Basketball Board

By Lev Akabas Join my email list using the "Contact Me" page

The Board

view:  full / summary

The Four Questions of Passover 2017

Posted on April 10, 2017 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.



Why was last night different from all other nights?


On all other nights, Russell Westbrook records a triple-double without scoring 50 points, and last night he scored 50 points.


On all other nights, Russell Westbrook records a triple-double without hitting a 35-footer at the buzzer to win the game, and last night he hit a 35-footer at the buzzer to win the game. 

 

On all other nights, Russell Westbrook records a triple-double without knocking another team out of the playoffs, and last night he knocked the Denver Nuggets out of the playoffs.


On all other nights, Russell Westbrook records a triple-double without breaking Oscar Robertson's record for most triple-doubles in a single season, and last night he recorded his record-breaking 42nd triple double of the season.



Summer Mailbag Part 1: NBA Finals & Free Agency

Posted on July 1, 2016 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (0)


What changed the momentum of The Finals?
- Mohammed U.

Many would answer Draymond Green’s suspension, but it’s pretty clear that Andrew Bogut’s Game 5 injury was the turning point. Tristan Thompson shot 18/33 from the field in the Finals before Bogut’s injury, but he only missed one attempt after Bogut went down, shooting 10/11 (in addition to posting back-to-back 15-rebound games). Additionally, the Warriors badly missed Bogut’s jersey-tugging, bear-hugging, opponent-bugging screens; their picks in Games 6 and 7 failed to produce quality looks from the perimeter… (probably because they were actually legal).

Had Green played Game 5, Golden State’s chances would have improved, but, considering that they lost Games 6 and 7 even with Green and that LeBron and Kyrie went off, Game 5 wouldn’t have been the guaranteed win that many are making it out to be. On the other hand, considering that Game 7 came down to the final seconds despite Anderson Varejao flopping all over the place and Festus Ezeli having an out of body experience (not in the good way), it’s pretty safe to say that the Warriors take care of business if Bogut gets those guys’ minutes.


Is one championship in Cleveland more meaningful than six in another city?
- Brandon P.

It meant more to LeBron, and that’s great… good for him! It’s an awesome story for Cleveland. (I’m also pretty sure LeBron is a genius and went to Miami to allow Cleveland to bottom out and rebuild, with full intent of returning once they had done so.) But I’m not on board with it meaning more when judging his career against other players. Sure, Michael Jordan didn’t deliver a championship to a losing city, but LeBron shouldn’t get bonus points for Cleveland sucking at sports for half a century.

I’m also not on board with the notion that coming back from down 3-1 made this championship more meaningful. LeBron shouldn’t get bonus points for almost losing.

Beating the defending championships, who had the best regular-season in NBA history, two of league’s best defenders in Green and Iguodala, and a player who challenged LeBron’s alpha-dog status by winning back-to-back MVPs – that makes it more meaningful. For once since his freshman year of high school, LeBron was the underdog, and I think he embraced it, but also took it a little personally that his dominance was in question.

His surreal performance in three consecutive elimination games (36 points, 9 assists, 12 rebounds, 3 steals, and 3 blocks per contest over those games), considering his history of being called not clutch, also makes it more meaningful. Let’s not pretend like LeBron’s poor performances in high-pressure games earlier in his career never happened, but, since 2012, he’s gone to another level in elimination games in a way that we haven’t seen since Jordan.

I’m saving the in-depth LeBron-Jordan comparison for it’s own part of the mailbag, but one quick point: Michael Jordan’s six championships in seven seasons (he skipped 1994) is so underrated. I think winning six in a 30-team league is more impressive than Bill Russell winning 11 in an 10-team league, and the only other team to come close was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson’s Lakers, who “only” won five in nine years despite having two of the ten best players ever. Six is a ridiculous number of championships, and Michael was definitively the best player on all of them. To put that in perspective, Jordan had more Finals MVPs in one decade than any franchise (besides the Celtics and Lakers) has championships in its entire history.




Rose Trade... and where are the Knicks going with it – if it’s to try Holiday at 2, burn a year developing Porzingis, let Rose go after the one year left, then try to get a good young point, I approve.
- Seth A.

First, the trade (Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon, and Jerian Grant for Derrick Rose and Justin Holiday) is relatively low risk. The Knicks (for possibly the first time ever) aren’t giving up draft picks who could come back to haunt them, nor parting with any real impact players (although non-impact players have a way of becoming impact as soon as they leave town). Grant was a promising potential backup point guard, but Holiday is an equally promising potential backup shooting guard. If Rose can’t stay healthy, then we don’t re-sign him at the end of next year, and we have cap space to work with (I tried writing this entire post without referring to the Knicks in the first person, and it wasn’t happening).

Second, Rose could still be good. He played more games last year than he has in any season since 2011, and, although his stats appear underwhelming, after Christmas he averaged a solid 18 points on 46% shooting from the field and 34% from three. Granted, his assist numbers are down and his free-throw attempts have plummeted, but somewhere in there is an effective offensive weapon. We also had a next-to-zero chance of attracting free agents before this trade, and now we’re a legitimate player, so, if nothing else, Rose can essentially be Daniel Day-Lewis’s son in There Will Be Blood.

I’m not sure the Knicks agree with your plan, though…




Will the Rose trade hurt the Knicks long term?
- David R.

Unfortunately, it indicates the organization’s hesitance to build around Kristaps Porzingis. I appreciate that dumping Lopez will allow him to play center, his position in the modern NBA (he’s 7’3’’ for goodness sakes!), but The Zinger’s touches will be limited by Rose and Melo: willing passers, but primarily score-first players.

The somewhat delusional Phil Jackson seemingly still wants to win with Anthony as the centerpiece, which is foolish. I never thought Melo was capable of being the best player on a championship team, and, at age 32, he’s not getting any more capable. We’re far from competing with the Cavs, and we’d need to pick up some good role players to hang with Toronto, Boston, Miami, or Indiana. But a team with Carmelo, Porzingis, and Rose isn’t drawing a high lottery pick either. If we don’t acquire another superstar, we’ll likely end up in the 7-9 seed range (a.k.a. the black hole of NBA franchise development).

We shouldn’t have re-signed Carmelo for over $120 million (much less with a no-trade clause!), and, unless we somehow land Kevin Durant and become a title contender, our future shouldn’t involve him. I would have…

1) tried to trade Melo - either for Blake Griffin by leveraging Griffin’s potential to leave the Clippers as a free agent next summer, or in a three-team deal that would send Melo to Cleveland, Kevin Love to either Minnesota or Boston, and a 2016 first-round pick to us.
2) traded Lopez for a 2016 first-round pick (he’s an average starter at a relatively weak center position, in his prime, and on a somewhat reasonable contract).
3) tanked for a year to get a good 2017 first-round pick.
4) turned into the East’s version of the Timberwolves.


Do you think the Bulls know how bad Calderon is?
- Tal A.

I mean, he’s only 34. He’s got time to develop.

In all seriousness, the Bulls were smart to hit the restart button. Three of their best five players were bigs, and their starting guards combined to shoot 30% from three last year. They weren’t built for today’s NBA.

Side note: Other than Calderon and Grant, their only point guard is a guy named Spencer Dinwiddie. He’s an amazing human being, mostly because his last name is Dinwiddie, but also because he’s a career 13/75 on threes and has a full-fledged Young Eddie Murphy mustache.

His Twitter account also reveals a number of endearing qualities:

1) He makes absurdly forced movie references, primarily using memes. He seems like the kind of guy who regularly breaks into a Bane impression in the locker room. I like those kind of guys. I may or may not one of those guys.







2) He makes deep observations about life. 



3) He understands what makes a good Uber driver…



4) … and then shuts down people who try to make a big deal out his appreciation for water.



Gold.


What gets you more excited, the fact that the Knicks (when, not if, they sign and overpay Dwight) will have a starting lineup built for 2011, or the fact that Knicks fans will inevitably be disappointed when they realize three has-beens who consider themselves All-Stars can't win more than 45 games?
- Chanan H.

Both get me about this excited: 

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.




Would you rather the Knicks overpay Dwight or Harrison Barnes?
- Chanan H.

Barnes because he’s 24 and isn’t hated by everyone he’s ever played with, for, or against, but choosing between those two would basically be like this:



Who should the Knicks go after in free agency, and who will come here?
- David R.

As long as the Knicks are targeting players who peaked five years ago, seeing David Lee end his career with a few seasons in the Garden would be awesome. He showed during his Dallas stint last year that he has something left in the tank, averaging 9 points and 7 rebounds on 64% shooting in just 17 minutes per game after the All-Star break.

We’ve desperately needed a versatile swingman for about a decade, and Holiday is literally the only wing player under contract right now. Unfortunately, the free agency market is loaded with bigs and veterans, with few shooting guards or small forwards who have upside. Evan Turner is only 27, but several teams are interested, which could drive up his price. Kent Bazemore, a young athlete with a decent three-point shot, would be a good fit, but, with the new salary cap, even he might be an expensive investment. If we decide to shoot for the stars, Nicolas Batum just had an impressive bounce-back year, but that would mean no Durant.

Speaking of the elephant in the room...


KD to NY?! Does that happen?
- Emani F.

There are problems with nearly all of Durant’s potential suitors: Warriors (looks like he’s chasing rings), Spurs (ditto), Clippers (would have to trade Blake), Celtics (not enough star power), and Heat (too much in limbo with Bosh’s health and Wade/Whiteside being free agents). The Knicks are a strong choice on paper. He’d get out of the Western Conference, and give himself a chance to win immediately without taking the “easy way out.”

 

But he gave six other teams a meeting before us!


 

The Knicks thinking they can still get Durant when he won’t give them a meeting is like Bernie thinking he can still win the Democratic nomination even though he didn’t win the vote.


Do you think the blockbuster draft-day trade between Oklahoma City and Orlando (Serge Ibaka for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and Domantas Sabonis) will result in Durant being more or less likely to re-sign with OKC in the offseason?
- Mike G.

I don’t see how any potential destination even comes close to OKC. The trade gives Durant more flexibility to play both the 3 and the 4, finally gives them a second backcourt scorer, gets a good return for someone whose career had plateaued, and will allow them to further develop and give big minutes to Steven Adams, Steven Adams’ Salvador Dali mustache, and Enes Kanter. What a huge move for them.

Not often do two top-five players in the NBA end up on the same team, but multiple championships has been the result almost every time. LeBron/Wade, Shaq/Kobe, and Kareem/Magic won almost instantly, but the Thunder were close in 2012, they were ridiculously close last year, and now they’re even closer. Squandering this golden opportunity to be remembered as both loyal to his franchise and an NBA champion would be a mistake for Durant.


 

 

Game 7 Preview: Can the Warriors Stop the Cavs' Onslaught?

Posted on June 19, 2016 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (2)


It’s hard to believe now that, only one month ago, the Warriors losing a single game was a once in a blue moon event. Then the Thunder made it commonplace. Golden State lost back-to-back games in Oklahoma City by an average of 26 points. The Thunder had “figured the Warriors out” and were “simply the better team” going into Game 5.


My brother, Tal, a big Warriors fan, was calm. He said something along the lines of, “Yes, the Warriors have been blown out twice in a row, but Game 1 was a toss-up, and if they had just made a few shots down the stretch and closed out that game, it would be 2-2 right now going back to Golden State and everything would be going according to plan.” Well, Klay Thompson went coconuts, Steph Curry ate a Snickers and became himself again, and it turned out that the Thunder weren’t “the better team." By definition.

 

***


The Warriors have their backs against the wall again. The Cavaliers have won three of the last four games, and have outplayed the Warriors in seven out of the last eight halves. Throw in Andre Iguodala’s bad back and the Monstars stealing Harrison Barnes’s talent, and Cleveland seems like an unstoppable freight train.


The Warriors have every reason to be worried after their terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Game 6. They were embarrassingly unfocused. I know it’s a cliche to say that they haven’t been playing their game recently, but they truly haven't.

  • They had only 282 passes in Game 6, not even close to their average of 320 in the regular season.

  • Cleveland has taken Golden State’s fastbreak weapon and turned it against them, outscoring the Warriors 47-19 in transition over the last two games.

  • It was on defense, however, where Golden State dug their own grave, largely due to laziness. They gambled for steals when they had no chance, stood around as Cavaliers cut to the rim, and, on many occasions (like this, this, and this), their poor communication defending pick-and-rolls led to both Warriors being on the same side of the screen. If they don’t clean this up, they’ll be in big trouble tonight.

  • Draymond Green, a reliably potent defender, was perhaps the worst culprit of uncharacteristically lackadaisical defense. Time and time again, and again and again, Cavaliers blew by Green on the drive when he reached for steals, wasn’t in a defensive stance, or both. Half-assed attempts at weak-side help caused him to wander away from or take his eye off his man, which is a problem when Lebron James, one of the best passers in the league, is on his game. While Green’s defensive talents are arguably being wasted on the offensively challenged Tristan Thompson, the moment Green takes his eye off Thompson, who has a knack for going to the right places at the right time, he darts to an open spot for a potential alley-oop catch or offensive rebound. The Warriors can’t have a traditional center battle with Thompson, though, because Festus Ezeli and Anderson Varejao are each way too slow afoot to keep up with ball-handlers on screen-and-rolls. Golden State misses injured starting center Andrew Bogut badly.

The concerning thing for the Warriors is that they simply haven’t come up with the answers for many of the Cavaliers’ tactical adjustments, for which coach Tyronn Lue deserves a great deal of credit.

  • The Cavs have made an impressively concerted effort to attack Steph Curry’s defense, and he’s been repeatedly exploited when he’s switched onto James or had to fight through screens to contest Kyrie Irving jumpers. When the Warriors relentlessly forced Cleveland’s defensive weak-link Kevin Love into defending screens early in the series, Lue had the guts to pull Love from the starting five and insert Richard Jefferson, creating a defensive lineup for the Cavs that can switch any pick, just like the Warriors love to do. They obviously can’t just bench Curry, though, but there’s no obvious solution to what do with him on the defensive end.

  • Meanwhile, the Cavs’ “switch everything” defensive mentality has befuddled the Warriors offensively. Moving James onto Green has effectively eliminated Golden State's go-to Curry-Green pick-and-roll because of LeBron’s ability to switch onto Curry and lock him down. Even Richard Jefferson, who was a corpse around a year ago, and Tristan Thompson have done a surprisingly good job staying with Curry on the perimeter.

  • The Cavs’ ability to switch screens, as well as their physicality, has mortalized Steph offensively. Sure, he canned six three-pointers on Thursday night en route to 30 points, but it was the most quiet 30-point performance I’ve ever seen in The Finals. He got his buckets, but he wasn’t terrorizing the Cleveland defense by wasn’t drawing three defenders, allowing his teammates to get wide open looks. He didn’t have that same influence on each and every possession that we’re used to from the MVP. The Cavs weren’t scared of him.

 



***

So how can the Warriors possibly turn the tide?

  • Curry needs to look to drive and kick more when he draws switches, as opposed to taking it one-on-one himself, which has been (relatively, for Steph) unsuccessful. He’s averaging only four assists per game in The Finals, and has had plenty of missed opportunities (like this, this, and this) to swing the ball when doubled.

  • But the Warriors have to help him out. Curry was able to hit shot after shot over the Thunder big-men in Game 7 of the Conference Finals because the Warriors cleared out an entire side of the court for him, much like the Spurs do for Tim Duncan in the post. One off-ball player cutting across the floor to give Curry a little more space works wonders. Here's a play where he has room to operate, and here's a play where he doesn't. 

  • In addition to attacking Love whenever he’s on the court, since he’s been atrocious at defending off-ball screens, coach Steve Kerr needs to use more plays from the Warriors’ bag of offensive tricks. Using two guys to screen for Curry has had some success against the Cavs, and the few times they’ve had Klay screen for Steph, it’s been money

  • With Barnes turning ice cold, the Warriors may have to experiment with lineups. Unfortunately, neither of their reserve centers have done diddly-poo in this series, as Ezeli and Varejao have combined to shoot 6/19 from the field, in addition to their defensive woes. However, while the Warriors are -15 when Ezeli has played in the series, they’re +14 with Varejao on the court. Saying that Varejao has his limitations is a gross understatement, but he goes after offensive rebounds, at least knows where to be on defense, and is good for at least one Jeff Van Gundy flopping rant per half. It’s amazing that a 73-9 team has come to relying on Sideshow Bob’s look-alike in Game 7 of The Finals, but he’s given them quality minutes throughout the series.

  • Green, who will probably play nearly the whole game, must be more locked in guarding Tristan Thompson. With Golden State already thin on the front line, he needs to abandon all hopes of protecting the rim and just focus on shutting down Thompson. The Warriors have a chance at winning if Lebron and Kyrie have great games, but not if those two are on fire AND Thompson scores 15 points on 6/6 shooting again.

The Warriors have strategic options, but, admittedly, when it comes down to X's and O's, the Cavs have the upper hand. They also have LeBron James, who isn’t a good GM, but he’s one heck of a player. The load that he’s shouldered both offensively and defensively should win him Finals MVP, no matter the outcome tonight. A championship in Cleveland would mean more to him than his Miami titles, though, and it’s now been five full years since he performed poorly in an elimination game. If Andre Iguodala isn’t healthy enough to defend him, Golden State could be screwed. 

But there’s just something about the Warriors. They’ve still only lost two close games all season, and, at some point, their ability to eek out close wins stops being a fluke. For a 73-win team, the lethargy with which they sometimes play is unbelievable, but they have a way of flipping the switch. Saying that the Thunder were the better team in the Western Conference Finals is just not fair to the Warriors - it is exactly their ability to pull improbable victories out of nowhere that makes them the better team. The Thunder were more athletic, often had the two most dominant players on the court, and controlled the pace of the entire series. The Warriors still won.

And don’t forget, had Green not been suspended for Game 5 of The Finals, the Warriors would likely have closed out the series at home and won 4-1, so the same logic that my brother used during the Conference Finals applies here. There’s no need to panic. The Warriors were the better team in that series, and they are the better team in this series.

Prediction: Warriors 98, Cavs 93



 

2015 NBA Playoffs: First Round Report Card

Posted on May 5, 2015 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (0)


Spurs' Basketball: A


The era is coming to a close. Get me a box of tissues. I'm going to cry like I did at the end of Fast and Furious 7. 

 


Aging: D


Tim Duncan is older than former All-Star Steve Francis, who was last spotted averaging 0.5 points per game in a Chinese league… in 2010! Tim Duncan is older than former All-Star Wally Szczerbiak, last seen on an NBA court in 2009 in a Youtube video titled, "Wally Szczerbiak dunks.... lol". Tim Duncan is three years older than Baron Davis, four years older than Tracy McGrady, five years older than Andrei Kirilenko, and six years older than Gilbert Arenas, all former All-Stars who haven’t been heard from in years. The "Guess Who's Younger Than Tim Duncan" game is really fun. He's 39, by the way. 


And Duncan is still schooling guys like Deandre Jordan (a strong, athletic 26-year-old) in the post with the same moves that worked on Karl Malone. He’s as good a rebounder as ever and arguably a smarter player than he ever was. It was fun to watch him truly put a team on his back for the first time since Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili became stars. Check out these numbers:


Tim Duncan 2003-2007 NBA Playoffs (his apex): 22 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 2.4 blocks, 51% shooting

Tim Duncan 2015 NBA Playoffs: 18 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.4 blocks, 58% shooting


If nothing else, this year’s playoffs solidified Duncan’s career as the greatest start-to-finish NBA career since Michael Jordan. We’re talking about a guy who’s played in All-Star Games with John Stockton and Kyrie Irving. Would you rather have 10 up-and-down years of Kobe, or 19 robotic, consistent years of Duncan at 98.7% of Kobe’s level? The answer is becoming increasingly clear each year that Duncan fails to regress.


If this is the end of the line, so be it, but I’d love to see the Spurs hold onto Duncan for a few more years. He could play in a game or two per month during the regular season to stay in the flow, and then, in the playoffs, come to the rescue like the eagles at the end of every Lord of the Rings movie. How awesome would THAT be? Couldn’t he keep doing that for ten more years?


 

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin: A+


It took Aron Baynes guarding him in Game 1 for Griffin to realize that he has an athletic advantage every single time down the court against every team. He was aggressively attacking the basket, knocking down 20-footers in the entire advanced analytics movement’s face, and rebounding really well (he had averaged a paltry 6.8 rebounds per game in his first three career postseasons). And, he topped off his excellent series by recording the quietest Game 7 triple-double in the history of basketball.


And then there was Paul, who’s been slammed for having never reached the Conference Finals despite being the best point guard in the league over the past decade. He shot 9/13 for 27 points in Game 7, including a critical three at the end of the third quarter to take the lead, another three over Tiago Splitter early in the fourth quarter to reclaim the lead, and the eventual game-winner, which could not have been defended any better by the Spurs. He was incredible, and although he still hasn't changed some people’s perceptions about his career accomplishments, the debate about whether or not he’s a playoff choker is over.

 


Third Quarter Buzzer-Beating Banked-In 25-Footers That End Spurs’ Title Runs: A


That Chris Paul buzzer-beater to end the third quarter in Game 7 was so eerily similar to Mario Chalmers' buzzer-beater to end the third quarter in Game 7 of the 2013 Finals. They were attempted from almost the exact same distance, both put the Spurs down one after being up two, and both swung the momentum in games where neither team could get ahead by more than a few points.


 

The Clippers complaining: D-


The Clippers stepped it up in Games 6 and 7 in part because they stopped kvetching about every call and focused on playing basketball. There’s a reason for the narrative that “everyone hates the Clippers,” and it’s not unrelated to the fact that, ten times a game, coach Doc Rivers runs up and down the sideline with his arms flailing in the air and tears running down his face like his wife is leaving him home alone to watch the kids for five hours. And, speaking of the kids, every time Chris Paul gets called for a foul, he looks like a two-year-old who just got his new toy truck taken away from him.


 

Gregg Popovich: A-


The A is for nearly winning a series in which his team had no more than one of the five most athletic players on the court at all times. The minus is for the Spurs’ atrocious pick-and-roll defense throughout the entire series, which cost them, particularly in Game 6. When Griffin or Glen Davis (sometimes both at once) would set a high screen for Paul, Paul's defender would try to fight over the pick, even if it was being set well behind the three-point line. Paul would blow by his defender almost every time, leaving whoever was guarding the Clippers’ screen setter to choose between picking up Paul or staying on his own man. Whether it was Diaw, Splitter, or Duncan, the Spurs' big men would hang out in no man’s land, leaving Paul space to pull up for his go-to mid-range jumper or scan the floor for shooters. Not only was the Spurs' defensive strategy ineffective, but the they never gave the Clippers different looks, allowing Paul to get in a comfort zone.


 

John Wall: A+


Wall had an unbelievable round, turning the Washington Wizards into his team the same way that James Harden turned the Rockets into his team. Wall not only runs the offense, he is the offense. He makes every pass you’d want a point guard to make: the skip pass to a three-point shooter in the corner, the pick-and-roll lob to Marcin Gortat, the pick-and-pop pass to Drew Gooden (since when did he become a stretch 4?). And Wall is doing all this while being coached by this guy...

 


Randy Whitman: ?


In the span of a seven-second Vine, Bradley Beal’s face goes from confused to horrified to disgusted before finally settling on confused. I’d also like to point out that that clipboard is symmetrical, so it really shouldn’t matter which way it’s turned. Also, based on what we’ve seen from the Wizards this season, why does the man even need a clipboard? Hmm… should we run the “John Wall goes 1-on-1” play or the “John Wall gets a screen from Gortat, then goes 1-on-1” play?


Whitman may be pulling a Keyzer Soze from The Usual Suspects. What if he can actually coach, and he’s just playing dumb so that when he actually does make a smart coaching decision (waiting until Game 85 of the season to play Paul Pierce at power forward), nobody’s ready for it? It certainly can’t be ruled out.

 


Damian Lillard, showing up for one quarter of Game 4: C-


After a strong outing in last year’s postseason, Lillard took a gigantic step back. He shot 5/31 on threes in the first round, and when his shot wasn’t falling, he didn’t have any Plan B. Defensively, he was a disaster, getting lit up by Nick Calathes of all people due to ball-watching, not closing out on threes, and, in general, having no freaking clue where his man was. He’s young, and we’ve seen offensive talents such as James Harden make great improvements on defense simply by increasing their effort, but it does look like this Portland Trailblazers team is not built for the playoffs. To make matters worse, LaMarcus Aldridge, a free-agent this summer, looked checked out. Even though it doesn’t feel like he's getting old, he’s going into his tenth season, and if he wants to win a championship now, there are better destinations for him than Portland.



Pau Gasol: B


Gasol is what pushes the Chicago Bulls from a decent to very good team offensively, but his inability to cut off Milwaukee Bucks players attacking the basket was one reason that Chicago let the Bucks hang around for six games. With Kyrie Irving and LeBron James attacking the hoop and Tristan Thompson crashing the boards in the second round, Gasol is going to have to play with more energy on the defensive end.

 


Derrick Rose: B


I don’t want to jinx anything. Moving right along.

 


Kendrick Perkins as a viable replacement for Kevin Love: F


Love's shoulder injury is really going to hurt the Cleveland Cavaliers. They're losing valuable floor spacing that allows LeBron and Kyrie to operate on the perimeter and they have to fill 34 minutes of playing time with a very weak bench. Thompson is their strongest reserve, but he’s already playing 25 minutes a game and he expends a lot of energy when he’s on the court. They’ll try lineups with LeBron sliding up to power forward, but with a Bulls team that led the NBA in rebounding this season, Cleveland should be wary about going small. It’s a major conundrum, and one that Kendrick Perkins, the oldest-looking 30-year-old on the planet, is not going to solve.

 


Lebron James: C


The Cavaliers have a second gear, and so does LeBron, but he didn't show it in the first round, as he was regularly getting beat off the dribble and on backdoor cuts by Jae “Rich man’s Renaldo Balkman” Crowder. His attitude towards the Boston Celtics was essentially Will Smith's attitude in this scene:

 

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.



Dirk Nowitzki disguised as Ryan Anderson for ten minutes in Game 3: A

 

Those ten minutes were really fun. Almost as fun as it’s going to be to watch Anthony Davis when he hits his prime like five years from now. Are you kidding me with this stat-line for his first career playoff series? He wouldn’t have even graduated college yet had he stayed in school!

 

 


Stephen Curry: A


This article is already way too long, so we can talk more about the Golden State Warriors in my second round recap, because the Memphis Grizzlies don’t have a chance against them unless Mike Conley is 100% healthy to guard Curry.

 

Time for some rapid-fire grades to finish this off!

 


The accuracy of Portland’s “We Don’t Lose to Spanish Players” sign: F



Kelly Olynyk’s beard: F

Chris Kaman’s beard: D

Pero Antic’s potential as a Taken 4 villain: B+

J.R. Smith’s potential as a Taken 4 villain: A-

 

Glen "Big Baby" Davis’ potential to star in Paul Blart: Mall Cop 3: A

 

Tom Thibodeau’s reporter location skills: F

 

This Pelicans’ assistant’s face: A


Nose wiping: F

 

Bernie Sanders’ presidential candidacy: C

Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy: A-

Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens’ presidential candidacy: A+

The Clippers-Spurs series: A++++++++++++++ 

 

 

 

Enjoy the second round!

 

2015 Annual All-Star Diary

Posted on February 16, 2015 at 11:10 PM Comments comments (1)



For possibly the first time ever, the Three-Point Shootout was hyped up more than the Dunk Contest. In Sunday’s All-Star Game, threes were being thrown up left and right, whereas usually players start going in for dunks when the game descends into chaos. With teams attempting more threes year after year, three-point shooting is becoming increasingly popular, cool, and essential to success in the NBA. This year’s All-Star Weekend helped mark this shift in basketball culture. Even though Zach LaVine is probably still in the air, and Kenny Smith and Reggie Miller are probably still talking, let’s take a look at my notes from an exciting All-Star Saturday Night:


 

8:12 - Kenny Smith says, “we watch him [Dominique Wilkins] miss,” exactly as Wilkins makes a half-court shot. This was not the last time I would wonder whether or not Kenny was watching the same thing I was.


8:18 - The only thing more boring than Reggie Miller fake-analyzing an actual basketball game is Reggie Miller fake-analyzing half-court shots. I hate the Shooting Stars so much. Give me one good reason why I’m not watching a one-on-one tournament between LeBron, Durant, Harden, and Steph right now?


8:20 - Elena Delle Donne waits for Scottie Pippen to make his shot, then decides she wants to get a 20-foot running start for her half court shot, so she takes three seconds to back all the way up to the three-point line and another two seconds to get back to half court to shoot the ball (her team ended up losing by four seconds).


8:21 - Reggie tries to make a progressive comment by saying, “In past years, it’s always been the WNBA player who makes the half-court shot.” In fact, over the past five years, the WNBA player has made the shot in 5 out of 30 rounds. So, by Reggie Miller’s definition of “always,” Deandre Jordan always makes free throws, the New York Knicks always win basketball games, and I always do my homework when the teacher announces the day before that he/she isn’t collecting it.

 

8:31 - Dominique Wilkins has won more Shooting Stars competitions than Slam Dunk competitions, and I am not okay with that.

 

8:42 - Kevin Harlan calls Dennis Schröder a “sensation.” Basically the only three things I know about him are that he has a cool patch of orange hair, his name is pronounced shroo-der (still haven’t figured that one out), and that he has a cool patch of orange hair.

 

8:51 - I LOVE the new format for the Skills Challenge where the players shoot on the same basket. Patrick Beverley took advantage by knocking Isaiah Thomas’ shot out of mid-air with his ball. Instead of simply having players shoot at the same basket, I would have them go straight into Knockout at the end of every round. Actually, I would just make Knockout an All-Star Saturday event. It couldn’t possibly be more boring than the Shooting Stars.


8:54 - My sister says, “Anthony Davis thinks he’s Morpheus,” which is the best explanation I’ve heard so far for his potentially record-breaking season.




On the scale of bad All-Star Saturday Night outfits, his scarf/sunglasses combo ranks worse than James Harden’s… thing from last year, but not nearly as bad as Carmelo Anthony’s outfit from 2013 or Vinny’s red suit from My Cousin Vinny.

 

9:06 - As Patrick Beverley, the least skilled player in the Skills Challenge, wins the Skills Challenge, Reggie repeats for the fifth time, “You’re never out of it.” Well, unless you’re one of the seven players who is currently out of it.

 

9:34 - Reggie analyzes the “strategy” of the Three-Point Shootout. “I want to put the money balls in that short corner, get off to a fast start, get a flow, get a high number.” No shit.


9:35 - Kenny shouts “he’s on a roll,” directly after Wesley Matthews misses a shot, and Matthews goes on to miss three out of his next five. My dad comments, “There’s absolutely no connection between what they’re saying and what’s actually happening!”


9:38 - J.J. Reddick ruins a solid round by stepping on the line for four of his shots. “They should count,” Kenny says. No… no they shouldn’t.

 

9:38 - James Harden gets to shoot over and over without having to pass or play defense in between. Sound familiar? I kid, I kid. As much as I hate to admit it, Harden deserves to win the MVP this year for a Houston Rockets team that has the fourth best record in NBA. Take Harden off that team and they’re a double-digit seed in a superior Western Conference.

 

9:39 - Harden makes 9 out of his first 16 shots, until Kenny and Reggie engage in the following shouting match over the loudspeaker, during which he makes 1 out of 9:


Kenny: “All he has to do is get on a roll right now.”

Reggie: “What makes it interesting too, is us talking about it. He hears exactly what’s going on right now.”

Kenny: “That’s all right. Shooters can block it out. James can’t hear us.”

Reggie: “Oh he can hear us!”

Kenny: “He can block it out.”

Reggie: “Oh trust me, he can hear us!”

Kenny: “He can block it out!”


You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

 

9:41 - Kenny comments about Kyrie Irving, “When the lights are on, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA.” I don’t know about you, but I usually shoot in the dark.

 

9:53 - Poor showing by Kyle Korver, but we give him a pass because he’s in the process of founding the 50-50-90 club.


10:01 - Stephen Curry makes 13 shots in a row. Now that he's won a Three-Point Shootout, we can all die in peace.

 

10:09 - After having a half-hour off the air to come up with two intelligible sentences, Shaquille O’Neal mumbles, doing his best Vin Diesel impression, “Watching these guys shoot is like watching a video game,” which Kenny has been repeating on end for the last 30 minutes.


10:19 - The freestyle round format sucked so much that it's gone after one year. If you don’t remember how boring that was, refresh your memory:


You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.



10:20 - Mason Plumlee gets some score that I can’t see because the judges are holding up their scores on tablets that are impossible to read and that Clyde Frazier can’t figure out how to use.



10:25 - Victor Oladipo was not on key during that Frank Sinatra song… just saying.


You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.


10:27 - Really impressive reverse 360 by Oladipo that Kenny refuses to admit was anything less than a 540. His explanation for why it was a 540 consisted of him shouting, “Turn, turn, turn, turn!” as the replay was shown. Oladipo jumped with his back to the basket and landed with his back to the basket. Kenny, stop trying to make “540” happen. It's not going to happen.


10:29 - I appreciate any and all references to Space Jam.


10:30 - I’ve spent too much time and effort over the past two days trying to figure out whether LaVine’s first between-the-legs dunk or his second behind-the-back dunk was better (yes, a NERF hoop was prominently involved in that effort), and I still don’t have an answer. Both were twists on dunks that we’ve seen before, but both consisted of him hanging in the air for an absurd amount of time before he even started to think about dunking the ball. What I like about the reverse between-the-legs was the scissor kick that you can see on the first replay of this video.


You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.



10:31 - How could Dr. J just sit still when he saw that dunk? I jumped off my couch when I saw it! Bernard King and Chris Mullin high fived each other! Nate Archibald looks like he just saved 15 percent or more on car insurance!


10:37 - With a combined 41 letters of names on the court, Thanasis Antetokounmpo helps Giannis Antetokounmpo complete his only dunk of the night. The Greek Freak certainly disappointed, but wasn’t bad enough to crack the top five worst dunk contest performances of all-time:


5 (tie) Tim Perry - used the vast majority of his freestyle round dribbling around the court aimlessly and unenthusiastically (In 90 seconds, he made two dunks and dribbled the ball 51 times! In a dunk contest!)
www.youtube.com/watch?v=lviYlkt7Ojw


5 (tie) Antonio Davis - bounced the ball into the crowd for no apparent reason and then bailed on his freestyle round with 40 seconds remaining
cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3984219/davis.gif


4) Darrell Armstrong - missed four dunks in a row before finally giving up and making a layup
www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCqwoZmO7Eo


3) Chris Andersen - if you're ever having a really bad day, just watch this video
www.youtube.com/watch?v=BieL_YOzQkI


2) Tony Dumas - only contestant in Dunk Contest history to not make a single dunk
www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FC3o2FXnZs


1) Larry Hughes – missed his first six attempts, and then the camera didn’t even catch his only dunk
www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNocOVJTT0o


10:38 - Dr. J takes 10 seconds to find the number he wants out of five cards, and it’s a… 6? Giannis made the dunk! Based on overwhelming evidence from the past ten minutes, my dad and I conclude that Dr. J is on drugs.


10:40 - Plumlee jumps over his brother and dunks it… whatever... check out this Chinese dunker lining up five guys to jump over and then not even clearing the first guy. This and the Chris Andersen video are good to have bookmarked for when you're having a bad day.


You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

 


10:43 - LaVine gets another well-deserved 50. Kenny says, “He’s got them on his feet again! He’s got them on his feet again! He’s got you on his feet again! Put your hands in the air! Put your hands in the air!” Then the replay shows. “He’s not even worried about it! He’s not even worried! Look what I’m saying, he still could go higher. He still could’ve went higher! He’s still going up! He’s still going up! He’s still going up!” I don’t think Kenny Smith can say anything without repeating it. I don’t think Kenny Smith can say anything without repeating it! I don’t think Kenny Smith can say anything without repeating it!


10:52 - After Oladipo misses three dunks in a row, Demarcus Cousins pays no attention as his kid repeatedly tries to balance a towel on his head. If there was an NBA player who totally neglected his son while he tried to balance an object on his head, it would be Boogie Cousins, wouldn’t it?


10:57 - Oladipo has a combined 72 for his two dunks. LaVine had 45 on his first dunk. The minimum score is a 30. The host asks, in all seriousness, “Do you think the score will be good enough to take home the trophy?” I’ll let you figure out what’s wrong with this picture.

 

11:01 - Zach LaVine wins the dunk contest by doing the same dunk three times, each time less impressive than the last. But they were still impressive, nonetheless. LaVine's performance will hopefully end the event’s oscillation between somewhat exciting to outright boring over the past ten years… just like Taken brought back the old-school action movie after a ten-year slump following The Matrix, and just like “Uptown Funk” will hopefully bring us out of the music hell hole that is this millenium. Zach Lowe of Grantland tweets: “Would you be surprised if Zach LaVine won the next 5 dunk contests? That should be his goal -- start the first real dunk contest dynasty.” I hope he goes for it.




Please like my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter!



 

Top 10 Greatest NBA Statistics

Posted on August 15, 2014 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (1)



 

 


These statistics were not only judged on how impressive they sound, but also on how close they have come to being approached and the chances of them ever being achieved again.

 


Honorable Mention:


Wilt Chamberlain led the league in points, assists, rebounds, and field goal percentage in separate seasons. He once had 22 points, 21 assists, and 25 rebounds in a game. He is the only player in NBA history to record a game of 40 points and 40 rebounds, and he had 5 games of 50 points and 40 rebounds. He also averaged 30 points and 20 rebounds per game for his entire career, despite the fact that no other player has averaged those statistics for a single season. Of the 64 60-point games in NBA history, Wilt Chamberlain had 32 of them.


Michael Jordan won the scoring title and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. He led the league in points every full season he played with the Bulls, and won 10 scoring titles.


Tracy McGrady once scored 13 points in 35 seconds.


Dikembe Mutombo Mpalanda Mukamba Jean Jacque Wamutombo has 48 letters in his name.


Tim Duncan is both the oldest AND youngest player to average a double-double in The Finals, accomplishing the feat at age 23 and age 38.


LeBron James is the only player to record 2000 points, 500 assists, 500 rebounds, and 100 three-pointers in a season, and he did it six times. He also had 100 steals in each of those seasons.


After turning 30 years old, Dennis Rodman (6’7) grabbed 26% of all available rebounds on the court – more than any player’s career average. Rodman recorded the seven highest rebounding percentage seasons of all time.


Hakeem Olajuwon is the only player ranked top 10 all time in 4 major categories: points, rebounds, steals, and blocks.


Shaquille O’Neal averaged 25 points per game on 55% shooting for 10 consecutive seasons.


Larry Bird is the only player to average 20-10-5 for a career in any three statistics.


 

 

 

Comment with a statistic that you thought should have made the cut, and follow me on twitter by clicking the button on the right sidebar!


* Credits to Tal Akabas for assisting with the graphics.

 

 


 

Why I Don't Watch the FIFA World Cup

Posted on July 11, 2014 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (3)

I’ll admit up front that I watched the Netherlands’ semi-final game (but only because I was in the Netherlands) and the US knockout round game (but only because I was born in the US), and that the last 30-or-so minutes of both games were exciting. The feeling that, at any given moment, the entire fate of those countries’ soccer programs could change dramatically was exhilarating. That being said, international soccer bugs me. Here are the five reasons why, in order of increasing bugginess:



1) Stoppage Time


Adding time to the end of each half to make up for the running clock during stoppages in play is really pointless. First, the amount of extra time isn’t even calculated exactly; it’s estimated by the referee! Seeing how much people care about the outcomes, you’d think it’d be a bad idea to leave the length of the game up to the opinion of a single person. The players also have no idea when the game will end. Imagine if in the NBA Finals, instead of the clock counting down to 0, it counted up to some arbitrary number determined by Joey Crawford when he felt like the game ought to be over. Lastly, why not just stop the clock when the game stops like, I don’t know, every other sport?



2) Flopping / Refereeing


Whenever there’s marginal contact, count on at least one player to just dive head first to the ground like Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone sticking together. Count on that player to grab his face even though he got kicked in the shin. This is because there’s one referee watching 22 players on a huge field who can’t possibly see most of the fouls, so players have to embellish to get calls. Another side effect of having one referee is that defenders get away with cheap-shots and playing rugby in the penalty box (although another reason this happens is because calling a foul in the penalty box results in a penalty kick, and refs are scared of making such an impactful call, which is equally silly).



3) Ties


Watching 90 minutes of a sport without a winner being determined makes me feel like I wasted my time. In the knockout round this is alleviated by the incredibly-thrilling-but-ultimately-a-total-crapshoot-and-a-terrible-way-to-determine-which-team-is-better penalty kicks, which is almost complete luck because the kicks are taken from so close that the goalies have to randomly dive one way or the other. A better solution would be sudden death but that wouldn’t work because…



4) There’s no scoring!


The day the US and Argentina played their Round of 16 matches, there was a stretch of 3 hours and 50 minutes of soccer during which one goal was scored. Oh, and this is the highest scoring World Cup since 1970. The actual goals in soccer are among the best highlights in sports, but we rarely get to see them, and mostly just watch the teams go back and forth without taking any shots. I understand that the rarity of goals makes each shot more exciting, but the chances of scoring are so slim that I often lose interest while watching, especially if I’m not rooting for a team. It also creates a game where a team can dominate the ball for long periods of time and not reap any benefit, or even lose a game because of one missed clear by a defender or one foul in the penalty box.



5) There’s no scoring!


What am I missing by just watching the highlights online, where I can catch all the goals in under a minute? I have four suggestions for soccer to increase scoring, and the implementation of just two or three of them would improve the watch-ability of the game dramatically.


• Add two referees to call more fouls on defenders: If the offensive and defensive players are running the length of the field with their arms on each other, the disadvantage is clearly with the offensive player, who is trying to control the ball.


• Get rid of the offside rule: Allowing players to be closer to the goal is a no brainer to add highlights, goals, and tension. If traditionalists are too concerned about dramatically changing the sport, then make a mild rule change, like “you can’t be more than five meters offside.”


• Allow 10 substitutions per game and allow substituted players to return to the game: I marvel at the endurance of soccer players who play the entire game (only three substitutions are allowed per team), often through injury, separating the men from the boys, so to speak. But ultimately, players’ being hobbled and tired leads them to stand around to catch their breaths and move the ball down the field much slower. The mid-2000s Phoenix Suns wouldn’t have been as fun to watch if Steve Nash hadn’t been able to lie down and stretch at the beginning of the second and fourth quarters.


• Make the game 9-on-9 instead of 11-on-11: More space for the offense to operate, harder to double-team elite scorers, fewer players to form walls on free kicks… all positives




There are a lot of admirable characteristics of soccer, but it could be so much better. If you’re angry that I want to take a sport loved by billions of people worldwide and turn it upside down to make it more like basketball, that’s semi-legitimate, but just remember that basketball is the most fun sport to watch, and I would like as many things as possible in my life to resemble basketball.



The Pros and Cons Each Championship Contender (Plus Complete Playoff Picks)

Posted on April 19, 2014 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (4)

 

The Favorite:

 

San Antonio Spurs

 

Good: Everyone is well-rested and healthy (their starters missed 75 total games and still clinched the league's top record)… the bracket couldn’t have worked out better for them (avoided the three hottest teams since the All-Star break: Clippers, Warriors, and Grizzlies)… Popovich’s nightmares will prevent him from randomly benching Tim Duncan for no reason

 

Bad: Home-court throughout the playoffs, meaning Boris Diaw will have MANY opportunities to chug barbecue sauce before heading to the arena and may or may not gain ten pounds between the first and second rounds… they have trouble with really athletic teams, all of whom they’ll probably have to face in after the first round (1-9 against Oklahoma City, Miami, and Houston and 61-11 against the rest of the league)

 

 

 

The Contenders:

 

Oklahoma City Thunder

 

Good: Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant! Kevin Durant!

 

Bad: Kendrick Perkins is like vomit; the only positive is knowing you’ll feel better once he’s out of the game… the possibility of their coach, Scott Brooks, not figuring out the whole “small ball” thing until he’s facing elimination in Game 5 of the first round

 

 

Miami Heat

 

Good: They’re the best team in the league when their on/off switch is on… LeBron James… Shane Battier is going to shoot 6/6 on threes when they need it most… LeBron James

 

Bad: LeBron James has played a heck of a lot of minutes in the last 42 months… the on/off switch is currently off… are they for real with Rashard Lewis playing 20 minutes a game?

 

 

 

Indiana Pacers

 

Good: Home-court for the first three rounds, and they had the league’s best home record… despite a total careen off a cliff after the All-Star break, those late-season wins against Miami and Oklahoma City are big confidence boosters

 

Bad: Roy Hibbert falls to the ground every fifth play, can’t stop a quick pick-and-roll slasher for his life, and thinks he’s Bill Russell… Paul George got hot from three-point range for a month and thinks he’s the next LeBron James… as dangerous as Lance “I got this” Stephenson can be to a team, Lance “I got this” Stephenson playing for a new contract and out to avenge his Al-Star snub is anywhere between 50% and 75% more dangerous

 

 

 

The Sleepers:

 

Los Angeles Clippers

 

Good: Not much, but screw it, they’re fun to watch, so let’s make them a sleeper anyway

 

Bad: Lots of Hedo Turkoglu sightings… for some reason the Clippers’ owner never deemed it necessary to find a third big-man to back up two below-average defenders and abysmal free-throw shooters (Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan)

 

 

 

Houston Rockets

 

Good: If Good-Dwight shows up, this team starts to look a lot like the Orlando Magic (the ultimate “WTF! How did they make the Finals?” team)… Patrick Beverly might kill someone on the opposing team

 

Bad: Their coach, Kevin McHale, said publicly that Joakim Noah defends better than Dwight Howard... If you don’t think Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich will exploit James Harden’s defense in Round 2 by running Danny Green all over the court, you’re insane… if Bad-Dwight shows up, Houston might give up 150 points a game

 

 

 

The Nappers:

 

Golden State Warriors

 

Good: They’re getting two free Stephen Curry explosion games in any series, so they only have to go 2-3 in the other five games… With Andrew Bogut injured, they’re forced to go small ball, which was highly successful in the playoffs last year

 

Bad: For a team with Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and David Lee, they run way too many Harrison Barnes isolation post-ups from 18 feet… With Andrew Bogut injured, they have only David Lee and Jermaine O’Neal’s corpse to contain Deandre Jordan (they let Timofey Mozgov grab 29 rebounds in one game!)

 

 

 

 

Things of Note:

1) Miami has coasted in the first round every year with LeBron, but they’re actually going to have to try against Charlotte (amazingly, the Heat are only 1.5 games ahead of Charlotte since New Year’s). The Bobcats have an athletic defender in Michael-Kidd Gilchrist to put on LeBron, who still absolutely torched the Bobcats this season, scoring 61 points in one game. The Bobcats have Al Jefferson, a quiet 22-11 every night, and needs to be double-teamed in the post if Chris Bosh guards him. The Bobcats have Josh McRoberts, who occasionally does some pretty crazy stuff, like this. And that’s just the first round. The Brooklyn Nets beat Miami four times this season, and match up really well with them (Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston post up the smaller Miami guards, Paul Pierce slides up to power forward and match up with LeBron, and Kevin Garnett is mobile enough to follow Chris Bosh outside of the paint). Miami’s not going to have a cakewalk to the Conference Finals.

 

2) And neither will Indiana. They’ve been in a total funk since starting off the season 18-1. The first main problem is that Evan Turner doesn’t fit in with the grind-it-out, move the ball, play defense mindset (check out this play for a major Evan Turner defensive lapse). It was dumb to trade the most experienced veteran on the team and a well-liked teammate in Danny Granger for a very marginal upgrade in talent. The second main problem is Roy Hibbert (who just won the “You’re seven f***ing feet tall! Grab a f***ing rebound!” Award, breaking Andrea Bargnani’s excellent three-year run). I talked about his weaknesses on defense in my previous article, but his offense has been even worse. He often doesn’t make the extra pass and settles for low-percentage shots (like this play and this one), which the team is getting enough of from Paul George already, and he regularly clogs up the middle and gets in the way of what his teammates are doing (like this play). The Pacers miraculously ended up with the #1 seed, but playing .500 ball for four months is not a fluke, folks.

 

3) Dwyane Wade is the luckiest dude on the planet. I wish I could just wake up any morning and say, “Nah, I'm not going to school today. I’m going to sleep in till 1:00 PM while the smartest kid in the school does my homework for me.”

 

4) As hot as the Nets have been, Toronto has had a better record since the All-Star break, going 20-10. Brooklyn is a very poor road team, and that Toronto crowd is going to be super-excited. Also, Jason Kidd and Duane Casey are coaching head-to-head in a playoff series. Literally anything could happen - Intentionally spilled drinks, five timeouts left on the table in a close game - be prepared for anything.

 

5) Memphis has the best record in the NBA since Marc Gasol returned from injury in January, and with all the talk about Indiana fading in the second half of the season, Oklahoma City had the eighth best record in the Western Conference after the All-Star break.

 

 

 

 

THE PICKS

 

First Round

Spurs over Mavs in 5 (Dallas has nobody to guard Duncan and Parker)

 

Thunder over Grizzlies in 6 (Wouldn’t be surprised if the Grizzlies won, but I have the Grizzlies stealing one of the first two games, followed by everyone freaking out, Kendrick Perkins and Zach Randolph getting into a shoving match in the closing seconds of Game 2, and Durant taking over the series with much shorter defenders on him)

 

Clippers over Warriors in 7 (Too much rebounding for the Clippers, too much Draymond Green for the Warriors)

 

Rockets over Blazers in 7 (Total toss-up. Depends on whether Good-Dwight or Bad-Dwight shows up)

 

Pacers over Hawks in 6 (Putting this series on NBA TV instead of one of the major channels might actually be an insult to NBA TV… this series should be played exclusively on Comedy Central)

 

Heat over Bobcats in 4 (Yea, I know I said the Bobcats would put up a fight, but it’s LeBron, guys, come on. And by the way, Wade is definitely sitting one of the two games at Charlotte)

 

Raptors over Nets in 7 (This will be the greatest moment in Canadian basketball history)

 

Bulls over Wizards in 7 (Joakim Noah with a 14-12-11-7 in the clincher)

 

 

 

Second Round

Spurs over Rockets in 4

Thunder over Clippers in 7

Bulls over Pacers in 6

Heat over Raptors in 4

 

 

Conference Finals

Spurs over Thunder in 6

Heat over Bulls in 5

 

 

Finals

Spurs over Heat in 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please like my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter!

 

 

 

Who Should Win the 2014 NBA Awards?

Posted on April 14, 2014 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (6)




I can probably rattle off the last ten Sixth Man of the Year winners but hesitate in recalling who won the NFL MVP just two months ago. Why do we care so much about individual awards in basketball? For one, there’s a lot less randomness than in football (fewer games) and baseball (one play can decide the outcome). Secondly, individual players matter more than in football (too many positions) and baseball (even Miguel Cabrera only bats three or four times an afternoon). Lastly, we idolize superstars much more in basketball. So here we go. I matched up each actual NBA award with an Oscar category, and added a few fun ones.




 

Best Actor in a Leading Role (MVP)

Nominees: Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Joakim Noah, Stephen Curry, Dirk Nowitzki, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Paul George, Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony


This isn’t just me getting tired of seeing LeBron hoist the hardware (although I am really tired of seeing LeBron hoist the hardware); Durant has legitimately been better this season. He’s the second best passing forward in the league (5.5 assists per game), scored more points than LeBron on equal efficiency, and been more reliable defensively (LeBron has developed some ball-watching habits and regularly exhibited lack of effort helping out or getting back to stop fastbreaks, causing his blocked shots to plummet). But Durant’s had to deal with a lot more. Russell Westbrook went down for two long stretches (as well as Sefolosha and Perkins missing time recently), his coach’s only crunch-time strategy is giving him the ball, and he’s regularly denied the ball by two defenders. And with all that, his team has a better record than LeBron’s, and in a more competitive conference.


I think Noah is the obvious third place choice (more on him later). In terms of fourth place, I’ve really enjoyed watching Curry turn into a premier passer in the league while still single handedly winning games by catching fire and proving Michael Scott’s theory that basketball is like jazz. 


For fifth place, you could go a lot of different directions, as long as the direction is NOT James Harden. He costs his team games with his poor defense. On this play, he literally makes every defensive mistake imaginable. He’s not in his stance, watches the ball and not his man, over-helps, leaves his feet, jogs back to his man, reaches for a steal he has no chance of getting, and doesn’t box out.


Blake Griffin has blossomed as a ball-handler and passer, especially when Chris Paul was injured, but we still don’t even know if he’s the most valuable player on his own team, much less top five in the league, so I’d go with Dirk for the final spot. He’s taken a team of washed-up veterans whose old teams didn’t really want them (Monta Ellis, Devin Harris, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Samuel Dalembert) and turned that into 50 wins. He takes all the clutch shots, makes his teammates better (you think Dirk’s three-point shooting has something to do with Monta Ellis leading the league in drives to the basket?), and is hundredths of a percentage point away from a 50-40-90 season.



 

 

Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Sixth Man of the Year)

Nominees: Taj Gibson, Reggie Jackson, Manu Ginobili, Jamal Crawford, Markieff Morris

 

This is close, but Gibson has been the most consistent of all these players, is the best two way player of the bunch (one of the top rim-protectors in the league in terms of opponents' success at the rim, and plays for the top defensive team), and backs up the newest member of the All-Fallen-Off-The-Map Team, Carlos Boozer, who I determined is in fact alive after a solid 15 minutes of intense googling.


 



Best Director (Best Coach)

Nominees: Mike Woodson (just kidding), Gregg Popovich (Spurs), Tom Thibodeau (Bulls), Jeff Hornacek (Suns), Terry Stotts (Blazers), Rick Carlisle (Mavericks)


1.       

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.


2. The Spurs’ fourth most used lineup this season is Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Marco Bellineli, Boris Diaw, and Jeff Ayers, which outscores opponents by 14 points per 48 minutes.


3. In Duncan’s old age (three #1 seeds and one #2 seed in four years), Pop became the first coach in sports history to coach the regular season perfectly. His teams just look prepared night in and night out (they only lost two games by more than 14 points this season), he’s unbelievable at resting guys when necessary, and they simply get higher percentage shots in a half-court offense than any other team.


4. I’ve never seen any coach manage minutes the way he does. He got through this whole season with better records than Durant and LeBron, while not playing a single guy more than 29 minutes a night!


5. Okay, back to that first video of the teamwork plays. One of those plays has Patty Mills, Nando de Colo, some dude named Malcom Thomas, and Corey Joseph touching the ball, and Pop still gets them to play his brand of basketball. Unbelievable.


6. If you and your basketball-watching friends are ever bored, try playing the “Come Up With the Worst Possible Team to Put With Duncan and Popovich that Could Still Compete for a #1 Seed” game. It’s really fun.


7. If you want to vote for Thibodeau for dragging a team that looked like it was tanking to winning nearly 50 games, that’s fine. If you want to give the award to Hornacek for over-performing and getting his team to run and shoot threes – the perfect style for that team - that’s fine too, I guess, but just understand that Pop brings way more value to his team (although this offensive set by Hornacek is one of the most creative I've seen all season)


8. I don’t know if this play is a better case for Pop to win Coach of the Year or for Kevin Love not to make an All-NBA team, so I’ll let you decide.




 

Best Visual Effects (Best Highlights)


Nominees:

Gerald Green (highlights)

Lebron James (one, two, three)

Kevin Durant (one, two, three)

Blake Griffin (one, two, three)

John Wall (one, two, three)

Kyrie Irving (one, two, three)

Lance Stephenson (one, two, three)

Steph Curry (one, two, three)


Click on the links to view some of the players' highlights, and vote for the winner on the sidebar.




Best Short Film (Best Game)

Nominees: Carmelo Anthony (62 points, 13 rebounds), Lebron James (61 points), Terrence Ross and Corey Brewer (51 points), Kevin Durant… pick any of the following games (54-6-4, 51-7-12, 48-7-7, 48-7-5, 41-10-9, 32-10-14), Joe Johnson (11 threes)


It’s been a really weird season for the Knicks, starring…


--- lots of Mike Woodson staring blankly at people

--- lots of Carmelo (arguably having a better season than last year… look at the numbers)

--- lots of interesting and effective offensive sets that are only used once and then discarded for eternity (like this one and this one)

--- lots of Tyson Chandler failing to finish layups over players a foot shorter than he

--- atrocious pick-and-roll defense by guards, causing J.R. Smith or Tim Hardaway to over-help egregiously and leave their men open (like this play and this play)

--- Metta World Peace playing for a month and then disappearing from the face of the Earth

--- Pablo Prigioni leading the league in three-point percentage

--- Clyde Frazier uttering the words, “And the Knicks will bring Amare, their defensive specialist, off the bench”




--- This

--- and This




 

Best Foreign Film (Best International Player)

Nominees: Andrea Bargnani (just kidding), Goran Dragic, Dirk Nowitzki, Serge Ibaka


I know, I know. I put Dirk on my MVP ballot but didn’t even give him this award, because I really just want to talk about Dragic. He’s my hands-down pick for Most Improved Player of the Year, and if you were to argue for him to make the All-NBA team, I would at least listen. His defense is about two tiers ahead of Stephen Curry (the “It’s best not to think about it, let’s just enjoy watching him play offense’” tier), three tiers ahead of Damian Lillard (the “Treats regular season games like All-Star games tier”), and about seven tiers ahead of James Harden (the “Takes naps during games, gives up 51 points to Corey Brewer” tier). 


In nearly 40 games without Eric Bledsoe, Dragic kept the Suns in the playoff hunt by going over .500. The improvement in his shooting from average to the highest percentage among all guards not named Dwyane Wade* has been remarkable. Same goes for three point shooting percentage, which he increased by 10% since last season! His decision making is also starting to kind of live up to the Steve Nash comparisons from five years ago.


* Wade is eight in the league in shooting percentage, the only guard or small forward in the top 25… I don’t care if he’s treating this season like the Olympic short track speedskaters, that’s damn impressive.


While we’re at it, let me finish up with the other awards I haven’t mentioned yet:


Not that Joakim Noah isn’t a deserving Defensive Player of the Year (in a game against the Heat earlier this year, he impressed me by repeatedly shutting down LeBron after switching on pick-and-rolls), but stats don’t really back up his case to win the award (shit, Noah’s probably not even the best defender on his own team). The stats back up Roy Hibbert, who is among the league leaders in opponents’ field goal percentage at the rim and blocked shots, but he has many flaws on D, the biggest of which is his tendency to hang out in no-man’s land on pick-and-rolls, allowing slashers to get deep into the paint (like this play and this play).


But I don’t care if we have to make up an award to ensure Noah gets some hardware for his work this season. In a two month span, the former MVP Derrick Rose went down for the season and his best teammate both on and off the court, Luol Deng, was traded away. Noah went into total FU Mode, and it was fun to watch. In the second half of the season he averaged 14 points, 7 assists, 12 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals a night, nearly leading his team in every statistical category, while playing point guard on offense and center on defense - Bill Walton esque. 

 

As for Rookie of the Year, I really don’t what to make of it. We have Michael Carter Williams, who’s been instructed to intentionally lose games; Victor Oladipo, who’s trying to win games and failing miserably; Tim Hardaway, who’s probably going to win third place for doing nothing but standing in the corner shooting threes; and #1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett educating many basketball fans that it is possible to have a negative Player Efficiency Rating, a statistic designed so that you can take a lie down and take nap at midcourt, not record any stats, and get a 3.5. Yet for the first two months of the season, Bennett was in the negatives! Is it too early to declare him the worst #1 overall pick ever?


[… Googling Kwame Brown’s stats]

[… watching this video] 

[... and this one] 


… Yea, it’s too early. I vote Oladipo for Rookie of the Year, but only if we give him the broken Rising Stars Challenge MVP trophy instead of a full-sized one.




 

Best Picture (Best Team)

Nominees: New York Knicks (just kidding), San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers

 

The Spurs currently have a .775 winning percentage. Of teams that finished the regular season with at least a .770 winning percentage and were the only team that year to do so, 13 won the title, 2 lost in the Finals, and only 4 didn’t reach the Finals - a pretty convincing historical statistic. The Spurs have gotten hot at the right time, when EVERYONE else is struggling. I could go on and on about why I’d be really cautious about picking the Heat, Pacers, or Clippers to win it all, but that’s another article for another time (like, later this week… check back soon for my Playoffs preview article)


 

 

Please comment and let me know what you think. Also, please like my facebook page and follow me on twitter on the right sidebar!



 

The Team of Shame

Posted on March 25, 2014 at 8:50 PM Comments comments (2)

Have you noticed something a little funky with Los Angeles Lakers' coach Mike D'Antoni's decision-making this season? Back in November, he started Jordan Hill for seven games, a stretch during which Hill averaged 15 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks on 56% shooting. For no apparent reason, Hill was relegated back to the 15-20 minute plan in favor of the immortal Shawne Williams (who eventually got waived by the front office, then signed again, then waived again). D'Antoni's been screwing around with Hill all season long. Hill threw up 21 points and 9 rebounds on 8/8 shooting one night and played seven minutes the following game. Shawne Williams played 30. Bob Sacre played 18.


But playing time isn't all that has helped the Lakers along their way to the bottom of the standings this season. In late February, Jordan Hill was diagnosed with a "sore right knee" and missed three weeks! Jordan Farmar was injured on March 14th with a "moderate groin strain" and is likely to miss the remainder of the season. D'Antoni commented, "Maybe he'll get back, we'll see"... What? In any event, it seems like a lot of aches and pains in Los Angeles this season. A few too many.


Additionally, Kyrie Irving recently underwent an MRI for a strained left bicep tendon. ESPN wrote, "The 21-year-old will be shut down for two weeks and re-evaluated. The Cavs said the tendon's response 'will determine the most appropriate course of treatment.'" Why wait two weeks to re-evaluate him? Additionally, the Cavaliers were already lamenting that Irving may be done for the season... before they even did the MRI!


This isn't the first time we've seen suspicious behavior from one of the lowly teams in the league that has all the looks of tanking. In the last nine games of the 2012 season, the Golden State Warriors launched one of the most blatant tanking campaigns in recent history  in attempt to hold onto a top-seven protected first-round pick. They shut down their best player, David Lee, for those nine games for a number of reasons, ranging from "Groin/Hip" to "Coach's Decision" to "Strained Groin" to "Abdominal Surgery." Lee said, “It’s unfortunate because I wanted to finish out the season strong. I was willing to go through any means necessary to try and play these last games, but the doctors didn’t leave any gray area for me.” Um, whatever you say, David. Andris Biedrins also missed two weeks with a "Mild Concussion," and the team didn't even bother providing explanations for injuries sustained by four other key players. The result was the Warriors starting an intimidating big three of Charles Jenkins, Jeremy Tyler, and Mickell Gladness.


Tanking needs to stop. It turns the entire last month of the regular season into extremely low quality and irrelevant basketball.


Building off of an idea from Grantland Editor in Chief Bill Simmons, here's how we fix tanking. Simmons has suggested repeatedly over the last ten years that the NBA implement an Entertaining-As-Hell Tournament at the end of the season. The top seven seeds in each conference would safely secure a spot in the playoffs, and the 8-15 seeds would battle it out in a single-elimination tournament for the final playoff berth in each conference.


This is a superb idea, as it keeps terrible teams invested in the season and disincentives teams from faking injuries to intentionally bottom out, keeps fans watching because their teams are never completely out of the picture, and creates a tournament that would be... well... entertaining as hell. But it still allows for even the worst team in the league to have a shot at the playoffs, thereby not creating enough of a punishment for being atrociously bad. With a simple alteration, however, we could truly put an end to tanking.


Instead, the top six teams in each conference should automatically advance to the playoffs while the 7-14 seeds compete in the tournament for two open spots.


The catch: One team in each conference would be left out of the playoff picture entirely, and thus be named "The Team of Shame." How would we distinguish this team from the others? They'd have to wear their most hideous throwback uniforms for the entire following season (yes, short shorts included).


First, no team would ever want to sacrifice nationally televised Tournament games and the outside chance at the playoffs (they would only need two Tournament wins to make it) just for a 5% greater chance at the #1 pick.


But the greater motivating factor is the bad PR for that owner and front office if every sports announcer across the country constantly referred to their team as The Team of Shame. Current executives and coaches often keep their jobs despite running their teams into the ground because they play the "We're Rebuilding So You Have to Give Me Five More Years to See If It Works Out in the Long Run" Card. I guarantee you there's no way any GM with the words “Team of Shame” on his resume gets a second chance.


Wouldn't it also be harder for a Team of Shame to attract free agents, even if it was a big market city? Wouldn't it be harder to sell tickets the next season? Wouldn't tons of Lakers fans immediately jump ship and root for the Clippers if they fell behind Utah and became The Western Conference Team of Shame?


It's just such a perfect way of exposing and punishing idiotic teams for being idiotic and putting a poor product on the floor, as opposed to propping them up by giving them the benefit of the draft lottery, but with no consequences. It also makes virtually every game down the stretch interesting. (Admit it, you'd absolutely tune in for a Sixers-Bucks matchup if the Sixers having to wear these jerseys all of next season was on the line).




At the very least, the Team of Shame concept will evoke a few laughs every time Hubie Brown says something like "Okay, now when I look at the schedule and see that my team is playing the Milwaukee Bucks, you have to expect an easy win... mainly because they're the Team of Shame." But most importantly, it would likely lead to fewer owners like Joe Dumars, fewer coaches like Mike D'Antoni, more invested fans, more meaningful basketball games, and a more enjoyable league.




Please like my facebook page and follow me on twitter on the sidebar of this page!


 


Rss_feed