TrueHoop: Aaron Gray
Among the unexpected developments in the playoffs is the sudden interest in the Gray’s ankle. These are the kinds of shifts that occur when the New Orleans Hornets take the opening game from the Los Angeles Lakers and Gray outscores Pau Gasol, 12-8, before Gray’s right ankle bent at a 45-degree angle in a visual that even Gray found “kind of nasty” when he saw a replay on “SportsCenter.”
Gray spent Monday’s practice reclining on a trainer’s table, his ankle elevated and iced. Then he strapped on a walking boot. The Hornets are calling his availability “day to day” and are grateful that the series doesn’t resume until Wednesday.
“We’ve got a couple days, so we’ll see,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said.
Williams said the Hornets need more big men, not fewer, since the Lakers “start out with 14 feet” in the form of Gasol and Andrew Bynum. The Hornets are already without power forward David West (torn anterior cruciate ligament), and starting center Emeka Okafor played only 22 minutes in Game 1 because of foul trouble. But Gray and Carl Landry (West’s replacement in the starting lineup) held things down in the frontcourt, while Chris Paul dominated the game from the point guard spot.
Paul was able to make the Lakers’ height work against them whenever Gasol switched onto to him off screen-and-rolls. Gasol was at Paul’s mercy, with his face at one point registering a look of helplessness as Paul froze him with a shake move and hit a jumper over him.
Paul also helped Gray, repeatedly zipping the ball into Gray’s hands the instant he was open inside, before the Laker defense had a chance to recover. Paul assisted on four of Gray’s five baskets (or, if you prefer, Gray provided Paul with four of his 14 assists).
The Hornets shot 52 percent and turned the ball over only three times, efficient numbers that will be hard to maintain throughout the series.
“One game,” Paul said. “That’s all it is.”
The most surprising outcome so far in the playoffs. That’s what it was.
- Bret LaGree of Hoopinion on the bizarre play that earned Mike Woodson a technical foul: "I've been critical of both the timing of and propensity for the head coach's technicals this season. This time, he got jobbed. Railroaded, even. The replays showed that Woodson had clearly gotten back out of bounds before Kidd (himself with at least one foot out of bounds) made glancing contact with his outstretched left arm. The replays, though, only confirmed what was an obviously terrible call when witnessed live. Jason Kidd only came into contact with Mike Woodson because he, Kidd, veered suddenly to the left when approaching the Hawks' bench. Jason Kidd only came into contact with Mike Woodson because Kidd purposely dribbled the ball out of bounds."
- Paul Westphal and Spencer Hawes put their differences behind them during player introductions with a chest-bump. Westphal is the one in the dark suit. Hawes then went out on the floor and delivered 15 points, 12 rebounds and five assists in the Kings' win over the Jazz. For the Kings, the tired debate over whether Evans is a point guard, an off-guard, a point-forward or an offensive generalist is immaterial. Positional fundamentalism is a thing of the past. The challenge for Sacramento will be moving the ball enough in the half court to get easy opportunities. It doesn't matter where that playmaking comes from, so long as the good looks materialize. Last night, they did, as the Kings notched their most efficient offensive effort since February 10.
- The Lakers didn't look particularly good Friday night against Philadelphia, but size has a way of compensating for sluggishness.
- Was that Aaron Gray playing meaningful -- and effective -- minutes for the Hornets against the Magic and Dwight Howard? The Magic blew an 18-point, third-quarter lead. Orlando Pinstriped Post documents what transpired in Orlando's 34 possessions down the stretch.
- Not every player in the League dines at the Cheesecake Factory.
- Frank Madden of Brew Hoop is selling ... and I'm buying: Andrew Bogut is the most unhearlded defender in the NBA. The blocks are nice, but next time you watch the Bucks, notice how Bogut protects the paint. Any opposing big man who tries to set up shop on the block will be treated to a strong forearm, and any small who rips across the paint will be slowed by a bump from Bogut. He might not look scary, but there's a reason Milwaukee is one of the ten most efficient defensive squads in the league -- and it isn't all Luc Mbah a Moute.
- How badly is Mo Williams' defense hurting Cleveland? Williams hits big shots, but there's no disputing that the Cavs are a lot less efficient -- on both ends -- when Williams is on the court.
- Another case of a prolific, fluid offensive unit inexplicably resorting to stagnant isolation on a crucial late-game possession.
- Jon Brockman knows when you're a hick.
- Robin Lopez goes for 30 points against the Clippers without committing a single foul. The Clippers' new additions contributed again, but without Marcus Camby on that back line, the team defense is suffering mightily.
- From Clips Nation: "After the game, the Suns announcers asked Lopez what he was going to do to celebrate and he said, 'I'm going to kill Bart Simpson.'"
- The gym at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle is now named Crawford Court, "after Jamal Crawford, the NBA star who paid for the renovation of the gym in which he played so many games."
Does coaching matter? How do you know if a college star can translate his skills to the pro game? What goes on inside the head of a Bobcat blogger ... from the perspective of a Mavs blogger? The TrueHoop Network ponders elusive questions:
Trey Kerby of Hardwood Paroxysm: "The Bulls, obviously, have wasted another half season due to Del Negro's resistance to playing Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah extended minutes. While Aaron Gray played well in his stint in the first half, keeping the Bulls in the game for stretches, he's maxed out his potential, whereas Thomas and Noah have the chance to be key pieces to a team. Per 36 minutes, both Noah and Thomas perform well, but they are desperately in need of a coach that will push them to try hard. That sounds silly; these guys should both know that when they play hard, they play a lot, and in turn play well. However, VDN's annoyingly merit-based rotations leave players in fear of making mistakes, lest they sit for quarters at a time."
Jay Aych of The Painted Area: "Well established that...Davidson prospect [Stephen Curry] can drill from anywhere with his super-soft stroke (almost as sweet as his father's). No secret he's not a tremendous athlete, but has the ability to create space for himself thanks to great ball-handling & polished footwork. Has a very nice step-back move, especially when heading to his left. Also, has a killer crossover move where he can step back into a jumper. Definitely think he will be a defensive liability in the NBA, and do wonder how well he can finish deep in the lane ... But when you're not either a superb athlete or long for your position, one way to overcome physical shortcomings is to combine good ball-handling with sweet footwork, especially for perimeter players. It's an alternate way to create space for yourself vs. quicker, longer opponents. Two examples who come to mind are Brandon Roy & Steve Nash. Though Brandon is a better athlete than most realize, he has taken his game to all-star levels because of his adept ball-handling & advanced footwork. This is why I think Curry can be a pretty nice player at the next level. Maybe not an all-star, but a pretty solid starting pg."
48 Minutes of Hell: "I marvel at Popovich's ability to get results. Plenty of coaches complain about their team's defense. But the truth is, very few coaches are capable of turning the ship. Yet here we are again, approaching February, with Popovich and his team showing signs of digging in. Charles Barkley's 'Groundhog Day' moniker deserves wider application."
THE FINAL WORD Rob Mahoney of Two Man Game: Why the Charlotte Bobcats are his "second team." Bret LaGree of Hoopinion: Joe Johnson's lousy night had nothing to do with his shot selection. Matt McHale of By the Horns: The Bulls don't have a go-to guy.