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Archive for May, 2011

Essay: An Ode To Defense

May 16, 2011 2 comments

Here’s my ode to defense. A collection of scattered, partially contradicting thoughts that come in response to the recently announced NBA All-Defensive team. As these playoffs near an end, with each possession being valued like a rare jewel, watching defense is as equally stirring as offense. Kendrick Perkins banging on the block with Chandler and Haywood, maybe even stepping out to try his luck guarding Dirk and the Mavericks’ previously unsolvable pick and roll; wondering if after chasing Ray Allen for five games in the second round whether Dwyane Wade will have enough energy to not only counter Derrick Rose’s relentless scoring, but directly keep him from doing so; Dallas deciding who they’ll stick on Kevin Durant. All these subplots are fascinating and bring an added layer to the game’s narrative. Because of this and so much more, I decided to give this thankless duty a salute. It’s too important not to. Read more…

Shook Ankles: O.J. Mayo’s Coming Out Party

Last night O.J. Mayo saw himself in the Grizzlies’ starting lineup for the first time since early April, when his team was actively trying to lose basketball games. He was tremendous, going 6-12 from the field for 16 points, four boards, and four (!) steals. What most sticks out to me is his ability to stretch the floor, allowing Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to do what they do best, unimpeded with no double teams. (Randolph absolutely murdered Serge Ibaka when the two were on an island last night.) In the first postseason of his young career, Mayo’s shooting 43% from the three-point line. For Memphis in these playoffs he’s fourth in scoring, third in assists, first in three-pointers, and he’s averaging more minutes a game than Shane Battier, Tony Allen, and Sam Young. He’s still the same guy who insists on driving wildly to the basket every now and then, but quite possibly for the first time in his professional career, O.J. Mayo’s giving his coach a legitimate reason to keep him on the floor.

Twitter: @ShakyAnkles

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Shook Ankles: Will Michael Redd Ever Be The Same?

Out of the following players, who had the highest salary this season: LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, or Michael Redd? Chances are you guessed Redd since he’s the list’s odd man out, but how does this happen? Obviously injuries were a huge factor, but how good was he before they occurred? And can he get back to the level he was once at? A little over a month ago, Redd was quoted showing some serious confidence.

“I want to be better,” Redd said before quickly correcting himself. “I’m going to be better. It’s not a question of will I get there, but a matter of when. I’m going to be at that level again, it’s just a matter of working hard again. I believe in myself. There’s a great quote: ‘You never live at the mountaintop, you only visit.’ If you only visit the mountaintop, you also visit the valley. I’ve been in the valley the last couple of years, but I’m still focused and I’m still hungry. I’ll be back.”

Redd’s days of averaging 25 points per game are over. With a three-point shot that’s statistically been on the decline since 2006 he’s currently a free agent facing an interesting situation. If he doesn’t return to Milwaukee, Redd could serve as a spot up shooter off the bench in Miami or Oklahoma City, but I don’t see that happening unless he can supplant James Harden or Mike Miller/James Jones. His future in the league is one of the least talked about situations because it’s so unpredictable. He could either be washed up (as he looked finishing up the season this year) or on the verge of a major comeback. He has the talent in that beautiful southpaw cannon to put a team over the edge, but he can’t be the main piece. Regarding this crossover, the move doesn’t look exceedingly filthy but being that it’s on Gerald Wallace you better recognize. Redd’s one of the league’s better people; the type of player you simply can’t root against. Wherever he ends up I can only wish him the most success.

Twitter: @ShakyAnkles

Shook Ankles: Joe Johnson Does Tom Thibodeau A Favor

May 8, 2011 1 comment

Joe Johnson’s handle, much like the man himself, is extremely underrated. Maybe it’s because his facial expression is photographic still; his eyes resistant to warn a defender of any oncoming juke or jive. Johnson’s caught a bit of flack for being the least heralded free agent in the vaunted class of 2010, and then, ironically, walking away with the largest contract. Is he a franchise player capable of leading a team to championship jewelry? He is not. But he can break ankles at a rapid pace. Somewhere, Keith Bogans is nodding his head before hanging it in shame.

Twitter: @ShakyAnkles

Shook Ankles: Ibaka’s Ankles Have A Painful History

May 7, 2011 1 comment

The 2014 Defensive Player of the Year, Serge Ibaka, badly hurt his ankle during Oklahoma City’s Game 2 victory.  An imposing ability to block shots and dictate interior offensive options makes Ibaka a vital championship piece, but what’s really sweet news in the Thunder’s mailbox is a breaking report that John Wall doesn’t play for the Memphis Grizzlies. Watch the clip above—more times than a few if you must—to see 2011′s Rookie of the Year runner up make Ibaka’s poor ankles think twice before defending the Wizards’ franchise point man.

Twitter: @ShakyAnkles

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Essay: Zach Randolph Takes On All Comers

May 5, 2011 1 comment

After a thorough Game 1 beat down, the sport’s most prolific scorer humbly referred to him as the best power forward in basketball. Apart from the likelihood that these words were used to motivate his own beefier teammates, the statement by Kevin Durant on Zach Randolph still sent minor shockwaves throughout the league. Zach Randolph? The defensively inefficient, often overlooked, weed dealing, gun toting guy who doesn’t know how many minutes make up an NBA game? In his 10th season playing for his fourth team, how is this possible?

Read more…

Shook Ankles: Dark Days Are Coming

Wellp, this is what we all feared: Miami’s grand scheme looks to be aligning just as it was dreamt up between Beijing two-a-days.  The Heat are looking dynamic, cohesive, and machine-like in executing their transition game off of turnovers. LeBron’s quietly dominating the postseason and is joined by at least two other teammates in each game. The most notable comrade, of course, is Mr. Wade.  Holding an obvious bias towards the Boston Celtics, these two moves felt like vomit inducing knees to the sternum, a la Gary Busey. The first on Kevin Garnett was a perfectly executed Euro/Manu/Rondo/Durant step (but hardly worthy of an obliged touch foul), and the second on Ray was a solid cross, but not so sure it was the only culprit in his slippage—there was a wet spot, even Kenny Smith agrees! The winner of this matchup will take it all. You heard it here first, or maybe for the four dozenth time.

Twitter: @ShakyAnkles

Shook Ankles: Love For A Maligned Playoff Hero

May 3, 2011 1 comment

Few Hall of Famers have lived a weirder post-playing days public life than Isiah Thomas. Rather than dive into the long list of reasons why, let’s celebrate what the man was truly put on this earth to accomplish: Playing basketball. (And more specifically, crossing up Michael Jordan.)

Commentary: Atlanta’s Secret Weapon?

In an all-time, symposium inducing trade deadline to trump every trade deadline that ever was—two franchise players were dealt, resulting in a seismic, anti-exploratory geographic shift from west to east,and a top flight championship contender traded its starter who most embodies said team’s tried and true, gritty identity—he’s been called the most treasured piece acquired. Not Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, Kendrick Perkins, or even Jeff Green, but Kirk Hinrich. A solid, unspectacular point guard who’s limited athletically and wears funny goggles. This was, in one coach’s eyes, the most prized possession; the difference maker capable of partially leading the hapless Hawks past the first round and into uncharted waters.

And now, just as the Hawks finally defeated their personal Dwight Howard/Goliath, Hinrich’s done, hampered by an ill-timed hamstring injury. Normally the loss of a proven defensively adept guard would be a death blow for any team facing a point guard able to wreak as much havoc as Derrick Rose, but what if this injury turns into a blessing for Atlanta? An injury to Hinrich opens up the door for two possibilities: 1) Second year pro Jeff Teague gets the nod as a starter, is thrown into the playoff’s already burning fire, and is held partially responsible for defending Rose, or 2) The Hawks first round leading scorer, Jamal Crawford, is thrust into the starting lineup for the first time all season, seeing more minutes, more shots, and sticking Teague into the role of dynamic bench scorer. Either way the Hawks have an unknown entity on their hands which isn’t exactly what they’d like heading into the Semifinals, but it shouldn’t put a smile on Thibodeau’s face either. This from the league’s Coach of the Year in a recent AP piece looking at Atlanta’s second round chances:

“They have quality depth,” he said. “Crawford has played a lot of minutes. Teague has played extremely well when he’s been in their rotation. He’s a guy that you can’t overlook. Joe Johnson has the ability to handle the ball. They’ve got a lot of depth in their backcourt. Their perimeter guys are really skilled.”

There’s a good chance that on the defensive end Atlanta deploys a hefty dose of the longer Joe Johnson on Rose, but this strategy can’t be a four quarter solution or Johnson will likely see himself get in a wee bit of foul trouble. But on the offensive end, maybe this turns into the most pleasant of surprises for Atlanta. Maybe Teague’s speed and athleticism give Derrick Rose and his not so great perimeter defense an unexpected headache. Maybe he’s able to push the envelope and force Rose to the bench with his own foul trouble quicker than the Bulls would like.

The Bulls can’t win a championship unless Rose averages 35 points a game. This hypothetical theory is of my own creation thanks to Boozer’s expected forfeiture of offensive responsibility (his splits against Atlanta this year are an unmemorable 8.5 points and five rebounds, his lowest scoring total against all teams) and the Bulls’ brittle reliance on Rose to take over in the fourth quarter. I’m not saying Atlanta will win this series, but with Teague they have somewhat of a secret weapon. A player with blazing speed, great handle, and an aggressive attack the basket mentality. The series will more likely come down to how well Josh Smith and Al Horford can handle Joakim Noah and Boozer, but today’s game ends in the backcourt. Ironically, given Hinrich’s injury, it’s where the Hawks could have the unexpected advantage.

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