Archive for June, 2011

Shook Ankles: Lost In Finals Disappointment

Another warm Thursday evening in June, another gem from the NBA Finals. Between Barea’s reemergance, Wade’s overdo physical ailment, Dirk’s consistent kerplunking of long range jumpers, LeBron’s least appreciatd triple double in basketaball history, and Terry’s entrance into a whole new stratospheric level of clutch, a REALLY great basketball game existed.

Before we dive deep into one of Game 5′s most important plays, let’s first observe it analytically. As Sebastian Pruiti over at NBA Playbook points out—the clip above is from his site—the offensive foul on LeBron James was in fact the correct call, so what does this mean exactly if you’re Wade? (Not to overstate the play’s importance, even though it did come at a crucial juncture, but doesn’t this five second sequence kind of encapsulate the entire Finals up to this point?) Leading the way, Wade makes an unbelievable move, draws two defenders up on him and dishes to LeBron who uncharacteristically turns it over. Both in this play and throughout the entire series, LeBron’s failure has overshadowed Wade’s greatness.

Nobody will remember that Wade lifted Shawn Marion from his socks because drawn charges aren’t replayed 10 years later when they occur with over two minutes left in a game that remains in the balance. LeBron proved incapable of converting on the play so it will eventually get lost in the shuffle, and that’s a tragic thing. The move’s so instantaneous—just like the charge—but what does it mean? When you’re comparing talent so great, a single play can not prove one player to be better than another. However, what it can do is give us evidence as to one’s mental makeup. No, LeBron isn’t mentally weaker than Wade because he bowled into Tyson Chandler at the wrong moment, but aren’t their roles supposed to be reversed in that instance? Isn’t LeBron the playmaker and Dwyane the one who scores at the rim? Maybe Wade didn’t feel comfortable absorbing contact from the baseline because  of his hip. Maybe he didn’t trust LeBron enough to make the crucial play? I’m not buying that last reason as a possibility, but regardless of the result, if presented with the same situation on Sunday night do they both make the same decision? In the words of Mr. Wade, “Time will tell”.

Essay: Can This Be The Best Finals Ever?

June 9, 2011 1 comment

Each year in the NBA, roughly 2,542* basketball games are played before the Finals arrive. For the most part these games are forgotten—not too many people are able to recount where they were in 2004 when Utah defeated Los Angeles 115-107, snapping their nine game losing streak. The fabric of each season consists of such inconsequential hardwood squabbles, but much like a 128 minute movie that’s more remembered for its special ending, the mental imprint that’s carved in our heads for each season is defined by whatever occurs in the final series. Read more…

Shook Ankles: Paul Pierce Embarrasses The Newest Kardashian

At first notice of this brutal behind the back shimmy throw down, I kicked myself for not putting it up a few weeks ago; back when Kris’ proposal to Kim was timely news. But then I googled her name and realized Kim Kardashian is pretty much synonymous with “timely news” thanks to the internet and its parasitic turn for the worse.

Anyway, this vicious Paul Pierce deke on Sasha Vujacic—thanks to his miraculous association with Katie Cassidy and Maria Sharapova, another one for tabloid fodder, although slightly less useful on a basketball court than Kim—is almost retro in its elegance. For all the talk of Boston’s guaranteed Hall of Famers being in the creaky stage of their careers, Pierce was the one guy who looked like he was pushing himself into some sort different level. It was like his game, one filled with hesitation dribbles and a shot selection that’s able to control the game’s pace, was made for a 33-year-old. He could depend on the three point line more and avoid criticism thanks to his age. It made sense.

Last season Pierce picked his spots like my mom going up and down different aisles at Whole Foods. Should I demand the ball and take these next five minutes over or sit back and watch Ray run off a few screens? Do we want Fruity Pebbles or Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries? After Marquis Daniels suffered his neck injury Pierce’s fatigue factor was the team’s largest concern, and the main reason Danny Ainge felt grabbing Jeff Green was imperative. Not Kendrick Perkins’ health or pending free agency but Paul Pierce’s ability to average 40 minutes a game between 16 and 28 grueling playoff games. After watching Miami run through the postseason with defense as their registered trademark, I stand by the deal; Perkins at 60 percent wouldn’t have cured their ails (although if he weren’t dealt there’s a good chance Boston has home court in the second round, but that argument’s for another day).

Excluding his foot injury, which occurred during Game 1 in the Miami series, from conversation, could Paul have gone through these playoffs flexing his muscles, well rested as a man who seems to be treating the final juncture of his wonderful career like an overseas pen pal he knew he’d meet someday? We’ll never know. What we do know is moves like the one you see above aren’t commonly made by guys in their 30s. It’s a sign that this Boston Celtics era isn’t quite finished. And neither is Paul Pierce.

Shook Ankles: Do Not Ignore Ben Gordon

June 2, 2011 3 comments

It’s now June. The NBA Finals are upon us much like the now neighborly sun; the game’s greatest participants are on center stage for the entire world to view. If you enjoy watching basketball, these next three or four or five or six games (I’m hoping/leaning towards the final option) are all that’s left. As we all focus in on LeBron, Wade, Dirk, Kidd, Bosh, Barea, and all the other physical marvels who still offer us an utmost form of entertainment, let us not forget the rest of the league. Specifically those players who were allotted the bare 82 game minimum.

Ben Gordon exemplifies the forgotten player to perfection. Two years ago he left Chicago on the heels of a masterful seven game brawl against Boston. It was Gordon who seemed to swish every shot he took. Gordon who defied probability over and over again with step back daggers and contested buzzer beaters. He was Chicago’s star before Derrick Rose evolved into what he’s so quickly become. Now, days after those same Bulls fell flat in five games against Miami—with no secondary scoring option to support the overmatched Rose—we’re reminded of how good a player Ben Gordon is. Not was, is. This certainly isn’t an argument I can prop up with statistics; he’s now associated more for a maligned contract than an unbelievable ability to shoot a basketball. And in that, a dose of sadness exists. So here’s to Ben Gordon: A player who followed a trail of money until it lead him from the spotlight. A player who now competes in the shadows of a once proud organization. A player who should not be forgotten.

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