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Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Vince Carter, Amar’e Stoudemire, Alonzo Mourning

Vinsanity gets a lot of heat for little things like, you know, not trying. But I will defend his performance in the 2000 dunk contest against any of the classic sets put up by the Jordan/Nique/Doc crowd. Greatest performance ever in an NBA/ABA dunk contest.

This group is also notable for two memorable-but-not-exactly-cool fashions: Rip Hamilton’s face mask and Amar’e’s (<– that just doesn’t look right) David Duval-sized Oakleys. I know he has to protect his eyes, but it’s a bad sign for your game when you feel the need to take off one of your accessories to shoot free throws.

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From the Overreacting Based on a Small Sample Size department … whoa. The Heat look completely outclassed. I seem to have greatly underestimated Chicago’s defense. While I didn’t expect DwyaBron to dominate like they did in game 5 of the Boston series, I did think they’d be the best players on the floor on a regular basis. And there’s still time for that to happen. But game 1 was not a very auspicious sign for the Heat. No disrespect to half-man, half-velociraptor, but when Chris Bosh is the Heat’s best player against a 60-win team, they’re probably not winning.

As for the Bulls, that’s what I call crashing the boards! And hitting bit threes! And playing suffocating D! And getting to the rim! I honestly haven’t watched a whole lot of Bulls basketball this year, but the phrase “2011 NBA Champion Chicago Bulls!” does not seem very far-fetched. (Side note: I watched this game on my 13-inch, very-much-not-HD TV, and from more than a foot away from the screen, Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer look exactly the same in wide-angle shots. One of them needs to grow some hair so I can tell them apart.) (Side side note: I love Boozer’s jumper. Definitely one of my ten favorite all time.)

Third team:

Westbrook, Harden, Deng, Garnett, Noah

Second team:

Rose, Terry, LeBron, Randolph, Howard

First team:

Paul, Wade, Durant, Dirk, M Gasol

Andre Miller

Mitch Richmond

Carmelo Anthony

Dennis Rodman

Yao Ming

***

Miller used to be one of my least favorite players because he always threatened to take assists titles from one of my favorite players, Jason Kidd. And speaking of favorite players — I ❤ Rodman. The hair, the rings, the tattoos, all of that ridiculousness — I couldn’t get enough. But, of course, with Rodman it always comes back to the rebounds. We make a big deal about Kevin Love averaging 15 a game this year, but, between the ages of 33 and 36, The Worm averaged between 14.9 and 16.8 RPG every season. The dude was freaky, in every sense of the word.

My only comment on Yao? I love how I can use his shooting prowess against anyone who argues big guys can’t shoot free throws just because they’re big. If Yao can shoot .833 from the line for his career, shouldn’t the Shaqtus have been able to at least push his FT rate (.527) above his FG rate (.582)? I mean, what was he doing in the gym all these years?

Thoughts.

1. Whoa. Where has that Russ/KD pick and roll been all my life? Memphis had no idea what to do with that.

2. NBA commentators have an annoying habit of making everything seem easier than it actually is. For example, when Jeff Van Gundy says a jump shooter is “WIDE OPEN,” the scenario doesn’t generally meet my wide-open criteria. But even with that in mind, JVG and Mark Jackson severely underestimated the degree of difficulty on that Westbrook-to-Durant alleyoop. Both repeatedly referred to the bucket as an “easy” two, and, yeah, it was a dunk, but come on. That pass had to be perfect to avoid the defense, and Durant dunked it right over the outstretched arms of the defender (I forget who it was). Far from a piece of cake.

3. For Durant, there is a very tangible difference between good threes and bad threes. When he is able to catch and shoot and step into a three, he is knock-down. When he his And-1 shake and bakes before hoisting a fadeaway? Not so much. He makes some of those that make you shake your head and tip your hat, but, for the most part, Durant needs to eliminate those from his game and focus on taking GOOD threes.

4. Three cheers for Russell Westbrook! Passing to Durant on backdoor cuts? Who knew that could lead to “easy” buckets???

5. A few days ago, I thought Nick Collison was starting to enter “so underrated, he’s overrated” territory. After game 7? Nope, still just underrated. Ibaka only played 13 minutes, and it wasn’t because he was playing terribly — Collison was simply better.

6. He didn’t come up huge in the last couple of games, but Marc Gasol is still the All-Playoffs first-team center. Huge performance in the triple-overtime game 4.

7. OKC gets more vindication for drafting James Harden so early with each passing game. Can he be the number 3 scorer on a championship team? Doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility.

8. The all-game 7 teams (heavy on Thunder and Grizzlies, as you might expect).

First team:

Westbrook, Harden, Durant, Collison, Gasol

Second team:

Conley, Mayo, Battier, Randolph, Mohammed

Third team:

Maynor, Allen, Young, Arthur, Perkins

My first specific memories of watching the NBA are from the 1994-1995 season. Specifically, the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Magic and the Bulls. I was a big fan of the Magic at the time, in large part due to Penny Hardaway. (I definitely had a black number 1 Penny jersey and wore it to kindergarten all the time.) I remember Penny hitting a bank shot from near half court at the end of a quarter during that series. (Somewhat surprisingly, that definitely did happen exactly the way I remember it, I looked it up on YouTube.) And don’t even get me started on that 3 Hakeem hit toward the end of game 4 of the finals.

The point is, I don’t really consider myself qualified to discuss the merits of Clyde Drexler and Kevin McHale, let alone Wilt Chamberlain and Dave Debusschere. So I bring to you the fifty best players of my NBA-watching lifetime, organized into 10 All-NBA teams. The tenth team:

Stephon Marbury, Gilbert Arenas, Ron Artest, Jermaine O’Neal, Al Horford

This team might not even finish above .500 over the course of an 82-game season, but you can’t tell me they wouldn’t be entertaining to watch. There’s a 50 percent chance Horford would quit basketball sometime during training camp, and a 78 percent chance one of the five would suffer a career-ending-but-not-basketball-related injury before the end of the season.

1. The ESPN announcing team really dropped the ball by failing to mention that Durant never checked back into the game after picking up his second foul and was instead replaced by 2003 Antoine Walker. Durant/Walker gets a grade of D for the game — D as in depressing/disappointing/disastrous/disgusting/dismal …

2. Speaking of negative adjectives, you can’t start a game much worse than the Thunder did: turnover, turnover, Durant 3, turnover, turnover. Yikes.

3. I’m as guilty of it as anyone, but the problem with criticizing what Russell Westbrook does offensively is that, if he DOESN’T do that, the Thunder become a worse-than-.500 basketball team. Durant is an elite offensive player, but he is not in the same class as Kobe or LeBron or Wade, guys who can carry a team for not just a quarter but for games or seasons at a time. His style of play is not suited to that, and it’s especially apparent in games like today’s. There are two main problems. First, for every possession Durant spends running around picks and doing his darnedest to get open, he spends another loitering on the wing, 30 feet from the basket with his hand halfway raised like a shy fourth-grader trying to get the teacher’s attention. The reason for this, I’m told, is that it is better for Durant to rest on offense than on defense. Seems valid. But wait. When did we decide Durant was the same type of player as Thabo Sefolosha? He is the NBA’s leading scorer. Let him guard Tony Allen and take plays off D, not O. Because if Durant takes plays off on offense, whether he is resting or whatever, Westbrook’s wild drives become, by far, the Thunder’s best option. So, yeah, Westbrook deserves a lot of the heat he’s been taking for playing like the guy in a pickup game that everyone wants to go Kermit-Washington-on-Rudy-Tomjanovich on. But Durant’s not exactly an innocent bystander here. Or maybe he is, which is the problem.

4. I had high hopes for Kendrick Perkins when he came to OKC. I thought his presence inside was going to push the Thunder over the top. But, aside from making the team about four times more likely to win an NBA Royal Rumble (the Nuggets are still huge favorites), his impact has been somewhere between diddly and squat. The condition of his knees have a lot to do with his inability to play effective defense, but another problem has been free-throw shooting, especially in big situations. Hack-a-Perkins, anyone?

5. In addition to the Walker-for-Durant sub, we also had a Dirk Nowitzki-for-Zach Randolph fourth quarter insertion. Quite the turnaround from an abysmal shooting performance in game 5. Maybe he was motivated by my placement of Griffin ahead of him on the All-NBA third team.

6. The All-Game-6 teams:

First team:

Westbrook, Harden, Deng, Randolph, Noah

Second team:

Rose, Mayo, Battier, Boozer, Gasol

Third team:

Conley, Tony Allen, Taj Gibson, Josh Smith, Pachulia

Really had to dig deep with only two games going on. It’ll be even worse for game 7 on Sunday.