TrueHoop: Martell Webster
- Many NBA teams divvy up minutes to young players based on which guys have guaranteed contracts. Sometimes this results in more promising and/or productive players getting buried on the depth chart behind someone the front office and coaching staff feels has to play in order to justify that deal. The San Antonio Spurs are not one of those teams.
- A fact, then a question: Allen Iverson missed a ton of shots as an NBA player. In fact, nobody in history racked up more seasons of 1,000 misses (six) than Iverson. Here's the question: Is that stat damning in and of itself? Or does it require a little more context, namely, was the player able to compensate in other areas?
- Aaron McGuire of Gothic Ginobili poses an interesting question for your NBA coffee klatch: "How much better can Kevin Durant really get?" I feel like there's a ton of room for growth on the defensive side of the ball, not just because Durant is tireless in his pursuit of mastery, but that body of his, once he learns how to use it, lends itself to perimeter stoppage.
- My 89-year-old grandfather has, in the words of Howard Beale after his crack-up in "Network," "run out of bull****." You probably have older relatives who fall into this category. You hang around this world long enough and you get to a certain point in life and career where you find that filter between private thoughts and public utterances to be unnecessary. Having observed Rick Adelman up close and in person, Zach Harper senses that's the case with the Timberwolves' veteran coach.
- Some more evidence that Martell Webster could be a useful player for a team that knows how to maximize his good-at-a-lot-of-stuff-but-great-at-nothing skill set. Could Randy Wittman's Wizards be that team?
- Love this Kelvin Sampson quote picked up by Jason Friedman at Rockets' practice: "Basketball is not a game of great plays; it's a game of eliminating mistakes." This isn't scintillating marketing material for the NBA, but when you peruse the list of the NBA's most efficient offenses, you're more likely than not to find teams that contain turnovers at the top. In the same vein, teams that play the best brand of defenses often don't have a lineup of stoppers. They simply rotate well, make smart decisions on pick-and-roll coverages and gamble selectively. And that's why the oldsters prosper in June.
- Phoenix Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby asks what he feels is a rhetorical question of Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns, but one that actually has a range of legitimate answers: "What do you want us to do? Do you want us to be bad so we can get good? Are you willing to live through two, three, four seasons?" Is living through two, three and four seasons of 34-win ball a decidedly different experience than enduring two, three or four seasons of 23-win ball? Babby continues: “How do you go to work every day and how do you lead a group of people both in an organization and players playing to make their living when either the conscious message or the subliminal message is ‘We want to lose’? ... I don’t know how to do that. So does that condemn us to purgatory for longer? I hope not. Could you come to work every day if you thought your boss was trying to be bad? How long does that take and how many front offices use it as an excuse?”
- Now throwing his hat in the right for the NBA's 2012-13 Most Improved Player award: Eric Bledsoe. The gritty third-year guard was the talk of Vegas in the Clippers' preseason loss to Denver on Saturday night. He scored 25 points (12-for-17 from the field), gobbled up eight rebounds and tallied five steals. Charlie Widdoes of ClipperBlog: "Simply put, last night marked the continuation of a streak in which he has done anything and everything the team could possibly ask of him. Starting in last year’s playoffs, to his brief stint in summer league and through last night, he has been their best defender, their best wing scorer, and even their best facilitator."
- After emerging as League Pass darlings in 2010-11, the Clippers put on the black hat in 2011-12 as a team many fans -- and a slice of NBA players -- love to hate. Count Rudy Gay among those who find the Clippers insufferable, and Chris Paul in particular.
- Adam Kaufman of No Regard for Human Life offers up another installment in the NBA/Presidential previews: The Atlanta Hawks through the prism of Plains, Georgia native Jimmy Carter.
- Portland rookie big man Meyers Leonard is learning the piano. He's got some of the beginner standards down, but he really wants to master the theme song to "The Office."
- Two great tastes that taste great together: Chris Singleton starts his day with a bowl of Fruit Loops and last night's episode of "Dexter."
- Retired guard T.J. Ford gets set to return to UT-Austin for fall classes.
- Are you a hoops junkie with a vision for new ways NBA basketball -- and, more specifically, the Dallas Mavericks -- can be covered in a blog format? If so, please reach out to Rob Mahoney at Two Man Game. Mahoney will join Ben Golliver as the new two-man game at Sports Illustrated's Point Forward blog.
- 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.
Early in the Sixers loss to the visiting Blazers, Portland had an obvious mismatch. The 6-7 Martell Webster was being guarded by the smallest guy on the court, Allen Iverson, who is listed as 6-0 but was once described by then-teammate Aaron McKie as 5-10, which seems plausible.
Webster can shoot from the outside, and is strong and athletic enough to score in the paint. In theory, he could feast on a small defender.
The Blazers force-fed Webster again and again. The smaller Iverson battled. "Just trying to fight him early," said Iverson after the game. "Trying to push him out as much as possible, and front him if I had to." He also used some veteran tricks. Not once, but twice on an early play Iverson yelled and threw his body around, pretending Webster had fouled him.
The referees weren't buying it.
Webster went to work.
He ran Iverson off screens, Reggie Miller-style. He posted up. He shot long jumpers. He fought into the paint.
And just about none of it worked. Webster missed a layup. He made a mid-range jumper. He missed a 3. He missed a tip-in. He missed a short jumper.
In one telling play, Webster posted Iverson, rushed a move into the helping Samuel Dalembert, and missed a tough shot over the longest arms on the court.
Another time, the Blazers fought to get Webster the ball in the corner and looked to create something off the dribble. But he didn't have a lot of room to operate, and ended up having to escape to the top of the key. By the time he determined there were no easy shots for him, he swung the ball into a shot-clock violation.
After all that, Portland was down six, and had scored just five points in the game's first five minutes. Webster missed one more shot, then Portland stopped going to Webster.
Iverson points out that the Blazers didn't find it profitable to isolate Webster on him. "They didn't go down there much," he says, "after the beginning."
Webster's normal offense consists of transition buckets, putbacks and open jumpers.
Portland's normal offense normally features players like Brandon Roy, Andre Miller, Steve Blake and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Despite the appearance of an appetizing mismatch, as soon as the Blazers stopped going to Webster, it took just over a minute for Portland to tie the game. Portland went on to win while Webster played sparingly the rest of the way. He finished one of six in the first quarter, one of nine for the game.
"Martell is not normally on the block for us," says Portland coach Nate McMillan. "We wanted to make Iverson work some, so they didn't just rest him. We wanted to go into the post with our guards ... we tried Martell a few times.
"You don't want to take yourself out of rhythm by going to a guy who's not normally in that position. We went to it a couple times, but we felt like we were trying to force some things there and we went away from that, and went back to what we normally do."
And quickly the offense got much better?
"No question," says McMillan.
- Red94 has fun with motion maps and team efficiency.
- And Tom Ziller maps the percentages of shots each NBA teams from the most efficient areas of the floor -- beyond the arc and the immediate basket area.
- HoopsTVonline.com catches up with former Florida Gator Nick Calathes, who's playing for Panathinaikos in the Greek League this season. A month after signing with Panathinaikos, Calathes was drafted by the Timberwolves, then dealt to Dallas: "I talked to coach Carlisle since I've been here and I have talked to Mark Cuban. I was going to play in the summer league (Las Vegas), but FIBA made a rule saying that I couldn't. So I have stayed in close contact with them throughout the year. I think Dallas could be a great fit for me, maybe in the future ..."
- Nobody knows for certain whether it's too early to start composing eulogies for Tracy McGrady's career, but Zach Harper of Hardwood Paroxysm beautifully catalogues some of his favorite memories from McGrady's prime.
- Per Blazers Edge, will this in-game tweet from Martell Webster result in a fine? One has to assume that Webster, himself, probably wasn't at the controls of his account.
- Today's time suckage: Who wore that jersey? (Hat tip: Feldman)
- "There’s a certain buzz in the arena" when rookie big man Jon Brockman checks into a game at Arco Arena, writes Cowbell Kingdom.
- Erik Larsen, basketball vulture, on the inner life of a Sonics fan circa December 2009.
- Go ahead and stick the Suns' Jared Dudley on the All-Guys-You-Want-on-Your-Side team. There's nothing freakish about Dudley's skills other than his intuition. Moment to moment, he simply knows the spot where he's most useful on a basketball court.
- After Philadelphia's shocker over Portland last night at the Rose Garden, 34-year-old Allen Iverson says that getting back into the flow of an NBA game isn't as easy as it use to be: "Once I got my second wind I was all right. The first couple minutes I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest."
- How low is the bar for Nets fans this season? Mark Ginocchio of Nets are Scorching captures the prevailing sentiment: "It’s getting to the point where I’m openly bartering with the basketball gods – I’ll take the bare minimum – give me 10. Just no more history books. No more futility to top all futilities."
- How high is the bar for Thunder fans? Royce Young of Daily Thunder describes the shifting worldview in OKC: "You know how you know your team is getting better? Wins aren’t good enough anymore. You want to play well AND win."
- Zarar Siddiqi of Raptors Republic is cautiously optimistic about Toronto's recent improvement. The Raps have won four straight and though they haven't beaten the league's best competition, they're becoming stingier on defense.
- If advanced stats voted for the All-Stars.
"No, seriously, you don't understand. We're the Golden State Warriors. We can't be losing to the Portland freakin' Trail Blazers."
It's a funny thing that's happening with this Blazer team. Honestly, my expectations have been pretty darned low for this season. But now they're on a win streak of five games -- with wins the last two night in Utah and at home against the Golden State Warriors.
The highlights will give you a little taste.
They're winning games in the strangest fashion. Against Utah, the Jazz opened the game with a layup line. One after another. Add in the absent Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge, and it was clearly going to be a miserable night. But then one guy got hot, and another, and then later another. Everyone seemed to take turns making shots that this team has historically missed.
Last night was much the same. Martell Webster sat out most of the game with flu-like symptoms. And it barely seemed to matter. James Jones, Brandon Roy, Joel Przybilla, and Travis Outlaw did the scoring instead.
Through it all, Joel Przybilla has been the kind of lane patrolling alpha dog that winning teams almost always have.
And now, you're starting to see something that has been missing for a long time: praise for Nate McMillan's Xs and Os. On Tuesday, Portland scooted into and out of a zone defense in a way that clearly kept the Jazz off balance. They have also been scoring out of timeouts, which is usually seen as a crude measure of clipboard chops. The Oregonian's Jason Quick says the team had another couple of tricks at the ready last night:
"I don't know how you give credit to a coach, but he gets an A-plus," said Roy, who had 21 points and seven assists. "Not only his adjustments on the fly, but just putting guys in the right position. He has been really good."
On Wednesday, McMillan fought the temptation to get caught up in Golden State's small lineups, starting the game with an emphasis on attacking the Warriors inside. Przybilla, who entered the game averaging 4.6 points, scored the Blazers' first seven, eventually forcing Nelson to take out undersized center Al Harrington and go with a bigger, yet less skilled center in Andris Biedrins.
Once Nelson went with Biedrins, McMillan countered by substituting Outlaw for Przybilla, and Outlaw took advantage, zig-zagging his way around the court for 12 second-quarter points.
Quick also points out that McMillan is starting to trust the team. He used to yank anyone who made a bad play. But now he's letting them feel their way a bit more, and the trust is paying off.
Now, I have no illusions. I know that in the big picture a five-game winning streak doesn't mean all that much. But when you couple it with low expectations it can really make you feel like singing. Consider very serious blogger Dave, of BlazersEdge:
After a while you get used to watching games. You're sitting there on the couch, Tivo remote in one hand (to rewind and analyze), pen in the other (to make notes for later use). Your eyes dart back and forth, looking for the angle, the story, the trends. I don't want to say it's like a business because it's not. It's very enjoyable. But it's kind of a clinical operation, especially when you know that a few thousand people are going to call you on mistakes you make or things you miss. You watch the moment, but you seldom get to be in the moment.
In the third quarter tonight the Blazers turned me into 100% fan again. Put down the pen, stop rewinding and analyzing, just watch and enjoy. Seeing Trout [Travis Outlaw] and Jones nail shots like they were 10-year pros, Jack and Joel run the pick and roll against a defense that was begging to be exploited, watching that brilliant play as Roy passed to Joel and then back to Roy again for an easy two at the rim ... wow.
(Photo: Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)