Archive for February, 2011

Essay: The NBA All-Star Game Re-Cap of Re-Caps

February 21, 2011 Leave a comment

About 20 minutes before the opening tip to last night’s All-Star game, the beautiful Maria Menounos held an interview wth Diddy on TNT’s Magenta Carpet. After a few moments of captivating conversation involving which team Diddy roots for—he was born and raised in New York City, but owns “houses” in L.A., so his heart’s all torn up—the rapper/actor/producer/printer-of-money made a public gaffe by saying he wished Blake Griffin was playing in the night’s game. Griffin, of course, was selected weeks ago as a reserve and ended up scoring eight points in 15 crowd pleasing minutes. The fact that Diddy, who was either sitting courtside or damn near it on Saturday night, didn’t know Blake Griffin, the talk of the weekend, was playing in the actual All-Star game reaffirmed how little of an attraction it is compared to the entire “weekend” as an entity.  Last night’s exhibition wasn’t the best All-Star game of all time and it wasn’t the worst, but once again it sat in the background.

What ended up elevating the night was the duel-until-their-holsters-were-empty performances by Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, the two best players in the world. As the typical All-Star game goes in the first few quarter, both teams were crazy focused on putting on a show and entertaining what turned out to be a whole bunch of people. By the end, when LeBron got angry and discovered despite the fact it was an All-Star game he was still a man among boys, things got a little more competitive, but it wasn’t a memorable back and forth battle. Kevin Durant made sure of that.

Apart from Chris Bosh’s put back, Kobe’s baseline 180, LeBron’s vicious end to end tomahawk, Blake Griffin’s sidespin give and go alley-oop with Deron Williams, and Kobe, once again, sneaking a two handed stuff by LeBron, the game’s dunks weren’t anything special. Some players kept deferring while others couldn’t wait to shoot. But nobody in the latter category could dare hold a flame to Mr. Bryant, who while crowded by four (FOUR) Eastern All-Stars on one possession still managed to get a shot up*. (He drew a foul). It seemed like a majority of guys needed at least a quarter of play under their belts to find their rhythm and feel comfortable. Some guys settled down to open up their bag of tricks—Ray Allen air balled a three-pointer for the first time in 17 years, but followed it up with this ridiculous move later on—while others just couldn’t get it together. Namely Dwight Howard, who looked disinterested; Carmelo Anthony, who looked tired; Rajon Rondo, who played like someone was chasing him (not a compliment); Al Horford, who looked overmatched; and Dwyane Wade, who posted a plus/minus of -15, badly rolled his ankle, and was drunk.

MVP Observation:

If the game hadn’t been played in Los Angeles, no voters had access to a box score, and Kevin Durant twisted his ankle midway through the fourth quarter, a serious dark horse for MVP would have been Chris Paul. With his name’s sudden disappearance from “league’s best point guard” discussion, nobody came into the game with more of a chip on their shoulder than him, and it certainly showed. Paul dictated the All-Star game’s pace and tempo in a retro dominant way, much like Jason Kidd used to do. He broke down Rondo and Rose on several occasions—blowing by the two young guns like it was nothing—stole the ball five times, and hit shots when he was open. With his performance, Chris Paul reminded everyone who the league’s best point guard truly is, and when you factor in what he’s working with (rookie head coach, uncertain future, slew of below average teammates besides David West) all with two unhealthy ankles? It’s astonishing his name doesn’t come up in league-wide MVP debates more often.

Random But Interesting Facts:

Rondo had the second most assists in the game (eight), which is shocking when you consider how poorly he played.

Kevin Garnett was the only player to log less than 10 minutes of action. Probably a coincidence.

Amare Stoudemire grabbed three defensive rebounds in 28 minutes of play. In 11 minutes, Kevin Love had four.

The Western Conference sported three 7-footers: Dirk, Duncan, and Gasol. None of them technically centers.

In almost 11 less minutes of action, Deron Williams had the same amount of assists (seven) as Chris Paul.

The game’s only lead change came on a Carmelo Anthony lay-up just three minutes into the first quarter.

Under The Cover Observations:

LaMarcus Aldridge might be a better overall basketball player than Kevin Love right now, but he can’t change the game’s momentum with the flick of his wrists. Not knocking Aldridge, because only one player can do this, but Kevin Love’s ability to throw a Tom Brady outlet pass should make him a prerequisite lock for the next six All-Star games. Let’s briefly walk through his end of the first half bomb to Chris Paul, aka the game’s most overlooked stroke of genius.  With 1.4 seconds left on the clock and Love set to inbound from the baseline, he two hand overhead lobbed a beautifully placed ball into the hands of a running Chris Paul right at the opposite free throw line. The pass is an incredible one not because of its silly distance or pin point accuracy, but when it happened; its context. I know it’s an All-Star game and nobody plays defense in All-Star games, but to throw a pass over Rajon Rondo, one of the game’s best ball hawks, when he should be expecting the long outlet, is very, very impressive. Love had three or four passes like this in the game, but none more impressive than the buzzer beater to end the first half. 

Slightly less impessive was LeBron’s decision to have Chris Bosh turn the game’s most important three ball into a misguided scud missile, passing up a wide open shot for himself in the process.

The Halftime Show:

Nothing much to say about the Halftime Show, except it was 6785142 times better than the Super Bowl’s and made every man who chose to watch it with his wife/girlfriend feel incredibly uncomfortable. The NBA would be foolish not to include an annual Rihanna performance into the “Guaranteed Invitation For Kevin Love’s Outlet Pass” contract.

This also dropped over the weekend…

*This quote from Stoudemire, capturing the Black Mamba in a nutshell: “You could tell he started out from the start, he wanted to get the MVP…He was not passing the ball, at all. But that’s Kobe.”

Shook Ankles: Pay This Man His Money

February 21, 2011 Leave a comment

What’s to make of Aaron Brooks? He doesn’t, and never will, bring the same consistent level of playmaking as a Paul, Williams, Rondo, or Rose, but he’s quick enough to take over any game in stretches. Due to the pending CBA issue, Houston isn’t offering Brooks an extension, which obviously has him fuming. (This season he’s making less than Jordan Hill, Chuck Hayes, and Terrence Williams.) But if someone can either match Brooks up with a pass first point guard or bring him off the bench in a Jason Terry, Jamal Crawford capacity, his production and value would soar. Much like a rocket.

Shook Ankles: All-Star Game Love

February 20, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s tough to find any real crossovers in the All-Star game for a few reasons. One, nobody plays defense. Two, nobody wants to embarrass someone to the point of anger at an exhibition game where everyone’s trying to let loose and have fun. And three, nobody plays defense. Here’s a good old fashioned Iverson flashback from just two years ago (and now he’s kind of in Turkey, sort of hurt and not playing basketball) with a beautiful spin and required Yao Ming fake out.  Let’s hope, with all the unbelievable guard play in tonight’s game, that somebody’s ankles get a little wobbly.

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Recommended Reading: Where All-Star Weekend Features Some Really Cool Socks

February 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Last night’s rookie/sophomore/celebrity basketball amalgamation was pretty entertaining. Nothing crazy exciting happened (besides the John Wall to Blake Griffin bouncing alley-oop and those ridiculously blinding color coordinated socks) and as usual Saturday night’s festivities are what most interested people really want to see. Nevertheless, here are today’s mostly All-Star related links. Enjoy.

1) Trading places with Scottie Pippen could never be a bad thing; pulling off a little human body switcheroo around 8 p.m. last night would have made my life complete.

2) I’m all for betting on sports/gambling away 1-3 paychecks a month, but if this peaks your interest we’ve got a problem.

3) A running theme surrounding the league this season has been the “dirty” play of Kevin Garnett, and exactly how hated he’s become. Today, at All-Star weekend, he finally responded.

4) If you’re Harrison Barnes and wondering what situation you’ll find yourself in at 24, all you need to do is take a peek towards Atlanta. You’re getting shopped right now!

5) Actual Jonathan Abrams tweet from earlier today: “Dunk contest spoiler alert: Blake Griffin is planning to jump over a car tonight.”

Shook Ankles: Shaq’s All-Star Snapping Of Some Ankles

February 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, not quite. Actually, this might be the worst crossover of all time, but in honor of All-Star weekend (my favorite two days of the year), here’s Big Shaq taking things real serious against Mehmet Okur.

Shook Ankles: Running A Typical Pick And Roll (Minus The Pick)

February 18, 2011 Leave a comment

This is good Raymond Felton. The gross handle, the smart decision, the resulting two points for his team. Bad Raymond would’ve either pulled up before the pick came, over-penetrate into the lane and lose control, or create some variant of this. I applaud the good Felton, the one who still leads New York in minutes, not the one who’s taking more threes than every other Knick while registering the worst percentage on the team. Bad Raymond.

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Essay: The Curse of Potential

February 18, 2011 Leave a comment

“As long as people believed in him, McGinnis could do almost anything but, as time went by, people stopped believing in him and began believing in his potential. And that was impossible to live up to.”

In 1975, a 24-year-old ABA superstar named George McGinnis averaged 30 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists a game; he’d go on to share league MVP honors with Julius Erving. McGinnis wasn’t the best player in professional basketball, but you only needed one hand to count the few who were better.

The next three years of his career were spent in the NBA, on some moderately successful, and aesthetically pleasing, Philadelphia teams. His second season as a 76er, with Dr. J aboard as a teammate, McGinnis made his only NBA finals appearance, staking a two game lead on Bill Walton’s Trailblazers before crumbling in six. That season, statistically, McGinnis was just as integral a piece to one of the league’s most talented teams as Erving. The two both averaged around 20 points a game (with McGinnis taking a couple more shots) and four assists, but McGinnis was the better rebounder, grabbing 11.5 a night to Erving’s 8.5. Both players were 26-years-old.

The season before the Finals loss, things were set up for George to be Philadelphia basketball. It was his team, like Kareem had the Lakers, Cowens had the Celtics, and Walt Frazier had New York. As detailed in a superb SI profile, it was right around this time that McGinnis looked to be a lock for the Hall of Fame. He carved defenders up with ease and made opposing game plans useless. But after Dr. J came aboard, skepticism began to creep in between McGinnis’ ears. Erving went on to become the face of Philadelphia, and after a disappointing Eastern Conference loss to Washington one year later, McGinnis was shipped to Denver. His career would never recover.

A lot of people have myriad opinions as to why McGinnis fell from the sky. They range from lazy work habits and smoking cigarettes during games to Blazer great Maurice Lucas saying, “George wouldn’t hurt a fly, but he got moved around the league a lot and then it began to crop up that George maybe wasn’t as good as he was made out to be…if you’re George McGinnis and you’ve heard this a bunch of times, you might believe it.”

What McGinnis really suffered from, though, was the mental dilemma of expectation.  Too much weight on one man’s shoulders, too much burden.  1976 was his year to change the Sixers’ culture. Their general manager, Pat Williams, thought McGinnis would carry his team just as he had done for the ABA’s Indiana Pacers.  Instead, he had a poor playoff performance resulting in a first round exit.  The result, just five years later, at the age of 31, was a man who psyched himself out of basketball. Here’s an excerpt from Sports Illustrated:

It’s obvious that the Pacers don’t believe in McGinnis—not this McGinnis—and earlier this season they tried to persuade him to retire. McGinnis says he thought about retiring for a while, then decided that he didn’t want to go out with his head down, not at close to $500,000 a season. “I still feel I can make a contribution,” he says, “but it’s tough for me to have a normal game now. They expect so much.” Pacer Coach Jack McKinney concedes he may have given up on McGinnis too quickly when he got off to a poor start this season. “He doesn’t have that ability that used to make him so awesome,” McKinney says. “Some of the things he could do when he got his 30 points a night aren’t there anymore, but he compensates in some pretty nice ways. I didn’t give him enough encouragement. A good player doesn’t go sour at once without a loss of confidence.”

To say he didn’t pan out in a Sebastian Telfair kind of way would be both unfair and untrue, but George was supposed to be one of the greats; his highlights were supposed to be sealed in a vault somewhere; his name was supposed to be regularly dropped on national telecasts where color commentators would laugh and admonish their play-by-play partners for casually comparing George McGinnis to the players of modern day. But, alas, he never accomplished what he was born to do. His skills were left on the table and his abilities were squandered—like a 1970′s version of Shawn Kemp.

When discussing the league’s all-time great physical marvels, seldom does McGinnis’ name get picked from the hat. For a three year period he was as awesome a player as basketball has ever had, with a rare talent to effortlessly dominate the court. If Kobe is Michael, Durant is McAdoo with a higher ceiling, and Lebron is an Erving/Magic hybrid, then Blake Griffin would be George McGinnis. Griffin has already created more highlights than the average career can hold.  He’s double-teamed on a regular basis—there are, maybe, five players in the league who can guard him one on one—and tends to shred opposing front lines nightly. (He gets to the free throw line more often than everybody but LeBron and Dwight Howard.) Only 21, Griffin has quite the future ahead of him. Or so one should expect. Another player currently shoveling cement into a brilliant foundation is Kevin Love. Love has 51 double doubles right now, the highest pre-All-Star break total in league history. At the age of 22, he’s far and away the league’s premier rebounder. What these two share, along with youth, amazing consistency, and eye popping talent, are great expectations. The morning after Kevin Love’s double-double streak breaks, someone somewhere will ask what’s wrong with him. Should Love tally back to back seven rebound performances? Consider him washed up. For the rest of his 20s, if Love doesn’t lead the league in rebounding it’ll be the height of disappointment.  The same can be said about Kevin Durant (and his scoring), Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose (for their unparalleled floor leadership), and a number of other young superstars ready to grab the flame. To predict one, or all, of them to someday be inducted into Springfield isn’t completely insane. Based on the remarkable consistency they’re displaying so far, it’s entirely possible. Then again, that’s what they said about Mr. McGinnis.

Shook Ankles: Not Again J.J.!

February 17, 2011 Leave a comment

This is the second time in two weeks! And really? By Kirk Hinrich?

Shook Ankles: Manu Ginobili Does The God Shammgod

February 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Manu Ginobili has been quite the interesting character. A leading scorer on the league’s best team, the Argentinean has molded a splendid career based on fundamental skills, running back-like toughness, underrated athleticism, and, as this clip shows, serious deception. Also, one time he killed a bat in front of 20,000 people.


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Recommended Reading: The League Remains An Emotional Roller Coaster

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

1) Well Knicks fans, it was fun while it lasted.

2) The league’s hidden gem, whose name most have a difficult time pronouncing, will make his much anticipated return tonight!

3) If you appreciate true greatness in his finest hour, don’t be ashamed to admit this made your bottom lip quiver.

4) Things just got real. If you’re from Portland.

5) Valentine’s Day…only 8,712 hours away.

6) And ending things on a comical note (unless you’re Geoff Petrie), here are two tutorial clips showing children how not to behave in public. Here and here.


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