Seven players from the NBA Draft class of 2009 signed extensions this week. Some were surprising, others not so much. Let’s take a look.
Los Angeles Clippers sign Blake Griffin (No. 1 pick) to five-year, $80 million extension
The best player of the ’09 class receives as much money as the rules allow. Seems fair. This was a great move for the Clippers, who locked up a young franchise player capable of bringing in fans and endorsements. Blake is the sole All-Star/All-NBA player from the 2009 class up until now, and he’s clearly shown he can dominate. He still has a long way to go before truly becoming one of the elite—his defense and lack of offensive creativity are problematic—but all signs point up for his development.
Grade: A Read more…
Predicting the results for an upcoming NBA season, and then blogging about them, can be both pointless and embarrassing. Despite it also being super fun, I’m switching up the normal “Shaky Ankles NBA Preview” style by leaning less on fortune telling and more towards things I’m expecting to excite/intrigue/depress me throughout the next eight months of watching basketball.
Over the past couple weeks I’ve subliminally let my thoughts on MVP and Rookie of the Year known, and since the other major awards that matter are boring and predictable (Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard/Sixth Man of the Year: James Harden/Most Improved Player: Darko Milicic) I’ve decided to go a different route. Read more…
Friday night’s Bulls/Clippers game was quintessential entertainment; why attendance is up and ratings continue to soar. There were lobs and dunks, a regular season point guard duel for the ages, and a playoff similar atmosphere that tricked both head coaches into playing their starters more minutes than they probably would’ve liked. Both teams played with an intense attitude that belied their general reluctance to treat the contest as holding more than 1/66 of value. And both looked as though the realization of meeting each other in the NBA Finals as a realistic possibility was burning behind their eyes.
On this play, the instincts that have made Joakim Noah such an effective defender work against him. Instead of thinking about context, and the average jump shooter threatening with a shot, he sees the up fake and closes out hard. Too hard. A window is flung open, allowing Blake Griffin yet another highlight dunk to place on his already historic personal reel. If we’re tallying the top 10 from this game alone, it’s questionable whether or not this move cracks the bottom 5.
It’s superstar swap time! Here, a hypothetical straight up player for player deal is offered involving two of the league’s best and brightest. Both viewpoints are then processed, and the fake trade’s winner is decided by way of which fan base would ultimately be happier. In this fictional situation, the players are only swapped for a single season of action, with everything else—rosters, coaches, owners—staying exactly the same.
Blake Griffin vs. Kevin Love
2010-11 relevant stats:
Griffin – 82 starts, 9.8 WS, 21.9 PER, 54.9 TS%, 10.2 ORB%, 8.5 FTA, 64.2 FT%, 12.1 RPG, 3.8 APG, 22.5 PPG.
Love – 73 starts, 11.4 WS, 24.3 PER, 59.3 TS%, 13.7 ORB%, 6.9 FTA, 85 FT%, 15.2 RPG, 2.5 APG, 20.2 PPG.
L.A. Clippers’ Viewpoint:
Right now, Kevin Love is more reliable than any basketball player in the world. His production can not have an off night, unless he wants it to, and as he meanders his body around the court, the one thing he excels in can not be stopped by any opponent. Pound for pound, and maybe just outright, Love is the best rebounder the league’s seen in the past 20 years. He plays angles, is eternally aggressive, and knows the tendencies of every jump shooting teammate he has. When the ball is in the air, Love tends to know where it’s going based on where it was released. (For example: If Michael Beasley is spotted up on the left elbow and shoots a turnaround jumper, Love knows, through studying him in practice, that 8 times out of 10 that shot will clang back rim and land near the foul line.)
On the Clippers Love will be paired with two guards he played beside during the 2010 FIBA World Championships—Chauncey Billups and Eric Gordon—so should already have a bit of familiarity with positioning himself for advantageous offensive rebounds. On top of that, this will be the first time in his short career the undersized Love will be paired alongside a lengthy, defensive savant like DeAndre Jordan. Not only will this make his job much easier on defense, it could also allow Love (a 42% three-point shooter last season) to step outside a little more. And if we push the hypothetical envelope even further, matching Love’s insane ability to throw an outlet pass up with Chris Paul’s ability to catch the ball in enemy territory before an opponent can ready itself, would create some of the most comedic cases of defensive befuddlement in league history. It’s difficult to find a team that wouldn’t be able to utilize Kevin Love’s abilities, but the Clippers seem like an especially snug fit.
How many times do you get to have a superstar AND his poor man’s model? That’s what the Timberwolves would get if they paired Derrick Williams with Blake Griffin. The athleticism would freak everyone out, and if we’re getting hyperbolic, could account for the most insurmountable momentum shifts in the history of a professional sports season. Having Griffin and Williams in his starting lineup would also do wonders for Ricky Rubio, who wouldn’t have to worry about lowering his self-worth with a jump shot, and instead could just close his eyes and throw passes near the backboard. It goes without saying that if this transaction were to happen, a Timberwolf would assume position as NBA League Pass’s official mascot. Nobody who likes basketball would not want to watch this team play, and people who don’t know what basketball is would line up to see what everyone’s talking about. That, in a nutshell, is the economic power of Blake Griffin. An evolving monster on the court, but a fully formed Godzilla to paying customers, Griffin’s potential value extends beyond 94 feet like no other player in the world—besides LeBron James. For all his dunking and jumping and twirling and athletically hypnotic movement, Griffin has the body type and expectations to eventually show off some seriously solid fundamentals. He’s big enough to prevent low post bullying on the block and has vision and unselfishness to someday avoid double teaming mosquitoes by hitting cutting teammates for easy layups. Griffin will soon make his teammates better just by existing on the floor.
While Kevin Love is a great player, his ceiling seems to be more one dimensional; Clippers fans have already had their fair share of those, and in LA, there’s only so many ways a man can grab a rebound that’ll get people excited. On the other hand, Griffin is the definition of a franchise player and would be the most exciting thing Minneapolis has seen since Steve Buscemi shot Harve Presnell on the roof of that parking garage. Edge goes to Minnesota.
In the grand scheme of what’s altruistically important in life, I believe it’s fair to suggest all teachers, doctors, surgeons, and members of the armed forces should be given financial compensation of equal or greater value to that of which is awarded professional athletes. Their actual impact on human life is indisputably greater, more important, and further reaching. Of course, they don’t (and never will) because the businesses they’re in don’t create the billions upon billions of dollars in gross revenue that the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL produce on an annual basis. They also have an uncountable number of members in their labor force, making each worker’s slice of pie much smaller than that of the athlete. Call it sad. Call it unfair. Call it horribly disproportionate. Call it the real world. 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!
Henry Abbott: So I have to ask, would you go play in China or Europe if the opportunity arose?
Blake Griffin: Um, there has been some talks. Right now it’s so early that it’s hard to say either way. I’m not opposed to it, but right now nothing is set up.
H.A.: If you were to go, where would it be?
B.G.: I have no idea. I haven’t really given it much thought, but like I said, I’ve been giving some thought to it.
Just…I don’t know. Check this out if you’re a 1930′s cinephile.
HoopsHype: Yet another amazing list from the good people at HoopsHype. This one’s an updated compiling of which sneakers are on whose feet. (As of yesterday, Danilo Gallinari and I are rocking the same kicks.)
The New York Times: As far as optimism goes…this isn’t it.
@netw3rk: Rodney White’s fourth most embarrassing moment at MSG is on Youtube!
Speaking of Youtube, we’ll fade to black with the performance everyone’s talking about: Kevin Durant getting downright satanic at Rucker Park.
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?
Last night’s rookie/sophomore/celebrity basketball amalgamation was pretty entertaining. Nothing crazy exciting happened (besides the John Wall to Blake Griffin bouncing alley-oop and those ridiculously blinding color coordinated socks) and as usual Saturday night’s festivities are what most interested people really want to see. Nevertheless, here are today’s mostly All-Star related links. Enjoy.
1) Trading places with Scottie Pippen could never be a bad thing; pulling off a little human body switcheroo around 8 p.m. last night would have made my life complete.
2) I’m all for betting on sports/gambling away 1-3 paychecks a month, but if this peaks your interest we’ve got a problem.
3) A running theme surrounding the league this season has been the “dirty” play of Kevin Garnett, and exactly how hated he’s become. Today, at All-Star weekend, he finally responded.
4) If you’re Harrison Barnes and wondering what situation you’ll find yourself in at 24, all you need to do is take a peek towards Atlanta. You’re getting shopped right now!
5) Actual Jonathan Abrams tweet from earlier today: “Dunk contest spoiler alert: Blake Griffin is planning to jump over a car tonight.”
“As long as people believed in him, McGinnis could do almost anything but, as time went by, people stopped believing in him and began believing in his potential. And that was impossible to live up to.”
In 1975, a 24-year-old ABA superstar named George McGinnis averaged 30 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists a game; he’d go on to share league MVP honors with Julius Erving. McGinnis wasn’t the best player in professional basketball, but you only needed one hand to count the few who were better.
The next three years of his career were spent in the NBA, on some moderately successful, and aesthetically pleasing, Philadelphia teams. His second season as a 76er, with Dr. J aboard as a teammate, McGinnis made his only NBA finals appearance, staking a two game lead on Bill Walton’s Trailblazers before crumbling in six. That season, statistically, McGinnis was just as integral a piece to one of the league’s most talented teams as Erving. The two both averaged around 20 points a game (with McGinnis taking a couple more shots) and four assists, but McGinnis was the better rebounder, grabbing 11.5 a night to Erving’s 8.5. Both players were 26-years-old.
The season before the Finals loss, things were set up for George to be Philadelphia basketball. It was his team, like Kareem had the Lakers, Cowens had the Celtics, and Walt Frazier had New York. As detailed in a superb SI profile, it was right around this time that McGinnis looked to be a lock for the Hall of Fame. He carved defenders up with ease and made opposing game plans useless. But after Dr. J came aboard, skepticism began to creep in between McGinnis’ ears. Erving went on to become the face of Philadelphia, and after a disappointing Eastern Conference loss to Washington one year later, McGinnis was shipped to Denver. His career would never recover.
A lot of people have myriad opinions as to why McGinnis fell from the sky. They range from lazy work habits and smoking cigarettes during games to Blazer great Maurice Lucas saying, “George wouldn’t hurt a fly, but he got moved around the league a lot and then it began to crop up that George maybe wasn’t as good as he was made out to be…if you’re George McGinnis and you’ve heard this a bunch of times, you might believe it.”
What McGinnis really suffered from, though, was the mental dilemma of expectation. Too much weight on one man’s shoulders, too much burden. 1976 was his year to change the Sixers’ culture. Their general manager, Pat Williams, thought McGinnis would carry his team just as he had done for the ABA’s Indiana Pacers. Instead, he had a poor playoff performance resulting in a first round exit. The result, just five years later, at the age of 31, was a man who psyched himself out of basketball. Here’s an excerpt from Sports Illustrated:
It’s obvious that the Pacers don’t believe in McGinnis—not this McGinnis—and earlier this season they tried to persuade him to retire. McGinnis says he thought about retiring for a while, then decided that he didn’t want to go out with his head down, not at close to $500,000 a season. “I still feel I can make a contribution,” he says, “but it’s tough for me to have a normal game now. They expect so much.” Pacer Coach Jack McKinney concedes he may have given up on McGinnis too quickly when he got off to a poor start this season. “He doesn’t have that ability that used to make him so awesome,” McKinney says. “Some of the things he could do when he got his 30 points a night aren’t there anymore, but he compensates in some pretty nice ways. I didn’t give him enough encouragement. A good player doesn’t go sour at once without a loss of confidence.”
To say he didn’t pan out in a Sebastian Telfair kind of way would be both unfair and untrue, but George was supposed to be one of the greats; his highlights were supposed to be sealed in a vault somewhere; his name was supposed to be regularly dropped on national telecasts where color commentators would laugh and admonish their play-by-play partners for casually comparing George McGinnis to the players of modern day. But, alas, he never accomplished what he was born to do. His skills were left on the table and his abilities were squandered—like a 1970′s version of Shawn Kemp.
When discussing the league’s all-time great physical marvels, seldom does McGinnis’ name get picked from the hat. For a three year period he was as awesome a player as basketball has ever had, with a rare talent to effortlessly dominate the court. If Kobe is Michael, Durant is McAdoo with a higher ceiling, and Lebron is an Erving/Magic hybrid, then Blake Griffin would be George McGinnis. Griffin has already created more highlights than the average career can hold. He’s double-teamed on a regular basis—there are, maybe, five players in the league who can guard him one on one—and tends to shred opposing front lines nightly. (He gets to the free throw line more often than everybody but LeBron and Dwight Howard.) Only 21, Griffin has quite the future ahead of him. Or so one should expect. Another player currently shoveling cement into a brilliant foundation is Kevin Love. Love has 51 double doubles right now, the highest pre-All-Star break total in league history. At the age of 22, he’s far and away the league’s premier rebounder. What these two share, along with youth, amazing consistency, and eye popping talent, are great expectations. The morning after Kevin Love’s double-double streak breaks, someone somewhere will ask what’s wrong with him. Should Love tally back to back seven rebound performances? Consider him washed up. For the rest of his 20s, if Love doesn’t lead the league in rebounding it’ll be the height of disappointment. The same can be said about Kevin Durant (and his scoring), Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose (for their unparalleled floor leadership), and a number of other young superstars ready to grab the flame. To predict one, or all, of them to someday be inducted into Springfield isn’t completely insane. Based on the remarkable consistency they’re displaying so far, it’s entirely possible. Then again, that’s what they said about Mr. McGinnis.
1) If you haven’t seen the offensive flowcharts currently circulating throughout the internet, Shaky Ankles brings them to you today. Rajon Rondo (funny, but not haha funny), Ron Artest (definitely haha funny), and LeBron James are probably the most notable, but my personal favorite has to be Michael Beasley. It’s funny because it’s true.
2) They say a picture’s worth 1000 words. This one leaves me speechless.
3) SLAM magazine interviews Scottie Pippen, who says Jeff Van Gundy is an ass hole for daring to compare the Miami Heat with his Bulls. Pippen’s wife, Larsa, will be a character on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Miami which begins February 22. Coincidence?!?!?!
4) Shaky Ankles normally dishes the crossover related goods, but this block last night was too good to pass up. My only question is why do the Cleveland PA people still play The Godfather music for Mo Williams? To waste such a magnificent idea on such an un-magnificent player is sooooo Cleveland.
5) Jerry Sloan’s decision to step down as head coach of the Utah Jazz a few days ago was sad. Everyone can agree that all good things must come to an end, but what makes this situation particularly unsettling is the way it happened; the incessant rumors which threaten to sully Deron Williams and the unfortunate timing of it all. Because of this, Dime Magazine delivers a five most dysfunctional player-coach relationships in recent memory list.