TrueHoop: Denver Nuggets
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The Lakers have a chance to move as high as the 7 seed, or miss the playoffs completely.
Wednesday is the final day of the NBA regular season, and there’s no shortage of reasons to tune in. There are still playoff spots to be clinched, seeds to be determined and individual honors to be claimed.
Wild West Playoff Picture
Here’s how much we know for sure in the Western Conference entering Wednesday. The Oklahoma City Thunder are the 1 seed, and the San Antonio Spurs are No. 2. That’s it.
The Denver Nuggets have the inside track for the 3 seed. They’ll lock it down with a home win over the Phoenix Suns, or if the Los Angeles Clippers lose what could be the Kings’ final game in Sacramento. If Denver loses and the Clippers win, the Clippers take the third slot.
The worst the Nuggets or Clippers could do is the 4 seed and a First Round matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies, but who hosts the first game of that series is still to be decided.
If Memphis, currently with the same record as the Clippers, ends with a better record, it will have home-court advantage of the series, despite being seeded lower.
From six on down, it gets even more convoluted. If the Houston Rockets beat the Los Angeles Lakers (10:30 ET, ESPN) and the Golden State Warriors lose to the Portland Trail Blazers, the Rockets knock the Warriors out of the 6 seed.
The Warriors can’t fall any lower than seventh, but Houston could potentially fall as low as eighth. If the Lakers beat the Rockets, the Lakers take the 7 seed, knocking Houston to eighth.
If the Lakers lose to the Rockets, it opens the window for the Utah Jazz to get the final playoff spot with a win over the Grizzlies (8 ET, ESPN).
East is Much Simpler
If the Western Conference scenarios were too confusing, you might like the Eastern Conference much better.
Six of the eight playoff seeds are already locked in. The Chicago Bulls hold the 5 seed, and will hold onto it with either a home win over the Washington Wizards, or an Atlanta Hawks road loss to the New York Knicks.
Of course, with the 5 seed comes a potential Conference Semifinals matchup with the Miami Heat.
Individual Honors on the Line
The biggest head-to-head battle Wednesday night seemed to be Kevin Durant chasing Carmelo Anthony for the scoring title, but news that Durant will not play means that Anthony becomes the second Knicks player to win a scoring title, joining Bernard King.
Curry is averaging 3.5 3-pointers this season, meaning the odds are in his favor to break the record.
With Durant not playing, it also means Trail Blazers rookie Damian Lillard will likely lead the NBA in total minutes. He’d be just the third rookie in NBA history to lead the league in minutes played. The other two are Wilt Chamberlain (in 1959-60) and Elvin Hayes (1968-69).
Getty ImagesCarmelo Anthony has played just as well for the Knicks as he did for the Nuggets
Carmelo Anthony returns to Denver
On Wednesday night, Carmelo Anthony makes his first appearance in Denver since being traded to the New York Knicks in a three-team, 13-player blockbuster on February 21, 2011. Anthony is third on the Denver Nuggets all-time scoring list with 13,970 points and is top-10 in a plethora of other categories for the Nuggets.
The Nuggets have visited Madison Square Garden twice since the trade and have split with the Knicks with Anthony averaging 29.5 points on 37 percent shooting.
Impact of the trade
Including the playoffs, the Nuggets have won 14 more games than the Knicks since Anthony’s departure. However, neither team has advanced past the first round in their conference.
Both teams have improved overall since making the trade. Each have been playoff teams and are playing their best basketball this season since the trade.
Diving deeper into the advanced stats, on a per possession basis, both teams have played similarly efficient defense since the trade, each ranking in the middle third of the league.
On offense, each team has ranked in the top third of the NBA, but the Nuggets have been better; their effective field goal percentage (which accounts for the added value of a 3-pointer) beats New York’s 51.9 to 50.1.
Despite similar efficiencies, the two offenses couldn’t be more disparate. The Nuggets lead the NBA in points per game in the paint (57.7) and on the fast break (19.8). The Knicks on the other hand, score an NBA-low 33.5 points per game in the paint and just 8.9 per game on the fast break, second-fewest in the league.
The Nuggets thrive by moving the ball and have averaged an NBA-best 24.2 assists per game since the trade. With 20.0 assists per game, the Knicks have ranked in the bottom five in the league, favoring a more isolation-heavy offense.
Same old Melo
Despite having one his best scoring seasons in years, Anthony has essentially been the same player in New York as he was in Denver in terms of efficiency and usage percentage overall.
Not so dynamic duo
One of the biggest reasons Anthony wanted to come to New York was to play with Amar’e Stoudemire. They have only been able to play 97 of the Knicks 167 games together including the playoffs. Their record when playing together is 46-51.
Nuggets trending up
The glaring difference between the two franchises is age. The Knicks are the oldest team in the NBA with an average age of 32.4 while the Nuggets are the fourth youngest team in the NBA at 25.3 years.
The two teams have been going in opposite directions since the New Year. The Nuggets have the second best record in the NBA at 26-7 while the Knicks have gone 17-14. The Nuggets are 19-2 at home and the Knicks are 7-6 on the road.
William Cohen contributed to this article.
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Nuggets play a different brand of basketball at home
Since the New Year, the Nuggets have the second-best record in the NBA (16-6) by reeling off 13 wins in 15 home games, including seven straight. They are currently sitting fifth in the Western conference. Tonight they host the Boston Celtics to tip off post-All-Star break action.
MUST BE THE ALTITUDE
Since 2000-01, the Nuggets have won nearly 68 percent of their home games but only 38 percent of their road games. No team has seen a higher increase in winning percentage from road to home games than the Nuggets.
HOW ARE THEY DOING IT?
At home, the Nuggets are a dynamic team that scores 110 points per 100 possessions (4th in NBA) and allows 99.5 points per 100 possessions (9th in NBA).
The Nuggets have a better offensive efficiency at home than the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers and a better defensive efficiency than the Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat and New York Knicks.
During the 16-6 stretch, they are forcing 17 turnovers a game, leading to 22 points per game on offense, both of which lead the NBA over this stretch. The Nuggets ability to create turnovers and willingness to get out on the break have led to a league-high 58.7 paint points per game since January 1st.
The Nuggets are having a historic year, averaging 56.8 points per game in the paint. The last team to come close to that type of production was the 1997-98 Los Angeles Lakers with 54.1 points in the paint per game.
LAST TIME THEY MET
The Celtics won at home 118-114 (OT) on February 10, part of an 8-1 stretch for the Celtics since Rajon Rondo’s injury.
Paul Pierce had his eighth career triple double (27-14-14)
The Celtics won despite giving up a season-high 62 points in the paint (outscored by 32 in the paint).
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Paul Pierce is averaging 7.2 assists per game since the Rondo’s injury (3.8 prior).
Since January 1st, Ty Lawson is scoring 19.2 points per game while shooting 49.7 percent from the field (13.6 PPG and 40.8 FG pct prior).
Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty ImagesPairing Kobe Bryant with Dwight Howard, the Lakers are poised to change the landscape of the NBA.
According to AccuScore, the Lakers are expected to gain 6.3 wins with the addition of Howard, which in last year’s standings would have been good enough to vault them from the third seed in the Western Conference to the top spot. Adding Howard and Steve Nash to a lineup that already includes Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol gives L.A. a “Big Four” that will be as formidable as any the league has ever seen. With Nash and Howard, the Lakers now have the NBA leaders in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and free-throw percentage over the last seven seasons.
Howard could impact more than just the post for the Lakers. Among players that played at least 10 games last season, Orlando had five with a three-point percentage greater than 35 percent. On their current roster, the Lakers have just two such players: Nash and Steve Blake.
One question that could persist thoughout is this: How will Howard and Gasol coexist? While Gasol and Andrew Bynum, who was shipped to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of the trade, had a great deal of success playing together in the regular season over the past two years, it wasn’t the same story in the playoffs. The Lakers were actually outscored in the last two postseasons when Gasol and Bynum were on the court at the same time. L.A. sees Howard as an upgrade over Bynum – although their numbers were very similar last season – but the team’s ability to match up with smaller lineups could be an issue.
NOT SO MAGICAL
It comes as no surprise that losing Howard will be a serious blow to the Magic. After making the playoffs in each of the last six seasons, Orlando is likely to take a major step back after losing Howard and Jason Richardson and getting little in return in terms of impact players. AccuScore predicts the Magic to lose 15.2 wins this season without Howard and finish 14th in the East.
One look at how the Magic have performed with and without Howard on the floor tells the story. Over the last three seasons, the team outscored opponents by 7.9 points per 48 minutes with Howard on the court. When he was on the bench, Orlando was outscored by 2.7 points per 48 minutes.
DEFENSIVE STAND IN DENVER
The Denver Nuggets’ acquisition of Andre Iguodala as part of the Howard deal might fly under the radar, but his addition to the lineup should prove to be a major upgrade for the Nuggets, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
For more on what each team can expect after the blockbuster trade, click here.
Let’s play a trivia game quickly. Which player currently ranks 18th in TS% (True Shooting Percentage), 2nd in Offensive Rebound Rate, 7th in Overall Rebound Rate and currently sits 9th in PER, sandwiched between Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook?Click the link to see video of Faried flying across the court and making incredible plays with his hustle and athleticism.
If the names Howard, Love, Griffin or Anderson are popping into your head, guess again.
Still stuck? Try Denver rookie Kenneth Faried.
Sometimes players who come through the draft lacking good or even adequate dribbling, shooting and scoring skills make us wonder how they can survive in the NBA. Faried reminds us that effort is still one of the most important and undervalued skills there is.
One key to the Nuggets second-half surge has been their ability to protect their home court. Denver is 9-0 at the Pepsi Center after the All-Star break and is outscoring its opponents by 19.7 points per game over that span. Earlier this month, the Nuggets became the first team in NBA history to record three straight home wins by 30 more or points.
They have now topped the 100-point mark in each of their last seven games at home (all wins). The only other teams to win seven straight home games while reaching triple digits in each this season are the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Hosting a 1st Round playoff series is not out of the question for the Nuggets, who trail the Oklahoma City Thunder by five games with eight games remaining in the race for the four-seed out West. Denver would need some help from Oklahoma City to catch the Thunder, but head-to-head matchups against Kevin Durant and crew on April 5 and April 8 could make things interesting.
Elsewhere in the NBA on Wednesday:
• The Atlanta Hawks knocked off the Orlando Magic by three in a meeting between teams likely to meet in the 1st Round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Hawks finish the season 3-1 vs the Magic, the first time they’ve won the season series vs Orlando since 2006-07.
• The Miami Heat beat the Washington Wizards 123-107 to stay two-and-a-half games behind the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference. The Heat are now 14-4 when playing on zero days’ rest this season. Only the Los Angeles Lakers (10-2) have a better record on no days’ rest.
• Carmelo Anthony scored 39 points to lead the Knicks past the New Jersey Nets. It was Anthony’s third straight game with at least 35 points. That’s tied with LaMarcus Aldridge and Monta Ellis for the longest streak of 35-point games in the NBA this season. It’s also tied for Anthony’s longest streak of 35-point games in his career.
It's a tough week for non-rostered players trying to hang on with NBA teams. The vast majority of them will be clearing out their lockers and packing up their belongings. Such was the case on Monday for NBA veteran Anthony Roberson, the 26-year-old guard who has spent the past month with the Los Angeles Clippers. We caught up with Roberson as he was moving out of the Marriott in Marina Del Rey near the Clippers training facility, as he ponders his next move.
Anthony Roberson was cut by the Clippers on Monday."This isn't my first time around," Roberson says.
(Noah Graham/Getty Images)
After my last practice when I got off the court, the trainer told me that Coach Dunleavy wanted to see me. I knew what it was. I know how it works. This isn't my first time around.
Did he bring you into his office?
No, he told me on the court. He thanked me for working hard, and I thanked him for the opportunity. At the end of the day, I knew it was going to come down to me and Kareem Rush. Kareem is a good player, so it really wasn't a letdown.
You've been around the block, but does it still hurt to get cut right before the season starts?
Not this one so much. I got a real opportunity. The Denver situation (training camp, 2007) -- that hurt me. I was putting up double-digits for them, was playing a lot, and gave it my all. This time, I knew the situation. I came into camp with a different mindset.
So what's your next move?
I'm going to take a few days and figure out my options. There are opportunities in Europe and the D-League. I'm going to go back home to Atlanta for a few days, then go see my mom in Michigan and see how she's doing.
What kind of situation are you looking for?
I want to go where I can play. Europe is very powerful. A lot of players benefit by being on a club overseas. The most important thing is that I get a chance to show what I can do, where I can have the ball in my hands. The D-League is also a good place, especially the teams being sponsored by an NBA team.
What's the most frustrating thing for you about the process?
I know I'm an NBA player. That's the most disappointing thing. Sometimes, you fight with yourself. You question yourself sometimes. But then you remember you've had success, and even though you're not getting the full opportunity you want, you can't get down on yourself. You have to remember that everyone takes a different route and I respect the route I've taken. It makes me stronger and appreciate it the chances I get.
Having trained with them for a month, what's your read on the Clippers?
I love the attitude they have now. You can tell it's like night and day -- a whole different season and it seems a whole lot better than last year. In preseason, they're playing the whole game every game, from the first quarter to the fourth quarter. They're going to be in a lot of games this season. They have players like Rasual Butler who bring in a different mindset. Everyone in the locker room is looking forward to this year. They know they can play with any team in the NBA, and that confidence is half the battle in this league. They have so much to prove and it's going to be interesting to watch how they get better.
How do you think Baron Davis is going to impact the team this year?
He's a vet and he's playing with a chip on his shoulder -- but a positive chip. He's motivated. He knows that as he goes, the Clippers go. He's getting back to the way he was at Golden State. I loved playing with him.
You've played for a bunch of NBA coaches. How would you describe Mike Dunleavy's style?
He's very organized and structured -- a veteran coach. You always know what he expects of you in terms of schemes. The things we ran in practice show that he knows what it takes to win. I respect him. He also has that positive chip on his shoulder after last season. He thinks the Clippers are as good as anyone -- and I believe that too. And you can't blame him for thinking that. The talent they have is unbelievable.
What about Blake Griffin?
As good as he is at basketball, he's also a good person. He loves the game. He stays in the gym all the time. He's young, energetic and he's willing to listen and learn. His nickname on the team is "Amazing," because everyday he's going to do something that makes you go, "Whoooaaa!" He's going to be big in L.A.. His upside is crazy.
Can you imagine a life for yourself without basketball?
No. I've been playing since I was five. I just can't imagine it. Can't.
- Frank Dell'Apa of The Boston Globe: "Kevin Garnett passed the alley-oop test in the Celtics' 106-90 exhibition win over Toronto last night. Garnett converted two dunks off lobs from Rajon Rondo, the first time they have combined on the play since Garnett was injured last February. 'That was nice,' coach Doc Rivers said. 'Unexpected, actually, because Kevin got kneed in the calf in the first half, so I didn't think he was running well. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he becomes the old Kevin. That's the only thing, really, that you can see that he hasn't done. And to see that, that's really big.' Garnett, who had 16 points and six rebounds in 22:42 of playing time."
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Allen Iverson joined the Memphis Grizzlies for $3 million late in the off-season, amidst plenty of media speculation and hoopla. Now the 34-year-old Iverson already is out of the Memphis lineup for an extended time due to a partial tear in his left hamstring. In a much quieter off-season transaction in National Basketball Association circles, forward Hakim Warrick signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks, after the Grizzlies withdrew their qualifying offer to the former Syracuse star. Warrick's signing could be a steal for the Bucks, if he can continue the steady play he has produced over the first five exhibition games. He leads the team in scoring (17.8 points per game) and rebounding (6.8) and is shooting 59% from the field and 77% at the foul line, while taking a team-high 44 free-throw attempts. ... So it was a bit of a jolt when the Grizzlies let him become an unrestricted free agent. 'Just being in this profession, you always want to have something to prove, no matter what,' Warrick said. 'You look at the greatest, Michael Jordan. He always had something to prove, and he was the best player that walked the face of the earth. 'I definitely want to go out there and show that it was a mistake and I'm a really good player.' "
- Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "One of the knocks on Kwame Brown has been his inconsistent hands -- frequently in the past he would fumble passes out of bounds or lose the basketball when going up for shots around defenders. But that hasn't been the case so far. I asked Brown if he is doing anything different. Is he using Stickum? Using contacts now? Using Velcro gloves? The secret is not so drastic. Brown said he's just concentrating on slowing down and making sure the ball is secured before starting his move. Really? That's it? But it does make some sense. Former Pistons coach Michael Curry used to tell the media all the time last season that Brown was fine whenever he would just slow down. Further reminders from Kuester has continued the reclamation project. And while Brown may never reach the heights his draft status says he should, Kuester thinks Brown can still have a huge impact in this league -- proving our skepticism dead wrong."
- Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "George Karl hasn't seen much to write home about from his team during preseason games, but he's got plenty to smile about anyway. We're talkin' about practice. This team is taking the every day sessions with a professional approach Karl has never seen from a Nuggets squad during his tenure. And that has him practically giddy about the possibilities ahead. ... Karl said Carmelo Anthony has been particularly solid with his leadership in October. Anthony also scored 45 points in the Nuggets' last exhibition game -- a win over Indiana in Beijing. 'I think Melo is growing into that role, more so by his approach and his actions more than just his words,' Karl said. 'And the culture. Our culture of who we pick up and who we trade for, I think we're a little more aware of guys that like to be in the gym.' "
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Blake Griffin sent a second message, inquiring about DaJuan Blair's arrival time. This time the response left Griffin totally perplexed. 'He let me know he wasn't coming to New York at all,' said Griffin, the Clippers rookie and 2008-09 College Player of the Year who was the No. 1 overall selection of the draft. 'That confused me and surprised me.' In fact, Blair wasn't in the 'green room' at Madison Square Garden, awaiting an expected curtain call to pose with commissioner David Stern after being announced as a first-round pick. That was because the league had determined it wasn't likely that Blair would be taken in the first round, which turned out to be the case. Instead, the Spurs made him the 37th overall pick. Blair has vowed to make the 29 teams that passed on him regret the decision. Griffin believes he will make good on his promise. 'It doesn't matter that he didn't go (in the first round),' Griffin said. 'He got drafted where he was meant to be, and I know he's going to make the best of it.' The two power forwards became good friends at summer basketball. On Wednesday night, they went head-to-head at the AT&T Center in a preseason game. Griffin had 23 points and seven rebounds. Blair turned in his second double-double, with 11 points and 12 rebounds in Los Angeles' 93-90 victory."
- John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "The word 'potential' is a dangerous adjective in sports when applied to a young player. Sometimes it means that player is a future star; other times it's simply a euphemism for ''hasn't accomplished anything yet.'' With that caveat, I must say I love the potential of the Bulls' young frontcourt players, particularly Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and James Johnson. All three, especially the rookies, surely will have moments when they struggle this season, but each will produce many more positive than negative moments."
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "I have to say I was flabbergasted by the amount the NBA fined coach Larry Brown and the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday. The league is charging Brown and the franchise $60,000 each for Brown's behavior in Atlanta on Monday and for what the league perceives as Brown criticizing the referees after the game. I was there in Atlanta on Monday night and again Tuesday after practice when Brown first talked publicly about his ejection. I was within feet of Brown on both occasions and certainly within earshot of what the principals said. It's true that Brown 'verbally abused' (the league's term) the refs, getting himself ejected in the third quarter of the preseason loss to the Hawks. It's also true that Brown refused to leave the court in a timely manner. That accounted for the first $35,000 of Brown's fine. But to say Brown criticized the officials after the fact is at best an overreaction to what happened. And at worst, an injustice."
- Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: "Stephen Jackson initially expressed disappointme
nt at the coaching staff for keeping him in the game and not backing him when replacement referees whistled him for five fouls and a technical in the first quarter. Wednesday, Jackson also elaborated on his beef with Lakers guard Kobe Bryant. The two were locked in a heated matchup that got Jackson the five fouls and his blood boiling, which led to his two-game suspension. 'I'm not a fan of Kobe,' Jackson said. 'I'm not somebody who looks up to him. I'm a grown man myself. So when I go out there and play the game, I play the game. I feel like I'm just as good as him. I might not get the publicity or notoriety he gets, but I feel like I can play with anybody in the NBA any given night.' Bryant reportedly called Jackson 'young fella' during the game, and Jackson complained of Bryant throwing elbows. Jackson perhaps expected his teammates to mix it up with Bryant in his defense. Their failure to do so might have played a part in Jackson relinquishing his team captaincy Tuesday."
- Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "Ron Artest speaks his mind on just about any topic, and this afternoon was no different when he was asked about Golden State guard-forward Stephen Jackson. Jackson and Artest were with the Indiana Pacers when the infamous 'Palace Brawl' took place in 2004. Artest stood by his former teammate when asked about Jackson's recent demeanor, which included a two-game suspension on top of a demand to be traded. 'The greatest did it before -- Kobe, the greatest to ever play the game -- and he won a championship after that' demand, Artest said. 'He wanted to win. He didn't want out; he wanted to win. Stephen Jackson probably isn't as talented as the greatest, but he has got as much heart.' "
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Marcin Gortat certainly is backing up his claim that he's one of the league's best centers. If he were unhappy about the Magic matching Dallas' offer, he hasn't showed it in his play. He averaging 8.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 22.8 minutes per game. He is the only Magic player to appear in all five preseason games."
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel: "A team-wide session on Ustream led to an awkward moment for forward Michael Beasley, as the Miami Heat prepared for Wednesday night's 96-91 exhibition loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at the BOK Center. Following up on a session initially put together by Heat guard Dwyane Wade, Beasley found himself responding Tuesday night to a posted comment relating to his substance-abuse issues this summer. As he read the comment on the live video feed, teammates Daequan Cook and Mario Chalmers, who were in his room participating in the live Internet stream at the time, grew quiet. In response to a snarky comment of knowing how to hide his stash, Beasley playfully responded about how true that was. Comments from those viewing the stream followed ripping the initial commenter about trying to lure Beasley into such a response. Before Wednesday's game, when asked if he would have been better off simply avoiding a reply, the second-year forward acknowledged with a smile, 'you're right.' "
Some jerk beat Chris Bosh to registering the domain www.chrisbosh.com. So Bosh went after the cybersquatter. All sorts of legal wrangling later, Bosh has won damages, his domain ... and a zillion other domains the same guy had been squatting.
There are nearly 800 names in the list, and Bosh and his internet consultant, Hadi Teherany of Max Deal, say they'll return them all to their rightful owners for free.
Which means a good chunk of the basketball world will be owing Bosh a favor. The list is thick with basketball players in the NBA, overseas, college and high school. There are also some football players, political sites, Britney Spears' child, singers, a site or two that sound raunchy, and the Mexican wrestler "El Octagon."
Just a few of the many NBA names on the list:
(Also on the list is AaronAfflalo.com, even though that Denver player spells his first name "Arron.") The vast list of names also includes instructions for athletes and celebrities to get their names back from Bosh, if they wish. Paging El Octagon ...
- Bret LaGree of Hoopinion on Larry Brown's ejection via replacement referee: "Larry got his 2nd T from Kevin Scott, who never got within 35 feet of Brown before, during, or after the call. Brown tried to engage any of the refs on the occasion of his ejection but none would speak with or possibly even look at him. Rather than deal with the issue directly, Scott walked to the opposite end of the court and appeared to attempt to enlist a befuddled police officer in asking/making Brown leave the court."
- The Knicks and Nets have both claimed to have the most cap space of any team in 2010. Who's right?
- The Bulls like each other.
- Dean Oliver, the Denver Nuggets' statistical consultant, and the case for drafting Ty Lawson. Also, I think Oliver is in a very small club of team stats experts: He gets to inform the front office on personnel decisions, and the coaching staff on game strategy. Also, Lawson was part of a Nugget lineup that played very well in Beijing.
- Hope in Philadelphia, where a 3-0 preseason has people feeling good. Elton Brand tells Philadunkia: "All the major injuries are totally behind me and I feel great. Plus Thaddeus Young and Andre Iguodala have gotten better over the summer as well as I so we're going to have a good formidable team."
- The Blazers -- one of those teams that has had a messed up cable deal that makes it hard for some fans to watch games -- say that by January they hope to have video of every game streaming live on their website, which would be an NBA first.
- Jermaine Taylor and Chase Budinger didn't get a lot of attention on draft day, but they're looking pretty good in preseason.
- Rasual Butler makes the Clippers better.
- Gregg Popovich has inspired winemakers, and now vegetable growers.
- Kevin Durant's one-game plus/minus in last night's OT victory over the Suns: plus-24. That's what I'm talking about!
- An old video clip of Delonte West and Paul Pierce, pre-Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett trades, talking about how good the Celtics are going to be.
- In my review of SonicsGate yesterday, I listed four goals of the movie. Producer Adam Brown adds two more: To preserve the history of the Seattle SuperSonics. Since that history is now officially owned by Clay Bennett, we needed to document some of the good times as well as the team's demise. OKC didn't celebrate in June 1979, and they didn't cry in May 1994. We did, and we deserve this document to remind us of that. Also, to get the issue back in people's mouths here in Washington with the primary goal of getting an NBA team back. Ultimately we have to convince our politicians that a 50% privately funded arena deal will create jobs and boost the economy while allowing us to regain this cultural asset."
- Malcolm Gladwell on the ethics of a gladiator mentality.
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "If anyone thought him guilty of unearned hubris, he followed by punctuating his performance with a basket that provided the Spurs their margin of victory in a 95-93 win. His game-winning layin, off a nice feed from Malik Hairston, gave him his 27th and 28th points of the game. By the time he headed to the locker room to receive a dose of instant humility, delivered by coach Gregg Popovich, DeJuan Blair had scored 15 of the Spurs' 33 fourth-quarter points, all in the final six-and-a-half minutes. Sunday's fourth-quarter explosion produced the second set of eye-popping statistics of the 6-foot-7, 265-pound post man's preseason. In the first preseason game, against the Rockets, he scored 16 points and grabbed 19 rebounds. Drafted in the second round because the Spurs believed him a legitimate NBA rebounder, Blair got a none-too-subtle reminder from Popovich that rebounding must remain his forte. 'He had a tough night,' Popovich said, straight-faced. 'He only had one defensive rebound.' Then, Popovich failed to suppress a grin as he told reporters from Florida, 'He's really going to enjoy reading that in the San Antonio paper.' "
- Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Of all the key acquisitions the Dallas Mavericks made over the summer, Kris Humphries' arrival barely caused a ripple. Yet less than two weeks into training camp, he's provided some of the biggest tidal waves, not to mention one of the biggest dunks. The 6-8 forward has been the surprise of training camp. Apparently, he shocked Memphis' Zach Randolph, too. Humphries blew past the Grizzlies' forward twice for drives to the basket, including a thunderous two-handed throw-down that lit up the crowd and was the memorable play of the Mavericks' 114-107 win Sunday night at American Airlines Center. It's becoming routine to see Humphries making quality contributions. He had 16 points and nine rebounds (five offensive) in 21 minutes against Memphis. 'He's been very consistent,' coach Rick Carlisle said. 'He's got an all-around game and he's physical. He's been playing well since we got him in the trade. ... Look, there's still a long way to go, but he's making a strong case that he's deserving consideration for some playing time.' "
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has said Trevor Ariza does not have to become a star scorer for the acquisition to work for the Rockets, insisting Ariza's all-around production with the Lakers would be enough for the Rockets. But he and coach Rick Adelman believe Ariza is capable of more, faith that convinced Ariza to sign a five-year, $34 million contract with the Rockets. 'He's got to just play,' Adelman said. 'He's got to keep playing and trying things, can't be hesitant. As he gets hesitant, he gets around his guy and gets off-balance, rather than just be aggressive. He has to be aggressive and we'll take it from there. I thought he passed up a couple early. He's got to keep taking them. With new responsibilities, this is just part of it. You've got to keep doing it or you're not going to learn how to be aggressive, how to be a guy that attacks the other team. It's not unusual to be the way it is right now.' Adelman said he would look to put Ariza. a 6-8 swingman, in positions to do what he does best, but for now, heading into tonight's game against Milwaukee at Toyota Center, he wants to give him room to explore the scoring chances available to him. Ariza said he was 'never a volume shooter,' even in high school. But the transition could be as much about dealing with new responsibilities and expectations."
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Might the Wolves' notable new coaching staff be tougher than the team? 'Well,' forward Al Jefferson said with a pregnant pause, 'they think they are.' Their new head coach won six NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers as a player and assistant coach. But in a youtube.com world, Kurt Rambis just might be best remembered for those industrial-strength eyeglasses from long ago and for rising ready to fight after he was clobbered by Kevin McHale in a 1984 NBA Finals game. Rambis' search for candidates with championship pedigrees as well as both head-coaching experience and aspirations produced a staff that includes Bill Laimbeer, the most insufferable member from the Detroit Pistons' 'Bad Boys' teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s, two-time NBA All-Star guard and former Sacramento head coach Reggie Theus and Dave Wohl, an assistant coach on those 1980s Lakers teams and former New Jersey head coach. 'If the players ask about situations, these guys have actually, physically gone through it,' Rambis said. 'They've lived through losing environments, they've lived through winning environments. With all our years in the league, we've probably experienced everything and anything that all of these players are going to go through. That experience is going to be invaluable.' "
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "The Timberwolves haven't reached the postseason in the four years since firing Saunders; last season, the Pistons traded away Chauncey Billups, won just 39 games and lost in the first round. Saunders said the time away made him more secure and committed to his philosophies. 'When you don't reach a goal or don't finish it, it's a disappointment,' Saunders said of his time in Detroit. 'But I do think you feel that you're there and you averaged winning 60 games a year, I think you're doing something right.' Throughout his coaching career, Saunders has usually been asked to revitalize a flailing organization, as the case is now with the Wizards. But in Detroit, Saunders had replaced Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, who had guided the Pistons to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances and an NBA title in 2004. Saunders tweaked some things offensively and let his core group of Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace use some the defensive schemes that were successful under previous regimes. But near the end of his time in Detroit, many of his players tuned him out. Asked if he would've done anything differently in his three years in Detroit, Saunders said 'not at all.' He said his teams fell victim to some unfortunate circumstances."
- Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "Rookies chosen with the No. 16 and 27 picks in the NBA draft usually generate low - to no - expectations upon arrival. So it's been a little surprising to see James Johnson and Taj Gibson jump into the spotlight early in the Bulls' preseason games. Johnson's game is difficult to define, but his lively athleticism and varied skills have been intriguing. After a rough opening game against Indiana, the 6-foot-9 forward from Wake Forest averaged 16 points and 7.5 rebounds, plus 5 turnovers, in his next two. Gibson has been logging significant minutes while Tyrus Thomas is out with a bruised hip, and has averaged 13.7 points. Gibson, a 6-9 power forward from USC, i
s an older rookie who plays like a steady veteran, biding his time and knocking down midrange jumpers when the chance arrives."
- Barbara Barker of Newsday: "Google Darko Milicic and the words 'draft bust' and you launch a never-ending Internet debate on where his selection by the Pistons with the No. 2 pick in the 2003 NBA draft ranks among the league's all-time worst picks. The 7-foot Serbian hasn't exactly had the kind of career that anyone expected when Joe Dumars picked him over Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. This goes a long way toward explaining why there was little fanfare when the Knicks traded Quentin Richardson to obtain him from Memphis this summer. Yet a couple weeks into training camp, and it's looking like that trade could pan into a fairly savvy move. Milicic has played for a variety of coaches in Detroit, Orlando and Memphis. His best season was in 2006-07 when he averaged 8.0 points and 5.5 rebounds. This marks the first time, however, that Milicic has played in a system that fits him as well as Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo one."
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "To the average fan, a basketball game is a circus. Ten showmen swoosh up and down the court, a whirlwind of entertainment, from long-range shots to high-flying dunks. To Dean Oliver, basketball is a math equation. In his eyes, games are a series of possessions, and the simple way to win this game is to maximize your possessions and minimize your opponent's possessions. Asked if fans are looking at the wrong stats, Oliver said, 'To some degree, yeah.' The best-selling book 'Moneyball,' about the forward-thinking Oakland Athletics' front office, preached the benefits of on-base and slugging percentages over batting average and home runs, statistics most fans have been told for decades are the standards of offense. In basketball, Oliver has "the four factors" he regards as the holy grail -- turnovers per possession, offensive rebounding percentage, free throws made per field goals attempted and effective field-goal percentage (which gives 50 percent more credit to 3-point shots than normal field-goal percentage). 'If you can control those four things -- offensively and defensively -- you win,' he said."
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Amare Stoudemire worked hard to get in shape this summer after two eye surgeries but needs this preseason to find his old self. Alvin Gentry gave Stoudemire more time (29 minutes) Saturday to help get there. 'Amare's going to get better,' Gentry said. 'He's just not physically where he's going to be. I like the effort he's playing with. I think he's playing harder than he's played the last five years that I've been here. ... He just can't quite complete certain plays.' Stoudemire made four jumpers and a follow to get 13 points and five rebounds. He has not been able to get to the rim off drives or rolls. 'I need to just get comfortable again,' Stoudemire said. 'I'm still not all the way there yet as far as my rhythm.' "
- Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "In what's amounting to a nice dose of tough love from his coaching staff, DeRozan is finding himself in and out of games quicker that you can say "blown assignment" through four exhibitions so far. A handful of times in Toronto's 100-93 win over the Washington Wizards at the Air Canada Centre Sunday afternoon, the 20-year-old prodigy found himself walking to the bench for a quick tutorial from the coaching staff. Never mind that he scored a team-high 19 points and had a couple of highlight reel-worthy forays to the rim, the game was more about teaching lessons than piling up numbers. 'I had to take him out three or four times just to talk to him and it wasn't about getting a breath,' coach Jay Triano said after Toronto ran its pre-season record to 2-2 before a sparse crowd of 11,936. 'He's still making mistakes. ... If Hedo (Turkoglu) and Antoine Wright and Sonny Weems (all injured and unavailable) are here, maybe I take DeMar out and I'd punish him by sitting him down. The way we did it today, I took him out and we corrected it. The good thing about him is he's a great learner.' "
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Pound for pound, Marcus Williams might be the hardest working player on the Grizzlies' roster. That's because every pound counts for the 6-3 point guard. Williams, who signed as a free agent in the offseason, is contractually required to weigh 207 pounds with 10-percent body fat this season. He said the team checks those measurements weekly, and the results have financial considerations. Griz general manager Chris Wallace and coach Lionel Hollins insisted on the clause because of the conditioning and weight issues that plagued Williams early in his career. 'I've made it every week so far,' Williams said. 'It's just about managing your weight and putting in the work. That's what Mr. Wallace wants me to do. That's what Coach wants me to do. I feel better. My body feels better being lighter. So I think it's working out.' "
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "First-round picks in the NBA just aren't as valuable as some of you treat them. I'm not talking ALL first-round picks. Michael Jordan should feel significant regret for using top-three picks on Kwame Brown (with Washington) and Adam Morrison (with Charlotte). My point is some of us treat all first-rounders as game-changers, and that's just not consistent with reality. At least seven of the 30 first-round picks in 2006 didn't reach the summer when teams would have to decide whether to tender qualifying offers to make them restricted free agents. If roughly one out of three first-rounders were ousted that quickly, then maybe the draft isn't all it's cracked up to be. Watching the Bobcats this preseason, I've been marginally more impressed by second-rounder Derrick Brown than lottery pick Gerald Henderson. That doesn't mean Henderson is a bust and Brown is a coup. And if Ajinca doesn't work out, I still think it was a good call to trade into the 20th spot. It's rare that you have a chance that late in a draft to explore a big man's possibilities."
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Nobody has to remind Magic SG Vince Carter that his shooting percentage is unacceptable. 'I criticize myself for my shooting more than anybody does,' Carter said after Sunday's practice. 'I'm trying to take a different approach and not worry so much about it. I know it will come.' After three preseason games, Carter is shooting a chilly 35.4 percent from the field and is even colder from 3-point land at 17.4 percent. The eight-time all-star knows how to get easier baskets. He acknowledged that Coach Stan Van Gundy 'wants me to be more aggressive and get to the paint.' "
- Broderick Turner and Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "Derek Fisher, 35, in his 14th season and the final year of a contract that pays him $5 million, said he plans on playing beyond the 2009-10 NBA season. 'I'm definitely not shutting it down after this season,' Fisher said after the Lakers' practice Monday. He plays point guard, a position in which so many younger players are quick and looking to attack him. Fisher knows that teammates Jordan Farmar, 22, and Shannon Brown, 23, are looking to push him for the starting job. Fisher is not ready to think about retirement. 'I don't see any reason why he can't play past this season,' Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. 'I know that we all think that we can get away with age, but age does have a tendency to level us out as we go along. But he's done such a great job of keeping his whole physique and his training together, it's awful hard to see any flaws in him right now.' Fisher said he spoke with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak so he was aware of where Fisher stands."
- Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "The Cavs made a lot of fans unhappy over the course of last season by standing up in front of their bench. The NBA has since ruled players can no longer stand in front of the fans. LeBron James isn't sure he likes the ruling. 'It's hard to take that out of the game,' he said. 'Part of the game is emotion. Do you want to take that out of the game? Sometimes, your teammates are all you have.' The league has softened its stance on the dress code. James said he thinks the same thing will happen with the no-standing order. 'That's something you can't take out of the game, guys cheering,' he said. 'There's no way you can do it. That's part of the reason we played so well. We cheered on each other.' "
- Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times: "The N.B.A. union began tracking the classroom migration this year. Debbie Rothstein Murman, the director for career development for the union, said the number was much higher than in the past, although she does not have earlier numbers. For elite athletes, who command seven-figure salaries, returning to college is an investment and a hedge against what can be an uncertain future. Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets resumed classes at Wake Forest, and Russell Westbrook's teammate Kevin Durant continued working toward his degree at Texas. ... The Thunder and the Golden State Warriors each had three players enrolled in summer courses. While some are establishing building blocks for the future, others are fulfilling promises to loved ones or aiming to become the first member of a family to graduate from college. 'I have a younger brother, and it sets an example for him and how important it is,' said Westbrook, who declared for the N.B.A. after his sophomore season at U.C.L.A. The lectures could be boring, he said, and it took an entire day to write one page of the first paper assigned to him. But he also had the benefit of attending a university where a number of N.B.A. players convened for pickup games. So Westbrook easily shuttled from the court to the classroom. He recently posted on Twitter that he had received all B's in his summer classes."
- Scott Cacciola of The Commercial Appeal: "It is a coincidence that Allen Iverson's official public unveiling as a member of the Grizzlies will play out tonight in Richmond, Va., a short drive down Interstate 64 to the Atlantic shore, where he grew up. The Grizzlies' preseason opener against the Washington Wizards promises to be a homecoming of sorts for Iverson, still beloved by many in the state who watched him star in football and basketball at Bethel High in Hampton, Va. But the game also underscores an indisputable fact, one to which the rest of the team must grow accustomed: Iverson, at this stage of his career, is a bigger brand and greater draw than the Grizzlies. And it could create an interesting dynamic as Lionel Hollins continues to emphasize the need for team building."
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Aaron Brooks has seen his role change in small ways. He is the first point guard in drills, rather than waiting his turn. He has been featured in appearances and often the first request of the media during the sessions after practices. 'I still kind of know what the rookies are going through,' Brooks said. 'Everything is going 100 miles per hour. The thing that is most different for me is that everything slows down. You've seen everything. You know all the plays. You know what people are going to do before they do it. You relax, go out and play and try to be more vocal.' There will be more important tests, beginning with the back-to-back today and Wednesday against the Spurs and Celtics and similarly swift point guards Tony Parker and Rajon Rondo. It could be premature to expect Brooks to run in that fast company, but he said he does not mind the expectations or feel the pressure. As the trip back to McAllen reminded, he has come too far too quickly to worry about where he can go next."
- Scott Souza of The MetroWest Daily News: "With only six practices in the first seven days of preseason, and not a single double session, Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledges he is not even close to putting in all the sets and plays he normally might by the eve of the exhibition opener. But that's fine with the Celtics. With the experience both coming back and coming into this year's roster, they may still be well ahead of the game. 'We put in a few sets and we're playing off that so well right now,' said Paul Pierce. 'Doc sees these guys are picking it up easy. But at the same time we want to get in a good flow with the things we have in there so far.' Newcomer Rasheed Wallace predicted the collective basketball IQ of the main rotation will allow the Celtics to create so much out of a handful of sets that a book full of plays will hardly be necessary. Ray Allen said yesterday he's seen evidence of that in how few plays the team runs even when it's trying to go through plays with Wallace and fellow free-agent acquisition Marquis Daniels."
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "In the past decade, only one Western Conference team did what the Nuggets are trying to do this season. The stars aligned above, fittingly, for the Suns in 2005, and three of their players competed in the NBA All-Star Game. As for Denver, if Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups play as well as they did last last season, they will be headed to Dallas. But who's the third? 'Shaq is gone, Yao is out,' Nuggets coach George Karl said. 'This is the year of opportunity for Nene.' For the past couple of years, Karl has mentioned that Nene could someday be an all-star. This season might be his best chance. With Shaquille O'Neal in Cleveland and Houston's Yao Ming out with a foot injury, the 6-foot-11, 250-pound Nene is on the shortlist of the West's elite centers, along with the Lakers' Pau Gasol and the Suns' Amare Sto
udemire, who technically is a power forward, as is Minnesota's Al Jefferson. Also, Emeka Okafor has joined New Orleans, bringing his 13.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game to the Hornets."
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "When Antonio McDyess got into the first five-on-five scrimmage of training camp with his new teammates, he knew what to expect of most of the other big men. Once he found himself matched up against Ian Mahinmi, however, he began to wonder about a youngster with uncommon size and athleticism. 'I said, 'Oh, my goodness, this guy is good,' ' McDyess said. 'I wondered why I hadn't heard more about him. I love his game.' Spurs fans have been waiting to see more of Mahinmi since the Spurs made him the 28th pick in the 2005 draft. Beginning with tonight's preseason opener at the AT&T Center against the Houston Rockets, they will get another chance. Mahinmi knows tonight's game is the start of the most important preseason of his young career. He must prove he merits consideration for a spot in a frontline rotation that has added McDyess, veteran Theo Ratliff and rookie DeJuan Blair."
- Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: "During a water break at a recent Milwaukee Bucks practice at the team's training center, forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute positioned himself alone at a basket and hoisted a number of jump shots while the other players quenched their thirst. It's also not uncommon to see the second-year player stay after practice and put up even more jumpers with assistant coaches. Improving his mid-range jump shot has been high on Mbah a Moute's list since the end of last season and it's something he took seriously over the summer and in training camp. 'He's put in hours and hours on it,' said Bucks assistant coach Bill Peterson, who worked regularly with Mbah a Moute over the summer. 'And good, quality time. Not just messing around. I think we'll see progress. Will he be where we want him to be? Not quite yet. He's only a second-year player. He's really focused on it. He wants to get better.' "
- Eric Koreen of the National Post: "It is only pre-season. Veterans do not get overly worked up about the first exhibition game of the year. Rookies, though, might get a bit over-excited to play their first professional basketball game. That is where those veterans are supposed to calm the youngsters down. Toronto Raptors veteran Chris Bosh is taking a different approach with the team's lone rookie, DeMar DeRozan. He is doling out some more practical advice. 'Don't mess up,' Bosh said. Well, that should relax the 20-year-old as he kicks off his career when the Raptors visit London, Ont., to play the Philadelphia 76ers.
- Mark Woods for the Chicago Sun-Times: "With Derrick Rose nursing an injury and John Salmons 4,000 miles away awaiting the birth of a child, Kirk Hinrich figures to start for the Bulls today when they meet the Utah Jazz in an exhibition game at the O2 Arena. As for when that will happen again, who knows? ''Right now, they'll probably be bringing me off the bench,' Hinrich said. ''John is just more of a natural two-guard. I'm more of a combo. I really don't care. I just want to play when it counts and help this team any way I can.' Ask any member of the Bulls, and they'll tell you they need all the help they can get after losing leading scorer Ben Gordon, who signed a free-agent deal with Detroit. And for Hinrich, starting his seventh year in the NBA, it's a chance to re-emphasize his worth after he missed 31 games because of injury last season and underwent an awkward transition to the bench."
- Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Dwyane Wade couldn't do anything but laugh Monday night. The Heat star had just taken an outlet pass and was going to glide in for an emphatic dunk late in the second quarter of the exhibition opener for the Pistons and Heat. But midway through the glide, Pistons rookie Austin Daye came over to block the dunk and knock it out of bounds, eliciting a cheer from the sparse Palace crowd. Wade looked around and grinned. Later in the possession there was a Pistons foul, and Wade just joked and laughed with the Pistons' bench -- particularly Tayshaun Prince -- telling it that it was a great play. The good cheer continued throughout the night for the Pistons as they opened with an 87-83 victory. Pistons coach John Kuester grinned when asked about the play afterward, saying Wade's reaction showed his class. Kuester remarked how Daye and his fellow members of the Pistons' draft class -- Jonas Jerebko and DaJuan Summers -- will compete against anybody and doesn't really realize when they are going against a superstar."
- Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "It takes a village to raise a free-throw shooting percentage. Or something like that. But advice and affirmation from learned elders and helpful teammates can go only so far when you are flirting with sub-Shaq-like numbers. The Clippers' DeAndre Jordan, mindful of the grim 38.5% free-throw shooting in his rookie season, got his 6-foot-11 self into the gym in the summer. And stayed in the gym. 'I'm working on my free throws. A lot, a lot,' Jordan said. 'At the beginning of the summer, I had to make 10 in a row after I worked out to actually leave. The first couple of days it was tough. I would be here, like, an hour. I'd get to nine, like, eight times and missed the 10th in a row, like twirling the ball out. I'd be kicking a ball all the way over there. I'd have to stick with it and the time would get shorter and shorter.' He went six for nine from the line Sunday in the Clippers' opening preseason game at Oakland, a 108-101 loss to the Golden State Warriors. Jordan had his own eye-catching numbers: 22 points and 10 rebounds."
- Rachel Tobin Ramos of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The movie theater that bears Magic Johnson's name at Greenbriar Mall -- opened amid much hoopla 13 years ago -- will show its last movie on Sunday. The theater owner, Kansas City, Mo.,-based AMC Entertainment, said the 12-screen complex is underperforming. Employees were told last week the theater will close Oct. 11. The company would not say how many people are employed at the theater or whether they will be offered positions at other AMC properties. Ex-NBA star Johnson is no longer a partner in the theater, though it has borne his name since he invested $8 million to build the complex in 1996."
Wayne Winston is a professor at Indiana University and for the last nine years he has been Mark Cuban's stat guru for the Dallas Mavericks. Winston's recently published book "Mathletics," explains much of his work -- complete with formulas and spreadsheets. Earlier in the series (which is being discussed elsewhere, too) we have learned about:
- Post 1: Statistics, the Maverick's kryptonite and Ben Gordon. (And a follow-up.)
- Post 2: The player of the decade, Andre Iguodala's curious production and why the Cavs lost.
- Post 3: The amazing Danilo Gallinari, buzzer-beating 3s, the perils of starting Greg Oden and great Laker lineups.
In the final installment, Winston focuses on coaches and referees:
On Mike D'Antoni and Going Small
Mike D'Antoni, I think, is the guy who changed the game. You spread the floor and go small, and these big guys become dinosaurs. That was a stroke of genius. Didn't win a championship, which is too bad, but that's the biggest change in the game I see.
Who'd have thought that Brandon Bass, Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd is the Maverick's best lineup? It hardly makes sense. But for the last two years, that's been by far the best thing they've got.
On Tim Donaghy
They should have spotted him. I really feel there's a big debate. The NBA is more secretive about how they analyze referees than we are in chasing Osama bin Laden.
What I looked at is ... most people think that what he did was determine who won games. He didn't. He was into total points.
At the time Rick Carlisle was hired, Wayne Winston's stats said Rick Carlisle was the best coach in the NBA "and it wasn't close."
(Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
So I went back to every game where the line moved. If the line moves a lot, people bet money. And in those games, there were way more free throws called than you'd expect. And that's how you'd make scores higher. To make a game go over the over number, you would call free throws. Basically, he did it.
The NBA will never tell you who made which call. But if you make public, in those games, how many of the calls were made by Donaghy ... that's what they should be checking, and maybe they are.
But they found out about Donaghy from the FBI, right? They should have known. They have the right data. I know they hired Las Vegas people, they hired people to do this stuff.
On Referee Bias
Are refs biased against teams? Like Joey Crawford, I don't think he was biased against the Spurs [as has been suggested].
Honestly, every team has certain refs that they hate and are convinced are out to get them. The way you should analyze that is: Does your team play worse with those refs?
With Jeff Sagarin, my best friend and my partner in this stuff, we would analyze: When a ref refs your game, across the years, does your team play statistically worse than expected? That could mean either he hates you, or his reffing is so antithetical to the way you play that it affects your style. Either way is bad.
Now, most of the time I think you'll find a ref has no significant impact on a team's performance.
Dan Crawford was a negative effect on the Mavericks, if you analyze it this way, in the playoffs. Given the record, the Mavericks think Dan Crawford doesn't like them. Whether he does or not, I don't know. But I mean, I think the NBA should be doing that, and I don't know that they are.
They need to come clean on what they do. If there's another ref who's found to cheat ... I think the reffing thing is very important. The integrity of the game: Without that we don't have a game.
For People Who Hate Advanced Basketball Statistics
Every time I write about statistics, a certain portion of TrueHoop readers get upset. Whatever it is that they love about basketball, all these formulas and statistics seem to ruin that.
And I'm not entirely unsympathetic.
For instance, I have written that I'm against the use of performance enhancing drugs because you want to root for players who are doing things that you understand. Running and jumping and dunking the ball. A player does a good job, and we cheer that. But if it's really that the guy at the BALCO lab did a good job ... not as fun. If it becomes about drugs, then what you'd be seeing on the court is really in large part the work of someone in a lab somewhere ... and maybe we don't want to buy a ticket to watch that.
I could see that it would be the same with stats. If this is where the game is being played now, maybe that's not exciting to some people. What do you say to them?
I see what you're saying.
I just think we're trying to give the proper information they need to make good decisions. I don't think that's a bad thing. Wouldn't you want your coaches to have all the data needed to make informed decisions, like you'd want the doctor to order all the tests before deciding what operation to do on you.
I mean, should the doctor not do the tests? I don't know. This is getting to philosophy 101.
I think the skeptics would say: "I don't want the word 'data' in a discussion of coaching."
It's like the Mona Lisa. You can't quantify its appeal. But I think most fans want their team to win legally. And the stats are not the be-all and end-all. They are just one factor. The coach's intuition ... Rick Carlisle last year. Oh god last year was he good. I watch every game on League Pass. There were ten games last year that, going into the last five minutes they should have lost. And they won nine of them. He had all the information, but he just pulled the strings.
On Using Stats in Hiring a Coach
We did a study that showed he was the best coach in the NBA the last ten years. It's part of why Mark hired him.
How would you evaluate a coach?
We looked at every player that was traded to a coach's team. We looked at their rating the year before in our system and then how they did when that coach got them. And look at the difference. Carlisle crushed everybody. We sent that to Mark [Cuban] and a week later he hired Carlisle. (And I think he said that was part of it -- it wasn't the whole thing.)
But it wasn't close. He was at least two standard deviations better than average. He jumped out and there was nobody else close. He kicked everybody's butt on that.
Phil Jackson ... is he really good or did he just have Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant? That debate will go on forever. It kills me that we don't have the data going back before 2000 to try to answer that.
- Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles has a brilliant way around the NBA's ban on criticizing replacement referees: "A huge percentage of our fouls," he says, "were legitimate."
- Kevin Arnovitz of ClipperBlog, toying with the notion of The Return of Baron Davis: "Baron is an unquestionably better conditioned man this October. He seems genuinely mortified by his status as an accessory to last year's debacle. Although he's not surrounded by perfect complements to his game, he knows he can trust Eric Gordon, experiment with Blake Griffin, and have Rasual Butler as a viable option in the corner for a kickout 3. Contrast that to what he was offered at the outset of last season. Davis' ego is bruised -- and that's a good thing. Whatever pleasure he derives from his extracurriculars, he understands that without some corresponding gratification in the league, those accouterments aren't worth much. The documentaries, cross-cultural endeavors and clubs are all nice -- but Baron Davis can't be Baron Davis unless he's part of the league's constellation of stars and playing basketball well into May."
- John Hollinger's player ratings are posted, and Kevin Durant is the story (Insider). He's poised, says Hollinger, to lead the league in points per minute. There are a ton of reasons to be very excited about what's next from him. But there are still things he's really not good at: "There's no question about Durant's scoring; it's all the other elements of his game that raise eyebrows. He's a very poor passer and makes far too many turnovers for a jump shooter, weaknesses encapsulated by a -3.10 Pure Point Rating that was the fifth-worst among small forwards. Durant also gave a poor accounting at the defensive end, with the Thunder surrendering 8.2 points more per 40 minutes with him on the court than off it. His adjusted plus-minus was a horrid -8.62 points per 100 possessions, a stat that's even more alarming because the Thunder had a bad bench. His rating from his rookie year wasn't much better."
- Some guy says he got punched in the face. That's the what. The why? Story is it has something to do with NFL player Braylon Edwards having a real dislike for LeBron James.
- There have been some suggestions lately that Lamar Odom -- impending reality TV presence, celebrity husband -- may be craving the spotlight more than in the past. Exhibit Q, for questionable: About 85:15 into this video, he's wearing a wireless microphone in training camp. He sure appears to be headed to the bathroom. Before going, though, he looks off-camera, presumably at the tech in charge of his mic, taps the mic, and says "I'm good." As in, no need to unclip me for this.
- Byron Scott in the Shreveport Times, with potentially bad news for Chauncey Billups, who likes to post up small guards, and plays for a Hornets' rival: "A lot of times guys are trying to post [Chris Paul] up, but our guys that are six, seven inches taller than him are having a hard time in the post because he's so strong now. A lot of it comes with maturity and age. You get a little bit stronger and a little bit bigger. But the biggest thing is that he hasn't lost any of his flexibility or quickness." (Via Hornets247)
- One pre-season game in, Taj Gibson seems comfortable in the NBA.
- Hey look, it's Jamal Mashburn, Jason Kidd and that other guy who used to be famous.
- "Mad Men" fans, that's not Don Draper on the Nuggets' preseason roster. That's Donte Draper, and he made a highlight reel.
- Danny Ainge, Rick Carlisle, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Ferry, Daryl Morey, Sam Presti, Ed Stefanski ... meet your new team in charge of modernizing how the NBA uses instant replay. Change is upon us.
- Tim Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell watching DeJuan Blair: "Will any rookie outperform DeJuan Blair on a per minute basis? I doubt it. He looks sensational. He's the exact same rebounder we saw at Pitt, plus he has soft hands, can finish around the basket, is an efficient passer and, surprise, surprise, has a little bit of a spot up game. Clippers fans, don't kill me. DeJuan Blair is Blake Griffin's biggest obstacle on his path toward the ROY. Don't get me wrong. The total minutes thing will remove Blair from the conversation, but per minute ..." Whether it happens like that or not, the fact that a sober-minded observer like Varner says it could is reason enough to praise the Spurs for making good use of the draft's 37th pick. Also, Varner says Manu Ginobili looks tremendous.
- Michael Redd is playing like a healthy man.
- If the Nets had a lot of rubles to spend on players, what would the roster look like?
- Shaquille O'Neal once saw LeBron James pass the ball, and still thinks it's amazing.
- Nicolas Batum is called the best player in a Blazer scrimmage. Martell Webster, the guy who had Batum's starting small forward spot before his injury, says he hopes Batum is the starter.
- The Salt Lake Tribune's Ross Siler in London, where it is said the NBA would one like to have a permanent NBA team: "It should be noted that The O2 [arena], built by the same people as Staples Center, would be the most impressive NBA arena today if it housed a team."
- The NBA asks bench players to stay seated, for the sake of fans behind them, unless something really stellar happens.
- Sports Illustrated's Chris Ballard visited San Quentin to play basketball against the locals. The ending of the article is absolutely brilliant. But the start is scary: "As the inaugural opponents for San Quentin's over-40 squad, an element of the prison's outreach program, we had received the following warnings before our first visit: stay bunched together at all times, give only first names and run only when on the court because, as hoops coordinator Stephen Irwin, told us, 'Otherwise the guards will think you're a prisoner making a break for it, and trust me, you don't want that.' We knew about the three gun towers and the ratio of one armed guard for every four inmates but most of all about the 'no hostage' policy, which we were reminded of often and which was helpfully summarized by a prison employee as: 'If one of them grabs one of you, ain't s--- we can do about it.' In other words, no one made you come in here (and further, and more graphically, if a prisoner is holding both you and a weapon, the guards will shoot through you to get to the prisoner)."
- A Laker fan at The Second Coming, to Ron Artest: "Let me be absolutely clear: you absolutely cannot mess this season up. You fail here, and you will never redeem your career again. You ruin this good thing we have going in LA, and the rest of your basketball days will be tarnished by it. In LA, we fans run deep. We know our basketball, we know our history, and we have more than a passing interest in the Lake Show. We will be here longer than you. We have more influence than you. Win us over, and you will be a Hall of Famer. Lose our faith, and you will never see this level of love again."
- Renaldo Balkman has the dunk of the season, after one game.
- Halloween came early to the Suns. I think that's Earl Clark in a banana costume, but it also looks a little like a squash, or an eggplant.
- A huge roundup of everything Sixers, circa today.
- If your team gets more shots, that's good. Right?
- Was Gilbert Arenas limping?
- Jonny Flynn, talking like a point guard, to HowlinTWolf: "You have to be able to mesh with everybody on the basketball court you have to be able to know what to say to guys, know when to get on them, know when to kind of stroke their ego and baby them a little bit so one key thing I like to try and do is try and get to know everybody off the court and once you get to know everybody off the court and see their tendencies and their personalities, that's when your personality can kick in."
- Is it Michael Jordan's fault Chicago didn't win the 2016 Olympics? My take is that being famous does not oblige you to any particular cause. (Hopefully there's something that brings out the generous in you, but you can't fault a guy for not feeling this effort.) Jay Mariotti on AOL: "Did Jordan's absence hurt? I don't think it cost Chicago the Games, but having passed Pele three times in the media center hallway, always wearing a smile and a bounce in his step, I can say that the presence of the soccer icon helped Rio. 'It is very important to participate when your country needs you,' Pele said in one of the week's influential remarks. 'If I have to die for my country, I would die for my country. If I have to die for my sport, I would die for my sport. I feel very happy if I can help my country.' Jordan would die for a cigar or a golfing bet, but not for the city that built a statue for him." (Of course, this is not the best day for this PG-13 Jordan picture to be on Deadspin.)
- Rick Adelman is not yet happy with the Rockets' defense.
- Jordan Farmar, playing an FBI agent in some show.