NBA Playoffs begin Saturday on ESPN, 12:30 p.m. ET
TrueHoop: Mike James
- 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.
Jeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company: "If this is the new and improved playoff model of Carmelo Anthony, may the postseason never end ... If I could wrap up the difference in Melo over the previous three games it is that he is not only getting himself easy shots, but he is using his talent to consistently get his teammates easy shots. Melo has totaled 21 assists in the last three games and he has tied or surpassed his previous playoff career high of five assists for three straight games. Melo has also raised his defensive game to the highest level I have seen on a consistent basis at any point in his career. Melo clearly is taking his assignment of covering Peja Stojakovic seriously. He finished the game with only six rebounds, but most of them were ones he earned going up very strong in traffic. Carmelo is a dangerous weapon right now for a dangerous team and I cannot wait to see what he will do next."
Wizznutzz: "It was the 2008-09 Wizards that had daddy issues. and im not talking about Pamela McGee buying Bud Ice at tenley mini mart for nick young. LIke we said before this years team was a RUMP STATE - its a very real thing google it. They had no authorities in charge and it was left to them to raise themselves like Dickens orphans. they were a party of five, a pack of wolves, a tribo-juvelist cooperative (I made up those words). Yes they had a Dad but their dad was like Dirk Benedict (i did not make up those words) in the movie ALASKA who crashed the family plane into the mountains and the young kids were faced with a harrowing adventure to race against time and nature to save him. They had to think fast and grow up and come up with a plan and work together to cross the wild and while they were doing all that Mike James slipped back into the plane wreckage and stole dad's wallet."
Bret LaGree of Hoopinion: "Through four games, the Hawks have won the fastest and slowest paced games. They've also won the two least efficient offensive games which have both been characterized by poor field goal shooting and lots of turnovers. As much talk as there's been since Game 1 about Miami keeping the Hawks out of transition, both teams are so comfortable taking their time to set up their primary offensive option that if that option is taken away there's little time to find a quality second option within a possession barring an offensive rebound. Factor in the deference to Dwyane Wade and, to a lesser extent, Joe Johnson demonstrated by their teammates and the sharp contrast between good and bad offense we've seen through four games becomes more understandable..."
THE FINAL WORD
Celtics Hub: The age old question -- when are moral victories enough?
Forum Blue & Gold: Sizing up the Lakers' potential second round opponents.
Philadunkia: The chess game inside the Orlando-Philly series.
(Photos by Rocky Widner, Ned Dishman, Victor Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
Would Stephon Marbury fit into Boston's backcourt? Does Nate Robinson fit into Mike D'Antoni's vision? Wizznutzz doesn't worry about fitting in, period.
Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub: "The idea behind signing Marbury, I assume, is to have more offensive firepower on the bench. But where, exactly, does Marbury fit in with the second unit? If Doc sticks to the way he's been constructing line-ups so far this season, what you're really asking in the second question is this: Do you think Marbury is a better player than Eddie House? I say that because Doc essentially never plays a three-guard lineup or even a line-up with two small guards; Rondo and House, for instance, have been on the floor together for just 145 minutes this season.
So I don't think you can say, 'This is great, playing Stephon with the second unit frees up House to play shooting guard.' Because Doc has shown no indication he's willing to play two guys 6′2” or under at the same time, and I'm not sure he's willing to play a House-Marbury-Pierce/Ray combo during meaningful minutes.
It hurts the defense too much, especially against Cleveland, which rarely plays a small line-up. You can't just slide Marbury in for Tony Allen (who is 6′4” and a solid defender).
I just don't see how Marbury fits into the team - given the coaching staff's apparent preference for bigger guards - without severely cutting into House's minutes. Maybe Doc is willing to experiment with smaller line-ups or even play Marbury for Rondo alongside the other four starters in short stints. I ask you: Are you ready for that? Because I honestly don't know if I am."
Rob Mahoney of Hardwood Paroxysm: "For a long time, Nate Robinson has been a welcome diversion. Unfortunately, that's all. His success was always side by side with the prerequisite grain of salt as I looked for subtle ways to invalidate his glory. No more. I'm ready for the Nate Robinson revolution, and - friends, Romans, countrymen - I hope you'll join me for the ride.
The stigma of the short point guard is a painful one. No player faces a steeper hill, nay, mountain to climb to NBA competence. On top of that, there is no Myth of the Next Jordan/Kobe, or the next Maravich, or the next Garnett. There is the Mythology of the Little Man. If you can dunk, you are Spud Webb. If you can't, you are Earl Boykins. The confines of Nate Rob's world are bench sparkplug at best and sideshow at the most demeaning. If given the proper opportunity, he's ready to make that abnormally low glass ceiling obsolete...
If Steve Nash taught us anything in SSoL v1.0, it's that a stellar point guard's offensive skill can overcome defensive inferiority. When your defensive philosophy is predicated on making opponents take poorly planned shots after being lulled into a false sense of security and superiority and then run the ball down their throats, you're given such a luxury. I think that once 2010 comes around, Robinson should be that point guard. Last night, Nate put up 41 points on 18 shots…off the bench. He turned the ball over once in 36 minutes. He sealed the game with a nice, contested lay-up after a steal. His ability to put the ball in the damn hoop certainly trumps his limitations, and his weaknesses (FG%, turnovers) have dwindled with NBA experience.
He's not of the Nash mold. Not even close. There are games where he looks exclusively to shoot, and that's precisely why I want him in there kicking ass and taking names. The easier comparison is probably to Leandro Barbosa, but I think Nate's play is infinitely less trite. If Walsh and D'Antoni put together the type of team we know that they are capable of given their market and clout, Nate Robinson doesn't have to be Nash…or Barbosa. He's somewhere in between. Part of the beauty of SSoL is that it can turn rotation players and sixth men into juggernauts if they have the right skill set. Nate's got it. He doesn't have Nash's court vision or Barbosa's unbridled speed, but he can make plays for his teammates and he makes people look foolish with his quicks. If you put a playmaker beside him on the wing, that offense goes from 'fun' to 'deadly.' LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, even Joe Johnson. They would demand a subtle modification of D'Antoni's system, but the benefits could be enormous.
Why must a scoring point guard's works be invalidated by his height? ...It's hard out there for a point…so can't we remove the complications by letting a player play and dropping our notions of what a point guard should be and what he should look like."
Wizznutzz: "Everyone was anticipating the mega-trades, player moves that would realign the balance of power but lets face it this is what the NBA trade deadline turned into: a game called 'Osbournes' played by NBA GMs where they pretend Larry Hughes is a giant ham and they try and throw him over their neighbors fence when he's not looking. Whats astonishing about Larry Hughes (aka 'L-Boogie' aka 'Cold Mountain' aka 'His Majestys Secret Service' aka 'The Coy Mister') is not his game but the size of his dowry!
Larry's career has answered the question many league scouts had when he was first drafted and that question was: 'I wonder what would happen in we gave Victor Page 100 million dollars?'
There was even a crazy rumor that Cold Mountain would be coming back to the Verizon Center (home of the 'Unlimited Minutes' rookie plan!) But the Wizards and Ernie Grunfeld stayed put, hey if it aint broke why fix it! Even though they made no moves, The Big G said he got lots of calls all week from keen GMs. But it turned out they were mostly prank calls from John Nash posing as keen GMs begging for the contracts of Etan Thomas and Mike James."
THE FINAL WORD
Hornets247: Will the offseason be a horror flick for the Hornets?
Piston Powered: Is it time to sit Rodney Stuckey?
48 Minutes of Hell: Michael Finley -- fearless elder.
(Photos by Kent Horner, Chris McGrath, David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
Heat. Rockets. Celtics. Pistons. Bucks. Rockets. Raptors. Wolves. Rockets. Hornets.
Since joining the league as an undrafted free agent in 2001, guard Mike James hasn't just been around. He has been around.
He went to Duquesne, and was the first undrafted player in the NBA to average 20 points per game (in Toronto) and was an integral part of the last underdog team to win a title (Detroit, where he teamed with Lindsey Hunter to make a fearsome bench guard tandem -- the "pit bulls"). He has said he has bounced around the league not because of any particular flaw in his game, but because he doesn't have a blueblood basketball pedigree. He didn't play for Dean Smith, and he wasn't a lottery pick.
Through it all, he has been seen as one of the most colorful and straightforward -- if at times a little off the wall -- talkers in sports.
And now he's buried deep on the Hornets bench, not playing for the first time in his seven years in the NBA.
It's one of the toughest jobs in sports. If you're the 400th best player in the world, you're probably making good money putting up good numbers overseas. But if you're somewhere between the 100th and 400th best, there's a good chance you're in the NBA, and not playing much basketball at all.
Imagine ... being one of the best in the world at doing something, and simply not getting to do it.
After a mid-season trade for Bonzi Wells, that's what Mike James is doing for the New Orleans Hornets ... not playing basketball.
He took my questions yesterday afternoon, and had an interesting tale about an on-court exchange between Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul, and what it's like to play for Pat Riley.
Let's get right into it. Tell me, you guys just won a series last night. Are you feeling good today, or is it a little weird to not be playing after you've played in these kinds of big games before?
I mean, of course it feels weird not to be playing, but I'm excited for my teammates. We're winning. You can't ever rock the boat when things are happening with that that are positive for the team. I think that I still can play this game at a high level, and it's just a matter of me getting myself ready and focused, and whatever the team wants right now.
This is the first year of my career I played cheerleader. If that's what I've got to do, that's what I've got to do. But then when my number is called, be ready. But other than that, if one way don't work, I'll think about another way and another game plan so I can get myself better so this won't happen ever again in my career.
Have you had any conversations with the team about what your role might be as the playoffs unfold?
It's hard because I can't rock the boat. The team is already winning, so it's not like I've been there from the beginning of training camp. It's almost like now I've got to get in where I fit in. Right now I don't fit in but I'm still part of the team. I'm not in the rotation but I'm still part of the team.
I don't know if you heard, in the last half hour or so, but it was reported that Avery Johnson is leaving the Mavericks. I'm not sure if he was fired or quit.
Avery Johnson is one of the better coaches in the NBA. I've never heard nothing bad said about him from any of the players or from the relationship I've had with him personally over the years. He's been nothing but a stand up guy. You know, Dallas lost a good one, and somebody is going to gain a great one.