but he's really not getting the time to really say whether or not he does. Uncertainty is the name of the game. Laker fans may cry foul and point to his run of good games early last season, scoring (in succession) 14, 13, 12, and 13 points in late January and early February. I'd refute that by noting that even in that stretch, Goudelock was criminally undersized for his position and incredibly permissive on the defensive end. For the stretches he had to play point guard, he was a relatively awful passer -- he doesn't have the next level court vision that makes an NBA point guard successful, and his dribble is pretty shaky too. He throws these awful telegraphed passes that are both easy to pick off and inefficient even when they work. He's only a two-guard because he really has nowhere else to go -- his defense is so awful he couldn't possibly play the three spot, and with passing like this, he's about as effective at the one as Kobe would be at the five. Still, theoretically, he's a decent player -- he has the gusto to create his own shot against taller and rangier players, and the ability to make quite a few. He shot 37% from three last season, which is rather excellent in a system that featured no real point guards for the majority of his minutes -- it's not hard to imagine Steve Nash upping a spot-up shooter like Goudelock's percentage to 40 or over, if Nash is still good next year.
Unfortunately for Goudelock, that probably isn't going to happen. The ongoing crunch for playing time looks to get even worse this season. Last year, he was only really "challenged" in the rotation jam for Kobe's off-minutes by Steve Blake. More specifically, Mike Brown's lock-him-in-an-asylum type fixation on playing Steve Blake as an off guard. This year, though? The Lakers picked up Jodie Meeks, a player who is essentially superior to Goudelock in every single area of the court Goudelock excels at. There's not a single minute without Kobe that wouldn't be better-suited for Meeks on the court over Goudelock. Hence the problem. This could've been avoided if Chris Grant had told the Lakers he wasn't taking Walton's contract without Goudelock instead of Kapono -- it wouldn't have really harmed the Lakers' rotation at all, and as a primary backup in Cleveland with a great point guard, I get the sense Goudelock could've fit a lot better and gotten quite a few more minutes. Not to mention he'd sport the most fundamentally sound three-point shot that Kyrie Irving had ever played with, other than... well... Kyrie Irving's. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way, and Glock fans are going to be forced to sit through a -- frankly -- excruciating season as they wait for the Lakers to either trade him away or waive him for a roster spot. Because on this team, I'd be shocked if Goudelock played more than 2-5 minutes every other night. Rough times. Godspeed, Andrew.
_Follow Brian Scalabrine by stealing the show from Paul Pierce, one last time__._
I admit, I was a bit lost on ideas for this capsule. How does one distill down the complex mix of respect and mockery that make up the soft-serve swirl of Brian Scalabrine's relationship with his fans? Luckily, in a relatively unrelated conversation last night with my good friend Dave Murphy, the inimitable Lauri brought to my attention a rather amazing little piece that made clear the way forward. It was sufficiently absurd to get my attention -- it's essentially an ode to the Totino's Party Pizza, a 99 cent mockery of the concept of pizza available in frozen food aisles everywhere. For those who aren't familiar with the "party pizza", don't let the advertisement fool you. It's hardly a party at all, at least in the traditional sense. It's a personal-sized pizza with a relatively thin crust, less-than-real cheese, and a mysterious red sauce that may or may not contain more tomatoes than salt. If you were to actually try and serve this pizza at a party, I'm pretty sure the first question would be one of the other partygoers wondering how exactly they're supposed to cut a 10 inch pizza to feed more than a single person. It isn't really party food, unless you somehow have an oven big enough to make one of these things for every single guest at your party. (On second thought, that would be a hilarious party. Someone do that.)
As for Scalabrine? His career-high PER was achieved last year, where Scalabrine put up a still-below-average PER of 13 in just 122 minutes over the entire season. Beyond that, Scalabrine's only had a single other year in double digits. Which is pretty abominable -- a PER above 15 is above average, but a PER below 10 is gutter-level. Very tough. If you examine the stats (or, alternatively, watch any game film whatsoever of Scalabrine's game) you'll start to see why. He's simply not an NBA player -- there's this sense watching him that he stumbled into a draft room drunk as a skunk and won a game of poker with a team's front office, forcing them to sign him to pay off their poker debt. People would argue that he was better when he was younger, but I don't really buy that -- he had a few decent performances when he was younger, like this 29-10 explosion against a permissive Golden State defense. But his game was still fundamentally flawed. He was never all that far removed from where he is now, a plodding and unathletic white tweener with a talent for self-promotion that's as bountiful as his basketball abilities are minimal. You never really looked at Brian Scalabrine and thought "wow, this is a guy who I'd trust to be a starter on a contending team." You never really looked at him and got the idea he'd even be a serviceable bench player -- you got the image of a guy that, if he wanted to be good, would have to be playing big minutes next to one of the greatest point guards of his generation (Jason Kidd, in his early career) or be playing insane minutes for a team that's so bad they're feeding him the ball like he's Kobe.
The real key with the pizza -- and the reason something like that deserves an ode at all -- is that there's a weird mental grip that the Tontino's Party Pizza has on the minds of those who ate it. When I eat it, I tend to think not of the taste. I think of how delightfully inexpensive the pizzas are, and all those times I had it as a kid. I'm not at a place in life where I really need to rely on 99 cent pizzas, but on the rare occasion I get a chance to eat one, I generally reflect on the days of my youth. Those days where I'd want something to eat but didn't know how to cook, so I'd fire up the oven and put a Totino's pizza in. Those days where I began to expect that all pizza would have a terrible crust like the one out of every freezer, and became faintly disappointed when they didn't. When you eat something often enough, it moves the focus of your taste buds away from "food that's tasty" and towards "food that resembles." Some call it building up your palette, but it's easy to forget that you can build a palette in the opposite direction as well. You can eat bad food often enough to make your mind think bad food's good and good food's bad. That whole concept of a flexible palette is useful for understanding why Brian Scalabrine inspires such hilariously fierce loyalty among his fans. He's the Totino's Party Pizza of the NBA. When you distill him to the core, that's exactly what he is.
Sure, you can focus on the hilarious negatives. The crust tastes exactly like the corrugated cardboard it's packaged in. The cheese is explicitly stated to be "less than 100% real." The sauce would make any other pizza curl up and die. But you know what? It's still actually really tasty. Call it nostalgia, call it my thriftiness, call it a perfect blend of every awful individual component into more than the sum of its parts. Whatever you want to call it, I'm game. But the Totino's Party Pizza was an absolutely essential part of my youth. In the same way, Brian Scalabrine is an essential part of the NBA to quite a lot of people. He's got a bunch of ridiculous component parts -- the incomprehensibly silly shots, the reporter-insulting (but also hilarious) postgame interviews, the utter inability to contribute as a true rotation player in the NBA. But he combines it all in a way that's a bit more than the sum of its parts. He's cheap, so fans don't really need to view his salary as detrimental to the team. And he has enough showmanship to make his garbage time minutes into a hilarious ball-dominating tour de force. No, Scalabrine isn't a good player -- it's an open question whether he's been a player at all over the last few years. No, the Totino's Party Pizza isn't a good pizza -- it's an open question whether it's been a pizza at all, ever. But both rise above their somewhat pathetic appearance on-paper and become important despite themselves. Hilariously so.
Long story short? I'm no big fan or anything, but yes, I'm going to miss Scalabrine. I hope he's a good press analyst.
_Follow _Ben Wallace's law career on "Boston Legal" reruns__.____
Man, I like Ben Wallace. There are some players that I am incomprehensibly fond of, and Wallace is one of them. It's true that I'd probably hate him to the core if the Pistons had beaten the Spurs for the 2005 title -- the degree to which Wallace was allowed to abuse Duncan and Mohammad without any calls whatsoever from the referees was objectionable, and aggravating. But the Spurs pulled it out, so I was free to continue appreciating Wallace from afar. I suppose the beginning of my fond feelings came the year before, when Wallace put the brakes on Shaquille O'Neal and dominated the 2004 finals. Always enjoy a defensively dominant big in the NBA, and there's no big that defines that better than an in-his-prime Big Ben. Aggressive enforcer with a knack for getting under everyone's skin. Great stuff. That's only on defense, mind you. On offense, Big Ben is one big bust. Can't shoot anything, despite the fact that he drills jumpers regularly in practice and works on his shot tirelessly. His free throw form in particular has been a joke around the league for years. If you set him up right, he can finish a basket or two. But wasting too many offensive possessions trying to set him up is obscenely unwise.
On the subject of unwise, many people point to his Bulls tenure as an example as to why Wallace isn't that great of a player, or isn't that important. I find this somewhat absurd. The Bulls underperformed expectations with Wallace because they wanted him to provide offense, for reasons that boggle my mind. That's doomed to fail, no matter how much money you give Wallace -- you don't put him on the floor because you want offense, you put him on the floor because you want to shut the other team down with a big man that's a nonfactor on the offensive end. He's one of the main people responsible for the Detroit Pistons' charge at greatness earlier in the 2000s -- and they were legitimately great, overall the 3rd best franchise in the aughts and #4 isn't supremely close. They made the eastern conference finals from 2003 to 2008, and other than 07 and 08, all of those were with Ben Wallace playing a crucial part. He was a huge part of that team. There's a bit of an irritating scab, for me, related to Wallace. It has to do with his short tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2009. Most people think Wallace was a failure with the Cavaliers. Hogwash. Wallace was actually really, really good to start the season with the 2009 Cavaliers -- the pock on his Cavalier legacy isn't anything under his control, really, but the unfortunate injury he suffered midway through the 2009 season that really messed the Cavaliers' season up. Part of the reason the 2009 Cavs had such a dominant regular season was that early in the year, with Ben Wallace healthy, it was essentially impossible to stop their defense.
No matter how big your center was or how crafty your point guard was, Wallace bolstered the interior defense to such a degree that it was hard to even get entry passes into the post. The Cavs lost this game, but if you ever get a chance, watch some footage of Wallace on Howard in this contest. I distinctly remember being impressed with the way Wallace kept Dwight Howard from getting to his spots and making life difficult on the inbounders that wanted to isolate him -- Dwight was the only Orlando player with a negative +/-, and the dominant Varejao/Wallace pairing is essentially the reason for it. It seemed like a good omen for the incoming playoffs, to me. Of course, then the injury happened. Wallace returned to action for the first game of the playoffs, and it was pretty obvious from game #1 that something was wrong. Wallace was the absolute worst player on that team in the 2009 playoffs, and I maintain that if Wallace had been anywhere close to healthy, the Cavs would've rolled in the ECF. No, when he was healthy he couldn't cover Howard one-on-one, but nobody really could -- he would've made it a lot harder for the Magic to simply dump it to Howard every other possession, and he would've kept the Magic's cutters and drivers like Courtney Lee from getting to the rim. Instead, he was a shell of his former self, still tentative from injury and unable to make those split-second movements that define his usual defense. So his defense was useless, which compounded with his offensive incompetence to produce a player that was legitimately harmful in every way (as opposed to a healthy Ben Wallace, who was a player that helped in a big way.) I really think the Cavs would've won that series. Seriously.
Especially looking at what he's done since then, on the Detroit Pistons. After a summer to recover from the injury, Big Ben was back to his same old ways -- defensively great, offensively shaky -- just in limited minutes and with less of a big picture impact on defense. He's no longer going to singlehandedly shut down a team, but he's still the Pistons' most valuable defensive player even at the age of 38, and I'd imagine they'll actually see some falloff when they finally move on from the Wallace era. He's been very consistent. Until Greg Monroe's rise late in 2011, it was hard to argue against the idea that Wallace wasn't their best player. My hope early on was that Wallace's mentorship would help Monroe blossom from the offensively dominant but defensively depleted big man he's been into a simply dominant one -- alas, Wallace hasn't helped much, and Monroe has maintained as one of the league's worst defensive big men (even if he has a strong center and he looks like he should be better). Fun fact: Ben Wallace wants to be a lawyer after he gets out of the NBA. He plans to use the money from his last few contracts to pay for law school and become a Detroit lawyer. This was a thing, and it's still a thing. Among the basketball fan contingent, I fully expect to see an increase in basketball-related crimes in the Detroit area once he passes the bar, hoping beyond hope that they'll be represented by Ben Wallace. Hell, I almost want to do that. Watch out, Juries.
• • •
At the end of each post, I'll be scribing riddles for the next group. Whoever gets the most right will get a shout out at the end of the next post. Tweet me your answers at @docrostov, or post them in the comments. TON of 3/3 guesses last week, as well as some totally clown guesses. Adam Koscielak was first with a three-spot, followed by Jkim (still undefeated!) and ... we'll assume these three are what "Ghost of HDS" meant, I suppose.
- "No, really guys. Cavs have made a big mistake. Shoulda taken Player #151." (Most people pretend they never thought this.)
- What is it with all these marginal Lakers guards? Player #152 is about as marginal as you get, and I'm going to need to watch a bunch of film to remember how he plays.
- Player #153 went from starting in the NBA Finals to playing a grand total of two minutes and six seconds in a five game series. Oh, how the "mighty" have fallen.
Lot of work this week, so capsules may have a few late days. Apologies.