Ahhhh… feels good to down a six pack during the season for once.
ONE: First the Aussie Roundup. BogutWatch – now back in action after a 10 month absence – didn’t exactly get off to the best start yesterday. The Bucks got rolled in Philly 99-86, with AB struggling in the 31 minutes of court time he had – just 8 points, 6 rebounds, and zero assists/steals/blocks. In typical Bogut fashion though, he was still efficient, shooting a solid 4-9 from the field. Despite the loss it wasn’t all bad news for the Bucks, as rookie Brandon Jennings put on a show. Too much of a show really, as the final minutes of this game degraded into a very meaningless effort of “lets get the rookie a triple-double in his first game”. Would have been nice for sure, but only in the flow of the game.
Today against Detroit the Bucks bounced back, Bogut putting in a slightly better performance – 2 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. Again Jennings played a big role, scoring 21 in the second half. I wasn’t exactly sure how much Jennings would contribute this season, and rookies do generally take a little while to get into a groove. But damn, he’s flown out of the gates and put up two spectacular performances. Gotta keep an eye on this guy.
After reading promises of a Shaq vs Jawai encounter in Minnesota (cheers to DJ Rod for the link), I had reached despair by late in the third quarter and tweeted “Still no Nathan Jawai sightings against the Cavs…”. Little did I know that Coach Rambis has a Twitter account and checks it frequently, because barely seconds later Jawai was promptly inserted into the game. I didn’t get to see his time on court (hoping to find a clip somewhere – holler if you find one), but looking at the numbers the big Aussie didn’t let us down – 2 rebounds (one offensive), 4 points on 1-3 shooting and 2-2 from the line (how dare you call him Outback Shaq!). This was all in just four minutes mind you, a really promising effort. Hopefully he keeps it up and steals some minutes from Brian Cardinal, who looks like he belongs in my Thursday night’s Veterans League (and I think he actually is).
Meanwhile, today David Anderson only played 9 minutes in the Rockets impressive win over the Blazers. Two points (on 1-3 shooting) and 2 boards is all Andersen had to show for. I was a little surprised he didn’t get more burn, considering the size of the Blazers centers, but at least it seems he’s part of the regular rotation (he’s played 19, 9 and 9 minutes through three games now).
TWO: I try really hard not to make Vince Carter jokes, I really do. But the guy just keeps serving up so much material. When I heard he was injured in the Magic’s first home game I almost wept in laughter. It was happening again – half-man, half-a-season. Luckily however, it seems the injury wasn’t that bad and Vince hopes to play tomorrow against the Raptors. So… it’s just a plain old ankle sprain then. The kind of injury you might shake off and try getting back out on the court for. But not Vince. According to the game recap he was down on the court for one minute without moving. FFS. Luke Hodge was once run over by an semi-trailer carrying a house and he was on the ground for barely five seconds – and that’s only because he decided to do a set of 10 push-ups before he got up. Seriously Vince, Harden the Fuck Up.
THREE: For me this was yesterday’s play of the day. A ridiculous put-back slam from Shannon Brown. Watch for the last angle they show in this clip – you can clearly see his head at rim-height. This guy is only 6-4 people.
FOUR: I just finished reading these excerpts from the book the NBA doesn’t want you to read – Blowing the Whistle, by Tim Donaghy. Absolutely amazing and quite disturbing, well worth a read. Here’s a little bit:
Allen Iverson provides a good example of a player who generated strong reaction, both positive and negative, within the corps of NBA referees. For instance, veteran referee Steve Javie hated Allen Iverson and was loathe [sic] to give him a favorable call. If Javie was on the court when Iverson was playing, I would always bet on the other team to win or at least cover the spread. No matter how many times Iverson hit the floor, he rarely saw the foul line. By contrast, referee Joe Crawford had a grandson who idolized Iverson. I once saw Crawford bring the boy out of the stands and onto the floor during warm-ups to meet the superstar. Iverson and Crawford’s grandson were standing there, shaking hands, smiling, talking about all kinds of things. If Joe Crawford was on the court, I was pretty sure Iverson’s team would win or at least cover the spread.
FIVE: Couple of quick observations on the two games I watched yesterday: Oklahoma @ Detroit and Dallas @ LA. Firstly, Kevin Durant is ridiculous. I lost count of the number of times he made an exceedingly difficult basketball move look simple. It’s also scary how rounded his game is. His turnaround jump shot is deadly and those long arms make it impossible to stop. His first step is unfairly quick for a guy who is 6-9. He’s also really improved his soft touch around the basket – finger-rolls, running floaters, baby-hooks – you name it he’s got it. And the thing I love most about him – that a similarly constructed Tracy McGrady lacks – is his tenacity. He wants to kill you. The look on his face after he posterized Tayshaun Prince yesterday scared the hell out of me. It was downright mean, and it eerily reminded me of a young Michael Jordan. But then we come to the one main difference from a young Michael Jordan, or even a Kobe Bryant for that matter: Durant doesn’t seem to want to thoroughly dominate for 48 minutes. Kevin Durant could average 32 points a game very easily if he wanted to, especially for a young, inexperienced team where he is the unquestioned go-to scorer. Yet he doesn’t. He doesn’t feel the need to string together 10-12 points when he is feeling hot. He doesn’t ball-hog on adrenaline when he’s in the zone. I’m not sure if that’s a complement to KD knowing his role and playing within it, or whether he’s just not cut out to be a high-volume scorer. What I do know is that he’s a winner, and the team surrounding him is actually going to give him a chance to do that plenty of times this season.
In the last quarter of that game, I realised why Ben Gordon is worth his $55 million. When the Pistons needed points to stay close, he delivered, with several ridiculous shots. Ben Gordon was born to play fourth quarters. He has that uncanny ability to make shots out of nothing – it’s not clutch shooting per se, its creativity under pressure. I said it during the Celtics-Bulls playoff series, but in the clutch, Ben Gordon takes flat-out stupid shots sometimes. Low-percentage, leaning, falling, fading, too far out, unbalanced, hand-in-face, four-hands-in-face, and any other elements you want to pick from the Book of Bad Shooting. But they go in.
Last thing to note about this game – Ben Wallace is not the Ben Wallace I’ve been watching the last three seasons. Yesterday he looked like Detroit’s best player, BY FAR. In three games he is averaging 10.5 boards, 1.5 steals, 1.5 assists and 1.5 blocks. It’s only three games, but just to put that in perspective for you, a 10/1.5/1.5/1.5 season has only happened four times in the last ten years – and two of those were Big Ben in 2004 and 2006 (along with C-Webb in 2000 and Marion in 2006). It’s not just the numbers, it’s his presence, he takes charges, he deflects shots and passes, he boxes out, he rotates perfectly, he actually defends! I was almost shocked to see a Detroit player put 110% effort into defense. It made me realises how much our D has suffered since he left. The real question is, how long can Ben sustain this? Those legs are old. Surely he cannot keep this up for 82 games? If he does, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in the All-Defensive team.
The Lakers game was a complete debacle for LA and Ron Artest. Apart from the play of Shannon Brown, there were no positives coming out of this one for LA. Well, maybe one – the fact that Pau Gasol was missing. But Dallas looked rrrreal good. Their weakest link – the center position – held up really well, Dampier doing a great job on Bynum all night. The most promising thing for Mavs fans was the play of Marion. His defense on Kobe and Artest was superb, showing that he can still be an elite defender when he wants to. And he linked up with Kidd beautifully, providing that soaring alley-oop counterpart that Kidd has desperately been lacking in Dallas. There was a play late in the fourth that sticks in my mind. The Lakers were making a furious rally with their crowd behind them, closing the gap to 12. Kobe was absolutely hounding Kidd on the perimeter like you wouldn’t believe, giving him no room and almost forcing him to pass it. Marion then came over to set a screen which Kobe went behind, giving Kidd the outside shot (which is what you want to give Jason Kidd). But Kidd didn’t shoot, instead throwing a perfect lob pass over Kobe and Josh Powell which Marion caught just beyond the outstretched arms of Shannon Brown, and proceeded to flush it home. There was zero room for error on that play and it all happened so fast. I just shook my head. That play ripped the heart out of the Lakers and the Mavs cruised from there, and it won’t be the last mind-bending Kidd-to-Marion hook up that we see this season.
SIX: In today’s Spurs-Kings game a rogue bat entered the arena. Who you gonna call? Manu Ginobili, apparently.