TrueHoop: Jason Richardson

Monday Bullets

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
3:08
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
  • SI's Zach Lowe breaks down the financials of Serge Ibaka's $48 million dollar extension, and what they mean for James Harden: "If Harden gets that max deal from Oklahoma City, the Thunder will be paying the tax for at least the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. Assuming a max deal for Harden and that Oklahoma City gets the No. 30 pick in each of the next two drafts, the Thunder would be set to have about $75.5 million committed to 10 players in 2013-14 and $77 million committed to the same number of players in 2014-15. Fill out the rest of the roster on the cheap -- forget the mid-level exception -- and Oklahoma City will be looking at $80 million payrolls in those seasons. The tax line is at $70.4 million now, and it will go up as league revenues rise. But most projections have the tax line somewhere around $75 million in the 2015-16, and very solid growth (about 3 percent) would have it jump only to $72.5 million in 2013-14 and $74.6 million in the following season. Note again: These are estimates. Under the harsh new tax rates that kick in for the 2013-14 -- just in time! -- the Thunder would be paying a tax bill ranging from $7.5 million to $12.5 million or so, depending on the exact tax level and how much the team’s ownership is willing to spend on the back of the roster. Is Oklahoma City, the league’s second-smallest market, willing to spend something like $85 million or even $90 million to fill a team?"
  • Bradford Doolittle projects only one team in the East to win 50 games (Insider) and for the Hawks to be the No. 2 seed despite losing Joe Johnson.
  • Jason Richardson learned how to play off a dominant big man with Dwight Howard in Orlando. That should work out well in Philadelphia, where he'll be paired with Andrew Bynum.
  • Philadunkia's Steve Toll imagines Masai Ujiri reacting to opportunity to trade for Iguodala: "He was told Andre Iguodala and he probably said something like, 'hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm let me think on it and I’ll call you back' then proceeded to rip his shirt off like vintage Hulk Hogan and go running around the Denver front office like a crazy person yelling 'Iguodalaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was just gifted Iguodalaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa for Afflalo and Harrington, Iguodalaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!'"
  • Answer: A Felix the Cat flag, screenplays and a stuffed turtle. Question: What did you miss at Michael Beasley's estate sale?
  • Darius Soriano of Forum Blue and Gold digs into Dwight Howard's somewhat maligned offensive game and finds a lot to like, especially in pick-and-rolls: "Beyond his finishing, however, the authority in which Howard dives into the teeth of the defense instantly draws extra defenders to him. This magnetism creates the floor spacing and passing angles his teammates feast on. With Howard on the floor the three point shooting percentages of Ryan Anderson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Jameer Nelson were all much better than when he was on the bench."
  • Blake Griffin's face-up game needs work.
  • Meet future NBA player Mirza Teletovic. He plays a bit like Ryan Anderson, says Sam Meyerkopf of Euroleague Adventures.
  • SB Nation's Andrew Sharp hilariously explains that it's been a great decade to be a Wizards fan if you are into endearingly dysfunctional players. And funny names.
  • On Ball Don't Lie, Dan Devine explains why Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings have a lot to figure out next season: "In sum, teams playing the Bucks feasted when Jennings and Ellis shared the court, scoring an average of 107.7 points per 100 possessions of floor time, more than five points-per-100 below Milwaukee's season defensive mark, according to NBA.com's metrics. To put things in perspective, only one team put up defensive numbers that inept over the course of the full 2011-12 season -- when Jennings and Ellis shared the backcourt, the Bucks ceased being a slightly-worse-than-average defensive team and became the Charlotte Bobcats (107.8-per-100 allowed)."
  • In an interview with Patrick Hayes, Kirk Goldsberry (of Court Vision fame) reflects on seeing statistics in action during the NBA playoffs: "I put out the chart in April, which showed how extremely effective Durant is from the top of the arc. It’s his favorite shot, he shoots a ton there, he owns that spot. The fast forward to the playoffs when the Lakers are playing the Thunder, then last possession of the game, Durant is approaching the top of the arc and Ron Artest is for some reason sitting back six feet and we all know what happened -- Durant nails that shot. What struck me was why didn’t the Lakers know that was his best shot?"
  • A Lakers fan who feels guilty, sort of, about his team's embarrassment of both basketball and literal riches.

Lineups that are killing it in the East

March, 14, 2012
3/14/12
2:31
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
Chicago BullsChicago Bulls
PG Derrick Rose  SG Ronnie Brewer  SF Luol Deng  PF Carlos Boozer  C Joakim Noah
Minutes Played: 284
Offensive Rating: 111.6 points per 100 possessions
Defensive Rating: 91.8 points per 100 possessions

How it works offensively
In 2010-11, the Bulls were a middling offensive team that relied on one dominant mode of attack -- a dynamic Rose at the top of the floor. This season, Rose is still the prized asset in the Bulls' scheme, but he's orchestrating a deliberate, savvy offense that's expanded its breadth.

This unit plays at a plodding pace of 90.9 (which would rank them last in the NBA), but it's a tight, killing-you-slowly kind of assault. How many teams pressure you with a point guard like Rose, who collapses the defense anytime he works off the dribble, but can also feed the post and have three quality options from there? When you watch these Bulls move around the court with purpose, it's hard not to see hints of the best of the Deron Williams-Boozer era in Utah -- only better, because Noah's screens and ball skills are so exceptional for a big man.

This group also features two world-class athletes in Deng and Brewer who understand how to play off a penetrator, as well as a couple of big guys who know how to hit a cutter. Ever since Derrick Rose arrived on the scene in Chicago, we've been hearing about how the Bulls have a fatal hole at shooting guard. Bulls fans, you have your shooting guard. His name is Ronnie Brewer.

The rap on Brewer has always been that he can't space the floor. Fair enough, because Brewer is a subpar shooter from beyond 10 feet. But elite teams find workarounds for flawed players, and the Bulls have maximized Brewer's many strengths beautifully. Spacing is a nice attribute to have in an offense, but movement is woefully underrated in today's game. And you won't find a lot of players who move more intently off the ball than Brewer. He might not hit a shot for you from 24 feet, but he never stops moving. Feed, clear, cut and repeat.

Would there be more space for Rose to work if he had a couple of wings who were better conventional shooters than Brewer and Deng? Possibly, but there are more ways to bludgeon an opponent than a drive-and-kick. Putting bodies in motion and forcing opponents into bad decisions with endless actions has its virtues.

How it works defensively
The vaunted Tom Thibodeau defense is no longer an exotic mystery cooked up in some lab in Cambridge, Mass. It's simply standard operating procedure for several NBA defenses -- but few, if any, of the imitators run it with the precision this unit does.

On nearly every half-court possession, the Bulls' defense has one objective -- keep the ball out of the middle of the floor. Once they have you confined to the sideline and you try to, for example, run a pick-and-roll, the Bulls will strangle you like a python by trapping, then bringing a third defender to the ball side of the paint to add further pressure.

What makes this unit particularly deadly when they implement this defense? Let's start with Joakim Noah. Bringing three guys to the ball is all well and good, but it doesn't help if you don't have two defenders who can cover the rest of the floor in what's essentially a two-man zone. There isn't a big man who performs this task better than Noah. He instinctively knows where the offensive threat is coming from -- when the ball will be reversed out of that pressure, to whom it will go to and how to best help without compromising the system.

Throw in two lanky defenders like Brewer and Deng, whose length, agility and smarts allow them to both stifle defenders on the ball or work as Noah's partner in that backside zone, and you have the components for the most difficult defense to score against in the NBA.


Orlando MagicOrlando Magic
PG Jameer Nelson  SG J.J. Redick  SF Hedo Turkoglu  PF Ryan Anderson  C Dwight Howard
Minutes Played: 178
Offensive Rating: 118.3 points per 100 possessions
Defensive Rating: 98.4 points per 100 possessions

How it works offensively
How good has this group been with the ball? There isn't a five-man unit that's recorded a higher offensive rating or a larger point differential in its favor. This isn't Orlando's most-used unit -- that would be the starters with Jason Richardson at shooting guard instead of Redick (402 minutes on the floor versus 178). The starting five aren't chopped liver, but the Redick-at-the-2 unit blows them away.

In many respects, this unit evokes the halcyon days of the Magic, circa 2009. Stan Van Gundy is one of the great pragmatists in the league. He deftly appraises his personnel on the floor and always seems to find a way to maximize those players' strengths while minimizing their weaknesses. These are familiar schemes that leverage Howard's presence down low to open up the perimeter for the Magic's snipers along the perimeter -- specifically Redick and Anderson.

Many times it starts with a high pick-and-roll with Nelson and Howard. The Magic get penetration or a deep feed to Howard in the paint, which forces the defense to collapse. When that happens, you know the drill -- a kickout to Redick or to a lifted Anderson for a clean look at a 3-pointer. Nelson has also developed a nice pick-and-pop rhythm with Anderson to find him open shots.

Other times, they initiate offense through Turkoglu on the left side. Turkoglu's efficiency numbers have fallen off since 2009 (he's shooting poorly and turning the ball over too frequently), but he's still capable of putting the ball on the floor and finding shots for others, and getting Howard the ball where he likes it. Redick is in constant motion in the Magic's half-court sets, breezing around baseline screens, getting free via pin-downs and using his escape dribble along the perimeter to find space.

And that's how an NBA unit chalks up a gaudy true shooting percentage of 60.5 percent, even with a below-average free throw rate.

How it works defensively
This unit earns its money on the offensive end -- a 98.4 defensive rating isn't anything to be ashamed of, but doesn't qualify as elite. Still, these five are getting a sufficient number of stops.

Unlike their contemporaries up in Chicago, Orlando places more of a premium on chasing shooters off the 3-point line, and they have the luxury of staying at home because they have a very large man with very broad shoulders manning the basket area and cleaning up any blow-bys that might occur. How is that going? Opponents are shooting 24 percent from beyond the arc against this unit and converting only 4.8 3-pointers per game. That is what chopped liver tastes like.

As imposing as Howard is under the basket, altering shots and intimidating, his pick-and-roll defense is also a key ingredient to this unit's defensive success. The Magic don't need to rotate all that often and, when they do, Howard recovers promptly to the back line and those rotators can immediately dash back to the perimeter where they can contest long shots with a close out, or just stagnate the offense.

One-on-one defense can occasionally be problematic, but Redick's tenacity -- both on-the-ball and chasing rabbits like Ray Allen around screens -- is vastly underrated. Turkoglu is no Tony Allen, but his length and awareness of where Howard is lurking makes him an adequate defender, as well. Finally, Nelson is a sturdy fireplug who can use his strength to bother opposing point guards, though he does yield his share of blow-bys.


Miami HeatMiami Heat
PG Mario Chalmers  SG Dwyane Wade  SF LeBron James  PF Chris Bosh  C Joel Anthony
Minutes Played: 389
Offensive Rating: 109.9 points per 100 possessions
Defensive Rating: 94.7 points per 100 possessions

How it works offensively
This past summer, Erik Spoelstra immersed himself in a single exercise: Examine how he could make life easier for the Heat's offense by diversifying their attack. In 2010-11, Spoelstra grappled with several strategies -- elements of the Rick Adelman's corner offense, "elbow sets" run through Bosh with multiple triggers and even some old Hubie Brown sets to free up shooters. The Heat finished the season as the NBA's third-ranked offense.

Spoelstra came to a realization, one that didn't necessarily conform to his natural instincts: The Heat could do better, and to achieve that improvement, it would require less conventional structure. He has freed up James and Wade, made transition opportunities and early offense priorities (Miami has gone from 21st in pace last season to 12th this season) and found new ways to space the floor.

So far as Wade and James, they have one imperative -- catch the ball and attack and don't allow the defense to set. No more dawdling at the top of the floor, waiting for stuff that never materializes. Off that, the Heat have found gold with Chalmers' vastly improved outside shot. The Heat were assembled with the idea that James and Wade would have quality shooters primed for kickouts, and with Chalmers, they have a teammate shooting 44.3 percent from 3-point-land.

Fewer sets are being run through Bosh at the high post with this unit, though he's still able to facilitate when the pace settles into a more deliberate, half-court game. Many of those sets that started with Bosh at the high post are now being initiated with James at the "Karl Malone" spot off the mid-post. Meanwhile, Bosh and Anthony screen with the best of them -- especially to lend space for Wade to attack -- and Bosh is still superb at lifting to a spot 18 feet away from the hoop for a no-dribble J.

How it works defensively
Spoelstra is still experimenting and tinkering with the Heat's schemes. Many a night, Miami is flirting with a Thibodeau-style strongside strategy, but one with a bit less structure and more freedom for James and Wade to rove. This isn't coming without costs: This unit is giving up 19.2 3-point attempts per 48 minutes, and opponents are shooting 40.4 percent from beyond the arc in the process.

The Heat are aware of the shortcoming and seem willing to tolerate a few gimmes on the perimeter in service of their larger defensive goal -- create chaos. That means more ball pressure than ever from Chalmers, and Bosh and Anthony jumping out with impunity on every ball screen. When it comes to defending the pick-and-roll, Bosh and Anthony might be the best big man tandem in the business at showing hard and recovering to the right spot on the back line.

Most of all, Spoelstra is encouraging James and Wade to operate as free safeties in what can be described as a quasi-two-man zone. Spoelstra's nature favors order over chaos and he traditionally has discouraged gambling, but he's come to appreciate that doubling-down on his team's athleticism makes good sense.

The results are there. Opponents are turning the ball 16.8 times per 48 minutes against this group. More impressive, the unit generates 23.3 points per 48 minutes off these turnovers and 22.5 fast-break points per 48 minutes. There simply isn't a defense in the world that can stop James and Wade in the open floor and the Heat's newfound guerrilla defense has maximized these opportunities.

Wednesday Bullets

October, 19, 2011
10/19/11
6:39
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Jason Richardson was hoping to go as one half of Milli Vanilli for Halloween, but might have to settle for Cameo.
  • Del Harris, now in a dual role as head coach and general manager of the D-League's Texas Legends, tells Rob Mahoney of the Two Man Game that he's been working with advanced stats for decades: "I’ve been doing metric analyses since the 60s and was the first in a lot of areas in the 80s to implement electronic data systems and things when I was coach and Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Bucks. Then that continued on with the Mavericks in a more elaborate system of metrics. But the basic metrics that I use for coaching a game really only involve basic chart-keeping, so we will be utilizing things that I’ve done for over 40 years to evaluate our points per possession, our pace of the game, our momentum. I can train a guy to do that in 10 minutes."
  • From Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Major League Baseball has put the kibosh on Dirk Nowitzki's throwing out the first pitch in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night in Arlington, Tex.
  • Hakeem Olajuwon and LeBron James, all smiles.
  • One of the few beneficiaries of the NBA lockout -- the Basketball Channel. They'll stream yet another star-studded exhibition on Sunday, this one in Oklahoma City.
  • The Lakers had the most expensive secondary -- or resale -- tickets in the NBA last season, while the Pistons were the cheapest ticket in the league. Of note: the Raptors placed 5th, the Clippers 9th and the Jazz 28th.
  • The Timberwolves were markedly better with Wes Johnson on the floor. Ben Polk of A Wolf Among Wolves has a theory: "First, despite his inexperience in most phases of the game, Johnson moves the ball willingly and with some vision. Second, Johnson was second-to-last on the Wolves in usage last season, ahead of only Anthony Tolliver. He didn’t shoot well, but he also didn’t shoot too much or turn the ball over too prodigiously. On a team with Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph and Jonny Flynn contributing a full portion of heedlessness each, such judicious self-awareness counts as a genuine skill."
  • In its Euroleague opener, CSKA never stops moving against the zone -- and all that motion pays off. For a primer of Euroleague's first round, visit The Painted Area.
  • More impressions of Michael Redd, who has likely played his last game as a Buck, from the gang at Bucksketball.
  • Four players have won titles in both NBA and Euroleague. Can you name them?
  • Mark Ginocchio's enduring love affair with Drazen Petrovic continues, as Nets Are Scorching counts down the 44 greatest Nets of all time: "I would argue that Petrovic IS the Nets in a solitary player encapsulation. A guy who couldn’t break into the rotation of a far superior team who emerged as a borderline all-star with the Nets only to shockingly die less than two years later. The other elements -- his PER, his scoring average, his lack of an All-Star Game appearance, his intentions to leave the US after the 92-93 season -- come across as irrelevant when you think of Petro in these terms. He is both what’s awesome and overwhelmingly depressing about being a Nets fan wrapped into one player. Someone who was never expected to amount to much, yet left us before we could actually say without question what he was actually worth to the organization."
  • Trolling for celebrities who could potentially buy the Hornets.
  • A gay American playing professional basketball in Europe comes out to an old friend back in the U.S. via text.
  • Shop early and stuff your stocking with Goodman League swag. Proceeds go to Project GiveBack in Washington.
  • On LeBron James, straw men, a hero's journey and conspiracy theories.

‘Melo set to take a bite out of the Big Apple

February, 22, 2011
2/22/11
4:01
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
Archive
Carmelo Anthony
Anthony
After weeks of trade talk, Carmelo Anthony has apparently found a new home in the Big Apple. The Nuggets traded the star forward to the Knicks on Monday along with guard Chauncey Billups, forward Shelden Williams, guard Anthony Carter and forward Renaldo Balkman.

In return, the Knicks sent forward Wilson Chandler, guard Raymond Felton, forward Danilo Gallinari and center Timofey Mozgov to Denver. The Nuggets will also get the Knicks' 2014 1st-round pick, the Warriors' 2012 and 2013 2nd-round picks and $3 million cash.

ESPN's Chris Broussard reports the Knicks will also receive Corey Brewer from the Timberwolves and send center Eddy Curry and forward Anthony Randolph to Minnesota. The 12-player trade (not including draft picks) is tied for the second-largest trade in NBA history.

Chandler, Felton, Gallinari and Mozgov combined for 53.4 points per game this season (50.3 percent of total team scoring). The Knicks acquired a combined 50.9 points per game in the five players that they received from the Nuggets, 47.3 percent of the points that Denver had scored this season.

The Knicks gave up an awful lot to bring Anthony to town, especially when it comes to outside shooting. New York ranked among the league's best in spot-up shooting metrics, including 25.3 points per game. Chandler, Felton, Gallinari and Mozgov contributed 13.1 of those points.

In the last five minutes of games in which the score is within five points, Raymond Felton (32.4), Danilo Gallinari (30.8), and Wilson Chandler (24.0) have the three lowest FG percentages among Knick players who have attempted a shot.

Conversely, Billups and Anthony have shot a combined 43.6 percent in those situations, slightly above the league average of 41.8 percent.

When you are a scorer, you need to find different ways to provide your team with points. For Carmelo Anthony, the leak out play has been a key cog in his arsenal. He is the only NBA player who has had more than 100 leak out plays during the past five seasons (133).

Tuesday Bullets

August, 17, 2010
8/17/10
1:19
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
  • More good stuff on the positional revolution, this time from Jesse Blanchard of 48 Minutes of Hell. Blanchard writes that defensive roles are much harder to define than offensive ones, which makes reclassifying (or declassifying, so to speak) defensive positions a nearly impossible task. The more NBA basketball I watch and the more NBA people I speak with, the more convinced I've become that off-the-ball decision making composes at least 50 percent of a defender's grade. It's important to have wing players who can smother isolation scorers, big men who can bang down low and guys all over the floor who can defend the pick-and-roll, but the margins of the game are won and lost because of the quality and speed of rotations, recoveries and anticipation. That's going to be true irrespective of how we define or redefine what a point guard, power forward or center looks like.
  • We've heard a lot about the Orlando Magic's "4 out/1 in" scheme over the past few seasons. Here's what it looks like.
  • While we're on the topic of what constitutes a power forward, should Rudy Gay be spending time at the 4? Joshua Coleman of 3 Shades of Blue: "Team USA is apparently content to live with their lack of size in the traditional post position of PF by maximizing their talent and athleticism at those spots by playing Rudy Gay at the 4 with Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant manning the SG and SF positions, respectively."
  • An evocative piece by Bethlehem Shoals about his trip to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame has two of my favorite things in one place -- basketball writing and travel writing. On seeing Wilt Chamberlain's jersey from the 100-point game in Hershey: "I couldn't help but stand, slack-jawed, for several minutes. I took in every detail of the fabric, trying to read the game's action, or Chamberlain's mood, through the patterns of sweat and scuffs. Most telling was the long blood stain across the back, where someone had evidently clawed the big man as he took the individual game past all acceptable limits."
  • Dave of Blazers Edge: "So much attention gets paid to [Greg] Oden's physical struggles that his true potential Achilles' Heel gets overlooked. The mental and emotional aspects of the game and the league will be Oden's biggest bugaboos. After three years of substantial non-playing his connection to health, basketball, championship-level play, and teammates is fishing-line thin. The organization will have quite a task reeling in such a huge specimen on that fragile line. Greg is more used to rehabbing than playing. He's more used to trying to decide what movie to watch than watching film. Competition is absent, muscle memory faded, rhythm non-existent. How will he adjust to his renewed calling and the renewed expectations...expectations with which he was never comfortable in the first place?"
  • Kevin Durant's first dispatch from Madrid: "I’m really looking forward to this whole experience. It should be a lot of fun. I’ve never been to Europe, never been to Spain, never been to Turkey or Greece. I’m looking forward to that and just being able to interact and be around some of the best players in the league. Guys like Rudy Gay, Iguodala, Rajon, Lamar…just to be with those guys and learn, it’s going to be pretty cool and it’s going to help me."
  • Jeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company on Carmelo Anthony's lame-duck status in Denver: "Carmelo already lacks defensive intensity and is not known for restraint on offense when it comes to letting shots fly. How much worse will those characteristics be accentuated if Melo is longing to be somewhere else."
  • Could a breakout season by Brook Lopez propel the Nets to the postseason?
  • If you take a look at the Wins Produced metric, it turns out Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley (both still with Phoenix) were the Suns' biggest overperformers during the postseason and Amare Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa (both no longer with the Suns) were the team's biggest underperformers.
  • Matt Hubert of D-League Digest lays out five Nancy Lieberman storylines as she takes the reins as head coach of the Texas Legends. Hubert wonders if Lieberman will be the target of any chauvinistic abuse from fans.
  • Scott Schroeder breaks down the 10 must-see D-League games in 2010-11.
  • A slew of teams introduced small modifications to their jerseys on Monday. The Jazz returned to an old motif and won the day.
  • Chris Paul: Big fan of Coca-Cola's Freestyle Fountain.
  • The commercial realities of globalism disappoint Donyell Marshall.
  • Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post tweets: "Oh man, guys, do a search for '2010 nba rookie portraits' on Getty. Some incredible stuff up there."
  • The cheapest seat in the house for the Heat's home opener will run you $185 plus service charges.
  • There are few guys in the league more fun to talk shop with than Ryan Gomes. Throw Gomes on the list of "players most likely to coach." When it's all over, Gomes has his eyes set on the Providence College gig.

The energy fueling Phoenix's offensive juggernaut

May, 14, 2010
5/14/10
1:36
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
The Phoenix Suns' pick-and-roll:

You know it's coming, but there's only so much you can do about it.

That pick-and-roll attack is the primary reason Phoenix was the NBA's most efficient offense this season. How good were the Suns with the ball in 2009-10? The gap between their top-ranked offense and Orlando's second-ranked squad was greater than the distance between Orlando and #10 Dallas. Incredibly, the Suns have become even more efficient in the postseason, where they're averaging 113.2 points per 100 possessions.

Virtually every team in the league incorporates the pick-and-roll and practices defending it tirelessly. So what's the open secret that allows the Suns to bludgeon teams on a nightly basis?

Tuesday Bullets

July, 21, 2009
7/21/09
1:46
PM ET

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

 
Several people have e-mailed me about this.
 
Wasn't that dangerous just like Trevor Ariza's attempt to block Rudy Fernandez the other night?
 
My response: Yup. It was similar, and no doubt dangerous. And it certainly should have been called a foul.
 
This kind of play is not at all uncommon.
 
I will be the guy to pipe up for the code of letting airborne players land safely. That's a good and important thing to do. But players disrespect it just about every night! It's like the speed limit. It's a good thing to have a rule. But lots of people go fast! It is what it is.
 
Here's the important part, though: If you break that rule, do so knowing that if you are unlucky, and cause a serious accident with your speeding, and heavens forbid hurt somebody ... it's your fault. You're the bad guy.
 
LeBron James was either lucky or skilled, and didn't cause a bad fall.
 
Ariza, on the other hand, was this close to being the villain in a dreadful injury story. The distinguishing drama of the Ariza tale was not Ariza's action -- which was fairly ordinary -- but Fernandez's fall, which looked like it could have been life-altering for the worse. That fall made that play a case study in why the common rule to let people land safely exists in the first place.

The Hornets' sharpshooter might be better off in the second unit. The Cavs' sharpshooter couldn't connect all night...until it mattered. Ron Artest thinks he's a sharpshooter. The TrueHoop Network shoots from the hip. 

Peja StojakovicRyan Schwan of Hornets247: "Other than Dallas, the Hornets have the worst bench among the current 8 seeds in the West...That means that when the Hornets hit the playoffs, we can expect the second-quarter meltdowns to become even more pronounced.  It's pathetic, because the Hornets' starting five is the seventh best in the league, despite all the nagging injury issues they've had.  If the Hornets' bench could provide even a little boost, or just play the other team more evenly, it would make the team infinitely stronger and get the starters more rest.

So is there a way to fix the bench?  I'm a bit of a pessimist, but here is an idea that several people have already proposed in our comments, and that I agree with: Turning Stojakovic into a sixth man.

During the series of games where Paul, Chandler, and West were all out of commission, the Hornets turned to Peja to be their primary offensive option, and he did a pretty solid job in that role.  The past three games with Julian in the starting lineup, the Hornets' starters have produced a slightly worse offensive efficiency of 108.0 and a much nastier defensive efficiency of 84.0 ... The Hornets could start Julian, sub him out for Peja around the 6:00 minute mark of the first quarter and let Peja warm up.  At the start of the second quarter, they can start running the offense through him.

Making this change will entail curtailing Posey's minutes some -- but I really think he'd be better served as a 20-22 minute man anyways, not the 29 minute man he's been all season."

Mo Williams

John Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "Mo Williams. What do I say? For 47:54, he had absolutely as bad a game as you can have. He's kind of an Anti-LeBron in that he's a guy who's primarily a straight-up scorer whose offense comes from the perimeter, so when he's not in a flow things can get very bad very fast. (Fortunately, he's ridiculously consistent.)

Tonight, he wasn't hitting his shots off the dribble. He wasn't hitting open threes. He wasn't doing well defensively. He had one assist against four turnovers.

And yet, for the third game in a row, Mo Williams was the difference between victory and defeat. And if I had to pick one game to show how valuable Mo is to this team, it might be this one. No matter what he's done before in the game, he's the guy who's there when we need him. Tonight, he was the difference between a great win and the worst loss of the year.

Delonte got off the hook, too-he was an absolute non-factor all game long, which is the one thing he generally never is.

Again, I'm going to point out just how good Joe Smith and Andy were at rolling to the basket all game long and getting layups, and how unbelievable LeBron was at finding them with amazing passes. I do not think it is a coincidence that this came against Zach Randolph."

Dirk NowitzkiMichael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns: "We'll never know if things would be different with Amare (I think they would be), but as J-Rich said, the Suns just can't think that way.

As it is, Phoenix struggles to match up defensively against most teams with their small ball lineup, and it makes me a bit queasy that Dirk has said the toughest defender he faces in the NBA is Shawn Marion.

Yeah, he might be a little helpful right about now.

To add insult to injury, the Mavs won this game without Josh Howard to snap a nine-game road losing streak to Western Conference foes, winning their first West game away from Dallas this calendar year. And yes, it is March 10.

For the Suns, it feels like that 'season-changing' win over the Lakers on March 1 was in a whole different calendar year."

THE FINAL WORD
Celtics Hub: How clutch are the C's in close games?
Rockets Buzz: The eternal Ron Artest question.
Daily Thunder: Who needs Tyson Chandler when you have Nenad Krstic?

(Photos by Glenn James, Noah Graham, Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jason Richardson: Happy

December, 11, 2008
12/11/08
9:02
AM ET

Suns.com's Jeramie McPeek talked to the new Sun shortly after he was traded from the Bobcats:

I'm sure your teammates were disappointed.
Yes, they were. I have a lot of great teammates here. We were all out in the (hotel) hallway and were talking. I let them know that I wasn't going to the game tonight because I had been traded.

What are your thoughts on the Suns?
There are high expectations in Phoenix. You can see what the roster has with Amar'e, Shaq, Steve. Those guys are future Hall of Famers. I'm very excited to play alongside guys like that for the first time in my career. I've never played on a team like this. I've always been on re-building teams. I've only been to the playoffs once. I've never really won anything, but I think I can bring a lot to this team and have a special season.

You played with Matt Barnes at Golden State. How do you feel about reuniting with him?
Richardson: Matt is a great guy. He called me today and said if I needed anything I should call him. I have a good relationship with him. It'll be good to see a familiar face and to ask where to go, where to eat in Phoenix and all of those types of things.

What should fans know about you?
I'm an exciting player. I do everything to win games. I have a lot of energy, I can dunk and shoot the threes. I give everything I can on the court. I'm not trying to take anyone's spot. I just want to come in and do what is needed. I'll fill the void where it is needed. Whatever it is - defense, scoring, rebounding, whatever it is. I just want to help the team to win and get deep in the playoffs.

McPeek spoke to Jared Dudley, too.

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