On the Road with Mike: The Scintas

Audience members at The Tangier got a little more than the usual dose of comedy when The Scintas “forced” me to get up on stage and sing Don and Juan’s 1962 hit “What’s Your Name” with them. The Buffalo, New York natives recently returned to Akron to perform at the landmark cabaret club that helped kick-start their illustrious and enduring career.

I first saw The Scintas perform at The Tangier 18 years ago when I moved to Cleveland to coach the Cavs and became an instant fan of the multi-talented group comprised of brothers Joe and Frank Scinta, their sister Chrissi and drummer Peter O’Donnell, the “adopted Scinta.” The Scintas went on to light up countless stages throughout the country and eventually took up residency at both the Rio and Sahara Hotels, achieving their ultimate goal of headlining in Vegas.

The 75% Sicilian quartet’s unique show is a high-energy blend of music, impressions, humor and storytelling that compels the crowd to sing along, laugh out loud, tear up and give a standing O before night’s end. I try to catch The Scintas’ act whenever I get the chance, and we’ve become good friends over the years. Performing with them was a great thrill and a tremendous honor, but I won’t quit my day job yet.

Mike Looks Back: ’80s Atlanta Hawks

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Beyond the Lottery: Bismack Biyombo

Bismack Biyombo is an 18-year-old big man from Democratic Republic of the Congo. He stands 6’9” and has a 7’7” wingspan that allows him to contest virtually every shot in his defensive area. The 245 lb. Biyombo already has an NBA body and is sure to grow stronger and thicker as he matures. He runs the floor extremely well for someone his size and girth. Biyombo is constantly hustling and always crashes the offensive glass, which leads to easy put-backs. Having only participated in organized basketball for approximately four years, Biyombo possesses tremendous potential.

Biyombo made his professional debut in the top-tier Spanish ACB League with Fuenlabrada against DKV Joventut on January 9th, 2011 and scored 5 points to go along with 7 rebounds in just 13 minutes of play. Although he’s only competed in the Spanish Pro League for a short time, Biyombo has displayed marked improvement. His team defense and overall positioning have advanced, as has his low post game.

At the 2011 Nike Hoops Summit, Biyombo played for the World Select Team (against the USA Select Team) and recorded a triple double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks. He has become something of an internet sensation due to his exciting and uber-athletic highlights. Biyombo’s vast collection of rudimentary spin moves, up fakes and jump hooks will surely become more polished and refined the longer he plays and practices with an NBA roster.

Biyombo will probably not be a lottery selection because his overall game is still very unpolished, and he oftentimes commits basic blunders due to a lack of formal basketball experience. There are also questions about his real age, with some reports putting it as high as 23-years-old. A true evaluation of his ability to compete and contribute in the paint at the NBA level is hard to formulate due to the fact that he hasn’t faced a lot of quality big men in his short basketball career.

However despite being somewhat of a wild card, Biyombo will be picked in the first round because of his giant upside and his solid defensive play. Biyombo is reportedly a good teammate and a very coachable player. He speaks English well too, which will save him from the many hurdles associated with foreign players attempting to assimilate to American culture. One thing is for certain, this Congolese center is on the rise.

Beyond the Lottery: Marshon Brooks

Providence College shooting guard Marshon Brooks can score. He finished second overall in Division 1 scoring for the 2010-11 season with a 24.6 ppg average. The 6’5” Associated Press Third Team All-American had games of 43 points against Georgetown and 52 points facing Notre Dame this past season. In fact, Georgia native Brooks increased his scoring average in each of his four seasons playing for the Ocean State’s Big East representative.

The 22-year-old Brooks has tremendous athleticism, and he possesses a key trait that is unteachable – length. This length (his wingspan is over 85 inches) added to his court savvy and separation dribble moves allow Brooks to create his own shot, which is an especially valuable skill at the next level. He has legitimate NBA 3-point range, which widens his offensive arsenal and prevents teams from backing off and playing him exclusively for the drive and mid-range penetration.

For a perimeter player Brooks is excellent on the glass. He pulled down seven boards per game this past year. And just as with his scoring, he raised his rebounding average in each of his four seasons with the Friars. His averages in assists, steals and field goal percentage all improved over his collegiate career as well. A competitor with this four-season statistical upward trajectory is the definition of potential and upside in regard to the possibility of one day blooming into an impactful NBA starter.

Brooks will not be chosen in the lottery because of his dishing deficiencies and a tendency to get a bit sloppy with the rock. He averaged more turnovers than assists both his junior and senior years. Another knock on him is that he needs to show more intensity and desire on the defensive end because at the professional level he’ll often be checking the opposing team’s best scorer, his 2-guard counterpart.

What will make Marshon Brooks an NBA Draft first-rounder next week is his ability to put up points and sometimes do it in spectacular flurries. A playoff team in need of an offensive spark off the bench would be a great fit for the pride of Tucker, Georgia.

Beyond the Lottery: Tyler Honeycutt

UCLA Sophomore Tyler Honeycutt hustles on the basketball court. He stands 6’8” and has played both shooting guard and small forward for the Bruins of Westwood. Honeycutt had season highs of 33 points (against a loaded Kansas Jayhawks squad on the road), 15 rebounds and 8 blocks, showcasing the talent and determination to impact the game in various ways from his perimeter position. His skill set and motor allow him to compete and play on both ends of the court, which is a prerequisite at the NBA level.

Honeycutt has the ability to match up with the opposing point guard, 2-guard and small forward thanks to his long arms and quick feet, which make him formidable defensively. His lateral and vertical timing are also superb, and he averaged 2.1 blocks per game for the perennial PAC-10 power.

Honeycutt always seemed to be involved in the flow and action of the contest, whether it was crashing the glass or shutting down passing lanes and penetration attempts. The 20-year-old Los Angeles native was one of the best rebounding guards in the country this past season. He pulled down 7.2 boards per game with a significant number of offensive rebounds.

On the offensive end, he displayed advanced court vision. And he knows how to position himself properly and precisely when moving without the ball. Honeycutt has a high basketball IQ, which translates into smart on-court decision-making. Even though he averaged 35 minutes per game for Coach Ben Howland and often guarded the other team’s top scorer, Honeycutt averaged only 1.5 personal fouls per game and didn’t foul out of any game.

Honeycutt’s slim frame (he weighs in at approx. 190 lbs.) is something that will become more of a liability at the professional level. He needs to gain weight and strength in order to maximize his superb defensive traits against bigger, stronger NBA competitors.