In the NBA playoffs, basketball heroes are given brand new birth certificates. It’s a two month period where lives change: Money is earned or lost, reputations are rearranged or firmly etched in stone, and legacies become real, almost tangible things. It’s where games matter. Where rookies like Paul George and Gary Neal can poke their heads through the soil, take a look around, and realize they belong. Where those who thought they were in the league’s mythical Supreme Court of lifetime membership are first humbled, then relegated. In the playoffs, great players don’t always come through with special performances; big shots are missed—or worse, passed up—and perceptions take 180 degree turns on a night to night basis. Here’s a group of guys from the first round who most likely wish they had a redo.
To be honest I’m not positive that this actually took place in a playoff game, but being that it’s a timely topic let’s pretend it did. Whenever Michael Jordan falls over on a basketball court, chalk it up as the rarest of the rare—even rarer than Chris Paul keeping his mouth piece in to taunt a helpless defender or Kevin Durant smiling after a precise fourth quarter crowd silencer. The inconceivability of it all almost overshadows how brilliant the move is, the quickness in Joe Dumars’ legs to spin like that and then finish with a difficult reverse is the stuff of wondrous athleticism. And the way he runs back on defense praying Jordan was briefly stricken with short term amnesia makes the whole thing feel like there should be a “Part II: MJ Strikes Back” B-side. Props to Joe, didn’t know he had it in him.
This season Michael Beasley quietly constructed the type of year that almost changed our perception of Timberwolves GM David Kahn. He started off blazing before his ankles betrayed him, and finished the season averaging 19 points a night. One major issue, however, was his reliance on the midrange jumper. Beasley took 43.6% of his total shots in between the paint and three-point line, just a smidge over the 43.2% that took down low. Whoever coaches Minnesota next season should cue this play up before each game and—before sharing a good laugh at Jared Dudley’s expense—remind Beasley that the closer he gets to the basket, the better he’ll be.
From studying the postseason’s top units by way of the incredibly insightful site Basketballvalue.com, here are a few thoughts I’ve put together. Some of these are more or less obvious, while others may make you check the site for yourself. Enjoy. Read more…
Since entering the league over 15 years ago, Jason Kidd has always been able to identify his team’s needs and fill them to the best of his 6’4″, 200 pound body’s ability. Through and through he’s grabbed necessary rebounds, fed his team’s hot hand in the right place at the right time, and dictated tempo with unparalleled decision making prowess. In these playoffs he’s decided to play the role of secondary scorer, an identity he’s rarely assumed since beginning his second stint as a Maverick, and the jury remains out on whether it’s a good move or not. Kidd leads all playoff competitors in three point attempts with 29, and he has one more rebound than assist—rare for every other point guard apart from Kidd and maybe Rajon Rondo. A few days ago the Wall Street Journal posted some interesting statistics dealing with Kidd and how much he’s relied on the three-point shot this season. Read more…
So far these playoffs have been a wild animal filled with unexpected bite. Untamed, undisciplined, unwilling to follow the suggested narrative. Chris Paul is that animal’s rabid child. Here he bites Andrew Bynum and won’t let go. Why the Lakers insist on switching on pick and rolls after Game 1′s debacle of defensive containment continues to befuddle both their fans and viewers. Maybe throw Artest on Paul? Match crazy with crazy?
Also, here’s Kobe Bryant showing the world why high tops are necessary on a basketball court.
In all seriousness, just stop the game after this play because you aren’t winning. Normally LeBron James is a very large man, but with the ball in his hands—moving 60 feet in just a few seconds—he’s undetectable. When he’s able to slither through defenders, untouched and ignorant of defensive efforts to impede his progress, James is at his most impressive level. The way this man can not only pull this move off and blow by a (supposedly) quicker point guard, but follow it up with a high percentage pass resulting in a dunk, is something nobody, with his physical makeup, in the game’s history could do. The dunks and trailing blocks are entertaining and add to the package that is LeBron James, but moves like this are what make the league’s most hated player one of a kind.
The most appropriate word to describe Brandon Roy’s all-too-sudden career free fall is tragic. The sadness of a perennial All-Star, possible future member of the Hall of Fame, player having all that he’s suffered for through the years be unconscionably ripped away with no reason or explanatory card in the mail to assuage the pain is more than discomforting. It’s dreadful. In these playoffs, the situation has stumbled to an even lower depth. After the Game 2 loss in Dallas, a frustrated Roy told reporters that as he looked on from the bench and watched guys who couldn’t hold a candle to his flame receive higher status on the rotation’s totem pole, the thought of crying crossed his mind. The inner pain of being looked over and knowing his coach had lost both the faith and trust he once had was too much to bear. Roy needed to vent, but was he right to do so?
Here are two impressive crossover clips. One from much earlier in the year and the other taking place just last night. There’s really no question which is more impressive (Wade on Turner), came in a bigger spot (Wade on Turner), or had a larger audience to stand and applaud (Wade on Turner), but this is to be expected. Props to the rookie for standing in there and taking his proverbial hazing. Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of this battle.
I know Derrick Rose is currently basking in a well deserved congratulatory shower from the national media, and he’ll more than likely walk away with the 2011 MVP. But the book on best point guard isn’t settled quite yet. What Chris Paul did today was beautiful, heroic, and miraculous. Every decision he made was the right one—and even when it wasn’t, he still made the shot; it’s a tried and true test of the position. I remember watching him in this year’s All-Star game. Paul not only looked like the most comfortable player in attendance, but he played with a chip on his shoulder. A chip that said, “I’m hurt, people. Believe me. When I’m not, you’ll know.” Chris Paul looked more than fine today.