Friday, January 18, 2008

Whaddayouthink: LeBron's late-game "charge?"

Whaddayouthink: LeBron's late-game "charge?"

I can't stand the block/charge call. I think the NBA calls too many charges, I think the NBA calls too many blocks, and I think that the game has suffered immensely because an entire generation of "defenders" has been disabused of the notion of moving their feet and/or trying to block shots. Why? Because they keep getting bailed out by refs after planting their feet and taking the "charge," while teammates, coaches, and announcing teams alike praise a players "hustle."

That's not "hustle." That's bad basketball. Move your damn feet.

Last night's defining play in the Cavs/Spurs tilt came with just under a minute left, LeBron James drove to his left and dug his head into Spurs forward/center Fabricio Oberto. Oberto took a dive, the ref (thankfully, to me at least) swallowed his whistle, and James hit the game's deciding bucket. The play can be seen 48 seconds into this clip:

Prattle on all you want about how I'm schilling for the stars, my record holds up to that scrutiny, but that was a bogus play by Oberto, and I'm glad they didn't call a charge. Doesn't matter if it was in the first or fourth quarter, doesn't matter if it was Sasha Pavlovic driving, you just don't call it. Fabricio isn't even defending the rim! He's facing sideways! I'm yelling things!

That's not "defense." That's trying to take advantage of the way the current game is called, and it makes for lousy basketball to see guys flying all over the floor under the auspices of "trying to draw charges."

So, my take is pretty clear. What's yours? Was it a charge? Do you like seeing guys hit the deck like that, even if their side is facing the hoop? Let us know in the comments section.

Behind the boxscore, Nash gets cut, Lakers miss layups
Phoenix 106, Los Angeles Lakers 98

The Suns may have shot 52 percent and scored 106 points, but it was the Laker offense that failed on Thursday night.

21 turnovers, 38 percent shooting against a sometimes-lousy defensive team, a gaggle of missed layups and a 16-25 mark from the free throw line ... there's no excuse for that. The Lakers are better than this. Even without Andrew Bynum.

Boris Diaw continued his solid play for the Phoenix Suns, I counted four open looks that he should have taken, but the do-it-all-sometimes forward nailed 9-13 looks to help keep the Lakers at bay.

We'll try to determine just what the hell happened to Steve Nash's neck as the day moves along.

AZCentral: "First off, how about Boris Diaw? It was not just that he was 9 of 13. It's that eight of the makes were jump shots.

"If he can become consistent with that jump shot, he's a big problem for people," Nash said. "Even without making jump shots, he can still have a huge impact on every game just by being aggressive."

As you might guess, Diaw downplayed anything being different. He just takes what the defense gives. That's why it was all inside against Milwaukee, which switched guards onto him in the post, and all jumpers when the Lakers left him alone on the perimeter."

Los Angeles Times: "The Lakers' offense remained unbalanced and awkward, and it had nothing to do with Kobe Bryant taking a whopping number of shots.

Luke Walton was scoreless, Derek Fisher had three points and Kwame Brown had problems finishing around the basket and holding on to the ball."

Cleveland 90, San Antonio 88

No, it wasn't 80-72, and though it still wasn't the prettiest thing to watch, this Finals rematch was worth its national TV appearance. Mainly for the chance to allow us to start frantically worrying about the Spurs.

It was repeated ad nauseum by the TNT crew last night, but the idea holds up: the Spurs are older, and not recovering as well as they used to. Bruce Bowen appears to have lost several steps, and if he's not going to play a dominant defensive game against the man he's supposed to guard, then he's not worth handing all those minutes over to (33 minutes, two points). Ime Udoka, already 30, isn't much better.

I understand that LeBron James shot only 9-24, and that he has a tendency to make a lot of defensive stoppers look pretty useless, but it's become apparent that the Spurs have become merely "one of the best" teams, as opposed to "quite dominant."

If had to bet my last dollar on one team to win the championship this year, I'd still take the Spurs; but that doesn't mean I'd be surprised if they fell short. I was surprised in 2006, in 2003, and in 2002. This season feels different.

This year's team, in spite of a gimpy Manu Ginobili throwing up 31 points on 15 shots and Tony Parker (sit him down, it's a long season) scoring 23 on a bum wheel, just doesn't scare me. Hopefully the vaunted Rodeo Trip turns things around.

San Antonio Express-News: "Was Thursday a national television game, or the final scrimmage of a three-month training camp?

Popovich admits to all of it. "I'm getting closer to trying to figure out who I want to play and who the main guys in the rotation are going to be and all that," Popovich said Thursday. "I'm really looking forward to the Rodeo Road Trip to finally nail it all down, because we really have been all over the map. Part is injuries. Part is our usual routine, trying to figure it out each year.'"

Akron Beacon-Journal: "Ultimately, wrapped around a series of tense moments and a handful of disputable calls that seemed to hamper both teams, LeBron James made one more play than his counterpart. He lofted in a floater with 33 seconds remaining that gave the Cavs the lead for good, the last of his 27 points to go with nine rebounds and seven assists in another virtuoso performance."

Denver 120, Utah 109

So, Linas Kleiza had 41 points in an NBA game last night.

Utah would seem to have a series of tweener forwards that it could throw at the Missouri product, Paul Millsap, Andrei Kirilenko, Matt Harpring and Carlos Boozer all got a taste, but that didn't stop Linas Kleiza from scoring 41 points in an NBA game.

A regulation game. It counts in the standings. He scored 41 points.

Utah's defense is no longer sub-mediocre. The team probably has the worst defense of any "good" team, Phoenix included, and I'm putting the Warriors ahead of Utah mainly because Golden State can hold teams to an 18-point quarter when they work at it. Utah has yet to show an inclination to "work at it," and I'm not even convinced that they have the personnel to try to at this point.

Kleiza just kept creating good shots, always going right, getting into the lane, getting to the line (11-14), and nailing his three-pointers (4-8) when asked.

Rocky Mountain News: "On his team's defense, Sloan said, "If I wrote for a newspaper, I would ask (Jazz players) why they can't run back on defense. I ask why, and I can't get an answer.'"

Salt Lake Tribune: "From the beginning, you could almost tell the Jazz were going to struggle defensively. Ronnie Brewer picked up two fouls in not even five minutes and Sloan opted to bring in Kyle Korver to match up against his old Philadelphia teammate Allen Iverson. Whether it was driving for layups or drawing three-shot fouls, Iverson got going early. That carried over to the second quarter, when Iverson set up Kleiza for two three-pointers. Kleiza was on fire the rest of the game after that."

YouTube of the day II: Reggie Miller throws down

I had to shove all other posts aside and get this up as soon as possible, because America (nay ... the world) needs to see this as soon as possible.

(Found and sent to us by The Blowtorch)�

(Music not safe for work)


Reggie Miller Dunk Mix:

(Once again, hat-tip to The Blowtorch.)

YouTube of the day: the Celtics got robbed!

This clip has a bit of a Zapruder film quality to it, and I'm guessing that as far as Kevin McHale is concerned, he feels that the slight against him was nearly as significant. We'll let you decide:

(Turn up your volume.)�


We've also located another clip of famed Celtic broadcaster Johnny Most losing his mind over a melee that pitted then-Pacer (and former Piston) wing scorer John Long against poor, helpless Rick Carlisle. It's included for those of you that think Tommy Heinsohn is bad.

(Turn down your volume.)�

Game to pay attention to: Golden State at Chicago
We're going to try another liveblog tonight, from the United Center in Chicago, and we'd truly appreciate it if you'd swing by and leave a comment or 14.

Chicago is coming off their best game of the season, a 30-point thrashing of the Miami Heat that was only notable for its emphasis on the repetition of the premise that the Miami Heat are always good for what ails the Chicago Bulls.

Honestly, the most surprising thing to come out of the Chicago camp recently is the Chicago Tribune's Sam Smith, and his complete about-face on Chicago's kiddie corps:

"The Bulls went for Tyrus Thomas, I believe, because they didn't have a great athlete who projected as a star. So it was time to take a chance. It looks like a miss now, though I haven't given up on Thomas and would like to see him get regular playing time. With some strength, he might be productive at power forward."

Sam? Seriously? Welcome to our warm, little world. Where we much prefer Joakim Noah's 14 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks per 40 minutes to Ben Wallace's 5.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, and two blocks per 40 minutes.

After an 11-6 December (even while playing 10 of 17 games on the road), the Warriors have trudged through a 4-4 January. With games against current lottery denizens in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minnesota coming up, the team has a chance to buttress its record before plying its trade against more suitable fare from Houston, New Jersey, the suddenly-solid Knicks, and the Hornets.

The game is nationally televised on ESPN at 9:30 p.m., Eastern, and we're hoping to have a post up a good half-hour before that.

Chicago: 15-22, 90.5 possessions per game (13th most in the NBA), 103.1 points scored per 100 possessions (27th), 107.1 points allowed per 100 possessions (13th).

Golden State: 23-17, 97 possessions per game (3rd), 111.3 points scored per 100 possessions (6th), 109.5 points allowed per 100 possessions (24th).

UPDATE: We do have to take issue with some points from Sam's column ...

"When the Bulls signed Wallace, he was the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He had won the award four times and was coming off a Game 7 loss in the NBA Finals with the Pistons."

"Coming off" only works if he means "it happened 13 months prior to the signing."

Really, Wallace was coming off a submarine job of Flip Saunders, the fifth pro coach (Bernie Bickerstaff, Doc Rivers, and Jim Boylan appear to have been spared ... thus far) he's done that to, and an Eastern Conference finals loss to a Miami Heat team that the Pistons should have beaten handily.�

"[Wallace] was replacing Tyson Chandler, then the object of fan fury. Chandler, the conventional wisdom held, was mentally weak and always in foul trouble, accounting for a huge disparity in free throws.

It's no coincidence that Chandler's increased production with the Hornets comes while playing with a great point guard, Chris Paul. It makes all the difference for big men.

With contract extensions coming, 2006 was the last summer the Bulls would be under the salary cap. The alternative big men available were Nazr Mohammed and Joel Przybilla.

The signing of Wallace and subsequent trade of Chandler were widely praised."

Not by me.

I knew that Chandler would perk up as he got older, and return to his 2004-05 form once he got in better shape. He was out of shape in 2005-06 after staying away from the court while waiting for a contract offer from the Bulls, and Chris Paul's presence has no bearing on how well this guy rebounds and plays defense.

Nazr and Przybilla are both playing better than Ben Wallace right now, and we've ignored both Chris Wilcox and Drew Gooden (two power forwards, both available in 2006, who could have played with Chandler). For Wallace's price, the Bulls could have gotten two players at the same time, while retaining Chandler, that are contributing more per-minute than Ben Wallace right now.

UPDATE: 9:40ish, and I've just returned from bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-65 and a near miss accident (a car jumped the median and crashed into the side of the car stationed next to ours), and decided to call the trek to the United Center off. Icy roads, 45-mph traffic, no reason for it. We turned around on the first exit we could inch toward and came home.�

My apologies to whomever was looking forward to the liveblog, but I'm a bit shook and calling it off. There will be others, I hope.�

Whaddayouthink: Al Horford comes to Toronto
I'm going to try and be delicate with this, even though I'm pretty sure as to where this sort of post will lead. One group of fans is going to dominate the other in this instance, because for over a decade, the Toronto Raptors have boasted an enthusiastic and devoted fan base rivaled only by outposts in New York and Los Angeles, while the next Hawks fan that I meet will be the third Hawks fan that I've ever met.

On December 11th, in the closing minutes of a Raptors win over the Hawks that saw Toronto guard T.J. Ford offer his best game of the year, Ford was clotheslined by rookie Hawk forward Al Horford while attempting a breakaway layup.

Ford, who has a history of spinal and neck issues, was likely knocked out by Horford's foul while still in the air, and needed a stretcher to leave the court. Though cleared to play, Ford (who missed the entire 2004-05 season after a falling hard to the court after a hard foul from Mark Madsen) has yet to return to game action.

Tonight, Horford will play his first game in Toronto since the foul occurred, and he's going to get booed. Roundly.

My question to you is, does the man deserve it? Here's a clip of the foul:

My thoughts on the foul haven't changed a bit since I saw it live that night: forgetting history, it was a stupid foul in a vacuum, and a thoughtless foul considering the context of Ford's past.

Rookie or not, it's Horford's job to be aware of these things. But, in my opinion, it wasn't a dirty foul. It was a lazy foul, Horford didn't move his feet well enough to stop Ford from breaking away, and wanted to make one last stab at a block or foul, but it doesn't appear that he wanted to smack Ford on his head.

And he certainly didn't want to knock him, see him fall, and you know the rest.

I'm not expecting the Air Canada Centre denizens to keep quiet tonight. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the reasonable posts on this thread from, but obsessive NBA fans who post on message boards don't make up the majority of seats at NBA games.

A lot of times those seats are filled with loutish mugs who can't be bothered to remember the name of the backup small forward, though they still like to act the part of a die-hard. And, to these mugs, what "die-hards" do is boo like madmen.

I don't think they should, but that's just me. What's your take?

The 10-man rotation, starring AI's donation
A look around the league and the web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out.

C: Hampton Roads Daily Press. Allen Iverson, who has had legal issues with guns in the past, and once recorded an album that reportedly glorified violence on several tracks, has donated $100,000 to a "Gun Buy Back" program near his hometown. Good, good, Gonella, good. I'm going to get a bit preachy and wonder aloud about the difference that just half of the NBA's players (with an average salary in excess of five million dollars) could make in offering the same percentage donation in relation to their salary to various programs of this one's ilk.
PF: Dallas Morning News. Mark Cuban is trying to give the notorious "Clipper Darrell" a gig working for the Mavs. Yeah, that would really spur Mavs fans on: "hey, let's root along with the guy who is being paid to chant by the owner!" Hat-tip: J.E. Skeets.
SF: Sactown Royalty. The Kings are trying to make Kenny Thomas less horrible at basketball.
SG: Empty the Bench. Ten players who should be getting more burn. An interesting list, including some good YouTube clips of a few guys who aren't the sharpest tools in the shed.
PG: New York Daily News. A New York wants everyone to know how he feels, and he's using an expletive to get his point across. I'm shocked. Shocked and stunned (reference comes 2:25 in).
6th: Wall Street Journal. On Chris Bosh's video: "Both ads were done on the cheap. In Mr. Bosh's case, the shoot took all of an hour and cost him $20 -- and $15 of that was for the cowboy hat he sported, he says." Hat-tip: Andrew Lawrence.
7th: Elevation Mag. The NBA wants to control the content on the website it pays for in order to promote its product? I'm shocked. Shocked and stunned.
8th: Paul Forrester on why the Rockets won't be trading Tracy McGrady anytime soon.
9th: Hardwood Paroxysm. A fine interview with Paulsen, who runs the terrific (terrific!) Sports Media Watch blog.
10th: Draft Express. C.J. Watson details his chaotic jump from the NBDL to the Golden State Warriors. Hat-tip: TrueHoop.

*The Dallas Morning News pulled a hamstring. Luckily Matt Turvey swoops in with the NBA week in review, plus a hilarious "interview" with Sebastian Telfair.�

Baseball players who … hit better than Larry Hughes shoots
Larry Hughes, purportedly signed by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2005 to offer spacing and second scoring option behind LeBron James, is in the midst of a miserable shooting slump. And we're being generous with the "slump" designation, because this guy has a different approach to the whole "jump shot" thing every time he leaves his feet, and the results are rarely successful.

Sometimes he fades to the right, but usually he fades to the left. Sometimes the elbow is under the ball, but more often than not it's pointing toward the expensive seats. Follow-throughs are optional, and in spite of plenty of practice (28 minutes per game over 25 games, 10.6 shot attempts per contest), Larry just can't get it right.

In fact, an entire website has been put together with the express written consent to try and stop Larry Hughes from shooting the basketball. It's called, you guessed it,

The owner of the site, I'm guessing, wasn't allowed to purchase youbloodybastardwhyareyoumakingsomuchmoneyandruiningmyteam andkillingLeBron'scareerwiththoseclangsfrom18feet

So, in the spirit of good taste, we're offering a list of baseball players who hit for a better or equal batting average during the 2007 season, than Larry Hughes currently shoots (33.2 percent) from the floor:

Matt Holliday
Chipper Jones
Hanley Ramirez
Edgar Renteria
Chase Utley
Magglio Ordonez
Ichiro Suzuki
Placido Polanco
Jorge Posada
David Ortiz

I must be becoming a well-rounded sportswriter, because I've actually heard of eight of these nine nine of these ten (even better!) baseball players. That, and a visit to Riverfront Stadium next summer, will get me a Hall of Fame vote.

Wait, what happened to Riverfront? Did they tell Herm Winningham to vacate the premises first?

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