TrueHoop: Charlie Villanueva
Elsewhere in the East...
One night after playing just six players in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, nine Detroit Pistons saw time as they snap a three-game losing streak. Rodney Stuckey, who did not play Friday, scored a game-high 28 points. Detroit's bench scored 38 points including 16 from Charlie Villanueva. The Utah Jazz lost despite shooting 59.5 percent from the field. That's the highest field goal percentage by a losing team this season.
The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that in the history of the NBA, that’s the highest assist total by any player in his first two games with a team. The old record was 26 assists, last done by Kenny Anderson in his first two games with the Charlotte Hornets back in January of 1996.
Despite Williams’ 29 combined assists, the Nets lost both games. For some perspective, Williams had a total of 36 games of 15-or-more assists with the Jazz, and the team went 30-6 in those games, with none of the losses came by a margin of more than five points.
Moving out West…
The Los Angeles Clippers, playing at home for the first time since February 2, jumped out to a 13-point lead in the second quarter, but the Boston Celtics came back and eventually topped the home team 99-92. The Elias Sports Bureau says it was the first time this season that the Celtics have won a game after overcoming a deficit that large; Boston had been 0-6 in games in which it fell behind by 13-or-more points.
Despite the loss, Blake Griffin went for 21 points and 11 rebounds for his 50th double-double of the season. Griffin is the eighth rookie to have 50+ double-doubles since the NBA/ABA merger.
And finally, the Dallas Mavericks won their fifth straight game and 15th of 16 overall. In the win, Jason Kidd took only one field-goal attempt (a first-quarter three-pointer, which he made) and no free-throw attempts, but contributed 14 assists and eight rebounds.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time in NBA history that a player had collected that many assists and that many rebounds in a game in which he had a combined total of no more than one shot from the floor and the foul line.
- Rahat Huq of Red94 emails with Rockets' senior vice president of basketball operations about the unique relationship between the big club and the D-League's Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Through the D-League's single affiliate partnership model, the Rockets are able to better place their handprint on the player development process: "The Vipers run sets from Rick Adelman’s playbook, not only giving prospects a chance to acclimate to the big-league offense, but also providing the Rockets opportunity to test out new wrinkles in an environment with lesser stakes."
- How should we evaluate Nate McMillan's performance as head coach of the Trail Blazers? That's the question Sean Meagher of OregonLive.com posed to Henry Abbott in an email. Henry's response: "When Nate McMillan retires, I suspect he will have won multiple championships. But I also suspect he will have had no greater coaching accomplishment then taking some duct tape, paper clips and rookie Jeff Pendergraph and coaching them to 50 wins this season. That was really something. One key factor was all the talent Kevin Pritchard assembled. Another was the never-say-die attitude, and efficient offense, that are staples of McMillan teams. Maybe he plays it a little safe. Maybe he fears turnovers more than he loves virtuosity. Maybe Rudy Fernandez will blossom in another system one day. Maybe Brandon Roy shouldn't have played so much in the playoffs. Maybe he's a little rigid. But thinking like an optomizer can kill you. The simple fact is that this young team has played hard, smart basketball and has achieved a ton."
- Dwane Casey continues to be one of the finest head coaching candidates on the market, and will likely be employed in the capacity of head coach somewhere this fall. Kelly Dwyer makes the case for Casey in Atlanta.
- Neil Paine at Basketball Reference examines the effectiveness of each five-man unit for the remaining teams.
- Don and Chris from Blogs With Balls break into Joakim Noah's home gym. Noah's walk-in closet could house a Sesna. Among the items Noah preserves in there is his maize bow tie from draft day 2007.
- At Fanhouse, Tom Ziller measures the offensive ratings and usage rates of the incoming draft class of big men (and some from previous classes, too). The results might surprise you. Did you know Gani Lawal's usage rate under Paul Hewitt was greater than Derrick Favors'?
- Marvin Williams will forever wear a millstone around his neck for being drafted ahead of both Deron Williams and Chris Paul. Bret LaGree of Hoopinion breaks down Williams' quirky, somewhat regressive season in Atlanta.
- Why did the Lakers have so much trouble defending Phoenix's second unit? Seth Pollack of Bright Side of the Suns cites one factor: "A defense that had adjusted to the Nash/Stoudemire attack was suddenly faced with the relentless two-headed speed demons in Goran and Leandro, who were able to penetrate the Lakers from the perimeter and force the defense to collapse." Dragic didn't put up a gaudy scoring line, but his Nashian performance (eight assists in 17 minutes) tells you how much control he was exerting while manning the point for the bench during their two prodigious stints in the second and fourth quarter.
- The Suns modified their zone in the fourth quarter, when the Lakers managed only 22 points.
- Eddy Rivera of Magic Basketball: "But if the Magic want any chance to do the impossible, to win four games in a row against a former champion, they need to ride on the Jameer Nelson-Dwight Howard pick and roll until the wheels fall off." Ben Q. Rock pores over the data and concludes that the Magic need to keep Howard moving in the half-court.
- Brett Hainline of Queen City Hoops is a very analytical, measured guy, but Gerald Henderson's shot selection causes him to yell at his television.
- Self-awareness is an elusive trait for high-profile athletes whose images, comments and behavior are projected externally almost every day. Dan Feldman of PistonPowered looks at the curious case of Charlie Villanueva.
- Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio had some fans rallying in support of Arizona's new immigration reform legislation prior to Game 4. Among the signage: "Nash Ramble Back to Canada. Don't Come Back."
- The Manute Bol, Get Well Soon! Facebook Group. Bol is suffering from kidney failure and Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.
- NBA players be warned: You'll find the least healthy restaurant entree in America on the menu at The Cheesecake Factory.
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
Where do you begin to write the history of pro sports and social media? That's debatable, but for me it was a day in 2007 when I read Curt Schilling's personal breakdown of his start against Kansas City:
Started Dejesus off with some fastballs, which felt like they got more life as I started to throw. Got in on him for a fly ball to right. Grud worked the count to 3-1, laying off the first change at 1-1, and a FB down and away ended up middle in for a hard single to left. Had Teahan down quick and left a split up for another single 1-2 (I think). First pitch slider to Sweeney didn't slide, bad miss. Next slider was better and he stayed on it and hit it hard to right to load the bases. Gordon worked a 7 pitch AB, and chased a good split down for out #2. A lengthy AB from Shealy, saw me go to the split 3-2 which he took for ball 4 to walk in a run. I can't remember if I ever done that? Made a lot of mistakes inside this one AB and it ended up costing us.Overthrowing some balls when I had a chance to end the AB earlier and missing spots too badly to even get him to offer. Gload went 0-1 on a FB away and then I got in on him with a 1-0 cutter for the final out. 33 pitches, bases loaded walk, 1-1 game.
Here was a high-profile major leaguer who was obliterating the filter between athlete and fan. Who needs to read a recap when you can get the nuances and specifics of what happened in the game straight from the guy at the center of it?
Schiling's work on his blog became so prolific that the Onion published a story headlined, "Curt Schilling To Start LiveBlogging From Mound." The Onion's prime feature is absurdity, which is why Charlie Villanueva's halftime tweet fewer than 24 months later was such a revelation. In two years, real life had caught up with satire.
Stern described the NBA's guidelines as "nothing too serious.”
"We just need to make sure when it's OK to Tweet and when it's not OK to Tweet so it at least focuses around the game,” he said. "It would look unusual for a guy sitting on the bench to pick up his cell phone, and I think we can agree that he probably shouldn't be writing e-mails. It's not about Twitter; it's about the line of communication. That's what we're focusing on.
"We're happy to let it play out to see if it merits all the attention that it's getting. We don't want to overreact.”
The immediate takeaway from the story was that the NBA is "cracking down" on Twitter, but when you read Stern's comments more closely, they're somewhat reassuring: The league is taking a cautious approach to regulating social media.
You can argue that censorship is a slipppery slope and an entity as image-conscious as the NBA will inevitably clamp down on liberal use of social media by players. That may or may not happen in the near future.
Let's hope not:
- The NBA's best ambassadors will always be its players, and media like Twitter have enabled them to connect with the league's most valued customers on an unprecedented level. Simply put, Twitter has made the NBA more fun to follow over the past year. Stern told Spears that, "You want to make sure that pop culture doesn't intrude on what brought us here, which is the game, and that we show the right respect for the game." I'm not certain that conflation is correct. For one, "pop culture" and social media aren't the same thing -- any more than pop culture and television. Twitter is a delivery system, a means of transmission.
Second, it's disingenuous to suggest that "the game" has been more important to the growth of the NBA than popular culture -- and this is coming from someone for whom x's & o's is the prime draw of the pro game. Stern knows this. There's a reason the NBA markets its personalities and overarching narratives more than the Lakers' pinch-post action. However many good reasons exist to prohibit players from posting status updates while they get their second-quarter breather, the intrusion of pop culture into the game's bloodstream isn't one of them.
- Media like Twitter create a free market for players to present their true selves. For as long as pro sports have been around, fans have had to trust intermediaries to distinguish the good/likable guys from the putzes. Twitter offers a better and more unfiltered way for players to project themselves -- and for fans to make value judgments. People are complicated. The more those complexities can be understood, the better off we are. DeAndre Jordan is a great example of a guy who came into the league with a pre-defined persona: He was an immense talent who dropped to the second round because he was a head case, uncoachable, and not very bright. What we've learned about Jordan -- largely through his forays into social media -- is that these snapshot judgments were unfair. Jordan is clever, committed, and endearing. He's also 20 years old. Were there missteps at College Station? Yes. But any appraisal of Jordan as a "bad guy" is incredibly stilted. But you know what? That's for you to decide. And thanks to social media, the fan has much more information to work with if he wants to make that call.
- Vehicles like Twitter will undoubtedly embarrass the NBA from time to time. But for every instance that a player bombs on his Twitter feed, there will be countless tweets, blog posts, and who-knows-what's-nexts of guys communicating lucidly, intelligently and with the worldliness that the NBA wants from its athletes. Trust the players and trust the fans.
- Use of social media is eclipsing the corporate endorsement as the single most effective means for an athlete to market himself. Given that the NBA has a vested interest in its players' marketability, it should recognize that reality and run with it. I'm pretty certain the NBA recognizes this feature of social media and has placed it on the plus side of the ledger.
Here's a question: Will use of social media be an issue in negotiations of the next collective bargaining agreement? It follows that NBA players want full use of any tool that allows them to realize their monetary value in the marketplace. Social media does that -- and it's likely that the players' union won't take kindly to any attempt to limit an athlete's capacity to capitalize on his brand.
- The innovators will always be a step ahead of the regulators. Few of us -- and probably no one with the NBA -- anticipated the explosion of this technology. In a couple of years, Twitter will inevitably be replaced or supplemented by something more potent and far-reaching. The idea that you can contain communication with prohibition seems futile, doesn't it?
- The best course of action for the NBA on this issue might be a little federalism. If the use of social media's greatest hazard
is the disruption of the team, then let the coaches and management set policy for their respective teams no different than they do music in the locker room.
It's a race to 50,000 Twitter followers.
At the moment of publishing this, Charlie Villanueva has 43,743 followers on Twitter. Chris Bosh has 42,248.
Looks like the loser is going to be doing something embarrassing on YouTube of the winner's choosing.
Ron Artest supplants Trevor Ariza as the three-man in the Lakers' triangle. Celtics fans bid a wistful farewell to fan fave Leon Powe. And is Paul Millsap the right guy for OKC's front line?
Rob Mahoney of Hardwood Paroxysm: "[Ron] Artest only makes sense offensively in situations where his skills can be utilized without damaging the team concept. Los Angeles, home of the triangle offense, is not that place. Artest's tendency to stop the ball, throw possessions into the wind, and take what can only be described as 'Ron Artest Shots' can't fly well with Phil [Jackson], with Kobe [Bryant], with Pau [Gasol], with Tex Winter, or with just about anyone who has come to know and love (or at least respect) the most dominant offensive unit in the game. The Lakers ... were able to dissect a fantastic defensive team in the Finals because the talent was there and the system was there. Artest brings plenty of one, but substitutes the other for generally poor basketball IQ and the possibility of going bonkers at any particular time. Sweet. On top of that, the Lakers seem to be severing their ties with Trevor Ariza. Signing Artest is doing more than showing Ariza the door. It's pushing him out, throwing his stuff out on the lawn, and handing Ron a molotov cocktail ... The true delight comes in the fact that Ariza could function within the system at a level we can never expect Artest to. Trevor made a habit out of deferring on offense, and perfecting a few offensive skills in his ability to hit the three from select spots and his tremendous finishes ... This team clearly competes at a different level with Ariza on the floor, and that's a credit to just how hard he's worked on his game."
Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub: "I really hope Leon Powe knows how much Celtics fans like him and will miss him. We all know why that is -- the well-documented childhood difficulties, the never-ending series of knee injuries that seemed to happen right when he was turning a corner, and the way Leon responded to all of it by working even harder. He's a bit of a cliché fan favorite, actually -- the scrappy role player who overcomes personal and professional obstacles to contribute to a championship team. But let's talk about basketball. There was something that drew me to Leon Powe from the moment I saw him play: He's a bit awkward ... Leon is not pretty to watch. You see -- almost feel -- every bit of effort it takes him to put the ball on the floor, lower his shoulder into a taller defender and flick a one-handed shot toward the rim. He can't leap much without a head of steam, and he's not quick or explosive enough to beat his defenders with spin moves or dribble-drives ... He often pushed off with his left hand to create the minimal space he had. Every time he attacked the rim, I cringed, expecting an offensive foul. The shots, once released, look a bit like blind tosses toward something approximating the correct area of the rim or the backboard. And they always seem to bounce around the rim and off the backboard before going down. And they went down 52 percent of the time, and 57 percent of the time in the '08 championship season ... He is a graceless, below-the-rim player for the most part, and I love him for it."
Royce Young of Daily Thunder: "I think the organization sees Uncle Jeff [Green] as its power forward. But if they sign [Paul] Millsap, I guess we'll know they think differently. Unless of course Millsap is being signed just to take Nick Collison's spot, which would be great if the Thunder could sign Millsap for the same money they're paying [Nick] Collison. But that probably has about as much chance of happening as me getting a 10-day contract. Millsap is a nice player. He was excellent in Carlos Boozer's absence last year and that great play earned him what's sure to be a nice contract. But the Thunder's fairly stacked at power forward. Of course there are Green and Collison, but what about D.J. White who played just seven games last year? White looked pretty darn good in those games and with some added weight and a little refining, what's to say he's not going to be an excellent backup big man? Or even Serge Ibaka? He's coming over and playing in the summer league. Maybe he blows management away and makes the roster as an extra big. Now you're jammed full of power forwards, but one of them you just signed for five years and $40 million. To me, signing Millsap isn't a very [Sam] Presti-like move. It seems like a rushed, let's-get-better-right-now move instead of the planned, calculated progression Presti has had since he took over. Signing Millsap would make you either take some clothes to Goodwill or make you completely rearrange everything."
THE FINAL WORD
Bucksketball: An open letter to Detroit fans, re: Charlie V.
The Two Man Game: Welcome to the Big D, Marcin Gortat.
Orlando Magic Daily: A concrete-heavy photo tour of the Magic's new home for 2010-11.
(Photos by Jeff Gross, Steve Babineau, Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
Today marks the beginning of the NBA's third season -- the free agency chase and transactional bonanza. The Bucks have a mess on their hands with the departure of Charlie Villanueva. Meanwhile, Ben Gordon and the Bulls enter their third year of contract negotiations.
Rob Mahoney of Hardwood Paroxysm: "In theory, you shouldn't let go of assets without compensation. C-Nuv is a fairly valuable player, as evidenced by the insane amount of money the Pistons will pay him shortly. But did the Bucks really have any call to re-sign him? Was there really any possibility that a non-star scorer should be at the core of this team, tying the purse strings and giving Scott Skiles an aneurysm? [Charlie] Villanueva is a better talent than [Ramon] Sessions, and one that fills what is likely a greater need in regards to both position and skill. Yet, when it came down to deciding between the two, the Bucks' hands were tied. Sessions isn't likely to receive anything more than the midlevel, while the subtle sexiness of Villanueva's game could net him some serious dough. I'm definitely of the opinion that he doesn't deserve that kind of cash to begin with, but that's not really the issue here. The market for Villanueva's services is about to be set, and we'll soon see that the Bucks never really stood a chance. Even if the Bucks reserved the right to match offers for Charlie, the decision was never really theirs. The Bucks' hands were tied when they signed Bobby Simmons to an absurd contract, when they gave Michael Redd more money than he was worth, and when they made Dan Gazuric the richest man ever named Dan Gadzuric. Some of that is mismanagement and some of it is the horrors of small market basketball, but all of it has ensured that Villanueva isn't sticking around with the Bucks."
Matt McHale of By the Horns: "Losing [Ben] Gordon -- his 20 PPG, his big shot-making ability, his enormous biceps -- would partially cripple the Bulls this season, even as it left them with some serious financial flexibility going into the already-fabled Summer of 2010 ... Keeping Gordon would almost certainly mean shipping off Kirk Hinrich, which would sort of make team defense the sacrificial lamb. And who, exactly, would back up Derrick Rose? A sign-and-trade involving Gordon is possible, too. Man, anything seems possible at this point. How long has Gordon's contract been an issue? Three straight summers now? ... However this thing ends, one thing is certain: The Baby Bulls Era is over. Team building blocks are going to be discarded and rearranged. In all likelihood, this squad will look remarkably different in the next year or so. Something unknown (and, currently, unknowable) is being put together here in Chicago, we just don't know what it is yet…and we don't know whether Ben Gordon will be a part of it. "
Timothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell: "When the dust settles, Kobe Bryant will have played the majority of his career between two definitive eras. Between Michael Jordan and LeBron James. I suspect Kobe Bryant will be remembered as the best player of his era, but careful historians with caution against a quick response to the question. Kobe is not alone. Tim Duncan and Shaquille O'Neal stand alongside him as the defining players of the post-Jordan/pre-Lebron parenthetical. All three players have won 4 championships. Their accomplishments surpass Hall of Fame talk. They walk where Kobe walks. But here's where it gets fun. LeBron James and Dwight Howard are pounding on the gate, but they've not yet stormed the castle. There is still time for Kobe, Duncan and Shaq to break the tie that exists between them. It's early to say this, but the 2009-10 season will feature 5 legitimate contenders: the Lakers, Spurs, Cavs, Magic, and Celtics. The Nuggets and Blazers could get there, but are still wait and see. Three of the five surefire contenders feature Shaq, Duncan or Kobe. The stage is set for a proper send off. It's not too late to arrive at a definitive answer to the question of who claimed majority ownership of this decade."
THE FINAL WORD
Orlando Magic Daily: Your Orlando Magic, summer league edition.
Warriors World: A Q & A with Davidson assistant James Fox about Stephen Curry.
Cavs the Blog: Learn more about Tarence Kinsey.
(Photos by Rocky Widner, Larry W. Smith, Harry How/NBAE via Getty Images)
When Allen Iverson was traded to the Pistons, I wrote a post about how smart the Pistons were. The trade positioned them to be major players in free agency in their choice of years -- 2009 or 2010. With (then) a winning tradition, a big fanbase, a talented roster and a general manager with a stellar reputation, the Pistons looked to be in position to add some extraordinary pieces.
At the time, I threw around names like LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
Now they are a team with a fired coach, several key veterans with one foot out the door, and good players who don't appear to fit well together.
Today the talk is that the Pistons have their sights set on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.
Both players are good, of course. But nothing like Chris Bosh and LeBron James, you know?
I find the Gordon story particularly perplexing. He needs the ball and playing time to do what he does, which is also true of Rip Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey. I can't imagine how this is the first step in rebuilding a champion.
If that's what that cap space turns into ... I take it all back.
I'd like to officially recant my assertion that the Billups trade was a stroke of genius. Thank you.
The Hawks can't switch on defense to save themselves. Let's switch up the playoff format. Switch Brian Scalabrine for Kevin Garnett to no ill-effect?! Flip the switch at the TrueHoop Network:
Bret LaGree of Hoopinion: "...Mike Woodson seriously diminished the Hawks' chances of winning in Utah when he decided that, defensively, this team would spend the season switching on every screen. It's a functional strategy against teams with a limited number of offensive options and/or little off-the-ball movement. Against Utah it essentially rendered the Atlanta defenders stationary, calling out switches but never moving their feet as the Jazz players ran their offense without interference.
It's an odd, passive choice for a team that has an admitted problem with playing hard. Certainly, in general, some ground must be ceded in deference to Bibby's defensive limitations in order to reap the benefit of his offensive talents. I don't believe this to be any sort of platonic ideal of a defensive basketball team but they haven't been challenged to become a better defensive team. In the terrible home loss to the Clippers, Acie Law IV got chewed out by Woodson and Marvin Williams for screwing up a defensive possession by having the temerity to try and fight through a ball screen. A blown assignment? Yes. An example of a young player trying to earn more playing time by giving extra effort? Yes, also, but his effort was viewed primarily as disruptive rather than positive. A small moment, to be sure, but one that has obviously stayed with me for more than two weeks."
Mike Kurylo of Knickerblogger: "This week marks the 5th anniversary of KnickerBlogger. When I started this venture, I didn't imagine it would last this long. Five years ago, blogging was still in its infancy. There were less than 2 million blogs when KnickerBlogger came into existence. Just six months after, the number of blogs had doubled. Today it's unknown how many blogs there are. One estimate is 200 million. Many of them are powered by individuals like myself.
More important than the number of blogs is the role they perform. Once derided by the mainstream media, just about every newspaper, magazine, and network hosts their own blog. They are now an essential part of the world's information and entertainment. Blogs fill an important niche in the world. Previously the only avenue for the common man to voice his opinion was through those who held the keys to kingdom. Often his voice was not heard by the public. Blogs have taken the words of the everyman and projected them from the world's tallest soap box.
Five years ago my goal with KnickerBlogger was to create a platform for those who felt their opinion was not represented in the mainstream. Judging by the other readers who come here to share their thoughts and my affiliation with True Hoop Network that allows me to bring these voices to the mainstream, it seems that I have succeeded. I can only wonder what KnickerBlogger will be in five more years."
Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm: "The eighth spot in the East should be a tournament. It would be a three-day tournament held the week before the playoffs. The runner-up gets an extra 4% in the lottery. And it would be some of the absolute best basketball you're going to see this season. I don't envy the college game for the randomness of March Madness, I love the assuredness of the Association's championship system. There's no doubt at the end of the season that the champion has earned it and deserved it. You can debate a team was better but the sample size is sufficient to provide legitimacy. But for the East's eight spot? Who cares about legitimacy? We're all aware that no team is surviving playing three days in a row, then having to turn around and travel for a seven game series against the best team in the East. But it would be terrific ball. Derrick Rose versus Deven Harris. Villanueva versus Harrington. The Raptors bizarre mutation versus the composite Bobcats.
This is logistically impossible, and impractical to the nth degree. But I say it because you should know that under your nose, as the rest of the League rots in the downturn, carrying out the same pattern that's been set, there is a shimmering pool of imperfect, incredible basketball happening underneath your local stations."
THE FINAL WORD
Hornets247: Welcome back, Tyson Chandler.
Celtics Hub: No KG, No problem.
Roundball Mining Company: The Nuggets are looking weary.
(Photos by Gary Dineen, Fernando Medina, Ray Amati/NBAE via Getty Images)
LeBron James, jump shooter? Michael Redd, the paragon of offensive efficiency? Julian Wright, the answer to the Hornets' depth problems? The TrueHoop Network explains all.
John Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "Now, everyone pretty much can agree that LeBron shooting more Jumpers would be a bad thing -- the league's absolute best jump shooters off the dribble shoot jumpers at around an eFG of 47%, and LeBron's overall field goal percentage is at 50%, and when he's at the basket he converts 72% of his opportunities, and that's before you factor in the fouls he draws.
So the theory goes that his making more jumpers would not only help his percentage by having him make the shots he's going to take anyways, but that having a good jumper would 'open up' his game and allow him more space for drives to the basket.
Tonight's game stood as direct evidence against that theory. For the second straight game, LeBron was uncharacteristically unable to finish at the rim early (4-9 in the immediate basket area), or get foul calls. (4 free throws all night, with two of them coming from a dead-ball foul)
So in the third quarter, LeBron went to the perimeter and started firing deep twos. And making them. LeBron had a 14-point quarter, but it didn't open up any more driving lanes-in fact, it just made him shoot more jumpers, as every field goal attempt LeBron shot in the 3rd was from outside the paint. And since all of LeBron's non-layup or dunk shots come against the 1st defender, it didn't open up lanes for his teammates either-the offense became entirely dependant on LeBron making very tough shots, and LeBron went 1-6 on jumpers in the 4th before just deciding to screw it and flying through the entire defense for two left-handed layups, including one after they tried to double-team him 30 feet away from the hoop. Again, LeBron bailed the team out by making the shots."
Rob Mahoney of Two Man Game: "The Mavs could do no right in their 133-99 humbling by the shooting hand of the Milwaukee Bucks, an outing in which the Mavs' offense came up as lame as its defense. If you name a classic defensive blunder, it's likely that the Mavs committed it in this one; the gambles were fruitless, the close-outs on shooters were awful, and the rotations were either sloppy or nonexistent. Milwaukee simply ran a relay race last night, with the baton passing from Ramon Sessions (perfect 7-7 from the field) to Richard Jefferson (near triple-double) to Charlie Villanueva (32 and 10) to Michael Redd (27 points on 16 shots). Not only could the Mavs not keep pace overall, but were virtually beaten at every position. This game is certainly Exhibit A1 in the case against the Mavs' defense."
Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns: "Four losses in five games later and the Suns are moving further and further behind the pack in the West, lucky to stay in a playoff spot if the season ended today only because of the struggles of Dallas after their 114-109 loss in New York. In that stretch the Suns have lost to two teams they should have beaten (Minnesota, Knicks) and suffered an embarrassing blowout (Boston) after losing a hard-fought overtime game in Denver. And nobody has any clue just where the Suns are right now."
THE FINAL WORD Hardwood Paroxysm: Kicking off the "88 Lines About 30 Teams" series. Roundball Mining Company: A video demonstration of why the Nuggets might want to rethink their defensive strategy on the perimeter. Hornets247: Julian Wright builds his case.
You might be thinking to yourself: how is that Henry just wrote about Charlie Villanueva and alopecia areata, and now he's doing it again? Well, I'll tell you: I was fixing to interview Charlie himself for that article I published the other day. But it didn't happen and didn't happen. And finally I thought: you know what? I like this interview with the young man Stephen, so I'm going to roll with that. As these things go, Charlie called a few hours later. Here is an edited version of our conversation:
Charlie, I talked to a young man with alopecia areata the other day. He had just met with you in New York, and I got the feeling he was genuinely touched to have met you, and he loved that you do not care what people think about you. It's very cool that you take the time to talk to people like him.
Thanks. I do what I can. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. And the reason I got alopecia areata, I believe, is so that I can help other people who have it.
OK, help me out with this: if I see someone with no hair, no eyebrows, no eyelashes -- what's the proper way to ask about it?
There is no proper way. Just say it, I guess. People ask me all kinds of things: "Do you shave your eyebrows?" Sometimes I'll see them looking and I'll just tell them. I'll explain the situation and afterwards they're usually like "oh, wow." Some people think it's cool. But there's really no proper way, and some people do tend to stare.
How old were you when you were diagnosed?
I was ten. It was awkward. But when I was about 16 I got more comfortable with it. I accepted it as the way I look. Once you accept it, life becomes a little easier.
When you were ten, were you already super tall?
I wasn't nearly as tall then. By my freshman year of high school I had made it to six feet. Then I had one summer when I grew seven inches. That was a huge spurt -- from six feet tall to six-seven.
I guess that made it tough to hide in the background.
Yeah. People stared at me because I was so tall. I tried to hide my alopecia. I wore a hoodie, or pulled my hat down low so you could not see my eyes. But once I accepted it, it got easier, and if they stared, I would just tell them exactly what was going on.
Did you have any people in your life who helped you get through that process?
Not really. I never really had somebody to look up to. I didn't know of any professional athletes or anything. Basketball helped me out, though. The better I played on the court, the less I cared about people staring at my bald head.
How old were you when you became a big deal basketball player?
The same age you told me you grew more comfortable with your alopecia areata.
Exaaaaactly. It made me a lot less uncomfortable. It was like a shot of self-confidence. And if I got mad about it, I could just take it out on the court.
Is there any treatment for you?
No. No treatment for me. I mean, there are medications out there. There is no cure. There are medications that might work. But I refuse to take any of them. I'm real comfortable with the way I look. Everything happens for a reason, and I'm not going to fight this. It does not bother me.
Are you married? Single? Has your lack of hair ever some up in your love life?
Oh sure, it comes up. Of course. My girlfriend now, in the beginning, at first, she didn't even notice. Some people just don't notice. But if ever someone has asked about it, I tell them.
It must feel amazingly good to talk to people with alopecia areata, and know that you are making many of them feel a lot better about themselves.
Yes. It's awesome.
I can relate. I know what they're going through. I know what it feels like. And a lot of them respond. It makes me hungry to do more.
Are there any particular stories that stand out? People you have touched?
I get a lot of emails. Parents thank me for this or that, or say their kids are more comfortable with their appearance.
There was one situation, in Toronto. There was a mother and son, and they both had alopecia. But the mother always wore a wig. The Toronto media were there to interview a lot of people, and right there, in front of the TV cameras, she took her wig off. She said it had been a long time, but now she felt like she had her head back, and she thanked me for that. It was unbelievable.
(Photos: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images, D. Lippitt/Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images)
Stephen Turanski is an upbeat New Jersey 14-year-old who does not have any hair.
He does not have hair because he has alopecia areata, but he does not just have alopecia areata -- he says he has a strain that is entirely untreatable.
He has had the stress-related condition for half his life, and it has not always been easy.
"In sixth grade, people would call me Avatar, after this comic character," he says. "And people have called me Mr. Clean. It got me angry. And it's stupid, because I don't even look like those people."
A little more than a week ago, Turanski was one of several children with alopecia areata who met with the Bucks' Charlie Villanueva, who also has the disease, in New York.
These kinds of events are promoted by the NBA all the time, and I never know quite how to handle them. Is this a meaningful thing, or is it mainly a PR stunt and a photo op? I think the truth is that some of these kinds of events are magical for all involved, and others are less so. It's hard to tell from afar.
But talking to Stephen, who is in the habit of seeing Villanueva around this time every year, I get the feeling this really is meaningful.
"I get nervous even if I just have to talk in front of a group," says Turanski. "But Charlie, he doesn't have any hair either. No eyebrows, no eyelashes, none of that stuff. And he just goes out there and plays in front of thousands of people. In front of millions of people even. And he doesn't care what people think."
"I don't know anyone with alopecia," he adds. "So that was pretty cool to see."
Elie Seckbach recently videotaped Villanueva as he met children with alopecia areata in Los Angeles. The response Villanueva gets seems genuine and fantastic.
Photo courtesy of Stephen Turanski.