TrueHoop: Marquis Daniels
- Joe Johnson made his return to Atlanta last night for the first time since the Hawks shipped him to Brooklyn. Bo Churney of HawksHoop writes that however outsized Johnson's second contract with the Hawks might have been, if you zoom out and look at the landscape from afar, you'll see the impact Johnson made in Atlanta: "Joe Johnson isn’t LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, or Chris Paul. You can easily argue that he was never a top ten player in the league, and point out that he only garnered two total MVP votes in his career. But what you have to acknowledge is that Joe Johnson revitalized a franchise that had fallen into the fiery pits of NBA hell. In the six years before Johnson arrived, the Hawks only won more than 30 games twice, and were in a certain type of futility that resulted in a 13-69 record in the 2004-05 season."
- Many gifted transition players are guys who phone it in during a defensive possession just waiting for the moment they can take off and run the break. They're basketball's equivalent to people who aren't listening so much as waiting for an opportunity to talk again. As Zach Harper of CBS Sports writes and illustrates, Corey Brewer isn't one of those guys. Brewer is an elite base defender in the half court who can leak out in transition as well as anyone.
- Carmelo Anthony had a cameo on "Nurse Jackie" a while back. Here's his audition still from London for "Downton Abbey."
- Orlando's Arron Afflalo is a solid NBA player, but he's not exceptional enough to subsist on his midrange game.
- Garbage in, garbage out -- true in information technology and on the basketball floor. Ian Levy takes a studied look at how shot selection correlates with offensive efficiency, and why the Mavericks struggled offensively prior to their current winning streak.
- Andrew McNeill of 48 Minutes of Hell after the Spurs' drubbing of the Grizzlies on Wednesday night: "It’s games like these that make me think that it would take a hell of a haul to trade Stephen Jackson. Jack thrives in games like these where the game gets physical and the Spurs are looking for someone to stick their chin out and challenge someone. San Antonio needs his toughness in these games. Jack had eight points and five assists against the Grizz, hitting 2-of-5 3-pointers."
- Adam Koscielak of Gothic Ginobili on Shannon Brown's dribble fetish: "Even the folks at the weekly pickup game I wrote about last week have more awareness than [Brown], and there's no shot-clock to respect, nothing to stop them from doing them but the purity of the game. They seem to embrace it. In a way, it's impressive that Brown -- despite all the pro experience, despite his two championship rings -- still manages to dribble the shot-clock out like that. It's impressive that his teammates and coaches still trust him enough to give him the ball. But the most magical fact of all is watching what exactly Shannon Brown does with that ball. Puts it between his legs, plays around with it, throws it behind his back, dazzles with it -- ... and ends up going absolutely nowhere. He rarely gets layups. If anything, he'll hit a lucky pull-up jumper that he'll follow with a brick or five."
- Stephen Curry re-aggravated his ankle injury, Jarrett Jack is gimpy -- and now the feel-good Warriors and their depth are being tested.
- The Lakers haven't been very animated this season, something this video from Michael Smith seeks to correct. Smith also explains why the Lakers' road to the postseason is so rocky.
- Marquis Daniels' GMC Savana has party lights, a cutting-edge A/V system, seats that can accommodate the Bucks' platoon of young 7-footers and a lot of loose change lying about.
- On egraphs, Reggie Evans wishes a fan a happy 27th birthday with a personalized audio message, in which he also asks for some dental advice.
- From this day forward, Jamaal Tinsley would like to be known as "The Listener."
- Wages of Wins is helping to raise money for cancer research, which increasingly relies on quantitative analysis not entirely unlike what we're seeing in basketball, one reason the fundraiser are asking donors to offer a "guess for which player will have the largest Points over Par game and which game" on Thursday or Friday's NBA schedule. The winner will have his contribution upgraded to the next donation tier.
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are catalysts for the mildly surprising and watchable 13-10 Bucks.
The most vital tasks for any NBA franchise can be boiled down to recruitment and/or retention.
We can talk about the culture of an organization, its commitment to player development, and a ton of other ancillary qualities -- all of which have real value to a franchise. But ultimately, success comes down to a team’s ability to recruit the best talent, either through the draft or free agency, and retain those players’ services when they reach free agency. With precious few exceptions, teams need stars (preferably superstars) to contend, and if you’re not putting at least one on the floor, the ceiling for success is limited.
Fans in big coastal markets can’t really grasp how tough the Milwaukee Bucks have it in this regard. Milwaukee is a small, cold-weather market in an era when NBA players are more mindful than ever about what kind of city they want to live in and use as a platform to build a personal brand. For reasons fair -- and probably also a little unfair -- that recruitment and retention piece is a tough nut for the Bucks.
They can accumulate swaths of cap space, but have little hope that a top-15 player would accept a max contract to play in Milwaukee. Their most marketable player, the brand-conscious Brandon Jennings, probably will see the Bucks match an offer sheet next offseason. Jennings is more diplomatic than Eric Gordon, but you can imagine the feeling about staying in a Bucks’ uniform for four more seasons won’t exactly be giddy.
Adverse conditions aside, on most nights the 13-10 Bucks are a compelling on-court product. Jennings and Monta Ellis compose the Bucks’ speedy, dynamic backcourt. Both continue to post negative on-court/off-court numbers that show the team is more productive when they’re not on the floor (side note: Are we sleeping on Beno Udrih, who has been a savant the past two seasons, according to this metric?).
But offensively, both are a blast to watch and rank as the best starting ankle-breaking duo in the league (Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford take the overall honors when they share the floor in Los Angeles). Jennings and Ellis also have been driving forces behind pushing the ball for the Bucks, who rank sixth in the league in pace factor. That tempo hasn’t translated into results for the NBA’s 24th-ranked offense, but if you have to endure some inefficiency, watching Jennings and Ellis beats the plodding Sixers or Pistons as sheer entertainment.
The Bucks still make their living defensively, where they rank 11th in efficiency going into Wednesday night’s game at Memphis. Recognizing that the league pays a premium for offensive players and that many of them prefer glitzier destinations, general manager John Hammond has accumulated top-flight defenders and young guys with the potential to mature in that direction.
There are NBA defenses we appreciate for their proficiency, and then there are others who are downright fun to watch (think this season’s Clippers) because defenders swat shots, stuff guys at the rim, pick pockets that lead to fast breaks and generally wreak havoc. There’s always the potential for something exciting whose appeal is far greater to viewers than a well-executed defensive stop.
The Bucks are right there. They force turnovers at a higher rate than all but the Clippers, Hawks and Grizzlies. Hoopdata has a cool stat called “defensive play rates” -- a ratio of how many opponents’ possessions end in a block, steal or charge. The Bucks and Clippers own that stat, and it’s not a surprise.
Jennings is an inveterate gambler and thief. In Milwaukee’s recent big road win at Brooklyn, he recorded five steals in the half court. Jennings is a master at watching a ball handler’s eyes, eagerly waiting for the moment his man will avert his eyes away from Jennings to scan the court. When that happens, Jennings pounces. He jumps passing lanes and anticipates handoffs, when he squeezes between the QB and the running back to snatch the ball away. Jennings pokes, prods and jumps on outlet passes.
esse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty ImagesEkpe Udoh and Larry Sanders: Tree people
In contrast to the iffy numbers hanging over the Bucks’ two scoring guards, the wings (Luc Mbah a Moute and Marquis Daniels) carry the workaday responsibilities of stunting perimeter scorers and diverting guys to places on the floor they don’t want to go.
Meanwhile the young bigs, Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh, are maturing defensively at a staggering rate. In only their third seasons, they have developed into savvy, menacing pick-and-roll defenders.
Scott Skiles has his centers drop into the paint when ball handlers burst off a high pick, but unlike a lot of big guys who backpedal with the nervous look of a matador, Sanders and Udoh play angles and slide with ease between driver and basket -- especially Udoh. As a result, guards rarely get direct routes to the hoop and clean looks at the rim. Often those attempts get sent back at the shooters, as both Sanders and Udoh rank in the top 20 in block rate.
The Bucks have a few other nice assets up front. They feature rookie John Henson as yet another potential defensive ace, while Samuel Dalembert -- though he’s seen vastly reduced playing time -- is still a useful guy to have around.
Ersan Ilyasova has had a bumpy start to the season, but was widely praised as a solid offseason re-signing that gives the Bucks another look at the power forward spot, where Mbah a Moute also plays. Ilyasova has shown signs of life recently, and projects to improve over the winter.
Then there’s 6-foot-8 Tobias Harris (recovering from a laceration on his arm), who looks like a keeper.
We can’t fairly classify Milwaukee as Jazzian, at least not yet, but it’s a deep frontcourt that will keep the Bucks in the East's middle class and a possible low seed this spring.
Therein lies the rub for Milwaukee. The team suffers from lackluster attendance, and Bradley Center hardly offers fans the most cutting-edge production value. To compensate, ownership has made respectability a priority. For a team that desperately needs to find talent through the draft, that presents a serious conundrum. It’s not impossible to find future offensive stars in the middle of the first round, but it’s considerably more difficult.
Some remotely positive scenarios exist. The Bucks could find a star in the middle of the first round, or absorb some big-name players from teams looking for a trading partner to take on money and who are willing to throw a draft pick Milwaukee’s way for the trouble. They can hope Jennings develops into a top pick-and-roll practitioner who can cultivate a rapport with a couple of those bigs and improve his ability to finish at the rim. And to establish a top 5 defense they can pair with a better-than-average offense -- a combination that’s been known to get a few teams into the latter days of the postseason.
So the front office is in a bit of a bind, a similar type of dynamic that existed in Houston for a few years. They live in the NBA’s purgatory, a world where a promise to be a competitive squad under a capable coach works against a team because the NBA’s inefficient system punishes overachievement for middling teams. Every time the Bucks unearth a useful but non-elite ballplayer, they pick up a win or two and consign themselves to the treadmill.
On January 7, 2009, Brooks scored 19 points in 37 minutes off the bench in an 89-85 win over the Celtics. On April 2, 2010, he scored 30 points and had nine assists in a 119-114 overtime win in Boston. Brooks was clutch that night, hitting a game-tying three-pointer with nine seconds remaining.
Brooks was good in this one too -- 8-for-15 from the field and 5-for-8 from 3-point range. He had been 5-for-24 from behind the arc in his previous six games. Brooks entered the game shooting 36 percent on the road this season. But Boston felt just like home to him.
The Celtics, by the way, are now 12-0 at home against Eastern Conference teams, 4-3 at home against the Western Conference.
Elsewhere, Derrick Rose’s 29 points gave him six straight games with at least 20 points against the Detroit Pistons, whom the Chicago Bulls beat, 95-82 -- their 10th straight win against Detroit. A check with the Elias Sports Bureau shows that the last Bulls player with six straight 20-point games vs Detroit was Michael Jordan, who had a seven-game streak from February 1992 to April 1995.
Two players from these games provided an illuminating contrast in plus-minus. Chicago center Kurt Thomas played 30 minutes in the Bulls’ win over the Pistons, not scoring a point. But the Bulls outscored the Pistons by 24 points with Thomas on the floor. This was a contrast to recent efforts by Thomas, who recorded a negative plus-minus rating in each of his previous four games.
In Boston, Marquis Daniels gave the Celtics a lift off the bench with 19 points (on 7-for-8 shooting) in just 24 minutes. But the Celtics outscored the Rockets by only one point with him in the game. Meanwhile, Rockets forward Jared Jeffries didn’t score in his 12 minutes, but the Rockets had a 15-point edge on the Celtics during his minutes.
The other day, Utah Flash owner Brandt Andersen told Salt City Hoops that if he were advising an NBA player, he'd tell them to avoid social media:
I love Twitter; I love reading what these guys are saying. It's great for fans, and it's great for the writers. I mean, you've got Allen Iverson breaking the story on Twitter about signing in Memphis. It's an incredible look into the world these guys live in, and I love it. But my point is that they're always just one tweet away from embarrassing themselves ...
That tale seems especially relevant now. Right, Marquis Daniels?
Any body got a rednose pit dat u wana breed wit my Orlando raised brown eyed Doberman I have her tail n ears clipped...she's a prize fighter
Holy ghost of Michael Vick. Please, Mr. Daniels, on behalf of the Celtics and all that is holy, explain this in a way that makes sense. You are not really bragging about your prize fighter of a dog, right?
Lowe reached out to Daniels by Twitter last night, and got a couple of quick denials that this is what it appears it might be:
- celticshub it was a joke towards someone I kno back in orlando alot of my posts r me joking on someone
- wat did u think I was talkn bout....lmao, ion even like animals wit teeth....lol
Two people who know Marquis Daniels say exactly the same thing: Daniels is the kind of guy who would make an outlandish joke on Twitter. But he is not the kind of guy who would fight dogs.
A scan of Daniels' now locked Twitter account reveals all kinds of madness, including one of my favorites, a food review:
da rib man outside of cleos got drugs n his sauce....make u call on ppl u ain't never seen before like JES-US dis s--- good
Casimir K. works for Colourful Money, the firm that designed Daniels' Twitter page. He confirms that this Twitter feed really does come from Daniels the player, and that Daniels is no Michael Vick.
"No not at all," he explains. "He doesn't have time for that. He doesn't do much of anything besides basketball."
But is Daniels the kind of guy to say outrageous things in the name of comedy?
"Yes. He's a silly, down-to-earth, cool dude," says Casimir.
And, apparently, he does not have anything to do with fighting dogs, despite what you may have read on Twitter.
I'm thinking that next time, it might be smarter to skip that particular joke, or have you considered a text message?