When discussing the development of a freak basketball prodigy, five years can stretch wider than a full lifetime of data. The views on a player bounce from buzz, to hype, to budding results, to what-have-you-done-for-me-lately at an unnatural rate. In other words, a prospect’s death immediately follows his birth, with no substantial life worth analyses existing in between.
Five years ago nobody knew who Serge Ibaka was. Four years ago he was a first round draft pick. Three years ago he was a minor cog—albeit an extremely athletic one—getting decent minutes on a young, exciting tour de force. Last year he was allowed space to surf on the league’s wave of promised greatness; competing in the dunk contest, blocking over 50 (!) shots in the playoffs, and looking like a prized jewel nestled inside basketball’s brightest treasure chest. This year, Ibaka starts at power forward for a team that’s undoubtedly capable of winning a championship. Everything looks to be flowing naturally, as if Ibaka’s career has been predetermined to align itself with the league’s next line of two-way power forwards capable of changing a basketball game’s trajectory on both ends. There’s one hitch in the plan, though. One question that has no answers. Why is Serge Ibaka regressing? Read more…
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.
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.
1) Yesterday’s nationally televised game between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat was as important and meaningful as a pre-All-Star break regular season game can be. Both sides played edgy, physical basketball; emotions were left dangling from sleeves as retaliations were doled out and, to dare the risk of sounding cliche, the game boasted serious playoff intensity. At NBA Playbook, —a final shot attempt by Mike Miller that would’ve sent the game into overtime. While in this link the play design by Spoelstra is praised, I respectfully disagree. Miller, a player who was signed by Miami for his abilities to stretch the floor, had a straightaway three-pointer, wide open, not a hand in his face (thanks to Dwyane Wade). But Mike Miller hasn’t been that guy, yet. Before that play, he’d converted one three-pointer and was in the books for five total points. He’s been more of a rebounder than anything else and is shooting a career worst from the field since returning from injury. Also, he reportedly was shaking off concussion-like symptoms Sunday morning. Frankly, the play was well designed, but the pieces were out of place in who needed to take the shot.
2) Right now it’s an unseasonably warm 51 degrees on Valentine’s Day. But even if the weather outside wasn’t jacked up from Greenhouse gases and man made climate control, Caron Butler gives the world a little bit of dating advice to spice things up. If player polls were taken to decide everybody in the league’s favorite movie, Father of the Bride would officially be on the ballot.
3) After a semi-shocking loss to Golden State last night, the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook takes his share of the blame for the loss, citing his penchant to turn the ball over. Westbrook is beloved for his athleticism and fearlessness, but he has a looooong way to go before his name should be mentioned among the league’s prime floor generals. I wonder if Oklahoma City has already had inner talks about pulling a Rodney Stuckey and playing Russell off the ball a little more. Right now they don’t have the personnel to do something like this off, but down the road who knows.
5) A little love for Serge Ibaka—aka the Pittsburgh Pirates of this year’s Dunk Contest. The juicy stuff doesn’t come until No. 4.