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Archive for March, 2012

Shook Ankles: The NBA’s Least Likely Handles

March 13, 2012 Leave a comment

 

When he first came into the league, Danilo Gallinari was touted as a superb knock down shooter. His coach even went on to say he was the best at it he’d ever seen. It set the Italian up for a long, moderately successful career holding down a one-dimensional reputation—and a limited ceiling. Expectations were tempered and most believed he could be a solid starter on a good team—stretching the floor and creating mismatches—as opposed to a top-10 pick able to eventually become an All-Star caliber player.

Now? In the wise words of the great Notorious Frank White, “Things done changed.” Gallinari has defied all calculations. He’s now a versatile playmaker capable of dribbling, driving, throwing no-look passes, grabbing rebounds, and overall, being an aggressive and dangerous offensive threat. He’s now a borderline All-Star candidate, and the go-to fourth quarter option for a strong, deep Denver Nuggets team. We didn’t expect Gallo to come this far, so quickly, but here is. Surprised? I know I am.

 

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Shook Ankles: Dwyane Wade Crosses Up Kirk Hinrich, And All We Talk About Is LeBron

March 12, 2012 Leave a comment

 

Last week, a latest chapter in basketball’s least colorful narrative (that is LeBron James’ steamy relationship with the fourth quarter) was written. It was written because Udonis Haslem missed a wide open jump shot. Because Udonis Haslem missed a jump shot, millions of theories and mystical explanations were concocted, then explained all across the internet. Because millions of theories and mystical explanations were concocted, then explained all across the internet, LeBron James will react by tweaking his relationship with the fourth quarter. When LeBron James tweaks his relationship with the fourth quarter, the next chapter will be written. And on and on the cycle goes.

Questions are being asked each and every day but there’s no real furthering of worthwhile development; no answers will be made available until June. What LeBron does nine times out of 10 on a basketball court can either be described as correct, smart, or amazing. Sometimes all three words apply. It’s fine to judge him for his disappearing act in last year’s NBA Finals, but to critique each and every end-game decision with a magnifying glass reserved for the postseason is annoying and pointless.

It’s strange to say, but the move seen above, in it’s late game context, poured a thimble’s worth of gasoline on the flames. Every time Dwyane Wade sees success, the national reaction instantly becomes “Where was LeBron while Wade saved the day?” If James produces his normal brilliance for 47 minutes and then misses a shot to tie or win the game with less than a minute remaining, the game’s story revolves around that minor detail as opposed to the bigger picture. We all know James will never shake the criticism until he wins a championship, but—with so many other/better story lines playing themselves out during the league’s current era of intrigue and athletically led grandeur—in many ways, both the league and the people who enjoy covering it, will feel immense relief once he does.

 

 

Analyzing The Anomalous: Greg Stiemsma vs. Portland

March 10, 2012 1 comment

I ask the following question with no disrespect and in the nicest possible way: Seriously, what is Greg Stiemsma? His inhabitance in the NBA is based on two things, size and desperate need for size. The fact that last night, in one of the most lopsided, dominant games played this season, Stiemsma posted a +/- of +1, playing more minutes than any Celtic except for Brandon Bass, is beyond weird, and only begins to devalue the logic of a traditional box score and what it can tell us about a player’s impact. I would feel legitimate guilt if I didn’t say Stiemsma was more than positive in influencing Boston’s merciless obliteration of Nate McMillan’s tenure. He swatted shots. He offered himself up as a threat in spacing the floor. He was an undeniable presence.

Let’s go inside for a closer look at one of the stranger games played this season. Read more…

Analyzing The Anomalous: Evan Turner vs. Boston

March 8, 2012 2 comments

Philadelphia is a cold city, only tolerant of athletes who consistently take advantage of the golden opportunity known as fame and fortune that’s placed at their feet. There is no pity, and certainly no forgiveness. Philadelphia sports fans hold a powerful voice, capable of convincing an underdog he’s so much more before he actually is, while simultaneously crippling a superstar into fearing a trip to his nearest McDonald’s drive-thru. They bankrupt the soul’s of their players by smothering them with support, and when those “heroes” stop producing, there damn well better be a good explanation.

When Philadelphia struck oil with the second overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, the expectation was they’d receive a franchise lifting presence. Someone who could lead this basketball team where Andre Iguodala could not, and, dare I utter such blasphemy, pick up where the statue-justifying talent Allen Iverson left off.

Instead, they got Evan Turner. A player who’s not so great at anything, but OK at some stuff, and below average at the rest. His handle is impressive, yet loose. His jumper has yet to leave Ohio. A few days ago, legend had it that Turner’s lack of production had a mysterious explanation. Some didn’t care for the alien excuse, and instead just wanted the 23-year-old gone forever. The frustration Doug Collins, and by extension Philadelphia’s basketball fans, has experienced with Turner lies in his nondescript style. He’s a bench guy who every now and again will hit double figures and offer decent energy, yet barely leave an imprint on the game. Supporters will point to both his youth and the system he was drafted into as legitimate reasons why he’s yet to explode, and to be fair they’re half right. But after watching Turner play, and getting a little feel for the way he operates as the moving part on a team-oriented basketball team, you begin to ask yourself what exactly his ceiling is? Can he ever make an All-Star team? Does he need the ball in his hands to be successful? How does someone drafted second overall in the NBA draft look so ordinary each and every game?

In a way, a lot of perceptions shifted last night. Turner—fresh into the starting lineup after Jodie Meeks decided making shots was no longer something that interested him—slew the Green Celtic Dragon that’s caused so much 76er bloodshed these last four years. It was a remarkable performance for a player who’s so far been solid, if unspectacular in 117 NBA games. But of course, the question Philly fans began asking 10 minutes after the final buzzer was a semi-impressed, Can he do it again? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.   Read more…

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Shook Ankles: Kyrie Irving Proving He’s Wise Beyond His Years

 

This move is impressive on several levels. First he goes between the legs at full speed and makes Iman Shumpert—one of the more athletic perimeter defenders in the league—look like it’s 4 pm on St. Patty’s Day. Then, after entering the lane, he comes face to face with Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Tyson Chandler. This is where the magic happens. Irving does a pseudo-Jordan impersonation, switching the ball from his right hand to his left while contorting his body in mid-air and avoiding the seven-footer who could care less if he hits body instead of ball. If you’ve seen the 19-year-old Kyrie Irving play basketball this season, there’s a good chance you’re chalking him up as Rookie of the Year. If you haven’t, watch the clip and cast an imaginary vote.

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Shook Ankles: Jrue Holiday Puts On A Mini Magic Show

 

The main reasons people use to explain Philadelphia’s success have been youth, athleticism, depth, and camaraderie. Their one flaw? In two words: relative talent. They have no elite player at any position, their leading scorer barely shoots 40% from the field and sees fewer than 30 minutes a game, and their one All-Star plays a style better suited for the third best player on a champion. But so far, the youth, athleticism, depth, and camaraderie have persevered, leading the 76ers to first place in their division. In a team-oriented situation like this, the point guard is crucial, and Philly’s is as trustworthy as any. From last year to now, his usage rate has gone up while his turnover percentage has gone down, and he’s the one player on their roster who could one day develop into a star; their least tradeable asset. How good is Jrue Holiday? His personal statistics aren’t the hottest, but his team’s are. Using that as the barometer to measure how well a point guard is playing, I’d say Holiday may soon erase talent as his team’s major flaw.

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Analyzing The Anomalous: Dominic McGuire vs. Atlanta

On Wednesday night, in a tight road win against Atlanta, Warriors forward Dominic McGuire posted one of the most unrepeatable stat lines we’ve seen this season. In 36 minutes the oft-used bench player took one shot, missed one shot, and grabbed 15 rebounds. He’s gone scoreless in 15 of his 30 appearances this season so there’s no real surprise there, but for him to be SO productive on the defensive end—in a game where Atlanta scored 82 points on 33.7% shooting—while being SO ignored on offense, is quite miraculous.

Read more…

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Analyzing The Anomalous: Derrick Williams vs. Los Angeles Clippers

When people look back at Derrick Williams’ career, this is the game they’ll say started it all. It was, in a nutshell, the definition of a breakout performance. With Minnesota’s two best players—one of them serving as his generation’s model of consistency–experiencing a rare night off, Williams stepped up in a monstrous way, helping his team defeat a division leading championship contender on the road. Williams’ night wasn’t just impressive by a rookie’s standards. It was the most efficient game a player’s had all season. The fact that it happened to be produced by a rookie just opens everyone’s eyeballs a little wider.

Despite putting up disappointing per game averages of 7.3 points and 4.2 rebounds, relegating this game as an aberration would be short sighted. While he may never see a similarly flawless night for the rest of his career, this should be more representative of what he’s capable of doing on a regular basis than the single digit scoring clunkers we witnessed throughout the season’s first half. Read more…

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