1. TrueHoop Network: Carmelo-Durant Debate
Royce Young, who blogs for the Daily Thunder, and Jeremy Wagner, who covers the Nuggets for Roundball Mining Company, had a running e-mail dialogue while watching Kevin Durant's Thunder take on Carmelo Anthony's Nuggets.
Here are their thoughts after Anthony outscored Durant 30-19 in a 119-90 Denver victory.
Royce Young: Of course, on a night when we're assigned to kick back, enjoy two of the elite scorers in the game going head-to-head and talk about it as it goes, Oklahoma City tosses out a complete stink bomb, Kevin Durant plays only 26 minutes and the game essentially is decided five minutes out of the half. Things like to work themselves out that way. Regardless of that, two of the NBA's most talented players were on the floor Wednesday night, guarding each other. So there's something to take out of that, right? Right?
Jeremy Wagner: Halfway through the second quarter Carmelo Anthony is outproducing Kevin Durant 21-13, but both players have been very efficient. Watching these two teams face off I think Carmelo has a significant advantage in that he is surrounded by players who are above-average passers for their position. I think Carmelo gets more easy chances than KD.
Young: You know, honestly it was fairly visible early that Durant was tight to start this game. He missed consecutive free throws, which is extremely rare, then followed that up by missing two short open bunnies at the rim. Durant doesn't miss open looks from 20 feet very often, much less point-blank ones. It's easy to forget that he really hasn't played in high-level, high-importance games much in his three-year NBA career. With Oklahoma City trailing Denver by just 2.5 games coming in, and then, obviously, the Carmelo head-to-head, it felt like he was pressing. And his final line showed it.
Let me ask you about what's kind of become Melo's signature move. He catches the ball, midrange (16 to 20 feet) on either wing. He stands still, moves the ball in front of his defender, putting the fear of a baseline drive in his mind. Then in one quick motion he rises, fades slightly and knocks down the jumper. I mean, how the heck do you defend that?
Wagner: It takes more than one player to defend Carmelo, and his ability to shoot with accuracy or attack with a great first step is why. The Spurs send all four off-the-ball defenders into a help position as soon as Carmelo catches. The Lakers have proved to have the best combination of scheme and personnel. They deny and then crowd Carmelo when he has the ball, with a player like Ron Artest and direct him into pre-rotated help in the form of one of their long bigs who is planted on the block.
A significant difference between Melo and KD right now is the way defenses have to account for Carmelo immediately because of his abilities and where he receives the ball. Durant generally starts outside the arc and the defense is able to stay at home longer. What kind of schemes have you seen teams implement against Durant?
Young: Dallas actually used one of the best schemes to frustrate KD. They played him straight up, man-to-man, except when Durant was on the wing or put the ball on the floor. The Mavs would then run a second defender at him, forcing him to either give it up or try to make a play in traffic. If Durant has a weakness, it's his handle in traffic. He's so tall that his dribble has to travel a long way down to the floor and back up again. Add that to his slight frame and it's a way to really frustrate him. If you let him run off his screens or get clean, stand-still looks, he'll kill you.
Wagner: We make a big deal about the physical development of young stars. Are they developing a post game? Expanding their range? Working on their offhand? Perhaps the most significant development is how they handle being the man for an NBA team. Some players like Glenn Robinson never move beyond the "I have to score right now" mentality. Carmelo still goes through phases where he gets overly concerned with scoring or sucked into trying to embarrass whoever is defending him. Durant joined a terrible team as a rookie, but he has already moved beyond the score-at-all-costs attitude and rarely forces anything. Above and beyond his physical talents, that is the most impressive aspect of his growth to me.
Young: Maybe it's different from your perspective, but it didn't really look like Denver did anything to really frustrate or knock KD off his game. It seemed more like he forced things a bit early, missed a few good looks he typically hits, and then once his team fell in a massive hole started chucking shots to try to get them back in it. It's a shame, because we didn't really get a good look at the best of Durant and what makes him so dynamic offensively.
Wagner: You are right, Royce, he was flustered early when he missed the back-to-back layups and received less help from his teammates than the castaways did from Gilligan. It bears mentioning that this game is following on the heels of a 42-minute, 39-point, 10-rebound effort from Durant the night before.
There is a lot of talk that Durant could average 35 points a game. Do you see him becoming so efficient he could accomplish such a feat, or would he have to monopolize the offense to the point that his scoring could be detrimental?
Young: Really, the only way I see that happening is if KD gets to such an outrageous place efficiency-wise that he can't help it. He's not a guy that intently seeks out his own shot very often. Just once this year has he attempted more than 30 shots in a game, and that was in an overtime tilt. I think he's destined to be a 30- to 33-point guy, with outstanding percentages. He scores his points within the flow of the game and in the rhythm of the offense. He doesn't force shots, he doesn't monopolize the ball. That's why he's such a "quiet" scorer. Everything comes within the offense and is rarely forced. But he definitely has the ability to do it, because he's so consistent on a night-to-night basis. Of course I say that after a night he goes 5-for-14 for just 19 points.
Wagner: While we did not get the most entertaining game, we can look forward to numerous battles in the coming seasons between these two quality franchises built around two of the best scorers in the NBA.
2. Far From The Same Old, Same Old
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Antawn Jamison isn't being honest and he knows it.
"Same old, same old," he responds to an inquiry about how he's doing.
Then he fesses up. "Well, not the same old."
Not quite. All that has changed since the last time I saw him is his trade from the Washington Wizards to the Cleveland Cavaliers, which made him the only major acquisition by a contender before the trade deadline, placed part of the Cavs' championship aspirations on his shoulders and linked him to the NBA's most significant story: the summertime decision of LeBron James. It's as if he went from filling out a keno sheet to sitting down at the final table in the World Series of Poker. Yeah, things done changed.
"This is the type of pressure that I want to be under," Jamison said. "People saying that I'm a piece to the puzzle. I've been waiting for this opportunity my whole career. I've done a lot of losing. I've done a lot of high expectations but not achieving them. This is a great opportunity. I love this pressure, I love being in this situation. I'm going to take advantage of it to the fullest."
To read the entire Adande column, click here
3. Daily Dime Live Recap
ESPN.com writers and TrueHoop Network bloggers chatted with fans and gave their in-game opinions throughout Wednesday's games -- all in Daily Dime Live.
4. Welcome Back, Landry
Carl Landry scored 22 points for the Kings in his return to Houston, including a pair of free throws in the final seconds to all but clinch Sacramento's 84-81 win. Landry is the fourth former Rocket to score at least 20 points for the Kings in his first game against his ex-mates from Houston. Cuttino Mobley did it in 2005 (24 points), as did Rodney McCray in 1988 (29) and Jimmy Walker in 1973 (31 for the K.C.-Omaha Kings).
5. Extreme Behavior
David Lee, Knicks: The All-Star flirted with a triple-double, posting 21 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists to power the Knicks to a 128-104 win over the Pistons.
Tyreke Evans, Kings: He may be the favorite to win rookie of the year, but his performance against the Rockets won't help him earn many votes. He missed 18 of his 22 attempts, finishing with nine points.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"I wanted to make [Darren] Collison work on the defensive end because he's going to do a lot of the work on the offensive end, so we just wanted to make him guard a lot."
-- Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley after scoring a season-high 26 points against the Hornets to help Memphis extend its franchise-record road win streak to five
6. Bring Out The Brooms
7. NBA Video Channel
8. LBJ Booed For Lame Dunk
EAST RUTHRFORD, N.J. -- The final word on LeBron James' latest and last visit of the 2009-10 season to the New York metropolitan area: He got treated better at Jay-Z's concert the previous night at Madison Square Garden than he did Wednesday in his final game at the Meadowlands.
A non-sellout crowd of 17,502 gave James an earful of boos after he came up with a steal in the first quarter and took off for a breakaway dunk, only to jump awkwardly off the wrong foot before gently throwing down a two-handed dunk that would rate no higher than a 2 on a scale of 1-10 in a dunk contest.
"That's how much they love you -- when they boo you, I guess," James said after the Cavs improved the NBA's best record to 48-14 with a 111-92 victory over New Jersey. "I had a few others that got them out of their seats."
James himself was out of his seat and dancing up a storm the previous night at Madison Square Garden as Jay-Z performed, and there was quite a bit of Twitter talk late Tuesday that James seemed especially giddy as he grooved to the hit "Empire State of Mind."
Folks in New York might take that particular dance move as a positive sign for the Knicks, who will make LBJ their No. 1 target in free agency July 1.
In Ohio, meanwhile, folks right now are laughing at that previous sentence, asking "What did you expect him to do, sit still?"
The fact of the matter is this: In trying to read the tea leaves in these days of uncertainty leading up to James' free agency, every public moment is worthy of scrutiny. Whether it's a dunk that draws boos or a dance that elicits hope, all eyes in this area are glued to the calendar and to the player who makes that date, July 1, so significant.
James has ceased discussing his impending free agency, so we can offer you nothing from Wednesday night regarding his future.
As for the concert, here's LBJ's take on his buddy's show:
"I'd rate the show five stars, two thumbs up. It was great, it was awesome, it was Jay-Z," James said. "Every song he had last night for the most part I gravitated to, the fans were unbelievable, they respected his music, respected everyone who came out there. It was fun."
ESPN Insider Chris Sheridan is a regular contributor to the Daily Dime
9. Celtics Show Some Fight
BOSTON -- With the Boston Celtics nursing a near-30-point advantage late in the fourth quarter and a message on the JumboTron advertising that Gino, Boston's celebratory "American Bandstand" dancer, was warming up backstage, Paul Pierce and Glen Davis playfully sparred in front of the bench during a timeout.
It was an appropriate visual considering that, just a couple of hours earlier, Pierce likened the final 23 games of the regular season to a boxing match, stressing that the Celtics needed to get their training in before the main event -- the postseason.
On a night in which Pierce produced one of his finest outings of the past two injury-riddled months, his team followed suit as the Celtics stomped the Charlotte Bobcats 104-80 on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
Pierce registered a game-high 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting (4 of 6 3-pointers) with four assists, three steals, two rebounds and a block over 26 minutes.
To read the full Forsberg column, click here.