ONE: A mixed week in the NBA, as far as the Aussie contingent goes. The bad news obviously being that Bogut injured his leg. The good news is that Bogut thinks he can get back on the court quicker than the 2-4 weeks that was initially diagnosed.
I had a similar injury my second year when I got hurt in the (open team) scrimmage. I missed the whole training camp. They said eight to 10 weeks and I was back in four. This is not as bad. Hopefully I can take the challenge up and try to beat that two to four weeks, if I can. It’s painful at the moment; I can’t really walk."
So we all waited to see how the Bucks would cope, already without Redd, and now without their star big man who had been in All-Star form. The results? Oh they’re coping just fine, thanks to the rookie with arguably the most impressive start to an NBA career since… who knows when? "You’d be hard pressed to find a rookie’s first 10 games better than this," coach Scott Skiles said after Jennings 29-7-4 lead the Bucks to a 95-88 win over the Bobcats. "Maybe somebody has, but he’s had as good a 10-game start as anybody I’ve been aware of in my 20-plus years in the league." Today against the Grizzlies he stepped up again, scoring 24 of his 26 in the second half and 8 of the Bucks last 9 points, to snare a 5 point win over the Grizzlies.
I know this is getting off the Aussie topic, but I’ve been watching a fair bit of Jennings footage and game replays the past couple of days, trying to figure out what has made him so successful. Apart from the intangible qualities that you flat-out don’t expect to see in a rookie – composure, poise under pressure, willingness to take big shots, ability to stay within the team game when your stroke is literally on fire – one of the unique things I’m noticing in Jennings’ repertoire is his mid-range game. Unique because so many young guys coming into this league seem to excel at either getting to the hoop (think Stuckey, Rose, Westbrook) or shooting threes (think Augustine, Booby Gibson, Ben Gordon) or both (Durant, D-Will, Mayo). But few have a polished mid-range game. The short jump shots, the running floaters in the lane, the ability to drive straight to the hoop and pull up 10 feet away for a shot rather than obeying your momentum and barrelling towards the rim. I’ve seen Jennings do this a few times now. There’s nothing spectacular about it, but having watched Rip Hamilton closely for eight years, I can tell you that an effective mid-range game makes you infinitely harder to guard. It’s by no means the only reason Jennings has been so successful, but it definitely is one of the reasons teams are finding it hard to stop him.
The other good news on the Aussie front has of course been the play of David Andersen, who had a career-high 19 points against the Lakers earlier in the week, prompting Phil Jackson to totally embarrass himself. Since then Anderson has been relatively quiet, but did have a couple of nice all-round games against Jawai’s Timberwolves (8 points, 3-4 shooting, 5 boards) and the Hawks (6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists in a narrow loss). Atlanta of course was the team that drafted Andersen in 2002, and considered signing him this past summer until they re-signed Zaza. Andersen doesn’t seem to hold any grudges however: “Houston’s been great to me so far. Coming here [to Atlanta] is a bit strange. I had hoped to be playing here back a few years ago, but how things turned out is how they turned out."
The man is even talented enough to pick his nose while rebounding, apparently.
On the Nathan Jawai front, the big man has achieved very little over the pat week. Actually I lie – he hasn’t missed a single shot! He went 1-1 against Memphis (25 minutes), 1-1 against Houston (15 minutes) and 1-1 against Portland (9 minutes, including 3-3 from the line). So there you go, tell me what other NBA players haven’t missed a shot in a week’s worth of play? Anyone? Yeah, didn’t think so.
And regarding Patty Mills (remember him?), don’t worry, he still exists. There’s just been absolutely zero news on him. Well, apart from this story earlier in the week suggesting he might be waived (which I promptly ignored). Oh, and there’s this hilarious goof up on behalf of NBA.com. Apparently, this is what Patrick Mills looks like.
TWO: Thought I’d take a little time to collect some thoughts on the real contenders in the league, you know the Hawks, Bucks, etc. The Hawks lost to the Hornets, which would have been laughable a week ago, but the Hornets knocked off the Phoenix Suns just a couple of days back. So they’re kind of the Giant Killers at the moment, which wouldn’t be so ridiculous until you realise they’re doing it without Chris Paul. Now, I’m not one to suggest Chris Paul’s absence has some Ewing Theory-esque effect on his team. I happen to think he’s the most vital cog in any team outside of Lebron in Cleveland and Wade in Miami, and I still think he was robbed of the 2008 MVP. But you tell me, how did the Hornets beat the two hottest teams in the league back-to-back without their floor general and best player? How did they turn the Failboat around 180 degrees without their skipper at the helm? No really, how?
By the way, everyone should start paying attention to Cleveland again, because quietly, what they’ve done the last two days has been pretty special. I’ll tell you why. In both yesterday’s game at Indiana and today’s game at home against Philly, they were facing 5 & 6 point deficits respectively going into the fourth quarter. Ok, not insurmountable leads. But consider the fact that Lebron James was sitting for the first 5-6 minutes of those fourth quarters (as he regularly does). Consider that Shaq is still out, and consider the fact that Cleveland’s non-Lebron offense this season has been about as useful as Paul Chapman’s hair spray. Throw all those ingredients together combined with the opposition licking their lips at putting away a title-contending team, and you have a recipe for a Cavs meltdown. Or so I thought. But then I watched JJ Hickson, Jamario Moon and Mo Williams (notice two of those guys weren’t there last year) carry their teams back and beyond, so that when Lebron rejoined the fray halfway through the quarter, you could already sense the Pacers/Sixers wilting (literally, when Lebron came into the game today with 6:41 left, scores tied at 85-85, I saw a shot of Eddie Jordan and I’m pretty sure he mouthed “Oh.. fuck”) .
I was super-dooper impressed. Because I know what Lebron gives me, and I know that even if Cleveland is down 10 with three minutes left, they’re still in the game because of him. But when you go with a Lebron-less line up down in the fourth, and your role players get you back in the game, well, that is how you win championships. That is what has been so special about the Lakers bench the last two years (more so in ‘08 than ‘09). That Kobe can come into the game to hammer the nails into the coffin, rather than having to dig the grave. Lebron is starting to get that kind of help this season.
Then we have the peculiar case of the Boston Celtics, who I haven’t seen play much this season, but who I obviously have keen interest in because of my former fav player Sheed. It was with great amusement that I read this piece over at Celtics Blog, trying to come to grips with Sheed’s three-point shooting slump and his insatiable appetite for jacking them up. I actually laughed out loud while reading that piece, because as Pistons fans will know, it’s exactly the same thought process we’ve been dealing with for half a decade. This part especially:
So what do we do with ‘Sheed? If the Celtics as an entire unit had just shot a little bit better in this one, Wallace probably would have been the hero – due to his work down low. Are we in need of some sort of compromise here? The threes might still be classified as ‘good shots’, but his tendency to miss them is just far too great right now. Perhaps ‘Sheed needs to balance those threes with a few more attempts down low – at least for the time being. Can it really hurt that much?
“Perhaps Sheed needs to balance those threes with a few more attempts down low’”??? Perhaps?!? Of course he fucking does!! I find it incredibly amusing a team’s fan base can be forming new opinions like this five years after I decided it was common knowledge. That is like someone coming up to you now and saying “Hey, you know that movie Into the Blue with Jessica Alba? Man.. she looks hot in that movie!! Well of course she does! I broke my DVD player because I had this frame paused for three and a half years. So don’t come crying because you’ve just figured out something the rest of the world knows. Sheed will always shoot way too many threes. Jessica Alba’s ass is geometrically perfect. These are FACTS people.
THREE: Wow this Six Pack is getting big.. I haven’t even got round to the West yet. There’s two little “I told you so’s” that I’d like to claim at this early point of the season. 1) That everyone should be taking the Hawks seriously, and 2) That outside the Lakers, Cavs, Magic and Celtics, the Mavericks lead the rest of the pack. While these predictions could totally go pear-shaped, the fact is it doesn’t surprise me seeing the Mavs at 10-3, having notched big wins recently over LA and San Antonio. They might even be my favourite team to watch right now – let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to watch a team with the best point guard of the last 15 years and the third best power forward of the last 10? AND Puerto Rican Guy? This is more than just a fast start. Thanks to the Spurs injury concerns and the fact I doubt Phoenix can sustain this (sorry Suns fans, I don’t see you top 4 out West come All-Star weekend), the Mavericks have a very real shot of aiming for #2 spot out West. WAY too early to starting talking playoff seeds, I know, but a 10-3 start is on track for 63 wins and that would be a lock for top 2, right?
Except that Denver is looking even better right now. Forget the epic brain fade against the Clippers. Their last three wins has seen them thump the Lakers by 26, the Raptors by 18 and the Bulls by 19. These games weren’t even close, and I guess that sums up Denver pretty well. When they’re locked in (see last playoff series against New Orleans), they are unstoppable and the best team in the league at doing blowout wins. I also love the addition of Aaron Afflalo, who we loved in Detroit but just couldn’t get the playing time and recognition he deserves. In Denver, he is definitely getting that. I watched the Nuggets-Lakers game last week, and in the limited time he had defending Kobe he did as good a job as I’ve seen anyone do on Kobe in the last few years (Sidenotes: 1- You can get cred for “doing a good job on Kobe” even if you’re only directly guarding him for five minutes, and 2- The best player I’ve seen defend Kobe is Tayshaun Prince in the ‘04 Finals, while Boston gets cred for “best team defense solely designed to stopping Kobe”). The other great thing about Afflalo, and why I love his addition in Denver so much, is that he’s not a total dick like Dahntay Jones. Writing about Denver after they fell out of last year’s playoff race, I said they lost the LA series because of three things:
2) Team defense
Someone like Aaron Afflalo gives you major plus points in (1) because he’s a guy of high character, he works his butt off, and he has zero ego. I just wish Detroit could have found a way to keep him, because honestly I think he could become one of the elite perimeter defenders in this league, with the ability to knock down threes. I’d give away 2-3 years of what’s left of Rip Hamilton’s prime for 10 years of that. Any day. Another genius move by Joe D that one.
Then we have the Lakers themselves, who surprise surprise, are starting to look really good now that Pau’s back. For the first time all season Kobe had more than 4 assists in a game (8 against Chicago) because for the first time all season, Kobe actually had someone to pass to. Kobe also managed to score his 100th 40-point game against Detroit earlier in the week, becoming only the third guy to reach that mark after Wilt (271) and Jordan (173). Here is a list of where currently active NBA players sit for 40+ point games:
Kobe Bryant – 100
Allen Iverson – 79
Shaquille O’Neal – 49
Tracy McGrady – 45
Lebron James – 34
Vince Carter – 31
Gilbert Arenas – 28
Dwyane Wade – 26
Paul Pierce – 19
Dirk Nowitzki – 14
Ray Allen, Amare Stoudemire – 13
Carmelo Anthony – 12
FOUR: This is flat-out bizarre. Today during the Nets-Knicks game, with 0.5 seconds left in the first quarter, Nate Robinson decides to shoot at the wrong basket. To quote Ball Don’t Lie, “cue hilarity and Mike D’Antoni moustache rage”
Sidenote: The Nets are 0-13. Their next four opponents are Denver, Portland, Sacramento and the Lakers – all on the road. They then play Dallas and Charlotte (winnable) at home, then away to the Knicks and Bulls. It is quite conceivable they start 0-20. If that happens, I am officially dropping the capital “N” from “Nets”, because they’re no more worthy of it than the bits of rope that hang from the ring.
FIVE: Speaking of “moustache rage”, how is your ‘mo going? Mine’s going swimmingly, thank you. There’s nothing quite like the non-verbal male bonding achieved when you see another bloke with a mo at this time of year. In the car, stopping for pedestrians, I’ll often nod in acknowledgement when the other guy peers through my windscreen. A kind of “hey, nice mo bro… if it wasn’t for the mo I’d consider running you over”. Last week I had an important business meeting, and our client approach me smiling, “you doing Movember?” I nodded, “well I’m not doing it for fashion!” (this is a line I often use when I can’t be stuffed talking about my moustache any more). “Why aren’t you doing it?” I asked. “Did it last year” came the response, then he pointed at a wall which had photos from ‘Movember 2008’. I found his photo and immediately understood why he wasn’t doing Movember again. He looked like a truck driver that collected human flesh. Movember just doesn’t suit everyone.
As I did last year with Adam Morisson, I thought it only fitting to post up a few photos of NBA players with spectacular (or not so spectacular) moustaches. Through the miracle of the Interweb, I discovered that Intentional Foul did an excellent job of this last year, and I see no need to reinvent the wheel. So here are a few pics courtesy of that fine blog (and if you haven’t already donated money for Movember, you should, it’s a worthy cause).
Kurt Rambis – the NBA idol of one of my good mates. Get some goggles Dool!
This is what I imagine I look like every morning in Movember, before I look in the mirror
Larry Bird looks like my friend Sam and grows a similarly pathetic moustache
(you might need to open the pic in Photoshop and crank up the contrast)
SIX: Links, links and more links!
- Josh Smith’s game-winner against Houston
- Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton are participating in light practice. We still haven’t really seen what this Detroit side looks like at full strength. They have been doing a bang-up job considering the team’s best two players, and most experienced, have been out.
- If you haven’t already seen it, footage of Ron Artest tossing Ariza’s shoe into the stands
- Some highlights of Shaq in high school
- Keep up to date on the latest rookie nicknames over at Both Teams Played Hard
- Hardwood Paroxysm discuss Chris Ballard’s book “The Art of the Beautiful Game”, and explains why the book “eliminated any hate of Kobe Bryant I have left”.
- How Will (Bynum) became the Thrill, courtesy Need4Sheed
- The Annotated Brad Miller Drive. I laughed.
- I can’t believe I’m writing this, but apparently Marv Albert and 50 Cent have a beef?
- Heard rumours about AI going to Miami? Wonder what that would look like?
- An epic around-the-league roundup of bad news by Canis Hoopus, proving that the “Wolves aren’t the worst team this year, statistically, in the standings, and certainly not in karma”.