TrueHoop: Steve Francis
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesWith Jeremy Lin now officially a member of the Rockets, is Dwight Howard next?
THE PICK-AND-ROLL GAME
In addition to being a defensive force, Howard is the best pick-and-roll finisher in the NBA. He averaged 1.38 points per play as the roll man on pick-and-rolls last season, best in the league among players with at least 35 plays.
On the surface, it might not appear Lin would be the ideal pick-and-roll point guard to pair with Howard. On all of his passes out of the pick-and-roll, Lin ranked in just the 40th percentile in points per play.
However, when going exclusively to the roll man, Lin ranked in the 72nd percentile (fifth of 35 point guards with 100 plays). That compares favorably to both Howard’s current and preferred point guards.
Orlando’s Jameer Nelson ranked 15th among that group of 35 point guards while the Nets’ Deron Williams came in at just 29th on points per play generated on passes to the roll man.
PLAYING OFF THE BALL
What about Lin playing off of Howard?
Only Andrew Bynum and LaMarcus Aldridge were doubled more frequently so the ability to spot up, spread the floor and punish teams for doubling Howard is important when playing alongside the big fella. Unfortunately, this is not an area in which Lin excels.
Lin shot just 32.0 percent from the 3-point line and ranked in the 55th percentile in spot-up situations (0.94 points per play) last season. He ranked in the 43rd percentile in catch-and-shoot situations (0.86 points per play).
AS A BALL-DOMINANT GUARD
One of the keys to Lin’s success with the Knicks last season was his freedom to make plays. Of the 148 guards with at least 500 minutes last season, Lin’s usage rate of 27.4 ranked 10th. Some players he outranked? Chris Paul, Brandon Jennings and John Wall.
For comparison’s sake, Nelson’s usage rate has been under 23.0 in each of the past six seasons and Lin’s usage rate last season (27.4) would be the second-highest ever among Howard’s backcourt teammates.
The highest rate posted by any guard teammate of Howard’s was 28.4 by Steve Francis during Howard’s rookie campaign in 2004-05.
Despite all the success, plenty of mistakes came along with the freedom Lin enjoyed in New York. Lin averaged 4.7 turnovers per game as a starter, last among the 39 players who made at least 20 starts at the point last season.
- Those of you who are sick of reading about how good LeBron James is, should definitely not read this fine Hoopspeak post. Although if it means anything to you, it's also about how Ron Artest didn't play so well on Saturday. I'm kidding, of course. Everybody should read it.
- Right now, all NBA journalism is threatening to devolve into the "did you see what Blake Griffin did yesterday?" show. On a totally different note, did you see what Blake Griffin did yesterday?
- John Wall is stunningly quick and he can do a wicked Dougie. But last night Tony Parker, like the good Spur that he is, was the one playing the extraordinarily efficient basketball. I'm sure he's also a great dancer.
- At the Heat Index, Kevin Arnovitz tells us--exactly and exhaustively--what the Heat's defense did to the Lakers on Saturday. As always, it seems, great defense comes down to trust and a "fundamental, almost religious, devotion by the entire team" to the group concept.
- I'm not what you might call a visual learner. Before I really understand a map or chart I usually have to go through a few rounds of staring, folding, unfolding, wearing it as pants. Nonetheless, the folks at Hoopism made a visual representation of every player on every team ever that is really pretty cool. As a Wolves' fan its hugely rewarding to see the names "Gundars Vetra," "Lance Blanks" and "Charles Shackleford" all in one place.
- Whenever the Timberwolves win, we at A Wolf Among Wolves have ourselves a party. That this party includes extreme expressions of exasperation at aimless defense and mind-blowing shot selection just comes with the territory. Do we care that two of the Wolves' seven wins have come against the Cavs? We do, sort of.
- Missing from my discussion of the new Suns was an assessment of the blockbuster trade that brought Marcin Gortat, Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus into the fold. Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns gives us just that. Here's the short term and the long term.
- At Basketball Prospectus, Sebastian Pruiti tells us that although Derrick Rose has indeed added the three to his arsenal, his midrange shooting has actually gotten worse. Just another example of the disappointing fact that, although Rose does almost everything beautifully, he doesn't always do it effectively.
- Aggressively hedging screens is a great way to deter a dynamic ballhandler like Rose. But NBA Playbook tells us that if you do it too early, you could be cooked. Yes, I just made two separate Sebastian Pruiti links. It's because he's awfully smart.
- Brian Robb of CelticsHub talks to Celtics' radio play-by-play man Sean Grande. It will make you want to listen to Celtics' games on the radio. Most interesting, I thought, was their discussion of the effect of Rajon Rondo's absence on the C's offense.
- On the New York Times's Off the Dribble blog, Rob Mahoney describes the ebb and flow of the Thunder's fortunes as a "Spursian rhythm," which sounds awesome. He also provides a really nice chart that I had to stare at for a while. Regardless, says Mahoney, you should get ready for OKC to surge. You should also read Rob Mahoney whenever you can.
- Please watch Kurtis Blow rap about basketball. Hear him say that "basketball is my favorite sport/I like the way they dribble up and down the court." See the strange way he stares at the camera as he lip-syncs. Notice that the players in the video seem to be playing on a six-foot hoop. Then watch Master P's (slightly PG-13) "Make 'em Say Ugh." Notice that there is a gold tank on the floor and a gorilla playing for a team called "The Hustlers." Then wonder about our weird culture.
- Whenever someone tells me that Pau Gasol is "soft" I disagree, and reply that he's actually just "not strong." But now even Phil Jackson is getting in on it. What does it mean when your coach says that a player is "not shooting the ball with a base, he’s kind of just lollygagging, putting a soft kind of release on his shot."? That sounds like a bad thing.
- Apparently, LeBron James literally does not know the meaning of the word "contraction." Yet another example of why I'm really glad I'm not a famous person.
- Bethlehem Shoals gives us the final word on Kobe and LeBron (kidding again): "Not only will we never see the question of 'who's better' satisfactorily resolved," says Shoals, "what keeps it going is that, at bottom, the two represent two very different approaches to the game. It's the impossibility of one ever really surpassing the other that keeps this debate going."
- A sad looking, 33-year-old Steve Francis has been cut from his Chinese professional team. After four games. Think about that and then think about this (check the 1:50 mark).
- The Bulls could use an additional long-range shooter for their wing rotation and, on the surface, Rudy Fernandez seems like a nice fit. So let's say the Bulls are able to acquire Fernandez from Portland in a deal. Could Fernandez reasonably expect more minutes in Chicago than he received in Portland? Matt McHale of Bulls by the Horns: "Look at Chicago’s roster: Derrick Rose, C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Luol Deng, James Johnson, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Kurt Thomas and Omer Asik. That’s a pretty deep team. How many minutes would Fernandez get in a backcourt that includes Rose, Watson, Brewer and (probably at times) Korver? Last season, Rudy became 'disgruntled' playing 23 minutes a game (down from 25 the previous season). How many minutes would he see on the Bulls?"
- Playing an all-out zone defense doesn't translate into much success at the NBA level. As Sebastian Pruiti demonstrates at NBA Playbook, many of the bedrock principles of the zone simply aren't available to NBA defenses because of the defensive 3-second rule.
- Assuming Kendrick Perkins isn't suited up on opening night, which O'Neal should start for the Celtics?
- Yesterday, Tim Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell wrote that it's just a matter of time before NBA teams will be examining the DNA of potential signees. Today, economist Tyler Cowen looks at a paper that suggests some populations are more genetically predisposed to collectivism and mutual cooperation than others. The researchers say, "Genetic association studies suggest that variation within the genes of central neurotransmitter systems, particularly the serotonin ... and opioid ..., are associated with individual differences in social sensitivity, which reflects the degree of emotional responsivity to social events and experiences." Cowen is rightly skeptical, but you can imagine how a credulous NBA organization might want to examine a point guard's serotonin level before entrusting him with running a team for five years.
- PistonPowered features a graph you don't see every day: Percentage of minutes played in 2009-10 by players acquired the previous summer.
- Deuce Bello is a freaky shooting guard out of High Point, North Carolina's Westchester Country Day. Count Kevin Durant among his admirers: "Do me a favor, when u get a chance go look at this high school kid Deuce Bello on youtube...most bounce i ever seen in high school..wowww."
- Yi Jianlian gets a fresh start in Washington this fall. David Thorpe, who has been training with Yi, offers Truth About It's Kyle Weidie this prescription for Yi's game: "I think he should play a game like Rashard Lewis ... Shoot the three, play a shot fake and attack game and spread the floor. He should be really, really effective in transition with John Wall because Yi is unbelievably fast."
- Sactown Royalty is tracking support in the Kings' small forward battle between Donte Greene and Omri Casspi. No word yet on Nate Silver's prognosis.
- Wizards owner Ted Leonsis once pitched a reality series he described as “The Apprentice meets Touched by an Angel.” A couple of years later he was asked to be a judge on "Shark Tank," but declined.
- Oh, you just knew it was coming. Gold's -- not the chain of gyms but the makers of horseradish found at most North American Passover seders -- is challenging Amare Stoudemire to ingest large amounts of the stuff on a piece of matzo to test his Jewish roots. Pun intended.
- Jerry Reinsdorf on the Bulls' six championships: "Michael couldn’t have done it by himself. The rest of the players and Michael would not have been enough. It took Scottie to put us over the top those six times.”
- SLAM recently published a piece on Steve Francis titled, "Where is the love?" A Vancouver Grizzlies fan weighs in with his answer at Daily Thunder.
- Rasual Butler is getting his reps in. He tweets that he went 500 for 598 from mid-range today.
- Want a quick video primer on each of the national teams competing in Turkey next month? Check out FIBA TV's video page.
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
Steve Francis to the Grizzlies. There's some poetic symmetry to it, isn't there? For a refresher on why this trade closes a circle, check out this Washington Post column by Michael Wilbon published just hours after the 1999 NBA Draft.
Wilbon spends most of his column inches evaluating the hometown Wizards' selection of a spindly kid from UConn named Richard Hamilton. But there are some great little morsels in here, including "tears of joy" from a young Ron Artest:
Teams have been charting upsides and risk, begging kids who aren't even adults to come and workout, come and take a physical. Odom didn't want to leave college after one year, which is the right instinct. And Steve Francis, who was obviously disappointed in not being selected first, showed poor judgment by sulking after being drafted by Vancouver. Son, you've overcome too much to whine about getting $3 million a year to live in one of the most beautiful cities in North America. Get a clue...
I bet the Vancouver Grizzlies thought the same thing when they took Francis with the second pick. What they got was a one-year wonder who looked very selfish and completely ungrateful from the moment David Stern announced his name. "Hopefully, when I wake up tomorrow," he said, "I'll be happy." Francis wanted to go No. 1, which is why he talked about the "risk" the Bulls took in selecting Elton Brand. Francis's coach at Maryland, Gary Williams, provided some much needed perspective, saying, "It's great he's the second pick in the draft. . . . you don't get to pick your team." Maybe it's just me, but it's a risk taking a guy who hasn't done anything anywhere for longer than one year. Last I checked, Brand took his team further in the NCAA tournament than Francis took his. The Grizzles, or whichever team winds up with Francis, better know it won't be investing in a rookie with any humility.
Luckily, there was a wonderful juxtaposition that took place about an hour after Francis slumped and pouted his way to the lectern, St. John's forward Ron Artest reacted to being selected by the Chicago Bulls by crying. Bawled right out in the open, tears streaming down his face. "Tears of joy," he said. "All joy."
Like any kid about to become an instant millionaire (even more so for a kid from New York), Artest had everybody in the world sucking up to him, tugging at him, phoning constantly. In recent days though, Artest didn't return any of those calls. "To all the people I didn't speak to, I was too busy taking care of business," he said. "I'm really grateful."
The Bulls might have been the big winners because they got Brand and Artest, to team with Toni Kukoc and Brent Barry, with tons of money to spend in free agency.
The rest is history: The front line of Elton Brand, Ron Artest, and Brad Miller led the 2003-04 Chicago Bulls to within one game of an NBA title.
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
- Almost ten years after he pouted his way on stage at the 1999 NBA Draft and reluctantly put on a Vancouver Grizzlies cap, Steve Francis is dealt to the Grizzlies for a conditional 2011 second-round draft pick. This may or may not be a precursor to the Rockets signing Dikembe Mutombo.
- Mutombo is on record as saying, "'I will be in Boston or San Antonio by the end of the year." 48 Minutes of Hell says the Spurs should say thanks, but no thanks, to Deke's services, and explains why Ian Mahinmi should be a factor in the decision: "Ian Mahinmi is rehabbing two ankles, one of which he injured while rehabbing the other. It's a laughable affair, I know. Once healthy, however, it really is in the Spurs best interest to keep Mahinmi's development on the fast track. This will necessitate minutes with the parent club. Mahinmi might regain his lungs by spending a short stint splashing around in the Toros' kiddy pool, but little else. The Spurs need to know if he can swim, and, if so, to what depths. The 10 minutes per game Popovich would find for Mutombo are better spent on Ian Mahinmi. Hold these words for later razzing: Mahinmi's end of the year numbers for San Antonio will be more impressive than Mutumbo's Boston totals." [emphasis mine].
- Ric Bucher writes for ESPN the Magazine that things are getting ugly in Oakland: "However bad it looks at 8-22, it's way worse behind the scenes. According to sources, [Stephen] Jackson, Nelson's staunchest ally in the lockerroom, was called into Nelson's car when he showed up for the team's shootaround before facing Orlando. Nelson apparently told Jackson he was playing poorly and Jackson, who had been fighting through injuries to stay on the court, was so upset he skipped the shootaround."
- Some interesting data from Nielsen that chart the performance of Christmas Day games from seasons past: "Since ABC obtained NBA broadcasting rights in 2002, the network's Christmas Day games have averaged a 4.1 rating and 6.9 million viewers nationally. The highest mark came in 2004 when the Lakers and Heat (featuring a much-anticipated reunion between Kobe and Shaq) pulled a 7.3 rating and 13.2 million viewers."
- Ira Winderman notes, "In the past three games, Michael Beasley has played 18, 15 and 13 minutes. Of course, the Heat also won all three of those games." Has Eric Spoelstra lost confidence in his rookie? Not according to the Heat's coach: " "It wasn't necessarily an indictment against Michael. It's just the unit that was in there wasn't getting it done by the scoreboard, so we had to change the energy. He's young."
- Two of the best in the business -- CelticsBlog and Forum Blue & Gold -- host a Q & A exchange on the eve of the big game. CelticsBlog shares the recipe for "The Rondo Cocktail."
- Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns "sometimes wonder[s] why Nash doesn't shoot the basketball more himself," after Nash buried Denver on Monday night. VoTS concludes, "Steve Nash wouldn't be Steve Nash if he were a shoot-first point guard, and especially on a team that also features Amare, Shaq and J-Rich, the Suns really need Steve Nash the distributor rather than Steve Nash the scorer on most nights."
- Zach Randolph went down hard in the third quarter of the Clippers' loss to Toronto Monday night. Most recounts of the game -- including Randolph's -- had Chris Bosh as the culprit. Upon further review, says Clips Nation, Jake Voskhul was to blame and "it sure looks like Voskuhl was happy to give Randolph a good hard shove."
- Hornets247 was justifiably bummed out by the Hornets' performance last night against the Lakers. Tyson Chandler is a pivotal player for New Orleans -- both substantively and spiritually: "When Tyson gets fired up for a game, two things can happen: the Hornets find him early, he gets some easy buckets, which gets him clicking on defense, and he plays great OR the Hornets can't find him early or he's fouled hard repeatedly and can't get easy buckets, he starts getting frustrated, and the Hornets fall apart on both ends. The guy really is pretty key to what they do, and tonight he was a mess. "
- Chris Bosh offers a congratulatory video to Barack Obama. "I've been watching the election all day...I took a nap -- I wasn't feeling well today -- I took a nap. Woke up at, like, 5 o'clock. Then the polls started closing, so I started watching CNN. I just turned it off. And it's 12:30. I watched the speech. It was a very, very moving speech."
- Toronto was idle last night, but the Celtics played in Houston. Doc Rivers couldn't be distracted from game prep to watch election coverage, but he told the Boston Globe that the C's -- the whole league, really -- were consumed by the election: "'The guys are celebrating in there,' Rivers said of his players' reaction to Barack Obama's victory. 'I told them this isn't a black-and-white thing, don't look at it that way. It's good for America. I don't care who you voted for, America got involved.' Before the game, Rivers had observed, 'This is the first time I can remember in sports so many guys being so interested in the results. I've never seen anything like this, ever. Players, coaches, everybody talking about it - it doesn't mean they are pro-Obama, pro-McCain, or whatever. It's just that I'm amazed at the interest.'"
- Kevin Johnson unseats the two-term mayor of Sactown. How did he pull it off? The lead story on his campaign website offers a glimpse into his novel GOTV effort: "A Sacramento limousine company is teaming with the Kevin Johnson for Mayor campaign to get voters to the polls in style on Tuesday...BigThingsLimo.com and GM Michael Osorio are leaders in the 'Promote the Vote' effort in Sacramento, and will be holding an Election Night Results Viewing Party at Chris Webber's 'Center Court with C-Webb' restaurant in Natomas."
- Dan Shanoff speculates that, given the president-elect's intense love of hoops, "Obama will be 'Baller-in-Chief.'" Shanoff adds: "He will install a basketball court in the White House. He will resuscitate the visibility and cachet of the sport, inspiring a generation of kids to take up the game. If there is a phrase that might have defined his campaign -- and will certainly define his presidency -- may I suggest: 'Obamaball.'"
- To Shanoff's point, what did Obama on the biggest day of his life while waiting for the polls to close? The lede from the Associated Press' midday report: "Barack Obama unwound by playing basketball and eating a steak dinner with extended family Tuesday as he awaited Election Day results that he hoped would send him to the White House with support from red and blue America." Tom Ziller has more particulars.
- Check out what Steve Francis was rocking during introductions in Houston last night. "Francis, who's been out since last season with a knee injury, arrived at the arena wearing a red velvet sports jacket with 'Barack Obama' spelled on the back in sequins. If Obama wins the presidency, Francis said he would try to attend the inauguration. 'Today is a transitional day in my career and everybody else's career,' he said before the game. 'Hopefully, there will be a change.' Francis said he had the jacket made by a tailor in New York City, where he played for the Knicks in 2006-07. He would not divulge how much it cost, but said he got it last week and was wearing it for the first time. 'Hopefully, this will show my support,' he said."