TrueHoop: Marcus Thornton
1-- The Los Angeles Lakers won their 19th straight game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the second-longest win streak against an opponent in franchise history, surpassed only by a 24-game win streak against the now-Sacramento Kings from 1983 to 1988.
2-- The Philadelphia 76ers trailed the Miami Heat by 27 points at halftime. It was the 76ers largest halftime deficit since April 9, 1997, when they trailed the Atlanta Hawks by 27. Philadelphia lost that game 116-101. They lost a much closer one on Friday, rallying but losing, 84-78, in a game where LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had either the points or assists on every Heat score in the first quarter.
3-- The San Antonio Spurs had a huge lead against the Oklahoma City Thunder, winning 114-105. The Spurs have the Thunder's number. They've won eight of their last nine meetings with Oklahoma City. The Thunder, who started 17-1 at home, have lost three of their last four home games.
4-- A scan of Basketball-Reference.com told us something notable about Sacramento's Marcus Thornton, who totaled 36 points,five 3-pointers, and five steals in a win over the Boston Celtics. He's the first Kings player to hit those marks since Mitch Richmond had 38 points, five 3-pointers, and six steals at the then-Washington Bullets on January 25, 1997.
5-- The newest member of the Milwaukee Bucks, Monta Ellis, finished with 18 points and a +33 against his former team in a rout of the Golden State Warriors. That was tied for the third-best plus-minus of Ellis' career, easily surpassing his season-best of +19. The Bucks and New York Knicks remain even for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference after both won on Friday.
The Lakers' hot streak has coincided with Andrew Bynum flourishing over the last 11 games. Bynum scored 10 points and tied a career high with 18 rebounds, notching his 11th double-double, six of which have come in the second half of the season.
Bynum and the rest of the Lakers bigs combined to bother the Magic frontcourt. Orlando had a great deal of success when getting shot attempts within five feet of the basket, converting 9-of-10 such attempts according to video surveillance. However, the 10 attempts within that distance were 14 below their season average, and were the second-fewest for the Magic in any game this season.
The Lakers defenders also coaxed Dwight Howard into a season-high nine turnovers, the fourth time in his career he finished with nine turnovers in a game. Howard still finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds, his 25th consecutive double-double. He is the third NBA player to have a double-double streak of more than 25 games this season.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there was only one such streak of 25 or more games in the NBA over the previous 19 seasons (Kevin Garnett, 33 games in 2005-06).
More notes from an exciting night in the association:
The Denver Nuggets made 17 three-point field goals in their victory over the New Orleans Hornets. This came one game after the Nuggets made 18 three-point field goals in a win over the Detroit Pistons. Elias tells us that the Nuggets are the first team in NBA history to make at least 17 three-point field goal attempts in consecutive game. Perhaps more impressive, the Nuggets improved to 8-2 since trading Carmelo Anthony.
Marcus Thornton scored a career-high 42 points in the Sacramento Kings victory over the Golden State Warriors. Thornton is now averaging 24.2 points per game in the 10 games since being traded to the Kings from the Hornets. He had been averaging only 7.8 points per game for New Orleans in 46 games before being dealt.
Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images
Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton are some of the most productive lower draft picks ever. Do they get playing time because they're so productive, or are they so productive because they get playing time?
As I've mentioned, I've been stepping up my Twitter game, for better or worse.
Honestly, I'm digging it. It's a place where smart people debate hoops around the clock. It reminds me a little of the early days of the TrueHoop comments, when the vibe was a little like the bar scene in "Cheers." (Sometimes these days, the commenting vibe all over the web is a tad more "Rambo.")
But last night, for the first time in the last several-hundred tweets, I really chafed at that 140-character limit. Basically, I couldn't figure out how to make my point that quickly without acting like a jerk.
Thankfully, ink is free on TrueHoop and now I can explain a little better.
Zach Lowe (he of CelticsHub fame) wrote a great story for The New York Times' blog making a case that, relative to draft position, the Hornets' rookies Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton are among the most productive picks ever.
The Times' Howard Beck tweeted about that, and my initial response, by Twitter, however, was that those guys have something amazing that most lower picks do not: A coach who is really motivated to make them look good. After Byron Scott was fired, Jeff Bower became not just the guy who picked those players, but also the one who hands out the playing time. That's a powerful combination.
Now, let me be clear: the players have done the work, and earned all that time. Collison and Thornton have earned everything they have -- any team would love to have those guys. What's impossible to say is how many other players picked late in the draft have also done that work and would also be fantastic with the kind of coach's support, and minutes, that those two enjoy. They got an opportunity a lot of players don't get, especially those drafted outside the lottery.
Lowe is right to call them some of the most productive rookies drafted that late. But a wholly different thing is to call them the best players drafted that late, because without a coach's support and playing time, it's almost impossible to tell what most late-drafted players would have done.
Beck replied that he thinks, by and large, players get the playing time they deserve. It seems like a pretty simple thing, though, really. Players who produce get time, and players who don't produce sit. Some other tweeters jumped in and pretty much accused me of disrespecting those Hornet rookies, which is the last thing I'd want to do.
If I agreed with Beck's assertion, though, this is something I'd be able to discuss meaningfully in 140 characters.
But player development experts I've talked to at length are unanimous that one of the best things one can possibly do to help a rookie's career is to bless him with the confidence of a supportive coaching staff and minutes to get used to the NBA game -- and very few players get that. Just a week ago an elite player development coach told me that every single player in the NBA can play, and it's really just a matter of opportunities and coaching and the team.
David Thorpe has been making similar points for years. He talks all the time about "the royal jelly." Literally, that's what worker bees feed a chosen baby bee to make her the queen. But it's also, says Thorpe, what coaches and others can feed players to help them achieve their potential. A lot of it has to do with building confidence. Throughout his career, Thorpe has been accused of hyping up his players up and giving them big heads, to which he replies, jokingly, "guilty!" Thorpe is convinced that "the royal jelly" can and has fundamentally changed the careers of countless players. The gold standard of helping a player evolve, he says, starts with playing time.
"Playing time is the first part," says Thorpe. "A coach's support is another thing -- it helps you grow as a player if you know you're not going to get yanked the first time you miss a shot. That gives you the confidence to be creative and expand your game. And then the final aspect of the ideal set-up is coaching you up on the new things you're adding to your game. A great recent example of this was Trevor Ariza with the Lakers last season. In the spring, everyone was wondering why they'd let him shoot all those 3s. It wasn't productive. But they needed him to be able to do that, they let him do that, they didn't yank him for doing that, and they coached him how to do that better. And in the playoffs he was amazing at that and helped them win a championship."
So here are the Hornets: In the starting backcourt are two rookie guards. One was taken 21st in the draft, the other 43rd. Both had enough perceived weaknesses and faults that more than half the teams in the league passed on them. There were seven point guards taken in front of Darren Collison (nine if you include Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry as PGs). There were twelve shooting guards taken in front of Marcus Thornton. The expectations for them were not high.
The results have said otherwise. Despite all the perceived weaknesses, the two of them have formed one of the best drafts any team can claim. As starters, they have combined for 32.9 points on 25.8 shots (1.28 points per shot), 8.2 assists, and 7.7 rebounds a game. That's comparable, or better, than a good 75% of the backcourts in the rest of the league.
Jeff Bower the coach must be pining for Paul to return. Bower the general manager, however, must love seeing those rookies perform.
- The Spurs have been opting for a lot of small-ball lineups this season, to mixed results. Timothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell is "surprised to see that small ball treats San Antonio well, and more often than people want to admit," but also wonders whether the decision to put four perimeter players on the floor doesn't compromise the Spurs defensively: "It’s hard to funnel the guards into shot-blockers when they’re sitting on the bench..."
- The people have spoken on LeBron-Kobe.
- Kevin Durant describes Derrick Rose's dunk in Phoenix last night as "NBA live 2004-ish."
- Kevin Garnett returned to the floor for Boston last night. Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub notes that, after the game, KG was looking for feedback from teammates on his pick-and-roll defense: "One of the 25 best players ever, a member of the 20,000-point club ... comes back from an injury and he’s concerned most about…how well he’s jumping out to cut off penetration on screen/rolls? If Amaré Stoudemire made screen/roll defense, oh, I don’t know, the 27th-highest priority on his list, he might be someone people talk about as a great all-around player and franchise cornerstone."
- Kyle Weidie of Truth About It visited with Wizards' guard Mike James, who's been unhappy this season with his lack of playing time. James tells Weidie that, amid the disappointment, there's been one highlight: "James said the lone bright spot for him this season was when he played against the Pacers. Not because he actually got to play in an NBA game, but because he got to be on the court with A.J. Price, his basketball protégé with whom he often speaks. James and Price share a hometown in Amityville, NY, and James hopes that someone was able to capture a picture of the two on the floor together back on that early November night."
- New Orleans has had depth issues in recent seasons, but last night the reserves sparked the Hornets. Niall Doherty of Hornets247: "No coincidence that Darren Collison, Marcus Thornton and Julian Wright were all on the floor for both those stretches. Individually, all three of those guys had some great plays tonight, but it was a whole different ballgame when they were out there together. It was some Captain Planet, by our powers combined-type ish."
- What would you have said a year ago if someone told you that a Grizzlies-Thunder matchup would be the gem of a busy Friday night slate of games in January 2010?
- Portland Roundball Society chronicles how the Trail Blazers almost pulled off an improbable upset in Boston: "Andre Miller and Martell Webster led the Blazers on a near-heroic comeback to force overtime. Each showed steely nerves, scoring five points apiece as the regulation clock wound down."
- How do a team's offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency influence each other? Bret LaGree of Hoopinion asks, "How much is a team's offensive efficiency related to how often they force turnovers or how well they rebound defensively? Conversely, does a team's defensive efficiency reflect its ability or inability to score on a high percentage of its offensive possessions and thus get its defense set?" Brett Hainline of Queen City Hoops offers some insight from the Bobcats' look in Atlanta last night: "On Atlanta's 6 steals, they scored on 5 of those possessions, with one play being one of their and-ones, so 11 points on those 6 chances."
- Paul Pierce yuks it up with the Boston media (via Green Street).
- Shawn Marion hearts NY.
- Dan Feldman of PistonPowered digs through media archives to see if there's a deeper history to the exchange that occurred last night between Detroit head coach John Kuester and Tayshaun Prince.
- Devin Harris is unlikely to play when the Nets look for their fourth win of the year in Salt Lake City tonight. Keyon Dooling will get the start in his place, according to Dave D'Alessandro. Dooling tells D'Alessandro that Terrence Williams -- who will move into the backup point guard role while Harris is sidelined -- has "been the best player in practice. His talent is through the roof."
- Incredibly, the Raptors ride their zone defense to a comeback win over Milwaukee. That might say more about the Bucks' dearth of guys who can shoot the ball from the perimeter than the Raptors' strategic wizardry.
- The next time I complain that it's 54 and rainy in Los Angeles, remind me to click on this.