Saturday, January 28, 2012

Plays of the Week – The Most Kevin Durant Conversation Ever and LeBron Helping... The Cavs?!

Forget the singular skill set, the silky smooth release that looks the same from 40 feet as it does from 20 and “business tats,” this is why we all love Kevin Durant.

Whomever you root for, one day your team will have to rebuild. When this inevitably happens, do not forget to recalibrate.

The AAPL of the podcasting world, the Basketball Jones blew away the estimates in their latest quarterly report, which features a firm-but-fair assessment of one Mike Bibby.

Meanwhile, at Forum Blue & Gold, Darius provided a comprehensive look at the Lakers’ sputtering offense – the good, the bad and the possibilities.

Last season, Blake Griffin sent shockwaves of childlike exuberance through the NBA. Now, as Kevin Arnovitz beautifully explains, flanked by Chris Paul, burdened by expectation and no longer allowed to coast solely on highlight fodder, Griffin has entered the next phase of his journey toward icon status. I guess there really is only one first time.

At A Wolf Among Wolves, Myles Brown examined the Timberwolves’ handling of Kevin Love’s extension – taking management to task for deliberately slighting the second best player in franchise history (and a superstar that actually wants to stay in Minneapolis!) and leaving the fan base too unnerved to be euphoric.

At The Gothic Ginobili, with the Eastern Conference in the books, Aaron McGuire filled out his Western Conference All-Star roster for the first quarter of the season, and in the process provided an excellent breakdowns of the battles for the starting lead guard and center spots.

Ever wanted a one-stop shop for every iteration of Michael Jordan? Thanks to this absolutely gorgeous piece on Hooped Up, you’ve now got it.

Despite boasting one of the deepest and most versatile rosters in the NBA, the Portland Trailblazers’ front office faces a major challenge. Rather than gearing up for a sustained run of contention in the West, the organization must focus on the impact of each move in order to avoid an unwelcome domino effect.

At Welcome to Loud City, J.A. Sherman provided a great analysis of the Thunder’s pick-and-roll offense – which skews rather heavily in one direction.

Many are eager to lambast LeBron James for his perceived selfishness and lack of leadership. I’m guessing Kryie Irving and Tristan Thompson are not among them.

The Warriors’ bloggerati are one the same page. On Warriors World Ethan Sherwood Strauss rejected the franchise’s plodding journey toward NBA purgatory, while Evanz of Golden State of Mind reached into the archive to express the same sentiment.

Finally, in the wake of Danilo Gallinari’s triumphant return to MSG, Roundball Mining Company caught up with Knickerblogger’s John Kenney, who provided some brutally honest commentary on the deal for ‘Melo and state of the Knicks’ union.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

These Are The Moments... The Chicago Bulls

Though no hard and fast rule was established, prior to setting out on this journey through NBA history’s seminal moments, it was unofficially decided that the entirety of anorganization’s athletic brilliance should not be represented by any one player. A third of the way through, we’ve had a couple of close calls- Blake Griffin with the Clippers, Vince Carter with the Raptors, Dwyane Wade in Miami- with others sure to follow. Thanks to the best efforts of other stars and moments of individual brilliance (often served with a dollop of good fortune), no one man has managed to monopolize the highlight pantheon of a franchise.

Until now.

This is the domain of the greatest player in NBA history. Though flanked by another all-timer (and best perimeter defender ever), one man consistently explored the limits of athletic brilliance, in the process treating the fans of Chicago to a once-in-a-lifetime showcase of basketball at its highest elevation.With all due respect to Scottie Pippen, Bob Love, Jerry Sloan, the late Norm Van Lier and the leader of this generation and reigning league MVP, Derrick Rose, the story of the Chicago Bulls effectively begins and ends with Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

The incredible thing about Jordan’s body of work is not the extent to which any individual play defies belief (though a great many do), but the fact that over 13+ seasons all of this was done by one man:

Monday, January 23, 2012

Plays of the Week – Featuring the Knicks, Knuggets and the Black Mamba

From the always excellent Hoopism, a fascinating comparison of the early returns from the Class 2012 and how they compare to those of recent rookie crops (Spoiler alert! It ain’t shabby), accompanied by an phenomenal illustration by Joey Cienian.

On the evening of MLK Day, former Laker favorite Lamar Odom made his return to Staples Center. In a beautiful scene, the home crowd embraced Lamar one last time as one of its own, bestowing upon him the welcome he so deserved. In the hour before, Dave Murphy from Searching for Slava did an outstanding job examining the emotional return.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a recap more thorough and comprehensive than this one, on Posting and Toasting in the aftermath of the Knicks’ brutal double-OT loss to the “Knuggets.”

In light of the same tilt at the Garden, Scott Leedy did a stellar job of assigning responsibility for the Knicks’ woes. (Hint: it ain’t all on just one guy.)

At the season’s quarter pole, Aaron McGuire of The Gothic Ginobili fills out his Eastern Conference All-Star roster. Beautifully written and chock full of great stats.

Quick aside: this site has been an incredible addition to the hoops blogosphere. If you are not reading their stuff on a regular basis, I strongly encourage that you begin doing so. Like, right now. I’ll wait.

Ok, you back? Great! Let’s move on…

Slam chatted with one of your (I may knot now you, but I know) favorite players of the 1990s, a superstar whose illumination of the NBA was sadly but short by his own willingness to play through pain, Penny Hardaway. Excellent stuff.

Hopefully this takes some of the sting out of the whole “no statue” thing.

In case you’d forgotten, David Stern (and his 29 “partners”) still own the New Orleans Hornets. Thankfully this may not be the case for too much longer. At a fairly significant milestone in the sale process, Hornets247’s Joe Gerrity offers an excellent breakdown of potential buyers.

On SB Nation, Andrew Sharp proposed a radical (yet incredibly rational and sensical) swap that would expedite the Clippers’ ascent to the ranks of the “legit contender,” while penning a thrilling opening to the next chapter of NBA hoops in Orlando.

An absolute must read for anyone with a proclivity for (perish the thought!) occasionally wagering a dollar or two on the Association. 

At Forum Blue & Gold Darius- as only he can- took a reasoned, level-headed look at the “work in progress” that is the Lakers and a unique challenge faced by coach Mike Brown in 2011-12.

And finally, we have Mamba Week on the NBA blogosphere. Sure, these efforts actually span a couple of weeks, but it’d tough to cite one journey into the heart and mind of Kobe Bryant (I threw my own hat into the ring as well) in the absence of the others:

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski kicked things off two weeks ago, with a great look at Kobe’s iron will and defiance when faced with questions about a) his style of play, b) his Lakers mates and c) his team’s ongoing status as a true title contender.

Days later, at HoopSpeak, Zach Harper laid out a rather convincing case that Kobe is in fact not like you me- in no small part because he is undead.

Meanwhile, at The Gothic Ginobili (see what I mean?), Aaron McGuire reaches into the annals of Russian to unearth a shockingly apt psychological doppleganger (professionally, at least) for the Mamba.

A day later, Grantland’s Jay Caspian Kang drew a parallel between 2006 Kobe and current model- extremely well at that- whom he spent consecutive evenings at Staples observing.

Last but certainly not least, C.A. Clark from Silver Screen & Roll looks at the incomparable dominance displayed by the Lakers when Kobe Bryant plays the game that so many (so often) beg him to play. Wait, what?!

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Culmination of Kobe Bryant

“The only thing worse than dying is getting old.”

- John Gregory Dunne (“Vegas,” 1974)

How exactly does one go about growing old gracefully? Having yet to attempt the feat myself, I’d assume the process involves replacing the arrogance and bombast of youth with a quiet confidence, rooted firmly in a lifetime’s worth of accomplishments. In short, as members of our society age, they are asked to pipe down and allow their life’s work to do the talking for them. Y’know, ride slowly into the sunset.

Quaint as the notion is, it was undoubtedly hatched to shroud a much darker intention- putting society’s aged out to pasture, rendered obsolete. Nowhere is this phenomenon more evident than in the world of sports, where men and women, “young professionals” in virtually all other walks of life, are deemed “on the downside” and quickly ushered toward stage left.

It is at this point that 33 year-old Kobe Bryant finds his professional life in these, the early days of the 2011-12 season. And after 15+ seasons, 1,322 games (regular and postseason), nearly 49,000 minutes and several thousand extracurricular hours on basketball courts and in weight rooms the world over, it does not seem unreasonable to believe that Kobe might be inclined to recognize his professional mortality and "give an inch."


This illustrates perfectly the divergence in mindset between those that achieve true greatness in the most competitive of endeavors and everyone else. This is why Kobe Bryant will (probably not soon) retire as one of the half-dozen greatest players ever to grace an NBA court, while Vince Carter- every bit his athletic equal- will not. “Reasonable” is not what’s gotten Kobe to this point, and it would in fact be less than reasonable to expect him to embrace it now, when it would serve little purpose beyond expediting his exit from the game he so adores.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

20 Questions from the Association - Big Fun With Small Samples

Is it just me, or…

Even taking into account the extent to which Jason Kidd has come to rely on the spot up jumper, is it crazy to learn that a) all 11 of his 2011-12 field goals have been “assisted” and b) not one of them has come from inside the 3-point line?

Thanks to an awe-inspiring combination of inaccuracy (43.7% TS%, 31.9% eFG), selfishness (88.2% of made bucked “assisted,” v. Assist Rate of 5.63) and disregard for possession (15.75 TOR, v. league average of 10.67), is 2011-12 Corey Maggette- one of two NBAers playing 30+ minutes/game with a sub-8 APER (6.08!!)- running unopposed for “Worst Eight-Figure Player of All Time?”

Is Auston Daye, of the 24.5% TS, 22.7% eFG, 20.4% Turnover Rate, 3.5% Assist Rate, .17 Asst/TO and Adjusted PER of -4, the only obstacle between Maggette and “Worst Gainfully Employed Basketball Player”?

Unless he’s planning to shell out for a round-the-clock security detail, might Kevin Love want to stop devaluing David Stern’s, er, the Hornets’ 2012 first-rounder?

Is it frightening living in a world in which neither the Phoenix Suns nor the Golden State Warriors can manage 92 points per game?

Is it doubly frightening when in that world Jared Dudley is outshooting Steve Nash from both the field (41.3% to 40.4%) and 3-point range (33.3% to 31.6%)?

Might those among us inclined to the occasional wager be wise to monitor the Philadelphia 76ers just in case (small sample alert!) the league’s best eFG% differential (8.72%), Offensive Efficiency (106.5) and Off/Def Efficiency differential (10.1), second-best Defensive Efficiency (96.4), eFG (59.92%) and Defensive TS% (48.5%), and the only positive point differential (+10.3!) in their division- accumulated in four games out West- soon result in a significantly better-than-.500 record?

Does Leandro Barbosa’s 30.75 Usage Rate (seventh in the NBA, between Blake Griffin and Deron Williams) despite a 12.17 APER (v. league average of 14) tell you all you need to know about the Toronto Raptors’ approach (tankapalooza!) to the 2011-12 season?

Is Antawn Jamison’s ability to not only avoid the amnesty axe, but somehow maintain a starting job on an NBA team the most baffling development of the young season?

If you were Hasheem Thabeet, would you also customize an “82.3 PER” t-shirt and simply refuse to enter an NBA game for the remainder of the season?

Regardless of position, is there no excuse for making it five games and more than 140 minutes into a season without a single assist

Is it pretty silly that 10 days into the season, DeAndre Jordan is averaging more blocked shots (3.75) than any Sacramento King is averaging assists (Tyreke Evans top the list with 3 per game)?

Is laughing at Chris Bosh a lot less fun when the Heat have not one, not two… well, yeah, two viable (and Norris Cole is destined for much more) point guards and a healthy Udonis Haslem?

Did you also think that Ricky Rubio would be too small and offensively inefficient to become a quality NBA point guard during his rookie contract?

Did you also know that you were dead wrong within 90 seconds of seeing him run an NBA offense?

After an encouraging three-game start, did Brandon Jennings waste precious little time confirming (20 points on 9-35 FG, 0-11 3-pt, 3 FTA, 9 assists and 8 turnovers) that he is, in fact, who we… well, y’know.

Is your team anything but “super” when Bill Walker and Josh Harrellson are logging nearly 20% of your minutes while you await the dual saviors of a herniated Baron Davis and a rookie with 22 minutes (and a 3-for-13 performance) under his NBA belt?

Is Russell Westbrook, whose 32.81% Usage Rate trails those of only Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony, making it awfully difficult for even his most ardent defenders to continue fighting the good fight?

While feeling terribly for Manu Ginobili, do you preemptively hate the Spurs for the totally unexpected way in which they will inevitably fill the void?