Farewell from NBAMate

Seven years ago I had an idea to start a basketball blog.

A basketball blog about the NBA that was written with a decidedly Aussie twist. Written by Aussies, but not necessarily for Aussies, about a sport that was played ten thousand miles away. It may seem unremarkable now, trivial in concept, but seven years ago, this genre of NBA blog did not exist.

There were a couple of Australians who wrote about the NBA, and I came to know them well, but those blogs were NBA blogs first and foremost, not Australian blogs. That puzzled me, and fuelled by the desire to blaze a niche trail in the sports blogosphere, I started NBAMate.

In the beginning, it was called the Kickz101 Trashtalk Podcast Blog, and yes I’m aware that sounds like a website from the mid-nineties. We had a small but loyal following, mostly of local Aussie hoops fans who frequented the Kickz101 Trashtalk Forum. And we loved talking about our NBA basketball.

We lived it, breathed it, debated it, morning, noon and night. We were part of a growing movement to revive a sport once much loved by Aussies, trying to restore it to its former glory, insistent that it was still the greatest sport – and the greatest league – on earth.

We believed in the cause.

And so NBAMate was born, and soon the idea of an Australian NBA blog seemed less like a novelty and more of a necessity. ESPN TrueHoop linked to us on Australia Day. Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie linked to us a bunch of times, as did many others. And then, we kind of lost count. Without trying to blow our own trumpet, it’s fair to say we became a popular little basketball blog. No need to take our word for it… a quick search of ‘nba blog’ at google.com (the US version) will find NBAMate in the first 8-12 results, depending on the day.

Needless to say, we had a lot of fun. Jumping online to check the reactions and over-reactions to our latest blog posts was the highlight of my day for a long time. Watching links to NBAMate cascade around the Internet, popping up in random basketball forums and team blogs, was always amusing. What made it so satisfying wasn’t the hits or the traffic, but the fact they were hits and traffic to an Australian NBA blog.

I can’t tell you how many emails I received from NBA fans in the US and Canada who said they loved reading NBAMate because we were original, interesting, and made following the NBA fun (despite them not understanding repeated references to Steve Carfino). Twenty years ago that would have been like an American subscribing to The Age newspaper because they liked their NBA columnist. I don’t think the irony is lost despite the wonders of the Internet.

If this seems like a longwinded intro that is escaping the point, that’s because it is. That’s exactly what I’m doing, and have been doing for months now. Trying to escape the fact that NBAMate is reaching an end.

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    An Aussie In Miami – All Good Things….

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    Must come to an end.

    Apart from my Haberstroh fluff up, this was an unbelievable experience top to bottom, and one I’ll certainly never forget.

    Adios Miami.

      An Aussie In Miami – The Heat vs. Bucks

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      7 nights, in Miami, covering the Heat, livin’ the dream.

      GAME NOTES:

      * It was a 118-95 beat down by the Heat as they took their frustrations out on the hopeless Bucks. It got pretty wild there in the second half with the Heat putting on a clinic – it was Flying Death Machine at its best. Check out the highlights.

      * LeBron was brilliant with 33 points in 29 minutes; clearly his best game since I’ve been here. He was aggressive early driving the ball and posting up and that continued throughout the game. Great to see a vintage performance from The King.

      * Forget everything I said about Michael Beasley, he’s a legend. My boy B-Easy stuck it to me again with another live wire performance off the bench (19 points in 19 minutes on 8-12 from the field). There’s no doubt the guy can flat out score, but can he do it when it counts and can he eliminate the tendency for sloppy play? I hope he can.

      * A lot of guys missing from this game – Ray Allen, Udonis Haslem, Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova. The Bucks were so ravaged that they started two no-namers – Khris Middleton and Nate Wolters.

      * Lots of empty seats again in the lower bowl.

      * Floyd Mayweather was in the house sitting courtside.

      * Ok, confession time – I stuffed up in my chat with ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh. He’s been a champ all week and gave some terrific answers to my questions, but I get back to the hotel after the game and the recording hasn’t worked (well it did for the first 28 seconds). F***k!!

      So unfortunately I’ll have to abort that, which is really disappointing. Sorry Tom, rookie mistake.

      For the record though, whilst Tom does think that Indiana is the biggest threat to Miami this season, he is predicting a three-peat and then for LeBron to stay in Miami beyond 2014.

      And this answer is a cracker so I have to share it. When asked what his most memorable moment is since covering the Heat, he said when he first started on the beat he approached Mario Chalmers and asked him if he remembered playing on the same team with him in an 8th grade basketball camp in North Carolina. Mario said no, he played with a lot of unathletic white guys in school.

      You can follow Tom on Twitter at @tomhaberstroh

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        An Aussie In Miami – The Heat vs. Celtics – The Shot

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        7 nights, in Miami, covering the Heat, livin’ the dream.

        GAME NOTES:

        * By now, you know what happened – The Shot. You always had the impression that the Heat would put it this one away but the C’s just wouldn’t back down, and then, following a Dwyane Wade blunder at the free throw line, with 0.6 seconds left Jeff Green hit an outrageous three to win the game 111-110. What a moment to witness first hand.

        * A pretty funny scene post-game. In the Celtics locker room everyone was clamouring for the man of the moment Jeff Green. As he walked in from the showers and stood at his locker about 20-25 reporters engulfed him. But no one was rushing Jeff on this night. For about 6-7 minutes Jeff slowly got dressed with his back turned, as everyone just stood there and looked at him. He milked it. It was a tad awkward.

        * There wasn’t the same electricity in the air for this game as there was for the nationally televised Clippers game on Thursday.

        * I almost didn’t make this one. I thankfully got a heads up the morning of the game that I wasn’t on the list for credentialed media. So for the whole day I was sending emails and making phone calls, and two hours before tipoff I got the nod. Thanks to Nick, the Heat Media Manager for sorting it out.

        But then, thanks to the slowest taxi driver in the history of mankind I missed the Miami Heat Dancers’ pre-game tuneup on centre court. Thanks, dude….

        * Absolutely everything is monetized here. An example; a family was upgraded to near courtside seats (there was quite a few spare seats in the lower bowl) and to promote this they paraded them on to centre court at the first timeout, put them in KIA t-shirts with the mascot and some cheerleaders either side, and then showed them on the jumbotron whilst it was announced “the Smiths have been upgraded thanks to KIA!”, as they stood there waving uncomfortably. A bit weird, but hey, it’s the USA.

        * Perhaps I was a little hasty in my Clippers piece in writing off the wacky Michael Beasley. He scored four straight buckets in the second quarter and gave the impression that he could function as a secondary scorer off the bench. But then again, he’s shown flashes before and then followed that up with bonehead play. We’ll see how it plays out.

        * I tell ya what, the buffet in the media dining room rocks.

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          An Aussie In Miami – A Nice Gesture From LeBron

          7 nights, in Miami, covering the Heat, Livin’ the dream.

          I’ll get the Game Notes up tomorrow for the Heat vs. Celtics stunner (yep, I saw The Shot), but before I sign off tonight I just wanted to share this photo of LeBron post game. Pretty cool.

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            An Aussie In Miami – A Chat With Mario

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            7 nights, in Miami, covering the Heat, livin’ the dream.

            At the Heat’s off-day practice on Friday I managed to get a few quick questions in to starting point guard Mario Chalmers. He’s been known to drop the odd ripper quote so I thought I’d try my luck.

            Obviously you’ve improved your game over the last couple of seasons to the point where you are now a very important part of the team. Do you sometimes feel under appreciated with all the attention that is focused on the Big 3? (Note: I sort of felt sorry for the guy in the locker room post-game vs. the Clippers. There were hoards of reporters in there but no one wanted to talk to him; he sat on his own at his locker.)

            MC: Na, I mean that’s the way the team is. I mean we’ve got All-Stars and future Hall of Famers on the team. I like to fly under the radar.

            In the offseason other point guards like Jeff Teague, Brandon Jennings and Jose Calderon earned $7-8 million per year contracts. Clearly, you’re underpaid on your current contract in comparison to those numbers (he earns $4 million per year; expiring after this season). Does that annoy you in any way, or just gives you more motivation?

            MC: I don’t think about it right now. You know, my main focus right now is to get through the season and we’ve got to focus on winning another championship and when that time comes we’ll look at.

            Is there any extra pressure this season being a free agent at the end of the year?

            MC: Na, I know what I got to do, I know what helps the team and hopefully my hard work pays off.

            Well, I tried. Stock standard responses there, but I don’t believe him. From his past comments we know he feels differently. Not to knock him though because he is a very important part of this team and he probably is under appreciated in some ways. 

            I think Dwyane Wade said it best in this recent interview with SB Nation: “He’s big for us. We’re not sitting here as back-to-back champions without the heart, play-making ability, three-point shooting and defense that Mario Chalmers brings to us. He doesn’t get a lot of the credit because he’s not one of the big-name point guards, he doesn’t score a big amounts of points, but he’s huge for our team. The growth in him has been great, both on and off the court.”

            Just one thing on the Big Three. The media interest in them is still massive. The Heat are very good at making them accessible to the media but it’s very structured and EVERYONE wants a piece. By structured, I mean after a few minutes the media relations guys wrap it up. So it’s certainly a challenge working amongst the media vets who know how to work the scrum. 

            Check out some more pictures below from yesterday’s practice.

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              An Aussie In Miami – The Heat vs. Clippers

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              7 nights, in Miami, covering the Heat, livin’ the dream.

              GAME NOTES:

              * You probably saw the game/result so I won’t bore you with a recap. It was a good one though and it was great to see a vintage D-Wade performance in their 102-97 victory. He scored 11 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter, reminding everyone that he can still take over a game and play brilliantly. Not as often as he used to, clearly, but it’s still there.

              * LeBron was a bit quiet, seemed to be bothered by his back which he confirmed post game.

              * It was only a 6 point game with 1 minute to go and people started filing out of the arena. Yup.

              * Bloody hell that courtside announcer is annoying.

              * It’s true – Michael Beasley is as mad as a cut snake.

              I first spotted him on centre court about 2 hours before tipoff. Some guys were going through their pre-game routine, but not Bease. I don’t know what he was doing – there was a lot of laughing and he was leering at the dancers, spending several minutes pointing some out to Juwan Howard.

              Locker room pre-game, again, laughing, acting the goose at I don’t know what. Seems like the life of the party, yet, he wasn’t at a party. Everyone else was quiet and locked in. And then he was saying some odd things to Rashard Lewis in the locker room post-game which I shall not repeat here. I am not sure of my prediction now that Beasley could play a meaningful role on this team. It’s unlikely.

              * Speaking of the Miami Heat dancers, yep, they’re as good as advertised. Let’s just say I am now very familiar with their routines having spent a good chunk of time watching them go through their paces pre-game on centre court. It’s a crime that they only perform a couple of times per game though.

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                An Aussie In Miami – Got My Feet Wet

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                7 nights, in Miami, covering the Heat, livin’ the dream.

                Here’s some snaps from my first visit to the American Airlines Arena today for the morning shootaround ahead of the big clash with the Clippers tonight. As you can see, I made my way on to centre court which was pretty cool.

                The shootaround wasn’t open to the media but coach Erik Spoelstra and Chris Bosh were made available for the morning presser. Nothing really noteworthy to come out of it, apart from CB looking pretty tired from the newborn, but nonetheless it was fascinating to be a part of it. Oh, Rachel Nichols (currently with CNN and Turner Sports) made an appearance, so that was something…..

                As I was heading out of the arena I had a chat to ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh. Great guy, and he kindly agreed to do a Q&A with me some time this week, so I am looking forward to that. Stay tuned.

                Game time tonight!

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                  An Aussie In Miami – The Journey/Arrival

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                  7 nights, in Miami, covering the Heat, livin’ the dream.

                  As any bloke with a couple of young kids (including a baby!) would know, to get the wife to sign off on a solo trip – to a place like Miami, no less – ain’t easy. Well, let me tell ya, it’s possible because here I am in South Beach, baby!

                  The decision to come to Miami was really a no-brainer (all for basketball/’work’ reasons of course…..). To be honest, due to family commitments I am not sure how much longer I can do this gig, so to have the opportunity to see the ‘Michael Jordan of this generation’ and one of the greatest players of all time in LeBron James, up close and personal, is just something that I couldn’t let pass.

                  Over the next 7 days I hope to see him play, practice and hangin’ about in the locker room etc. I’ve teed it up but I won’t believe it until I’m actually there. Hopefully it comes to fruition.

                  I’ll do my best to keep you in the loop but no promises on the regularity of the posts, because you know, I am in Miami so I might get a little distracted, if you know what I mean…..

                  I’ll leave you with this – totally unrelated to basketball but I have to share it. Whilst waiting to board my flight to Miami at Frankfurt Airport some dude rocked up DRESSED IN CRICKET WHITES…..

                  In Germany?….On a 10 hour flight to Miami?…..Whaa??

                  Got to be a pom.

                  Check out TicketBis to purchase live tickets to see the Heat.

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                    An elite NBA team as a supreme pizza

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                    I love cooking. I’ve worked as a kitchen hand and chef for most of the past six years, so it’s safe to say I have a fair idea of what makes a solid recipe (well…for pizza at least, but I got some skillz in other areas also). I also love basketball and the NBA and spend way too much time thinking about what makes a great NBA team.

                    Naturally it was inevitable the two would one day meet in the vast space that the doctor would call my brain. (To which I ask the doctor, if it’s a brain why is it so stupid at the most critical moments of my life?) After a hard game of pickup ball a few days ago, I went back to my rathole inner Sydney flat to have a pre-work shower and found myself wondering what exactly would the recipe be to make yourself an elite NBA team.

                    As it turns out, it wasn’t really that hard for me to come up with. So here I present to you, Ash’s Specially Hektic NBA Team Supreme. I accept that some might have different ideas, but for the NBA of 2013, this is what I’ve seen work recently and what I think would lead to the best result for all. Bon appetit!

                    (Chef’s note: You’ll notice there’s no mushrooms or olives on this pizza. Why? I could give a reason about how they don’t really fit with the recipe and don’t really suit a particular role, blah blah blah. The reality is that I just don’t like either mushrooms or olives, so they have no room on my signature pizza).

                    1 x superstar perimeter player.
                    Do I really need to explain this in further depth? This is your core guy. The superstar is the base and cheese of the pizza. Without him, you may as well go home. The only question I can see here is whether you’d rather have a superstar big man than a perimeter guy. If this was the 1980s and Michael Jordan wasn’t an option, I’d be with you. But how many superstar bigs are there in the NBA today? Dwight Howard (and we’re not even sure how good he really is following back surgery and that LA season)…and really that’s it right now. And D12 made the Finals once at his peak. Having a superstar big would be like using buffalo mozzarella instead of regular shredded cheese. Sure it sounds great in theory and can taste really nice, but is it really worth it in the end especially since you’d have to pay even more (given the scarcity of both) and superstar bigs inevitably are just more demanding than perimeter guys (demanding touches, their pet plays, etc) just like mozzarella di bufala is that much harder to incorporate? In this day and age, you’re better served with the perimeter guy.
                    Modern Comparison: LeBron James

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