TrueHoop: Daniel Gibson
Meet Aaron McGuire of TrueHoop Network blog, Gothic Ginobili.
For the better part of six months, Gothic Ginobili has been rolling out their player capsules three at a time. The capsules, ordered at random, each contain eyeball observations, advanced stats, external links to interesting stuff. You learn that Nikola Vucevic taught himself English by watching "He Got Game," and that Daniel Gibson was barely below average for an NBA Finals point guard by statistical measures. You'll also have the pleasure of reading descriptions like this one:
If the NBA was performance art, [Andre] Miller would be the town's muted bladesmith, performing in front of a nearly-empty house. Always quiet, never elaborate, extremely effective. Spends these long hours pounding away with his scaling hammer on a piece whose beauty is rarely appreciated as much as their application to war. Never gets wholescale appreciation for what he brings to the table, but always comes back and puts the same loving care into every pass thrown and offense built. Miller is simply brilliant, and there's a rare few players in the league that are anything like him.
In all, the Gothic Ginobili capsules come to 374,000 words. The best way to sample? Navigate toward your favorite players, and go from there.
Home is where Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers seem to function best. That came through statistically and in the form of the Lakers ninth straight win at home, over the Boston Celtics, on Sunday afternoon.
Bryant scored 10 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter, including the go-ahead jumper with 41 seconds remaining. Bryant leads the NBA with 291 fourth-quarter/overtime points this season, 18 more than Kevin Durant.
Bynum also had a particularly good day in terms of his post-up game. Bynum was 5-for-7 and scored 12 points in post-up situations, with 10 of those coming in the paint.
Bynum ranks third in the NBA with 498 post-up points this season.
Williams stars; Knicks continue to struggle
The issues continued for the New York Knicks, who lost to the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.
Williams made 8-of-14 jump shots, a nice bounce-back after a stretch in which he made 11-of-his-last 30.
Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin finished with 14 points, seven assist, and six turnovers. He’s now had 10 games with at least six turnovers this season, tied for the second-most such games in the NBA.
After averaging 25 points on 51 percent shooting in his first eight starts this season, Lin has averaged 16.3 points on 29 percent shooting in his last nine, a stretch in which the Knicks are 2-7.
Odd Game of the Night Josh Smith was 13-for-23 from the field, but just 1-for-6 from the free throw line in the Atlanta Hawks 106-99 win over the Sacramento Kings.
Smith is now shooting 56.2 percent from the free throw line for the season, a rate that if maintained would be a career low and a significant drop from his 72.5 percent from a season ago.
Plus-Minus Note of the Night
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Daniel Gibson was a +21 in a win over the Houston Rockets. It was Gibson’s best plus-minus of the season and his best plus-minus in any game since the 2008-09 season.
The Cavaliers, whose bench outscored the Rockets bench, 49-30, are now only one game out of the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
The Cavs and Magic each came into the series with a full playbook of good offensive material that worked all season -- which is why they're playing basketball in late May. The difference came down to which team better executed its stuff. Saturday night, it wasn't even close.
Dwight Howard: Turning Defenses Inside Out (John Raoux/NBAE via Getty Images)
As dominant as Howard was -- he chalked up twice as many points as Orlando's second-highest scorer -- the Magic's clincher was a collective effort offensively. What's striking about Orlando is how many different things they execute well offensively -- to say nothing of their top-ranked defense. Orlando gets a lot of praise for its pick-and-roll game, which is spearheaded by Hedo Turkoglu and Dwight Howard. Orlando is special in that everyone in their rotation can perform this part of the offense.
Just look at how Orlando amassed its first double-digit lead:
- [2nd quarter, 7:41] It's not the patented 3-5 Turkoglu/Howard screen-and-roll. Howard isn't even in the game, nor is starting point guard Rafer Alston. Rotund backup point guard Anthony Johnson is at the controls. Rashard Lewis steps out to the top of the floor, and slips a screen to Johnson's right. When Johnson recognizes that Wally Szczerbiak and Daniel Gibson have gotten crossed up on the switch, he shuttles the ball over to Lewis, who has an open driving lane to the hoop. Varejao challenges Lewis underneath, but Lewis puts the ball in his off hand, contorts himself, then lays it in.
There's nothing ingenious about what Orlando does. It's the flexibility of the team's personnel that makes the Magic impossible to defend. Everyone is an interchangeable part in the offense. Each of the six guards and forwards can shoot the three, pass the ball, and put it on the deck. Howard appreciates this, and has gotten very shrewd at letting his teammates make plays for him. He checks in immediately after Lewis' hoop, and converts on the very next possession:
- [2nd quarter, 6:20] Johnson is still at the point. He gets a strong screen up top from Lewis, then penetrates into the paint. Howard, meanwhile hangs out just off the mid-post on the left side. The instant Cleveland's interior defense collapses on Johnson, he pitches the ball off to Howard, who now has a huge amount of space to muscle his way to the rim. Anderson Varejao tries to reestablish his presence underneath, but Howard is too quick. By the time Varejao shifts his attention back to the big man, Howard is already into his drive. His running hook from five feet is soft.
This is the Howardized variation of the drive-and-kick, only with the ball ending up in the hands of the big man near the basket rather than a shooter out on the arc.
Orlando uses its bread and butter to establish control of the game just before halftime, and Howard gets the assist:
- [2nd quarter, 4:55] The Orlando 4-out/1-in: The single most effective offensive scheme we've seen from any team in the postseason. Everyone on the floor and on both benches knows it's coming.
When Howard gets the ball off the left block, the Cavs promptly send a double-team, as Delonte West joins Varejao on the cover. Howard has gotten so good at sizing up the backside of the defensive zone in this situation. He takes a looks at his four shooters spread around the arc. At first glance, there isn't much there. For all of Cleveland's problems this series, they're still one of the best defensive teams in basketball, and they rotate very well early in this set. Orlando realizes that in order to work itself an open shot, someone has to scramble the defense.
That's when Courtney Lee dives hard for the basket from the top of the arc. LeBron James, who has been monitoring the top of the floor, has no choice but to pick up Lee on the cut. When Lee cuts, Lewis fills that open space up top, where Howard finds him for the wide open three-pointer. Lewis drains it. He finishes with 18 points on the night, capping off a solid series.
This is just a sampling. Roll through the game tape, and you can find possessions like these everywhere: Another set run through Howard on the left block that results in a full swing of the ball around the perimeter for an open three-point shot by Alston [2nd quarter, 1:27], a Turkoglu/Gortat screen-and-roll that produces a kickout to a wide open Mickael Pietrus [2nd quarter, 8:04], Howard doing his best Pau Gasol imitation with a pass over his shoulder out of the block to Pietrus on the basket cut [3rd quarter, 0:22].
All season, skeptics questioned whether Orlando played a style of basketball that was conducive to winning a championship -- as if winning is a question of aesthetics. In modern basketball, we've seen fast teams, slow teams, motion offeneses, pick-and-roll outfits all win NBA Championships. No matter what their offensive agendas, these teams had one thing in common: They executed.
- Steve Kerr on Yahoo: "This series was decided at the end of Game 2, when LeBron James attacked the rim, drew contact from Richard Hamilton but wasn't awarded a foul. The Cavs were furious with the no-call, fled the court in anger and prepared to meet the media after going down 2-0. The coaches and players were irate, ready to rip the officials for failing to call a foul on the play and costing Cleveland the game. Instead, general manager Danny Ferry and his assistant Lance Blanks took control of the situation, demanding from everyone that no excuses would be made. Hence, the quote from both Mike Brown and LeBron James: 'We're a no-excuses team.' The Cavaliers gained strength from that moment. The message delivered to the press was as much meant for Cleveland's players as anyone. Refusing to blame the officials meant showing no signs of weakness. It meant building strength rather than allowing an internal excuse. By Game 3, the Cavs were unified, strong and ready to take on Detroit. That's when everything turned."
- This Billy Donovan thing is one of the strangest sports stories I have seen in a long time. What, did they offer him a better parking spot back in Gainesville?
- Video of the street scene outside Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night.
- LeBron James is scheduled to have a child on the night of Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Of course, no one has babies on the exact day. Could happen any time. I'll vote for an off-day when the Finals are in Cleveland -- to avoid any really tough decisions. UPDATE: For the record, LeBron James has said on ESPN that he won't miss a game for the birth of this child.
- If part of being a leader is steering your people to greatness even after they leave your sphere of influence, then Gregg Popovich must be one of the greatest leaders in NBA history. Practically everyone who works for him goes on to have a great career.
- A fascinating story from a few months ago about the unusual draft process that resulted in Daniel Gibson being a Cavalier. If he had been willing to work out for more teams, he likely would have been a much higher pick, but Gibson and his dad strategized that being the only young point guard on a team with LeBron James was a good career move, and discouraged other teams, figuring it was a better career move to end up on the right team. Also, if you're good, it's much better to be a second-round pick, because you get to the lucrative second contract much earlier in your career.
- Steve Kyler of Hoopsworld on one of my favorite draft prospects, Zabian Dowdell: "Zabian Dowdell did himself justice playing in the camp. One league executive was asked what players he liked in the field of 64 and without much deliberation stated Dowdell was the best point guard in the camp. Miami is said to be very interested in Zabian at #20 if Javaris Crittenden is gone as most expect."
- In which I am a guest on Brian Berger's Sports Business Radio.
- Plenty of storylines in these NBA Finals.
- Peter D. Newmann, ESPN NBA Research and Information Specialist, sent over a mess of numbers about seven game series. Out of the 362 completed best-of-seven series in NBA history, the team that wins Game 1 is an impressive 284-78. In the NBA Finals since the league went to 16-team format in 1983-84, the team with homecourt advantage is 17-6. Wow.
- Geoff Calkins of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal examines the working history of Boston's Chris Wallace, who, along with Mark Jackson, is said to be a major candidate for the Memphis GM job: "Wallace has worked under noted incompetents Danny Ainge and Rick Pitino in Boston. He did have a couple years between them, however, when he was free to do as he wanted. During that stretch, Wallace spent first-round picks on Joe Johnson, Kedrick Brown and Joe Forte in the 2001 draft, passing on Tony Parker, Gerald Wallace, Richard Jefferson, Vladimir Radmanovic, Troy Murphy and Gilbert Arenas. He then traded Joe Johnson for Tony Delk and Rogers, and traded Kenny Anderson for Vin Baker and his ridiculous contract. Inspirational, eh?"
- Jeannie Buss -- Laker executive who dates Phil Jackson and is the daughter of owner Jerry Buss -- weighs in on the Laker website saying she has no part in personnel decisions but hopes the team will never trade Kobe Bryant. Without a membership to the site you can read much of it here.
- You have to feel for Antonio McDyess.
- Jim O'Brien might be just what Jamaal Tinsley needed.
- Off the top of my head, I know of only two people who predicted, before the season, that the Cavaliers would be in the NBA Finals. Nike's Lynn Merritt (who has a stash of millions riding shotgun with LeBron and can be expected to be irrational), and this blogger. UPDATE: ESPN's John Hollinger and Greg Anthony called it, too, as did The Painted Area and Gail Goodrich. (As well as ... too many others to publish, as it turns out.)
- Stan Van Gundy has a promising interview with the Sacramento Kings. (Via Sactown Royalty)
- The Painted Area reviewed Detroit's performance during LeBron James' monstrous Game 5, and concludes: "Detroit did double-team LeBron more than I remembered and usually it worked, getting the ball out of his hands, generally turning into a Pavlovic mistake of some sort. Detroit also ran its trap to some success in the fourth, but didn't really come back to it in overtime. Detroit seemed to be in mild disarray on a few Cleveland possessions. And, I don't know where Rasheed's head was."
- The San Francisco Chronicle's Ray Ratto on the passing of a champion: "Charles Johnson didn't share the news of his cancer with anyone but his closest friends and relations. He fought until he could fight no more, and then he passed Friday, at the ridiculous age of 58. It was a hard way out, too. His 1975 NBA Championship ring appeared on eBay, to be auctioned off presumably to raise funds for his care. The opening bids request was $8,900, and apparently didn't raise any interest. His passing was mentioned on a Warriors blog, but on neither the Warriors nor Washington Wizards Web sites. That seems profoundly wrong, for Charles Johnson had done more than enough worth remembering, but it is the nature of things. History is for those who lived through it, but for this generation it neither ages nor transports as well as it once did. Charles Johnson was on the last championship teams of both the Warriors and Wizards (who were the Bullets back then), and his role on the last Warriors championship team transcended his place in the starting lineup. He was the defensive specialist, and the calming influence who surveyed and sanded down the jagged edges around him. But there isn't a lot of splash to that. No team can win a championship without a Charles Johnson, but as moths head to the bulb with the highest wattage, America heads for the brightest star, leaving the Charles Johnsons in a corner of the dressing room, sipping champagne with a satisfied, knowing smile and accepting the fifth edition of everyone's congratulations."
- Sekou Smith of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Some dope somewhere started a rumor about Josh Smith being on the trading block now that the Hawks have a couple of lottery picks and could be in position to "replace" him with the likes of Brandan Wright or Al Horford (or one of the other forward types in this draft). Um, on a stupid scale ranging from 1 to 10, with 10 being stupid beyond reason, I'd say that's close to 1,000. Let's just do the math. Last I checked Josh Smith will make roughly $1.4 million for the 2007-08 season, making him arguably the NBA's best bargain (when you consider his production). He won't make as much money as the No. 3 or No. 11 pick this season. Did you hear me? This guy is the best bargain in the league."
- Huge Cleveland fan "the Cavalier" from YAYsports!: "Without going too into it, Saturday night was somewhat emotional around our head, and right now there's a definite feeling of contentment with just making it. Hopefully this changes by Thursday's Game 1."
- UPDATE: A glimmer of hope in Seattle: the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe could conceivably use some land and casino cash on an NBA arena, and they appear at least curious.
- Hello, Cleveland! Soon that city will be hosting some NBA Finals games for the first time ever. That will be an amazing adventure for everyone involved. Talk about some fans who have been needing some good news for a long time. I'll be going to the Finals, and have half a mind to spend a game watching with real fans in a sports bar somewhere just to try to feel what that will be like.
- Let me be the first to say "nice Boobie." (Actually, I spotted two young ladies wearing tight-fitting t-shirts that said "Detroit can't touch our Boobie.") He's clearly LeBron James' favorite target. ESPN's David Thorpe, expressing his ongoing dissatisfaction with the pre-draft camp as a talent assessment tool, points out that if Daniel "Boobie" Gibson had been at the camp, he probably would have gotten about eight touches and five shots a game, which would give you no indication he could win a huge game for his team.
- That crowd did its job.
- At one point the two players who are probably closest to William Wesley -- Rip Hamilton and LeBron James -- were jawing at each other fairly hard.
- In the first quarter I scribbled on my notepad: "The Pistons are psycho in their focus on LeBron James tonight. The nightmare is that they get Sasha Pavlovic or Zydrunas Ilgauskas hot." Whoops, I picked the wrong players. Should have said Daniel Gibson.
- Remember when the season started and Anderson Varejao had some mysterious problem with his legs? Whatever that was, it's all better now, huh?
- If two players are tied up grabbing a board, and there's a jump ball, do they both get credit for zero rebounds? That happened twice in the first half.
- People have beem emailing me that Mike Brown is a terrible coach. People have been emailing me that LeBron James has no decent teammates. If all those people are right, how the hell is Cleveland ahead in the fourth quarter when LeBron James gets his second basket?
- Sometimes LeBron James is SO SLOW getting into the offense. Wish he'd catch and go more often in the half-court.
- Was Jason Maxiell in Flip Saunders' dog house tonight?
- Poor Chris Webber, takes two hard shots where it counts, then retreats to a back hallway to recover his dignity. Only, in the back hallway there's a camera to broadcast his plight on international TV.
- Antonio McDyess is a role model of putting your ego aside and reinventing your career. He was once on the Dwight Howard career path, and then after the injuries he became a winner on the John Salley career path.
- Rip Hamilton sure had his game face strapped on tonight, didn't he?
- SEVERAL people predicted to me that the instant it looked like Detroit would lose, Rasheed Wallace would get himself tossed. Amazingly good prediction. Although, I'd add that that was a tough series of calls for Detroit that preceded 'Sheed's meltdown.
- The Cavaliers looked a little too happy with their Eastern title for me. They shouldn't even have this trophy presentation. The season is not over.
- Did they boo Mike Brown?
- UPDATE: My mom predicted this. Cleveland in six, she said, before the series began.
- UPDATE: Check out this poll: at the moment, people think San Antonio will win, but would rather build around LeBron James than Tim Duncan.