Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

ONE: Ok so maybe I was a bit premature with the ‘Bogut for All-Star’ campaign. Or maybe that post put the mozz on him. Either way, the Bogey man has had a couple of sub-par games since that awesome effort against the Bulls earlier in the week. Against Washington he sunk just 4-14 shots to finish with 8 points, 7 boards and 5 assists. Henry, a fellow Aussie and blogger for Four Point Play, is travelling the US and was at the Bucks-Wizards game. He posted these comments in the Bogut for All-Star thread:

I was at the game tonight and he didn’t look at all like an All-Star. Really struggled in the post against Brandon Haywood and even when he was mismatched up against Jamison, he couldn’t get near the basketball. While he chipped in with some nice passes, he was the difference why they went down by two. However… I did get a sweet photo and handshake from him. Massive hands…

Against the Pistons yesterday he didn’t fare much better, ending with 8 points, a season low 5 rebounds, 1 blocks, zero steals and blocks. Being the Aussie Pistons fan that I am, a Detroit vs Milwaukee game has a big red circle on my imaginary NBA calendar, so I took the liberty to enjoy this one live on International League Pass. The reason for Bogut’s struggles? Primarily, it was Ben Wallace’s terrific defense which seemed to throw Bogut out of rhythm early (Big Ben’s numbers: 11 points, 11 boards, 4 assists, 3 blocks – more on Ben later). The Pistons small-ball line ups also probably meant Coach Skiles was less willing to put Bogut back on the pine, as evident by his 27 minutes on a night where he had no foul trouble.

For Bogut, things won’t get any easier over the next week. The Bucks play home to Cleveland tomorrow, then he’ll get to battle KG/Perkins and Bosh/Bargnani on back-to-back nights, ending the week with Oden and the Trailblazers on Saturday (EDIT: Ouch, can’t believe I wrote this just minutes before he f**ed his knee). This really is a make-or-break week for the Bucks, facing two legit title contenders and another strong playoff team. It could also be a great case for Bogut’s All-Star candidacy, taking on fellow East Bigs who are in the mix for that reserve spot (including Kendrick Perkins who one-eyed Celtics fans believe is somehow deserving). For the Bogut-Watchers out there, the Bogometer officially dipped to 67% after the Wiz game, and now sits at a “Slumping” 51% – the lowest its been since his second game of the season (and yes, I maintain these stats and you will see a pretty line-graph sometime soon).

Bogut sidenote: In case you didn’t see the Twitter link I posted earlier in the week, I suggest you go and read up on Bogut’s Squad Six – the rowdy bunch of Bucks supporters who, apparently, are the best thing that has happened to the Bradley Center in years. Essentially, Bogut is forking out $100,000 over the season for 100 tickets at each game, awarded to the noisiest, craziest and most devoted Milwaukee fans. Seriously, what a great bloke. Not only is it extremely generous, but its making a huge impact for the home-town fans and for the whole franchise. According to one blogger, on the awesomeness scale of 10, “I have to give the Bucks’ home game experience a 15. Maybe 20.” Nice work Boges.

Meanwhile in Texas, David Anderson had a mixed week, starting with 12-8 effort against the Thunder and ending today with a measly 2-2 at Portland. Sandwiched in between was a solid 6-5 against the Clippers, and a scoreless outing against the Warriors. Still, DA continues to get minutes and is thankful for Coach Adelman’s faith and flexibility with his roster. Andersen’s even done well enough to be named as a starting center on Slam Online’s early look at the All-Rookie First Team – I wasn’t even sure if he technically qualified as a “rookie”, but if so, then its quite possible he could make the First or Second team by season end (purely because of lack of centers).

Nathan Jawai has been getting some good minutes lately. In the Wolves HUGE upset AT Denver (still can’t believe this happened), he logged 13 minutes and pulled down 7 boards against one of the toughest front-lines in the NBA. He followed that up with an 8-point, 5-rebound effort against Memphis in which he logged 17 minutes – good for fourth-highest on the season. And then, Kevin Love came back. While I love Kevin Love, it’s hard to deny that his return is probably going to kill Jawai’s minutes – as evidence by the dreaded ‘DNP’ he had today against Utah. Can Jawai somehow fit in now that Jefferson and Love are healthy? I really doubt it, but we’ll be watching this space for sure.

Last on the Aussie Agenda is this amusing news regarding Luke Nevill (whom I last week found out was playing in the NBDL). Well, it appears he was released by the Utah Flash due to… wait for it… visa problems. The NBDL: Where Dubious Paperwork Happens.

TWO: Yesterday Kobe did this.

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Obviously a ridiculous shot to add to the long list of ridiculous game-winning shots Bryant has hit throughout his career. What I found interesting was this piece from JA  Adande at Truehoop. Adande makes the bold claim “he’s the best option for a last-second shot in the history of the NBA”, and then stunningly, backs it up with a quote from Phil Jackson (who you may remember also coached Michael Jordan). While I’m not 100% sure I agree with that, I DO agree wholeheartedly with this line: “with only enough time to take a dribble or two, or to catch and fire, I’d go with the best bad shot-maker ever [Kobe]. Because even when it’s a bad shot, Kobe gives you a good shot at winning.” BEST BAD-SHOT MAKER EVER. Sounds like an unenviable title, but in the case of Kobe Bryant it’s absolutely true. It’s exactly what I was alluding two when I wrote this during last playoffs, talking about recording Degree of Difficulty (DOD) for shots as a statistic:

"If someone had recorded DOD over the past decade, Kobe would come out with the highest average score, of that I have no doubt. That is a product of two things: 1) Kobe being asked to deliver in tough situations, i.e. shot clock winding down, double-teams, etc, but also 2) Kobe’s stubbornness and questionable shot selection at times. Lakers fans will probably disagree with me, but it’s a fact: Kobe takes more stupidly difficult shots than anyone in the entire league, and it’s only because he’s talented enough to occasionally make them that he keeps taking them..”

That’s exactly what Kobe did yesterday, took a stupidly difficult shot and made it, with a degree of difficulty somewhere between the first one against Portland and infinity. Just don’t forget the two other factors that lead to Kobe’s miracle: Fisher’s three-pointer just seconds earlier (to cut the deficit to 1) and Wade’s/Miami’s woeful free-throw shooting. In reality, this win was a steal for the Lakers and D-Wade should have been getting all the cred for orchestrating an unlikely comeback in the fourth (they were down 8). But as the Kobe-haters will tell you, Kobe Bryant is selfish, and that selfishness extends to the limelight that he wanted all for himself on this special night.

THREE: Quick rant from a Pistons fan. Firstly, I’m not going to yet admit my pre-season failure of a prediction that the Pistons will finish 5th out East. Unlikely yes, but not impossible. And besides I have good excuses, like our two best players getting injured, and then our third best player getting injured, and then our fourth best player breaking his nose. Instead I feel the need to proclaim love for Ben Wallace, who’s poster I will soon be taking out of storage and reinstating in my room. Seriously, sometimes I have to pinch myself when watching this guy because it seems like he’s made the last three seasons vanish from our collective memories. Tell me this: do you remember anything Ben Wallace did in a Chicago or Cleveland jersey? Apart from an occasional big block that lead commentators to wax sentimental about his hey day, Ben Wallace essentially became the Matt LeBlanc of the NBA – famous for one thing, and failure for everything subsequent.

Now he’s back and he’s looking like a legitimate DPOY candidate, as well as a more rounded player. This is perhaps what surprises me the most. Ben is a different player since he was last a Piston. He’s become a more patient and reliable operator in the offense – he can make the sharp pass to the cutting player, or even decide to take his man to the hole if he’s allowed space. We run the ball through Ben in the high post far more than we used to, and his decision making often gets us out of tight situations. Add to that the countless possessions he effects by simply being in exactly the right position, and it all adds up to a player who’s value FAR exceeds his statistical output.

I was always one who believed Ben Wallace’s defensive impact would dwindle once his athleticism left him. Sure, he’s not inhaling rebounds like he did circa 2000-2004 (during which time he grabbed more boards than anyone, with KG second). But he is still incredibly effective on the defensive end, as evident by his 9+ boards/ 1+ blocks/ 1+ steals per game (only four guys doing that right now), and ability to shut down premier centers like Bogut.  What Ben is undeniably proving is that his experience and defensive instincts are enough for him to survive in this league and still play at a high level. His boxing out is second-to-none, the timing on his put-backs is still perfect, he hasn’t lost any quickness with his hands/feet (quite noticeable against slower centers like Bogut) and he takes charges as well as anyone in the league. In other words, we are now starting to appreciate Ben Wallace on a whole new level. He’s evolved from a dominant physical force into smart veteran leader that still demands respect from his peers. That is an evolution I feared would be missing from Ben’s career resumé, which could have so easily petered out as some novelty retro experiment off the bench. Instead, we get to enjoy an older, slower, bone-creaking  Ben Wallace wreak havoc on offenses for another season. And it’s just as fun to watch as the first time round.

FOUR: I just read news of this over at ESPN. Greg Oden has fractured his patella and will likely miss the rest of the season. Here’s Hollinger’s take. I’m up for Oden jokes as much as any other NBA fan, but damn, this makes me sick. Here is a clip of Oden hitting the deck, and it’s not for the faint-hearted (you can see his knee all mangled).

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I don’t know what else to say, other than that this is incredibly cruel luck. He was starting to make a difference and prove the doubters wrong, and now this. Makes me think of Bynum who went through two bad injuries to both his knees, and he’s managed to bounce back and continue playing at a high level. So we wish Oden all the best in his recovery and hope that he can do the same. And trust Brandon Roy to add a little ray of sunshine when things seemed so bleak for Portland fans. The guy is clutchness personified.

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FIVE:Lebron James wouldn’t know sportsmanship if it bough his mom an H2”, or so one blogger says in this steaming vent against LBJ and his dancing antics against the Bulls yesterday. I really don’t know what to make of this, which is why I thought I’d post it here. Watch the video clip. Is Lebron a classless prick for prancing around when his team is in the process of pounding the opposition? Or is he just having harmless fun in the way we know Lebron and his teammates love to do? Does Joakim Noah just need to HTFU? I’m lingering somewhere in between all three.

SIX: The Links.

- Video of Jarret Jack tying his shoe while holding the ball with the clock running down against Chicago
- SB Nation has a nice piece on Iverson’s return (amongst other things). Rich, if you are reading this, my thoughts on AI are coming soon… still recovering from the shock, and those tears
- Lebron is now only 50-50 for the Dunk Contest. Apparently he is still in disagreement with a dunk contest contractual clause that requires participants to shake hands after the event.
- T-Mac is back to full-time workouts, but there is still no timetable on his return
- Kobe was voted #1 as the Sporting News’ greatest player in the NBA. More impressive than the result is that list of panel members! There is some serious NBA royalty on that list!
- Women could play in the NBA in the next decade says Commissioner Stern. Really??
- Oh yeah, the Nets finally won. Looks like they get to keep the capital “N” after all
- Platypus update: Granger reinjured his bruised heel against the Clippers and did not return
- Seems like the Bulls might be missing Ben Gordon
- Lots of stats and numbers from Basketball Prospectus about how height impacts offensive and defensive efficiency
- I feel obliged to point out that Chris Paul returned from injury yesterday and had an utterly ridiculous 16 points, 15 assists, 8 steals and 6 rebounds. NO ONE has gone 15-15-8-6 in the last 20 years. Hornets Hype have the post-game interview, starring Chris Paul II


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