One of the best feelings that coincides with watching the NBA on a regular basis happens when you consciously recognize something great as it occurs in real time, right before your eyes. Watching game after game on a nightly basis, the most intense observer can grow numb to well-executed pick and roll defense or the spin-induced bounce pass that needles its way through the lane, like a fly avoiding a swatter. These are incredibly difficult acts regularly performed to near-perfection, yet similar to most other things in life, oftentimes they’re overlooked until the day they stop working.
Recently, I was lucky to grab one of these moments by its neck, and the memory has yet to leave my mind. It was a Wednesday night, shortly before the All-Star break, in a rematch of last year’s most shocking playoff series: Dallas against L.A. Midway through the third quarter, as the game began its rapid transformation into a back and forth heavyweight bout, the Mavericks began to throw their barrage of haymakers. With the crowd’s volume beginning to crescendo, Andrew Bynum lost the ball as he tried spinning towards the basket. As soon as Shawn Marion grabbed it in his hands, it was flipped in the air with a tad too much gusto to a streaking Jason Terry. Standing at half court, Kobe Bryant made a halfhearted play on the ball, tipping it back to Marion, of all people. Through it all Terry didn’t stop running. Marion sees him and fires an overhead pass 60 feet down the court. He’s backpedaling like a wide receiver who’s well aware that nobody’s around him; all he has to do is catch it and the reward is six points. Except in basketball, catching it is just the beginning.
The littlest Maverick grips the ball with his right hand, squares up his body to the hoop in one smooth rotation, and releases a 15-foot jump shot. There’s no thought, no hesitation, and certainly no dribble. For 99.9% of all basketball players this is an extremely difficult shot attempt in a low reward, high risk situation—a mid-range jumper with no teammate available to grab the rebound. Should it miss (the league average among shooting guards for 15-foot jump shots is about 40%), a convenient counterattack is placed in L.A.’s lap.
Maybe it was the hype of the moment, the realization that a brilliant yet underrated career is winding down, or the fact that I’d just finished a cup of coffee around 10 PM, but this was the first Jason Terry jumper that made my eyes grow a bit wider and my back arch to attention. It was in this moment that a quick realization washed over me: Jason Terry may be one of the five best shooters I’ve ever seen. Read more…
Recommended Reading is a daily (occasional) rundown of truly superb NBA related literature, pictures, and videos. Some is brand new, others are timeless. Enjoy!
GQ: Bethlehem Shoals on why All-Star weekend wasn’t as fantastic as it should be.
HoopSpeak: Ethan Sherwood Strauss goes in on what could happen if the Nets won the lottery. In the words of Comic Book Guy: Scariest Defense Ever.
New York TImes, Off The Dribble: Howard Beck discusses the pleasant problem Mike D’Antoni currently has with an overcrowded rotation. It’d be a real shame if Steve Novak became the odd man out…especially for my fantasy team.
Sports Illustrated: Ian Thomsen writes that the All-Star game’s sanctity was saved when Dwyane Wade broke Kobe Bryant’s nose. I couldn’t agree more.
Hardwood Paroxysm: Jared Dubin investigates the merit of utilizing Carmelo Anthony as the recipient in D’Antoni’s pick and roll. One might assume this eliminates Amar’e Stoudemire’s purpose altogether.
The Basketball Jones: A recap of all things TBJ from All-Star weekend.
Hoops Rumors: Just a quick reminder for those interested in all things latest and greatest, Hoops Rumors offers up to the second updates on everything that’s going on in the NBA. With the trade deadline just a couple weeks away, it’s an absolute MUST VISIT. (Also, I write for them. Go check it out!)
The 440-something players who make up the NBA’s current labor force are a carefully selected collection of some of the most athletic, physically gifted specimens the human race has to offer. They combine the wherewithal and vision of a flying predator with a physical ability to float, dart, and do mid-air gymnastics minute after minute. The only thing that appears to stop them is each other (or, in the case of LeBron James, themselves).
Nobody in the league is “bad” at basketball, and when we use words like “terrible” or “atrocious” to describe a player’s performance it’s understood that the adjectives are used on a relative scale to whatever Player A’s colleagues are doing. With that being said, these are the guys who haven’t been fulfilling the duties they’re currently being paid to carry out—some of them may not even deserve a roster spot in the league right now. It’s simply too tough to make an argument for anything positive they’re bringing on the court.
In last Sunday’s dismantling of the Boston Celtics, Rodney Stuckey’s stat line didn’t come close to emphasizing just how unstoppable he was. In 37 minutes Stuckey took 10 shots. He made two of them. As Detroit’s starting shooting guard, Stuckey missed his only three-point attempt, had twice as many turnovers as assists, and, for good measure, grabbed three rebounds. But even though he shot a woeful 20% from the floor, Stuckey was like a bull with blinders on. Throughout the night his mission was getting to the basket and he did so at a relentless pace, attempting 15 free-throws and making 12 of them. (For reference, the Boston Celtics made 11 free-throws on the same number of attempts.) He finished with 16 points, second to Greg Monroe’s 17 for a team high.
It was the type of performance a superstar might have on an off night. One that opened various opportunities for teammates and dictated the entire game’s pace, flow, and, ultimately, final score. But of course this wasn’t the performance of a superstar. This was Rodney Stuckey; a guard who’s had brief flashes of dynamic brilliance overshadowed by noticeable flaws. Games like this one (where nothing appears to be going right but before you know it everything does) were above his pay grade, but this season they seem to be popping up all over the place. What’s changed? Read more…
For the fan who absorbs his team’s season through a panoramic prism, the ever-dueling emotions of hope and despair hover above wins and losses each and every night.
Both one win and one loss mean very little in the grand scheme of things, but string a few together and a more accurate picture is painted regarding the “look” a team has. Are they playing the game in a fundamentally correct way? Are young pieces re-tracking career expectations with either stellar or ghastly performances? Is there an actual offensive and defensive philosophy? Do players appear to enjoy playing with one another? How about upper management and the coaching staff? How’s cap space look? Are aggressive signings made for the good of the team? Has an addiction to bargain basement hunting become a sad reality?
The whole point of cheering a team on is with hopes that one day they’ll win an NBA championship. The really good teams with the really good players find themselves competing in the now, while the really bad teams with the really bad players are rewarded for shoddy play with entry into the lottery. Both fan bases temper different styles of hope, but the Milwaukee Bucks fall outside the lines; empty-handed and alone. Read more…
The “Analyzing The Anomalous” feature was created for performances like this one—unlikely showings put on by the league’s most secluded players; in a nutshell, they force fan conversation and prove evident why basketball’s unpredictable nature makes it such an intriguing sport.
After his 19 rebound performance earlier this year, I immediately placed Ersan Ilyasova on my radar as a prime writing topic. All I needed was the right time to pounce, and last night against the Nets couldn’t have been more convenient. It was one of the most unlikely, spectacular box scores a player has posted this season, and unfortunately it came on the same day Jeremy Lin dropped a 28 point, 14 assist gem against Dallas, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined to score 231 points in the crushing of Denver’s soul, and Serge Ibaka put himself in pole position for second place among all Defensive Player of the Year candidates with a triple double that included 11 blocks. That sucks. Here’s my attempt at shining a bit of light on Ilyasova’s performance, as well as highlighting how he’s been doing this year in the shadows of Milwaukee. Read more…
Kyle Lowry’s season has been stupendous. The phenomenal box scores have gone hand in hand with his underrated on-court leadership, resulting in multiple wins for a Houston team most expected to hit the lottery this year. And last night we may have seen his most impressive performance. Lowry scored 32 points (on seven made three-pointers) with nine assists. He missed just four shots from the field and none from the free-throw line while holding Utah’s Devin Harris/Earl Watson point guard duo to a combined 3-13 shooting. His efficiency was just, so remarkable—teammate Luis Scola scored six fewer points on seven more shots. But numbers can’t describe everything, and that’s what this beautiful step back is for. Lowry didn’t just dominate a defense that’s currently allowing a lower eFG% than the Spurs, he repeatedly made it look easy. It’s still a wonder why he didn’t make the All-Star team. That isn’t something I’ll ever understand.
When compiling a list of the league’s most polarizing players, with thoughts based purely on skill and not off the court intangibles, Rajon Rondo must be near the top. If not first, then second or third. The jumper is a tired subject of conversation. His struggles are well documented in that area and he’s become too good of a player to have it outweigh his many strengths when discussing what he does and does not bring to a basketball team. This season Rondo’s great dichotomy has come more from overall inconsistent play. It’s gotten so bad that comparing him to Chris Paul, a player who ALWAYS seems to come through for his team in the fourth quarter, and Derrick Rose, a walking stick of 20 point dynamite (on an off night), has become a futile argument. Still, he’s the most promising triple double candidate since Jason Kidd, and, despite the shafting he received due to missing a few games with that wrist injury, a perennial All-Star in the Eastern Conference.
If I look like a flip-flopper in discussing Rondo’s skill, that’s the entire point. At times he’s GREAT, but sometimes Boston fans are left wondering whether trading him is really such a bad idea.
Let’s look at what he did Thursday night against Chicago. Read more…
At the behest of those who enjoy watching beautiful people doing beautiful things, Ben Wallace has announced he will retire at the end of this season. One of the hungriest underdogs to ever play basketball, Wallace hammered himself into a niche with unprecedented brute force, becoming known for much, much more than a scraggly afro.
He was respected, beloved, and, to some degree, feared. Wallace was a rare breed: SO good as a rebounding defensive presence and SO bad as an offensive threat. In his honor, I’ve decided to rank all the modern day one-dimensional players, with Ben Wallace in mind as the Godfather of them all. The league has very few players who’re equally effective on offense as they are on defense, but one doesn’t have to overshadow the other (for example, the 2008 Kevin Garnett tilted the entire league with his defensive intensity—it became apart of his identity as he forced the Celtics to keep up on their way to a championship—but it wasn’t like he struggled on offense); this list highlights 14 guys who excel on one end of the floor while leaving much to be desired on the other. Read more…
Who is Andrew Goudelock? Well, to start this answer, he was selected 46th overall in last year’s NBA draft. Today he’s playing out of his natural position for one of the most scrutinized organizations in all of sports, yet he doesn’t seem fazed.
Goudelock thrives in chaos, excelling when nothing around him is going according to plan. When the shot clock is winding down or there’s a sudden turnover and everyone’s out in transition. It’s a wonderful indication of mental toughness, and a sign he’ll be a factor in this league for quite some time. With Kobe Bryant having a rare off night in last night’s victory over the Hawks, Goudelock gave L.A. about one quarter of impact offense. Let’s analyze. Read more…