If you have not done so already, please read Seoul’s very informative write up on the DL referees in the AAA page. Nice job once again Seoul! Hey are you Korean or are you Japanese or both?
School has been in session and it’s time to hand out some progress reports before we head into the playoffs. So far, it’s been an exciting nine weeks. We’ve seen our share of pleasant surprises as well as unpleasant surprises as Got Skillz has been surprisingly bad compared to last season. The two NL transplants, Moe’s Tavern and A Ball, are no surprises being two of the top teams in the division. And the defending champs And None are also continuing their winning ways in workman-like fashion.
The Professor is here to break it down.
Most of the games, so far, have been good, exciting, and hard fought, but two games in particular come to mind when reminiscing about this season. Both games involved 6 Ft Under and both games came down to a last second shot. The first one was 6 Feet Under against A Ball, where Leighton Kuet put on a show in the final moments of the game and I’m not talking about his “Gun Show,” when he flexes his arms. Kuet not only put his team ahead with a three pointer with Mark Kiang in his face, but after Kiang tied the game up on a free throw, Kuet launched another 3 with several A Ballers in his mug again to win the game at the last second. That’s clutch! The second game had 6 Ft Under on the other end of a last second basket against Moe’s Tavern when James Tai timed a perfect pass to Jae Kim underneath the basket to hit the winning shot with a fraction of a second left. Who needs cable when you have this much excitement in the Dream League (I don’t think any of us writers even has time to watch TV these days. At least I don’t.)
We’ve also seen some unbelievable individual performances. Gee, I wonder who I’m referring to when it comes to individual performances? Mark Yiin reminds me of the video game NBA Jam, where you hit three baskets in a row and you're “On Fire” and your player hits all his shots until the other team manages to score a basket on you. This guy is turning out to be the Dwayne Wade of the AL. Did someone steal this man’s cookies or does he think the ball is a cookie that he needs to desperately grab and eat with his bare hands? Speaking of cookie, "The Cookie Monster" is on a rebounding tear. 24 rebounds in one game and 18 the next. Eddie Curry wishes he could put up such numbers. The Cookie Monster is none other than And None's Joe Bimmerle. If you’re in the mood for a good laugh, please read Will Balton’s game summary for And None’s game against Sky Hook for an explanation of JB’s new moniker.
Did your team 'pass'?
Onto the report cards:
Head of the Class
These guys are the Phoenix Suns of the Dream League. Arnie Pie, Balton and Khom Wie can all attest that this is no loose compliment from me because those guys know how much I love the Phoenix Suns, but I don’t think there’s a group playing better team ball than the boys from the Tavern. Who knew that the drinking that these happy go lucky guys were doing together would actually pay dividends in the form of camaderie on the basketball court? They know how to find each other and they’re all active on the boards to make up for their lack of bulk in the middle. If Moe’s Tavern are the Phoenix Suns of the DL then Mike Owh has to be its Steve Nash and Tai its Shawn Marion. Owh is the steady leader of this squad who has been distributing the ball brilliantly and also starting off their breaks with his many steals. Tai has been just his usual all-around self. He struggled in the beginning of the season, but he’s come on recently finishing breaks and also shooting daggers into the hearts of their opponents by hitting opportune three pointers. Their only loss was their first game of the season in an overtime game against A Ball. They’ve also been able to squeak by some close wins which is a sign of a good team when they haven't been playing up to their potential. These guys are the favorites to win it all. Grade: A.
This team is hard to stop because they are determined to prove that they are the Champs and that last season wasn’t a fluke because they are going to do whatever it takes to win it again. This team really proved their mettle when they narrowly defeated one of the preseason favorites in A Ball. They looked terrible the next day in their only defeat against the Stealers, but have been on a tear ever since. The defending Champs are playing with a chip on their shoulder. It is the same make-up of core players as last season, but they’re much improved. Rebounding has never been the issue with these guys, especially with the Cookie Monster (Joe Bimmerle) and the Symbol (Prince Thomas) patrolling the paint. Their offense is now centered around JB, who plays a simple game of spot up shooting around the foul line area, making good decisions with the ball and, of course, rebounding. Stanley Thomas, the reigning MVP, still freestyles when he needs to, but the relief of some of his point guard responsibilities has him playing at a much more efficient rate with fewer turnovers. The Symbol is hardly a complimentary player because he’s one of those cogs that are vital to a team’s success and does a lot of unnoticed things like always blocking out his man, running to the help side to defend someone else’s man and setting picks for his teammates. Cookie wouldn’t be putting up those rebounding numbers if not for the Symbol blocking out as well as he does. Alex Inn is another player who may go unnoticed, but is playing solid defense for them. Prince and Alex, you guys may not get as much press, but we do notice.
Just how determined are these guys? Check out Julia Richman on a Tuesday night. These guys are always there running. Mark Saturday, the 21st of October, because that’s when they play Moe’s Tavern. A possible preview of the finals. Grade: A.
Reading this is like going against the Matrix D.
Team Matrix is another team that plays a selfless brand of ball. They are the overachievers of the bunch, as I don’t think anybody expected this team to be 4 and 1 to date. Team Matrix’s strength is on the defensive end where their quick hands lead to steals which lead to fast breaks. In their half court set, they pass the ball at such a dizzying pace that defenders just want to give them the shot. Fred Santos leads this team in scoring, but they’ve won games where each one of their key players was out.
Team Matrix doesn’t overwhelm their opponents such as Moe’s or A Ball does, but they’ve been able to eek out some close wins against some tough opponents. The rest of their schedule is not going to be easy and they could very well end up at one game over .500 when the season is over, as they play And None, A Ball and Moe’s Tavern again, who gave them their only loss thus far. That may be the case, but up until now, Team Matrix has been playing well above everybody’s expectations and everybody loves an underdog, except when you’re the team losing to them. Grade: A-.
Close, But Not Quite
A Ball is having an excellent campaign. Their only two losses were by 3 point margins and they occurred on the same day with a one game rest in between, but since then they’ve been blowing their opponents out with double digit wins. A Ball boasts the most athletic lineup in the division. Andrew Chen has the most unstoppable crossover dribble in the AL and he has been using it effectively to get to the basket when he chooses. Danny Chin is always a hot shooting streak waiting to happen and Mark Kiang is unstoppable down low. Wii Yatani and Nihar Jhaveri are also a handful for defenders.
Drew's x-over is better than this movie.
Now if they’re blowing everybody out and they have the most athletic roster in the division, then why are they not in the head of the class as Team Matrix is? A Ball looks like they should win the rest of their games and gain one of the top seeds for the playoffs. But as well as they have been playing on paper, they just seem like that they should be better when you watch them play live. They seem to rely a lot on their outside game and often neglect their biggest weapon, Kiang. I’m probably nitpicking here and inflating Kiang's already large head at the same time, but Team Matrix seems to be playing over their potential and A Ball seems to be not playing up to it. It may simply be a case of not having enough worthy challengers play this terror squad. We’ll see when the playoffs roll around and things won’t be quite as easy. Grade: B+.
6 Feet Under
This team is undoubtedly the most dangerous team in the league. The triple combination threat of Yiin, Joe Yen and Kuet are the three most formidable in the AL, as all three are deserving of all-star berths. They also have a steady point guard in Steve Tanamachi and a big body in the middle with Karl Ngok. They have all the tools in place to make a run at the title but they lack the experience of playing with each other that is sometimes evident when many of their plays turn out to be impromptu isolation plays that don’t work too well in this League. These guys will continue to improve with the more games they play. I just want to know, “What is Mark Yiin eating these days?” Grade: B.
This could help some teams.
Needs to Pay More Attention in Class and Do Some Homework
The players on Sky Hook would be the first ones to admit what a disappointing campaign it has been for them this season. The infusion of new talent such as Felix Shen, a DL veteran, Nick Gao and Abe Abraham have definitely given this team a boost. Mixed in with regular stalwarts Mike Choi, Coonan Soohan and Chris Sung, they may be able to pull an upset in the playoffs. They’ll, however, have to play over their heads and also last for a full 36 minutes, something they haven’t been able to do all season. Since this season is turning into the opposite of their last campaign, I'm petitioning to call them Hook Sky. Grade: C-.
Big Red is another team that we thought would do better, as many of the players were from a very good former NL team, California Love. Although their scoring attack seems to be balanced and decent, they haven’t been able to stop other teams from scoring. They also haven't been able to get at least 5 players to attend a couple of games (they lost those games by a combined 52 points, go figure.) Rob Chen, who looks like he could be a big game player, has only played just twice. Jeremy Tan, Ray Huang, and Allan Chan have been the pillars for this team. But pillars, without anything around them, just stand there, naked as can be. That's the same thing when just 3 players start a game for Big Red (as in their game on Sunday), they stand there, naked as can be. Grade: C.
After a promising debut and a shocking win over the defending champs it looked as if the Stealers were ready to become the darlings of the League. Unfortunately, after their two game win streak early on, it has been nothing but downhill from there. They’ve lost some nail biters, recently against Big Red, and Team Matrix earlier in the season. On offense, they have sharp shooter Peter Mei and Mike Wu, but not much else and as evidenced by their loss against Sky Hook, if Mei isn’t hitting, they really have limited options of generating their offense. On defense they seem to be active with the steals, but not good enough to offset their offensive struggles. I admit I thought this team was going to contend for the chip as they have a long history together (they've all known each other for 20 years), but I should've known better that rookie teams in the DL often get rude welcomes. Grade: C-.
With their new robot unis, Skillz should take their game to this court.
With our without Jeff Moy, this team is the biggest disappointment this season, bar none. They have not won a game since the opening round of the playoffs of last season. Skillz is in constant disarray partly because of their influx of new players and their lack of leadership. It might be because the former Tribe players (Sung-Mo Cho and Doug Kui) brought their winless curse with them. Who knows? I would, however, not take this team lightly because they definitely have the player makeup that could contend with anybody in the division. It certainly doesn’t get any easier for them playing A Ball twice to end the season. I can't believe I'm saying this, especially after the great season they just came off of, but this could potentially be a winless season for Got Skillz. I bet they wish the 16 Minute Men were in this division. Don't laugh! Next season, Got Skillz just might be in the same one as their winless counterparts. Grade: D.
With the playoff structure as it is with all teams making the playoffs and the level of parity in the league, it isn’t highly inconceivable that we will see some upsets in the playoffs like we said last season. Everything definitely changes when the stakes are higher. This is why I think Moe’s Tavern and And None will be facing each in the finals if the seedings work out in a way that they do because they both have played well under pressure and are always up to the challenge. You never know, however, because teams like 6 Ft Under and Got Skillz definitely have the talent to make a run, but they also have to put in some extra practice time to get to the level of top contenders. Regardless of upsets, we are definitely in for some great basketball.
Great games, no cable bill, I love the DL!
(Quick) Weekly Review
Sky Hook won their second game of the season in convincing fashion destroying the Stealers 40 to 24. The Stealers are not going to win any games with Peter Mei going 0 for 15. The new look Sky Hook looks like they’re just gearing up for the playoffs. Mei recovered from his horrendous outing on Sunday to score 17 against Big Red, but it wasn’t enough, as Big Red edged the Stealers by 2 on Sunday. Big Red played two games on Sunday, but apparently the first game really didn’t happen against A Ball. It did happen, but not really. Please show up to your games or you’ll get write-ups like this: Shame, shame. And None and A Ball keep rolling along with the wins. And None got a little bit of a scare against their former arch nemesis Got Skillz, but was able to pull away. Got Skillz didn’t get the win, but they definitely deserve some style points for their new uniforms. Kudos to A Ball for being willing and ready to play Sunday mornings.
Sung Mo's Nuggets
I was 3 for 3 last week, actually 3 for 4 because Seoul, my last second guest picker picked the Stealers to win, but I’m definitely getting better. Anyone keeping track of my overall season picks? Cause I'm not.
Thu Oct 12
Team Matrix at Big Red
Team Matrix may boast the better record, but Big Red matches up well against them. Matrix should still win with David Nahm, their heady point guard making the difference as Big Red lacks a true point guard to offset Nahm. (Allan Chan, a lovable Canadian is a true shooting guard in point guard's clothing.)
Sun Oct 15
Stealers at 6 Ft Under
6 Ft Under should have no problem against the slumping Stealers. The question is whether Yiin is still “On Fire.” Even if he isn’t, Kuet and Yen are more than capable of holding up the ship. If Yiin is, and he continues to score more than he did in his previous game as he has for three straight, he's going to go for 40. That's not Quincy Tso 49, but it's damn close!