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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jason Kidd Finally Gets the Spurs

It is many years removed from 2003, from smack dab in the middle of his prime, and this time against an attrition-hit Spurs team a shadow of its championship-past self, but Jason Kidd - this time as a Dallas Maverick - finally beat the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs. He would rather of taken them six years ago, a series win which would have given him his ring, but this will probably give him some semblance of contentment as he and the Mavs move forward to the second round.

Kidd is no longer the top guy on his team, as he nears the final weeks of his maximum level $100 million plus contract, but he is still integral and is completely driving the ship, always providing the intangibles and is still as competitive as any player in the league. He averaged 10 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists (to .6 turnovers), 2.4 steals, and hit 10 of 23 from deep (43.5 percent).

The problem I am having with him is that, with this triumph in five games, he is leaving the trap door open. Yes he is being asked and he can play dumb and say he is just answering a question honestly, but why is he even entertaining questions of leaving Dallas at this point. This was the place for which he nearly held a franchise - the Nets - hostage to get to.

"I'm going into it with an open mind and see what comes up," he said to NBA.com. "There could be some great situations again, so maybe this time I'll think with my mind and not my heart."

In New Jersey, he says he thought with his heart. As for the potential of staying with Dallas, THE TEAM WHO HE JUST ADVANCED PAST THE SPURS WITH, he said:

"I can't (put odds on it right now)," he said. "I wouldn't even know how to handicap it, but I like it in Dallas."

A leader needs to do better than that and not even talk about it at this time. You can't hold it against him for leaving Dallas, who frankly as it stands are not a championship team. Kidd, at 36 years old, wants to be the quarterback of a team with uber-talent (remember: he loved his set up with Team USA). With Dallas, he still has to scrap and go pedal-to-the-metal more than he'd like. Unless the Mavs blow him away - like the Nets had to do to retain him - he probably won't return. While he says he will think with his mind this time, and not his heart, the truth will still remain and held true back in 2003 with the Nets: there's no romance without the finance.
The issue at hand with Kidd comes to this: why are we talking about this after his team just dismantled the once-great Spurs?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Twitter

The New York Times wrote a nice piece on Twitter, the ubiquitous social application being used by everyone for everything. At first, I felt “tweeting” was a little silly and at a 140-character limit, not something most people would want to be reading. Plus, Facebook already had status updates. It was essentially the same thing, and everyone was already there doing it.

And that is what is important about the Twitter explosion: if everyone is using it, it is useful. If everyone is using it, then it is a true stream of consciousness for the online chatter. If you build it - and they come - that is the whole battle with online platforms. Everyone came to Myspace, then Facebook took everyone; everyone uses/used Facebook for its status updates, and now Twitter is taking that utility. It is all about cultivating our short attention spans and riding the wave.

Twitter is the ultimate handheld social network, flexible and fast-paced, made for on-the-move. Like the utilities that have come before it and will inevitably appear on the horizon, it is not a Holy Grail. It is meant to be tapped while the public has the hankering and love affair with it. But the online realm is, like sound investing, all about diversifying. For an online marketer, you must know everything about Twitter, but not put all your eggs in that basket. It is one of many channels, with many more to come, and harnessing all of these networks is a true 360-degree approach.

Google Yourself, and Don’t Like What You See?

Let’s face it: we all Google our names every once in a while. And it’s sometimes like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates where at times you don’t know what (results) you’re going to get. We had a potential client a while back who wanted to procure our services in Search Engine Optimization to help “push down” some Google results which he felt were unflattering. With a big event coming up this person did not want attendees Googling their name and finding and being turned off by the results, bad or not, perceived or otherwise. It can be difficult to wag the dog - er, blog - with search engines because their algorithms tend to yield highly refined results based on the authority, traffic, and update regularity of the sites the results appear on. But, there are certainly some things that you can do to - like one would say for a diet or exercise regimen - get “better results” for your own Google search.

The New York Times wrote about managing your reputation online to coincide with the inception of Google’s new profile program, aptly named Google Profile. Go to Google, and type “me” to see how it works. In short, you feed Google your information so it can build connections between your profile and give a 360 degree picture of you, looking to leave nothing to chance about who you are. As the profile of this Google program builds up, expect it to show high results for your name.

The Times article has other good tips about “helping” - or optimizing - your personal results on Google:

1) Register your own web site and domain (ie, for me that would be matthewmcqueeny.com) or set up a blog on a free service like blogger.com.

2) Set up profiles in Web sites with high PageRank, or authority (like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Flickr, etc.). This will help stack the deck and move those profiles high up into Google results for your name. It works: for me, a search of my name first yields facebook, linkedin, and a blog i write about the New Jersey Nets.

3) Set up a Google News alert with your name to actively monitor any chatter that might be taking place around your name.

Facebook Opening Up to Developers

In the Wall Street Journal this morning, there is this:

Facebook Inc. is expected to announce significant plans to open up core parts of its sites — namely the information that appears in the stream of updates on users’ homepages and profiles — to third-party developers so that they can build new services on top of it, people familiar with the matter say.

The announcement, expected Monday, means developers can build services that access the photos, videos, notes and comments users upload to Facebook, with users’ permission. That’s a big change for the social-networking site, which has exercised tight control over the look and feel of its service and how developers can interact with it.

Facebook isn’t charging for the feature, instead hoping that developing new ways to access the information it houses will build user loyalty and get people to engage more often with the site, say people familiar with the matter.

You knew this was coming. Opening up the source for development is a core component of the internet overall, and everyone is doing it in this web 2.0 world, so facebook recognizes that it needed to give a little bit otherwise it could find itself as inconsequential as it seems Myspace has become. Believing your system unaltered can stay #1 is a foolhardy assumption in a constantly changing landscape housing short attention spans. They seem to see this and now it will be a mad scramble for developers and then a wait-and-see on how it all plays out.

Keyon Dooling on Lawrence Frank: "Definitely a Supporter"

Nets guard Keyon Dooling was in studio with Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Wednesday.

Of the man who has been talked about more than any Net at the moment - Head Coach Lawrence Frank - Dooling said he is a "supporter."

"I enjoyed it (playing for him) and this is coming from me," said the combo guard.

"I got an opportunity to play more than I ever have in my career and Coach Frank put that trust in me, so I'm definitely a supporter of him. I understand that we didn't have a great season but if you looked at our roster, nobody expected us to have a great season anyway. We kind of turned some heads when we started out of the gates very hot. But you have to tip your hat to him. He's got a work ethic that I haven't seen. He's in the office non stop; he's constantly trying to adjust and trying to bring the best out of the team. From a work ethic standpoint I don't think you can question that. Us as players we have to do a better job and the coach just has to keep pushing. We'll see what happens but I'm a supporter of him."

This appearance it would stand to reason happened before Rod Thorn's state-of-the-Nets meeting with the media, and therefore Dooling was not asked to comment on the "we shall see" state of Frank's job, but he did somewhat talk relatedly about the whole "voice" of the coach thing.

"You're going to hear him and you're going to see him," Dooling said of Frank.

"I think any coach when you hear him so much at some point you're going to say 'I'm tired of hearing it'. Sometimes the guys might get tired of hearing me talk. It just happens like that if you're around somebody for all those hours we put in at the job. He's animated as well and that's who he is. You have to be true to yourself and do what you have to do."

Keyon's view may be somewhat skewed in the sense that the Coach was giving him more playing time than he was used to in his career, but his feelings on Frank sounded earnest and balanced.
As for the team's play this play season and his chance to lead and play:

"I had a great time. I think we had a pretty good balance of young guys and veterans. This was my best opportunity to play and so I was licking my chops the whole summer just thinking about how I've been waiting for this my whole career. Coach Frank gave me an opportunity to come out and perform and I was able to play two positions. From that aspect I really enjoyed it. But I would have liked to have had a better season; I woul d like to being playing right now."

He feels the key to the Nets progressing towards a playoff-calibre team would be following a mode similar to the Portland Trailblazers.

"I think if you look at a team like Portland, they didn't tweak their roster that much, but their young guys were able to develop and they were able to play together for a while. And over time they became very competitive in the West. I think we have some pieces but in our league it's hard for young teams to get over that hump because they don't really understand what it takes day in and day out the commitment, hard work, everything that goes in to being a very good team."

What Will be Lawrence Frank's Fate?

The recent Lawrence Frank stuff has been interesting in the way sports can turn tides in a second. Like Frank always says - when talking about Basketball - "things can go from bad to good, and good to bad very quickly." It appears that this has happened. Going into this season, it seemed that everyone (quietly) would have signed up for how it played out: overall very promising development for the youngsters, Devin Harris burgeoned into a star, veterans played their roles, an honest assessment of mid-30s wins.

But things seem to have turned. A lot of the rumblings coming out of the dailies about Frank are that the team's business end would probably love a more "marketable" coach. That is a double-edged sword, because a marketable coach is not necessarily all good for the marketers, particularly how marketing is defined at the Nets. Pat Riley (not a candidate here, just for example) is/was a marketable coach, with the slicked back hair, the great suits, etc. But, try to sneak a sponsor onto a team charter, try to put a non-basketball team employee even on the travel manifest, and you will be rudely awakened. Frank allows this stuff to happen. He is a very good man, earnest, and strategically very well-schooled and thought out. And he plays along with the at times over-the-top access allowed to sponsors, businesses, and season ticket holders.

It is part of his bargain with being the Head Coach of a NBA team - his local NBA team, nonetheless - at a young age. Any coach that you might talk about bringing in over him, because they would have to be pretty big time to be marketable as well as worth the expense of paying Frank good money concurrently, is not going to sign off on this stuff coming in the door at 390 Murray Hill. The business side needs to watch out for that bargain.

Which leads me to my initial worry at hand for Frank. With Rod Thorn not giving an official nod of approval at this point, it means there is certainly back-and-forth going on in his mind. And whether the "marketers" want a new coach or not, Thorn's stated reason for ruminating is strictly basketball-based and reasoned: are the players still listening to the "voice" of the coach? That is a dagger to even put out there, one that the players will hear loud and clear. For a lame-duck contracted coach, that can be as good as a death knell. It was also a little of shock in reading that Frank at this point, through 450 games, is 225-225, .500. That is a big sample size, 5 1/2 seasons in a profession where the buzzards come hunting after the first sign of blood. Whatever the expectations coming in, most everyone has short memories. When the slate is wiped clean what you are left with is a coach who succeeded quite well early on and seems to be in a downward trend in a league where "things can go from bad to good and good to bad very quickly."