The Friday Night Trillionaire Club: Here's a little something from Basketbawful reader Vinny Gorgeous: "Sean Williams was the club's charter member of the evening, bringing two trillion to the table. He was quickly bested, however, by Mardy Collins, who dropped four trillion down like it was nothing. And things were cool for awhile until Mike James and Ryan Bowen showed up with two and one trillion apiece. Bowen, upset about his smaller trillion, immediately threw elbows at James when the refs weren't looking and got away with it! I mean whatthehellrefslookatBowen'scheapshotti...but I digress. Evevntually Acie Law IV wandered in, dejected 'cause coach kept him in 63 seconds too long. He woulda been able to add a really cool 'IV' to his resume, but he'll have to settle for five trillion. And the last comer of the night, Dominic McGuire, appeared with a measly two trillion, though he commented that the guy begging for change on the front steps and calling himself Ryan should stop complaining about having one personal foul and nothing else in 4 minutes...this ain't the hundred-million club, son."
Ben Wallace: Okay. I'm starting to think that Big Ben has Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome, which is that disease where people age at a hyper-accelerated rate. Or maybe he's aging in time-lapse photography. I don't know. But the way he got helped off the floor on Saturday, I can't see him making much of a difference come playoff time. Or ever again, for that matter.
The Chicago Bulls crowd: We were at the United Center for the Bucks/Bulls game on Saturday night, and what we heard wasn't pretty. Or maybe I should have put that "what we didn't hear." The only time the crowd got even remotely excited was during the free giveaways the team runs during timeouts. When the game was actually being played, it was like sitting in a library, only without the occasional rustle of turning pages. Look, people. Free taco excitement is supposed to enhance the game, not replace it. It's official: Bulls fans have stopped caring and are in "Wait 'Till Next Year" mode. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to redeem my free Big Mac.
Damon Stoudemire: Check out his game log. It's depressing. Like grandma eating cat food depressing. There's nothing quite like a case of championship piggyback.
DeSagana Diop: Okay. I officially admit that the Jason Kidd trade was a panic move that isn't working out, but are the critics ready to acknowledge that the Diop throw-in wasn't the huge mistake that everybody said it was? His weekend line was: 2 games, 12 minutes, zero points, 0-for-2 shooting, 6 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 3 fouls. Oh, and if he's such a defensive stopper -- remember, he was the guy people said was gonna stop Tim Duncan -- why didn't the Nets throw him at Amare Stoudemire (33 points, 15 rebounds) on Saturday?
Don Nelson's rotation: Man, and I thought Mike D'Antoni was running his players into the ground. If the Warriors end up making the playoffs, they're going to be totally exhausted. It's a good thing they don't play defense. On the bright side, Austin Croshere had a two trillion against the Mavs on Sunday.
Drew Gooden: Gotham's newest superhero must have swallowed some Kryptonite this weekend. First he struggled (4-for-10, 4 turnovers) in a loss to the Hawks and then he sat out of Saturday's matchup with the Bucks due to an abdominal strain. If you ask me, the Basketball Gods struck him down for throwing LeBron under the bus last week.
Kobe Bryant: I didn't watch his "LEEEEEEROY JENKINS" game against Memphis on Friday, but I did receive a flurry of irate text messages from my buddy Craig from The Association, who was at the game. Now, Craig is as big a Kobe/Lakers fan as you're likely to find on the Interweb, and I'm not sure whether that makes him more honest or more reactionary, but here's a sampling of his blistering diatribe. "It's the 2005-06 Kobe all over again!" "1-on-5 every time downcourt!" "Pass the ball Kobe!" So on and so forth. The final numbers: 53 points, 37 shots, 17 three-point attempts, 1 assist, and a three-point loss to the 19-win Grizzlies. Kobe Apologists will probably blame injuries or possibly DJ Mbenga (+/- score of -18), but MVPs don't freeze out their teammates, even if their teammates have stone hands. And you'll note that the Lakers won on Sunday night when Kobe starting passing the ball...
Golden State Warriors: If they end up missing the playoffs, that loss to the Nuggets is going to haunt them.
Jason Kapono: Here's some insight from Basketbawful reader and Raptors fan Josh Budd: "Jason Kapono, earning his $24 million contract over the past 4 games (see game log). This is our 'big' free-agent signing. Jamario Moon is making $427,000, on the other hand. What does this all mean? We REALLY need a SF." For the record, Kapono has scored zero points on 0-for-8 shooting, with nary a three-point attempt in that bunch of missed shots, over that four-game stretch. Seriously, I don't know what's going on with the Raptors these days.
LeBron James: This guy has been owning the Pistons since last year's playoffs. Well, after Saturday's poopersized performance (13 points, 4-for-17, 5 turnovers), ownership has officially changed hands. For now.
Memphis Grizzlies: I'm not going to get on these guys too hard, because frankly, a 1-1 weekend is a huge success for them. But I still find it kind of amusing that they sweated out 53 points from Kobe Bryant to beat the Lakers in L.A. only to fall to the Clippers by double-digits one night later.
Miami Heat: Look, I'm happy all those D-League guys are getting a chance, and I can tell they're working their butts off. Seriously. But still...this is some ugly basketball, huh? Against the Celtics, they shot 28 percent and hit only 17 field goals, which set a new NBA record for fewest made shots in a game. When Miami plays, it's always Brick O'Clock.
Mike James: What a weekend. He had a two trillion against the Celtics on Friday (as noted above) and followed that up with a five trillion against the Raptors on Sunday. And mind you, those performances come on the heels of three consecutive DNP-CDs. Can you believe this guy was putting up 20 PPG two seasons ago? No, he really was.
NBA.com proofreaders: Did you know that Carlos Boozer ranks first in triple-doubles this season with 50?! It's true. Go check his regular season ranks. Man, 50 triple-doubles...that's got to be a record or something, right? Many thanks to Basketbawful reader chinoy316 for the heads up.
New Jersey Nets: They're sort of unexpected playoff drive hit a roadblock in Indiana. They must have used I-65. Then Shaq hit 7-for-10 from the foul line against them in a home loss to the Suns, which is the NBA equivalent of God poking his head out of the clouds and saying, "Nope. It's not gonna happen. Forget about it."
Portland Trailblazers: Without Brandon Roy, they look like, well, the Grizzlies. What a shame that the team is wasting the best stretch of Joel Przybilla's career. Right now, Vanilla Godzilla could grab 10 rebounds while picking up a pack of gum at Walgreens. The saddest part of that is, Joel is probably going to be back to getting reserve minutes next season, which seems a trifle unfair. But it's not like you really have to choose between Przybill and Greg Oden.
Trady McGrady: Well, I'm not well-versed in APBRmetrics, but I'm pretty sure scoring 13 points on 22 shots is bad. That is still bad, right? Or am I missing something?
Sam Cassell: Sam-I-Ain't got three seconds -- yes, three seconds -- of playing time in Boston's 20-point blowout of the Hornets. When did Cassell become Mario West? I promise you this is not why Sam came to Beantown.
Utah Jazz: Why can't they win on the road? Why?! I think Jerry Sloan is going too easy on these guys. I think Larry Miller needs to bring in Patches O'Houlihan. Because if you can take a wrench to the face, you can win on the road.
Wally Szczerbiak:Wow. I really hope we find out after the season that he was playing with a handful of broken fingers. Maybe that would explain his misdirected shooting.
With the NBA regular season nearing it's end, we're down to our last couple of chances to provide you with another round or two of our nearly meaningless reverse power rankings. First one to suck worst wins! This week I'm taking the "ultra-competitive" Western Conference while the Hardwooders get the "slightly less competitive" Eastern Conference.
1. Seattle: Hmm. It looks like this team is going to end up with the worst record in franchise history and its longest playoff drought in over 30 years. And they might not even be the "SuperSonics" much longer. I'm not sure how things could get much worse, short of the ground opening up and swallowing Kevin Durant mid-jumper. Uh, somebody better check the ground around Kevin Durant, and fast.
Hardwood Paroxysm says: Hey, look! Kevin Durant's playing better! That should make up for the abysmal season, the team dysfunction, the firesale of talent, and the inescapable move of the franchise from it's storied home to the Midwest. Yup. Yay, Kevin Durant! Whoops.
2. L.A. Clippers: They might be ranked "only" second here, but the Clippers are still the number one team…for me to go number two on!
Hardwood Paroxysm says: That dark shape you see moving under the water is the Clippers restocking their roster, freeing up cap space and getting ready to unleash a very pissed off Elton Brand on the world. If they manage to do well in the lottery...watch out. Hold on, haven't we been saying that about the Clippers for the last decade?
3. Memphis: Here is a real and unedited quote from the Grizzlies' team report: "Memphis continues to give admirable effort every night is because it has players, coaches and a general manager that realize building for the future starts now." That's the same GM who traded Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown, right? Just checking. And no, I'm not giving them a reprieve just because they won a one-on-five game against Kobe Bryant last weekend.
Hardwood Paroxysm says: What? Complete rebuilding plan? Laughingstock of the league? Need the draft pick more than anything? Let's win some games, fellas! The Memphis Grizzlies. A legacy of excellence...in something.
4. Minnesota: Don't look now, but the Timberwolves have won four of their last seven games. You didn't look, did you? Good. Then you don't know that those wins came against the Clippers, Grizzlies, Knicks, and the "can't play on the road" Jazz. Oops.
Hardwood Paroxysm says: That's funny. I didn't know Kevin McHale was so much of a Kansas State fan. What? He's not? Then why is he wearing that jersey? Oooooooooooh...
5. Sacramento: They recently ended a three-game losing streak with a one-point overtime win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Need I say more? And if you want to know how dispirited this team really is, think about this: When was the last time you read about Ron Artest doing and/or saying something crazy? Exactly. Update: Basketbawful reader Carlo just informed me that Ron-Ron recently said: "You take away Mikki, and we're not winning. Not at all." Okay. I'll admit that's a little crazy. But it wasn't not full-blown Artestean explosion. You know? To me, it's not Ron-Ron if he hasn't demanded a trade for no reason or maybe eaten somebody.
Hardwood Paroxysm says: I really hope the elevators at Arco play "Stuck In The Middle With You" over and over again.
6. Portland: All hail the Vanilla Godzilla and his amazing 26-rebound game! If you're done hailing now, here's a painful reality check: Brandon Roy is likely out for the season and their next four games are against the Lakers, Rockets, Spurs, and the Lakers again. In other words, they're going to need a miracle to finish the season with a winning record. Which means it might be time for the farting preacher.
Hardwood Paroxysm says: The real reason they're pissed off about Oden in 24 Hour Fitness? He outplayed his team this week.
7. Dallas: Danger Will Robinson! Danger! Danger! From 67-wins last season to out of the playoffs this season? It sure looks it's going to end up that way. And to add insult to injury, Mark Cuban has officially lost his one-billionaire war against the blogging menace. I never realized it could suck so much to be so rich.
Hardwood Paroxysm says: (Warning! Obligatory "Where X Happens" joke incoming!) The Dallas Mavericks: Where "That Didn't Work Out Exactly As We Planned" Happens.
8. Denver: Memo to the Nuggets: It's not gonna happen, guys. Sorry. (Note to self: If it does happen, come back and edit this entry to say it's totally gonna happen.)
Hardwood Paroxysm says: Look, it's fine, they can make the playoffs with Dirk hurt. That's all well and good. But they're a broom magnet. You know it. I know it. The guy that owns firegeorgekarl.com knows it.
9. Golden State: There's a pretty rough scrum on the bottom rung of the Western Conference playoff ladder. As of this moment, the Warriors are on the outside looking in. On the bright side, they get another shot at Dallas and Denver in their final nine games. So basically, the West's final playoff spot is theirs to lose, and so long as Captain Jack doesn't lose his mind, they won't. Unless they do. Crap. This Western Conference race is driving me nuts.
Hardwood Paroxysm says: They should change their names to the Golden State "You Don't Want To Play Us In The First Round And You Know It"s.
10. Houston: From first to sixth in a couple weeks. Anybody else smell burning brakes? I almost dropped these guys even further after T-Mac's "I imposed my will on the Minnesota Timberwolves" speech.
Hardwood Paroxysm says: Anybody remember them winning 22 in a row? Anybody? No, Mrs. Alston, you don't count.
11. Utah: They're the Hulk at home and Dr. David Banner on the road. And I'm betting that means their season ends with them walking down the road to that sad piano music...
Hardwood Paroxysm says: The Jazz recently hired a team of mathematical experts to figure out how many games they need to win to play every game in the playoffs at home. All of them. Results are not yet clear.
12. Phoenix: I refuse to read too much into those back-to-back losses against Detroit and Boston last week. Mostly because I love the Suns and, of course, I can't read. Seriously. I just dictate all this stuff.
Hardwood Paroxysm says: Uh-oh. We made it angry.
13. L.A. Lakers: Just when you start to think they can’t be beat with or without Gasol, Jason Richardson uses Kobe like a prop and the Lakers drop a homecourt "gimmie" to the Charlotte Bobcats, then Kobe decides to go 1-on-5 and they lose to Memphis.
Hardwood Paroxysm says: The deafening silence across Laker Nation after back to back losses to the Bobcats and Grizzlies created a small rift in the space-time continuum. Lost into the vacuum of nothingness was Luke Walton's swagger and Sasha Vujacic's developing manhood.
14. San Antonio: Just like that old man who sits on his porch all day screaming at those damn kids to get the hell off his lawn, these guys just won't go away. Ever.
Hardwood Paroxysm says: Death and Taxes, folks. Death and Taxes.
15. New Orleans: In honor of the fact that the Hornets currently have the best record in an unbelievably competitive Western Conference – and let's face it, nobody saw that one coming – I'm rearranging the alphabet to begin C-P-M-V-P.
Hardwood Paroxysm says: Come get some. Wait. Celtics did. Crap. Well... "We're second best! We're second best! We're second best!"
This is for you, James. There were only three games, so there's not much meat. But here goes...
The Nuggets' first-half defense: Personally? I think 70 points is a lot to surrender in one half, no matter how efficiently it was given up.
The Mavericks' second-half offense: After a 70-point first half, Dallas scored only 35 in the second, mostly due to forced shots and careless passing. But that's what Denver does to you. They lure you into rushing up the first open shot you get and flinging the ball around haphazardly. And the Mavs did a swan dive right into the trap. They're now only one game ahead of the Nuggets in the Western Conference playoff race. And they should be really worried about that.
Mark Cuban: The NBA finally stepped in and ended Cuban's one-billionaire war against the blogging menace. Never one to be shown up, Cuban has officially opened up the Dallas locker room to everybody. And I really do mean everybody. "We will encourage all bloggers to apply [for press credentials], whether they be someone on blogspot who has been posting for a couple weeks, kids blogging for their middle school Web site or those that work for big companies. We won't discriminate at all." Oh, that Mark Cuban is so wiley and clever! I bet...wait, whooOOOPPS!! Sorry. I just slipped on a banana peel and fell face-first into a cream pie. Or at least that's how it feels.
Eddie Jones: The wiley veteran has almost disappeared completely from Avery Johnson's rotation, despite the absence of Dirk Nowitzki. Last night he played just under two minutes, missed both his shots, and ended the night with zero points and 1 personal foul. I bet he's sooooo glad he signed with the Mavericks in the off-season.
Chucky Atkins and Yakhouba Diawara: Chucky earned a one trillion and Yakhwhatever played only 19 seconds. Ah, sweet garbage time. Nene also scored a trillion, but it was his first game back from having a testicle removed. Ergo, I'm gonna cut him some slack.
Miami Heat: I know they're tankin...I mean, they've suffered a lot of injuries. But scoring only 69 points on 35 percent shooting will get any team mentioned here, regardless of the circumstances. Thank Zeus they didn't show this one on TNT...
Greg Oden: Greg, Greg, Greg...when a professional basketball team makes a huge, long-term investment in your body, and that body gets injured before you play even a single game for them, and they're waiting patiently for your return and diligently monitoring your health care because you are The Future of the franchise, it's a bad idea to sneak around behind their backs so you can play a few games of pickup hoops at a local gym. You do get that, right?
Portland Trail Blazers: I certainly understand why the Blazers got all huffy about Oden's little pickup foray, but they didn't have to make their hang-wringing hissy fit quite so public did they? It just seems like something they could have handled quietly behind closed doors and been done with. Now everybody's talking about it, and Portland coach Nate McMillan is complaining to the press, etc. Oden's young, and he hardly needs all the negative publicity over something that, frankly, is pretty innocent. A behind-the-scenes rebuke and a bunch of "no comments" from everyone in the organization probably would have been a better way to handle the whole thing. And hey, maybe the team could have used the situation as leverage to make sure Greg never, ever cuts another mohawk into his head.
Here's an early-morning dose of soul-soothing man love via Matt from Hardwood Paroxysm. Hopefully, it'll curb your Basketbawful craving until we publish the Powerless Rankings later today.
Two observations: 1. Timmy totally hearts Turkoglu. 2. I think that's Duncan's O-face -- rarer even than Bigfoot's power scepter -- captured on film for perhaps the first time. Also, is it just me or does it look like Hedo's left hand is doing something decidedly naughty? If so, that's definitely Tim's O-face. Why else would Mr. Stone Face finally crack a smile?
Anti-man love sentiment from Blogger.com? The following commentary and image were provided by Basketbawful reader Sun Devil: "The man love feature seems to have upset the blogspot Gods. Check out my word verification.
Sorry, blogspot Gods. You can't stop our man love. Nothing can. It's here to stay.
Chris Webber's retirement: Watching him shuffle up and down the court for only nine games and then disappear indefinitely when his troublesome left knee started acting up again sure made it seem like this was The End, but now it's officially official: Mayce Edward Christopher Webber III has retired from the NBA. I'm not going to say that Webber was one of the greatest power forwards of all time -- in my book, he's way down the list behind guys like Karl Malone, Tim Duncan, Kevin McHale, Charles Barkley, and Bob Pettit, just to name a few -- nor am I going to discuss his stats (20.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 4.2 APG in 15 seasons) or his accomplishments (Rookie of the Year, five All-Star appearances, four inclusions on the All-NBA First or Second Team). But he was, without question, a fantastic player who enjoyed a long and dramatic career.
More than that, though, he was special to me in a very real and personal sense. I got to watch him play twice during his final year at Michigan, and the beginning of his professional career just so happened to coincide with the halcyon days during which my NBA fanaticism and naiveté was probably at its peak. Basketball players were still like superheroes to me, and even plain old regular season games seemed to carry heavy meaning, not just in the standings but in the game of life (thanks in part to those theatrical intros Bob Costas did for The NBA on NBC). Some of my most treasured college memories involve sitting around my dorm room and watching games on a 13-inch TV with my roommate and best friend, and Chris Webber is part of those memories. We saw Webber throw down his behind-the-back dunk on Sir Charles as it happened, and we also watched it live when Barkley got his 56-point, 14-rebound revenge in the playoffs. The NBA was never more fun for me, either before or since.
So while I'm glad it's over -- because it was pretty obvious that Webber was finished -- I'm sad, too. I'm going to miss him: The hook shots, the passes, the drama. It kind of feels like another part of my youth just disappered forever.
Chris Webber's reason for retirement:In Webber's own words: "Rehab is so hard. So monotonous, so boring. I really didn't want to try to rehab and come back this season because I don't think that's possible." And doesn't that statement just sort of epitomize the most frustrating aspect of Webber's career? The idea that there was more there and he simply didn't have the heart and/or strength of will to make it happen. Maybe rehabbing the absolute living hell out of his knee wouldn't have changed anything, but mabye it would have...? But we'll never know. Just like we'll never know whether the 2001-02 Sacramento Kings might have won the title if only Webber wouldn't have gotten a case of the yips during all the close games. Sometimes playing The What If Game can be fun. But as it pertains to Webber and his career, it's just painful. And kind of depressing.
Phoenix Suns: How do you shoot 56 percent as a team and lose by 20? Well, you must 1. let your opponent shoot 52 percent, 2. get outrebounded 41-27 (including 17-4 on the offensive glass), and 3. commit 21 turnovers. Unfortunately for the Phoenix Suns, they did all three of those things, and they did it against the best team in the league. And the Celtics really don't give up that kind of margin of error.
Shaq versus Pat Riley: Ever notice how often Shaq always gets in these little Quote Feuds with former coaches and teammates? The latest War of the Words came after Shaq made the following statement about his new home in the Valley of the Sun: "I love playing for this coach and I love playing with these guys. We have professionals who know what to do. No one is asking me to play with Chris Quinn or Ricky Davis. I'm actually on a team again." Of course, these comments only served to depress old Sad Sack Riley. "It's sad that he says those things. We shared so much here, together, for three years, good and bad, 3 1/2 years. I just think it's sad that he's got to do that." Sadder than making Shaq spend his golden years playing alongside Ricky Davis and Mark Blount? I don't think so, Riles. When told of Riley's response, The Big Expletive-slinger said, "I don't give a shit how he interpreted it." After being reminded that the reporters couldn't use that quote because he cussed, Shaq said, "Sure you can. You can quote me, brother. You can put an 's,' then the tic-tac-toe, the 'at' sign and then the other symbols." He may no longer be the MDE, but he is and will always be the MQE (Most Quotable Ever).
Sam Cassell: He worked like hell all season to make it to Boston, and now...he's not playing so well. Sam-I-Am scored only 2 points on 1-for-4 shooting in only six minutes of PT last night. His field goal percentage has dropped from 45 percent to 33 percent since joining the Celtics, and his PER has plummetted from 16.9 to 4.8. Boston signed him to be a backup, and he says he's fine with it, but Cassell has always and will always work best as a big-minute player. So right now, his impact on the team is negligible at best.
Chicago Bulls: Ouch. I bet their prostate is pretty sore today.
Larry Hughes: The line: 3 points on 1-for-9 shooting. I guess he's jealous of how poorly Wally Szczerbiak has been playing for the Cavs. After all, wrecking Cleveland's season has been his job the last couple years, and that has to be like watching somebody else not satisfy your ex-wife in bed, only he had really cool hair. Or something.
Drew Gooden: Remember all that smack Gooden was talking after Tuesday night's 31-point, 16-rebound performance against the Hawks? Well, here's a sample: "I don't want to sound cocky, but I think I possess everything. I feel like I can pass, block shots, play great defense, play help defense, shoot threes. I believe that I can do it all.'' He also hinted that LeBron James had been holding him back in Cleveland. Well, one night later, Mr. "I can do it all" didn't do much of anything, scoring 2 points (0-for-5), grabbing 8 rebounds, and committing 3 turnovers against the 76ers. And that thud you just heard was Gooden crashing back down to earth.
Chris Paul's nicknaming skills: Last night, after David West hit a long jumper to bury the Cavaliers, Paul dubbed West "The 17-foot assassin." That nickname is both awesome and terrifying, for reasons I choose not to put into words. But if West is forced to retire early due to some catastrophic injury, it sounds like he has a pretty promising future in the porn industry.
John Hollinger: I can't let this go for some reason. As I keep repeating like an annoying broken record, Hollinger used his PER numbers to "prove" that the trade that brought Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West, and Joe Smith to Cleveland was a "big-time win" for the Cavaliers. Last night, the big timers combined for 12 points (6-for-18), 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 6 turnovers, and 1 DNP-CD (for Wallace). And those numbers are pretty consistent with what we've seen out of that bunch since the trade. Not exactly big-time, is it?
Chauncey Billups, quote machine: After losing to the Toronto Raptors, Billups had these things to say: "We're coming down the home stretch now, 11 games left. You want to start playing with some consistency. Our thing is not the division or the East. Our thing is the whole thing. That's the way we think." First off, it's usually a bad idea to wait until the last 11 games to start working on your consistency. Second, I'm all for thinking big, but looking past opponents has been one of the Pistons' biggest problems over the last couple seasons. You'd think their leader would want to address that, you know?
Toronto Raptors: Yes, they beat the Pistons (who were without Rip Hamilton), but what's up with putting T.J. Ford back into the starting lineup? The guy's been pouting and sulking for weeks. When did we start rewarding players for bad behavior? Uh, last night, I guess. Supposedly, Jose Calderon volunteered to return to the bench for the good of the team and coach Sam Mitchell allowed it. Frankly, I don't care that they won. This is a bad idea. Calderon is the best PG for this team, and Mitchell should have insisted he remain in the starting lineup. I don't see this ending well. But hey, maybe I'm wrong.
Miami versus New York: This was maybe the second-best game of the night, behind the Hornets/Cavs game. But on the other hand, seeing the Knicks struggle to end their seven-game home losing streak against a team that had to sign a mind-boggling eight D-Leaguers just to fill out their roster is kind of sad.
Tim Thomas: He went scoreless (0-for-4) in over 35 minutes of lack-tion. He is almost seven feet tall, right? Just checking.
Tracy McGrady, quote machine: After leading his team to victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, T-Mac let us in on the clutchtastic inner workings of his superstar mind: "The fourth quarter, usually the best player has got to step up and lead the team. I just couldn't afford for us to lose this game, so I had to impose my will on it." Okay, okay. Good stuff. But I'd save a little of that brain juice for the playoffs if I were you.
San Antonio Spurs: After seeing how Luis Scola has been playing lately -- he had 18 points and 18 rebounds last night -- do you think they ever feel a slight pang of regret? Because they should. They really should.
Sacramento Kings: They barely escaped with a 107-106 overtime victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. At home. I know they suffered a lot of injuries earlier this season, but everybody looks healthy to me. So what's the excuse now? [Insert "Any NBA team can beat any other NBA team" quote here.]
Los Angeles Lakers: This game looked like such a gimme on paper that I didn't think twice about it before I saw the final score: Bobcats 108, Lakers 95. And the game was played in L.A.? Holy Schnikies. Bad loss. It dropps the Lakers into a tie (with the Rockets and Spurs) for the second-best record in the Western Conference, one full game behind the New Orleans Hornets. And if you thought the Hornets would be leading the West this late in the season, you're a damn, dirty liar. Tell me Chris Paul doesn't deserve some serious MVP consideration.
Kobe Bryant: He got burned by Jason Richardson (34 points, 10 rebounds) and then got ejected late in the fourth quarter for bitching about a foul call. His league-leading technical foul total is now at 15...just one away from an automatic one-game suspension. Mind you, Mamba's two technicals came in a 29-second span of the fourth quarter after the game has been pretty much decided (the 'Cats were leading 100-86 with 3:40 to play). Kind of a pointless and careless thing to do, all things considered. Especially if he ends up with another technical and a suspension. The Lakers can't afford that right now. There's too much at stake.
Phil Jackson, quote machine: You can almost always count on Phil to spout a little gibberish after a game, especially when his team loses. Last night was no exception. "Well, I may look like I'm here to explain something, but I have nothing to explain. I can't explain it, so don't ask me any questions. It just looked like we were out of character, tremendously out of character, in more ways than one --irrational play at times, inconsistent at best, but just some poor judgments, poor decisions." When a reporter asked him about Kobe's ejection, he just smiled and left the interview room.
I mean, "Harris, Nets pour it on Pacers from several angles"? That sounds more than just vaguely suggestive, don't you think?
Update! Indiana Pacers: Basketbawful reader Carlo called me out on this omission, and he was right. "You forgot to mention how the Pacers let Josh Boone score 26 points against them. or how they let Vince grab 14 boards! Hell, you should mention how they let the NETS score 124 on them! And these guys are fighting for a playoff spot? Pathetic." Don't forget Devin Harris and his career-high 15 assists. Yeah. You're right. Pathetic. [Basketbawful sheds a tear for his home-state Pacers]
Update! Charlott's technical foul shooting: Basketbawful reader Wild Yams pointed the following out: "Speaking of technicals, the Bobcats technical FT shooting should probably get some mention, since they missed all three of them last night. I can't remember ever before seeing a team get three tech FTs only to miss them all." Jeez. I can't either. I mean, your best freethrower gets to shoot them, right? They didn't sign Chris Dudley to a 10-day contract did they?
Update! Andrew Bogut's "hive-five" party: I've seen some sad things in my life, many of which involved toxic amounts of alcohol and wizard costumes. Don't ask. But this may indeed be the saddest of them all -- Andrew Bogut high-fiving himself after a freethrow. Thanks to loyal reader Farfa for the double-eyeball. Warning: Your funny bone might not be ready for this.
Via Yahoo's Ball Don't Lie: A Lakers-centric music video so amazingly funny and well done that I actually stopped hating Kobe Bryant for, like, two seconds. And that has to be a personal record, unless you count the time a falling piano knocked me unconscious.
The video was created by by Erkki Corpuz, with lyrics by Mike McCalla and music performed by Dick Banks.
The injury bug: Last night, the Orlando Magic lost not one but two starters due to injury. Jameer Nelson got knocked out of the game in the first quarter after getting hit in the jaw by teammate Dwight Howard, and Hedo Turkoglu left during the second quarter because of a sprained right wrist. I'm not saying that losing those guys is the reason Orlando lost to the Spurs, but it sure didn't help. The Magic took Nelson out of the game only as a precaution -- he's had two concussions in two years -- but he could play in the team's next game on Friday. Turkoglu will have an MRI and visit with a hand specialist today to determine the extent of his wrist injury.
Matt Bonner: He was in and out of the Spurs/Magic game in less time than it would take to reheat a slice of pizza in the microwave. His line: Zero-for-everything in 39 seconds of PT.
Jermaine O'Neal: Remember this guy? Yeah, he's still a Pacer, although I wouldn't fault you for forgetting that fact. The Drain has missed 31 straight games with a left knee injury, but he has been practicing -- we're talking about practice, man! -- and said he expects to be back soon. To which I say: Why?! My theory: To increase his off-season trade value. Indiana coach Jim O’Brien says Jermaine can return to active duty once his cardiovascular conditioning is good enough to play.
Los Angeles Clippers: Tank-a-palooza 2008 continued for the fake-injury-riddled Clips, who made the Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavericks look like champions-in-waiting even without their reigning MVP. Josh Howard threw in 32 points, Erick Dampier became a real center -- for one night, anyway -- by scoring 19 points and gobbling up 17 boards, and Jerry Stackhouse put up 20 without even choking anybody. There's no better way to reheat your magic sauce than to play the Clippers.
Update! Dirk Nowitzki, play-by-play announcer: From the always-funny Odenized. It's almost six minutes long, but watch the whole thing. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.
Jason Kidd: While his teammates were lighting the house on fire against the hapless Clippers, Kidd maintained the sloppy, lackluster play that'll probably help Avery Johnson get fired after the season: 10 points on 2-for-7 shooting, 8 assists, and 7 turnovers. But he did have a +/- score of +15, so I guess he actually played really well. Thank the gods for advanced stats!
Juwan Howard: The wily veteran is still alive and capable of putting up big numbers. Last night, he put up three trillion of them.
Atlanta Hawks: You guys do want to make the playoffs, right? Then why did you lose to the Dysfunction-A-Bulls?
Mario West: The good news: Super Mario got into the game for a whole minute and 16 seconds. The bad news: He scored a one trillion.
Larry Hughes: Ew! What the hell did I just step in?! Oh, it's Larry Hughes' jumper! Is that...is that corn? [shudder] Anyway, Larry's shot has returned to its typically ugly form. Last night he scored 9 points on 3-for-10 shooting. He's 9-for-33 (27 percent) over his last three games.
Andres Nocioni: The ragin' Argentinian went on a towel-slamming, expletive-slinging rampage when he got benched on Saturday, but there's a reason he was riding the pine: He sucks. Right now, anyway. Last night, Chapu grabbed 4 rebounds and committed 3 fouls in 13 scoreless minutes.
Drew Gooden's huge, throbbing ego: Drew Gooden played like a man last night, scoring 31 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. It was Gooden's ninth double-double in the 16 games since he was traded to the Bulls. The million-dollar question, though, is can he keep this up? Said Gooden: ''Yes, I can. And I will continue to work to get better at it. This is something that's not new to me, but I've got to brush off some of the old tools and put them back into use. Because I have had a couple years [playing with LeBron James] where I was the guy that goes out, works hard and grabs rebounds and becomes a defender with offensive capabilities." In case you need a Gooden-to-English translation, that means playing with LeBron was holding him back, and not that it's easier to put up big numbers when you're on a lousy, lottery-bound team. But Gooden's mouth wasn't finished. Not by a long shot. "I possess the tools. I don't want to sound cocky, but I think I possess everything. I feel like I can pass, block shots, play great defense, play help defense, shoot threes." No, not done yet. There was more. ''I believe that I can do it all. And confidence is the number one factor when it comes to offense. I can score in the post; I can score with my back to the basket, face up.'' You go, Drew. I look forward to watching you win the MVP next season. Look out, NBA!
(Still...as well as Gooden has been performing lately, it does sort of make you wonder: Was playing with LeBron holding him back? John Hollinger didn't seem to think so, but Gooden's PER has skyrocketed from 12.6 to 18.9 since joining the Bulls. According to Hollinger's own reference guide, that change has moved Gooden from somewhere between the "scrounging for minutes" and "in the rotation" range to between "solid second option" and "borderline All-Star." Food for thought.)
C.J. Miles: Yet another one trillion award winner. Congrats, C.J.!
Washington Wizards: The Wiz followed up their ultra-impressive win over the Pistons by laying a huge, rotten egg against the Trail Blazers. Washington lost by 20 after scoring only 82 points on 35 percent shooting. The co-Grand Marshals of the Brick Parade were Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, who combined to shoot 9-for-33 from the field and 2-for-11 from three-point range.
Stingy statisticians: Basketbawful reader Sun Devil brought this to my attention: Joel Przybilla -- the newly dubbed Vanilla Godzilla -- was credited with 25 rebounds in Portland's not-so-pretty 83-72 win over the Los Angeles Clippers last Saturday. For VG, it was a career-high. But wait! The NBA ruled that Przybilla's career-high was even career-highier: He was shorted one offensive rebound during the fourth quarter of that game, which means he actually grabbed 26 rebounds instead of "only" 25. This moves our Vanilla Godzilla into a tie -- along with with Bill Walton and LeRoy Ellis -- for the most rebounds in a regulation game in Trail Blazer history. Note: Przybilla grabbed 17 rebounds against the Wizards last night. Man, he's treating the backboards like the real Godzilla treated Tokyo...he's destroying them. Roar!!
Derrick Coleman: Coleman -- whose NBA career was limited and cut short due to laziness, character issues, a giant fat ass, and, of course, injury problems -- got injured again, only this time it happened while filming an episode of the TV show Pros vs. Joes. DC was participating in a rebounding challenge against some "average joe" when he came down from a jump and landed awkwardly, hurting his always-troublesome knee. This means that Coleman has the dubious distinction of being the first Pro to ever get injured during battle with a Joe. [Hat tip: TrueHoop.]
Charley Rosen: Hopefully this is the last follow-up entry to Face-Guard-Gate. Rosen finally admitted that NBA rules don't prohibit face-guarding. However, he also said, "Even though this is true, my point remains valid, i.e., that refs used to call face-guarding fouls and no longer do so." Actually, his original point -- which was "...it must be noted that Battier face-guarded Bryant on virtually every jumper. The last time I looked at the rule book, face-guarding was illegal." -- was without question not valid in any way, shape, or form. But I guess Rosen, who's just a wee bit on the arrogant side, can only concede so much at one time without his head exploding. But then, that's pretty much what I've come to expect from a man who once said, "A note to long-suffering Cavaliers' fans: Don't get caught in the LeBron James pipe dream. The best King James can ever be is an average NBA player." Good call, Charley.
(And a final note: I would really like to see some video evidence of those routine face-guarding "toots" that Rosen says referees used to make. His claims just don't jibe with the 20 years of NBA action I've watched. Take that classic Blazers/Celtics double-overtime thriller on March 15, 1992. Buck Williams face-guarded Larry Bird the entire game -- Buck even told Mike Fratello in an interview that his defensive strategy against Bird was to "get a hand in Larry's face" -- yet he wasn't once whistled for it. If anybody was ever going to have a face-guarding call go their way, it was Larry Legend playing at the Boston Garden. Hey, I'm sure face-guarding has resulted in many fouls over the years, but typically only when the defender made or seemed to make contact with the offensive player, not because the officials were trying to stomp out the face-guarding menace.)
Brandon Marshall: The Denver Broncos' wide receiver could miss up to four months of offseason training after mutilating his right forearm in a bizarre at-home accident. According to the Associated Press: "Marshall has acknowledged [the accident] was the result of horseplay with family members and a misplaced fast-food bag. He said he slipped on the bag Saturday while wrestling with family members at a Florida resort and put his right arm through a home entertainment center." According to Steve Antonopulos, the Broncos head athletic trainer, Marshall "sustained right forearm lacerations to one artery, one vein, one nerve, two tendons and three muscles. All have been repaired, and his right forearm and elbow will be immobilized for six weeks. Rehabilitation will begin in six weeks. Full recovery is expected to take three to four months." This incident definitely qualifies for the Brian Griese Memorial Bonehead Injury Award, thus named because Griese once tripped on a steep driveway at a friend's house and was knocked unconscious, then later sprained his ankle when he was run over by his dog. (Said Griese: "I was walking down the stairs and my dog came barreling down the stairs after me and clipped me, and I kind of twisted my ankle on the stairs.")
J. Jonah Jameson says: Help end the menace of Spider-man by reading my guest NBA Closer column at Deadspin.
Milwaukee Bucks: If the Bucks haven't completely quit on coach Larry Krystkowiak, then how do you explain last night's ugly -- and I mean Jocelyn Wildenstein-ugly -- loss to the Chris Quinn-led Miami Heat? (Yes, that Chris Quinn.) Milwaukee scored 73 points (a season-lnow), shot 35 percent (27-for-76), and committed 19 turnovers (to only 11 assists). And unlike the Heat -- who featured a makeshift starting lineup of Ricky Davis, Mark Blount, Earl Barron, Daequan Cook, and Quinn -- the Bucks weren't hampered by injury, unless you count Charlie Bell and his sprained right knee...and you don't. A few notable bad performances amid the jetsam and flotsam of this loss include Mo Williams and his 7 turnovers, Chuck Villanueva and his 2-for-11 shooting, and Dan Gadzuric's four trillion.
Donnie Walsh: Yesterday, the news was that he had turned down James Dolan's offer to take over the Knicks' front office doodies, er, duties. Then Walsh suddenly announced that he'll be stepping down as President and CEO of the Indiana Pacers. Suspicious, no? And while there hasn't been any official word as of yet, every rumor and anonymous report has Dolan signing Walsh to a three-year, $15 million presidential deal. Who knows what's fact and what's fiction at this point, but the whole thing seems petty shady, especially considering that Walsh is still under contract with the Pacers. And what about Isiah, the Knicks' current GM? He seems completely unaware of what's going on. I mean, sure, Zeke has destroyed the team and turned the franchise into a league-wide laughingstock, but sticking the knife in his back under the cover of darkness isn't cool. Although, come to think of it, after the Jerome James signing, he probably had it coming.
New York Knicks: The Knicks rallied around their soon-to-be-totally gone coach and delivered a stirring tribute to all he's done for them by losing 106-91 to the New Jersey Nets. At home. New York shot 39 percent and "held" New Jersey to 54 percent shooting, including 59 percent from beyond the arc. Zach Randolph returned to the Knicks lineup to block zero shots. He did have two of his shots blocked, though.
Madision Square Garden fans: Knicks fans are mad. At everybody. In addition to booing the home team -- as usual -- they were also going after the Nets. One fan yelled to Vince Carter, "You don't want to make the playoffs!" Vinsanity's retort was, "Neither do you!" The fans also harrassed Darrell Armstrong, who tends to coach his Jersey teammates from the bench. "Why are you yelling at me?" Armstrong shouted while pointing at the Knicks. "You should be yelling at them!" Just another night of fun at the Garden.
Boris Diaw: If you're wondering why the Phoenix Suns lost lost night -- other than some iffy officiating throughout and at the end of the game -- look no further than Diaw's 2-point, 1-for-7 performance. I'll tell you what, if I ever invent a revolutionary new vacuum cleaner with incredible sucking power, I'm naming it The Diaw.
Boston Celtics: The Green and White seemed to be coasting to another routine homecourt victory -- they were leading 80-69 lead with 8:20 to play -- then pulled a Rip van Winkle as the Philadelphia 76ers went on a 19-0 run to totally bogart the game. After establishing that 11-point lead, the Celtics didn't score again until Paul Pierce hit a free throw with 1:38 left. How does a team with three superstars go almost seven minutes of the fourth quarter without scoring? You'll have to ask them. Once they wake up, of course.
Darko, Brian, and Kwame: These guys fill my life with mirth and laughter, God bless 'em! Milicic started at center for the Griz, scoring zero points (0-for-4), grabbing 4 rebounds, and almost fouling out in 11 minutes of lack-tion. Cardinal snuck into the game for a couple minutes and rewarded his team with a single missed shot attempt. And [former number-one overall pick alert!!] Brown got another DNP-CD to add to his growing collection.
Casey Jacobsen, Taurean Green, and Steven Hunter: These men formed a new group I have dubbed the Two Trillionaire Club. They each played two minutes and eight seconds and went zero-for-everything. The interesting thing is that while they all accomplished this feat in the same game, Jacobson playes for Memphis and Green and Hunter play for Denver.
Portland Trail Blazers: They lost to the Sonics? Seriously?!
Fun fact: Basketbawful reader Sun Devil reminded me that Joel Przybilla absolutely bludgeoned the backboards in Portland's 83-72 win over the Clippers last Saturday: "You might want to note that the Clippers allowed Przybilla to play like a Vanilla Godzilla and grab a mind-boggling 25 rebounds. I get that Fazekas is their tallest player, but man, this team fell apart before the season started." Am I the only one who loved the "Vanilla Godzilla" part? I'm going to use that forever. Thanks, Sun Devil.
Bob Delaney: Oh, man. Delaney absolutely ruined the end of a classic Lakers/Warriors game by making one of the worst "last ten seconds" calls I've ever seen. With four seconds left in overtime and Golden State trailing by two points, the Warriors were trying to inbound the ball when Monta Ellis got tied up with Derek Fisher, who grabbed Ellis and flopped backward, and both men tumbled to the ground. Offensive foul on Ellis, game over. Terrible, terrible officiating, and Ellis wasn't shy about saying so: "It wasn't a foul. (Fisher) pulled me. Just look at it. He pulled me. They made the call, it's over with now, it's done." Golden State coach Don Nelson was only slightly more diplomatic about it. "I like the referee a lot. He's a great referee. I don't know why he would call something like that, especially with a flopper. Usually they just ignore that stuff." Even Fisher admitted it wasn't a foul. "I thought it was going to be a no-call, just two guys fall down and the play goes on. So when the whistle blew, it caught me off-guard as well. I don't think anybody was necessarily guilty of anything, but from the angle that Bob had, it looked (Ellis) had his hands to my chest, which he did. But like I said, I wasn't trying to fall down at all in that situation." Uh huh.
Anyway, here's a video of the final three-plus minutes of overtime. You'll need to fast forward to the 7:14 mark to see the phantom foul. Oh, and enjoy listening to the hometown announcers go berserk: "This is just wrong. It's not even basketball!"
Update! ESPN Daily Dimers: Josh from The Dinosty noticed that the folks at ESPN's Daily Dime thought Shawn Marion was still a Phoenix Sun. "This is doubly incorrect. Not only is he on the Heat now (in body only), but I think Shawn's missed more than 6 of the last 7 Suns games, don't you?" Some astute edit checker spotted the gaffe and fixed it, but not before Josh snagged a screenshot.
New York Knicks: This team set a new standard in Worst of the Weekend history. On Friday night, they ended the Grizzlies' 18-game road losing streak by getting blown out 120-106 at Madision Square Garden. On Saturday night, they played in Minnesota and got abused 114-93 by the Timberwolves. That's 35 points worth of losing to two of the worst teams in the league. Let's just rename them the Washington Generals and call it a season, okay?
Isiah Thomas: Zeke still thinks he has a future in New York, even though Knicks owner James Dolan met with -- and was subsequently turned down by -- Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh, who apparently prefers the mess he and Larry Bird made in Indiana to the trash heap Isiah built in New York. Good call, Donnie. Meanwhile, The Smiling Assassin is officially tanking the rest of the Knicks' season by benching Zach Randolph to get a look at the the team's "project" players, like Randolph Morris (who scored 6 points on 2-for-15 shooting this weekend). Said Isiah: "This is definitely a growing and a learning experience for me and this is a very tough time. But you try to grow and learn from the tough times also." Yeah, right. If you could grow and learn from sucking this badly, Isiah would be about 75 feet tall and could crush granite blocks with his amazing mind powers. When asked about his future with the team, he simply said, "I plan on being here." He may be the only one.
NBA.com box scores: This box score image from NBA.com was sent in by Basketbawful reader j men, who described it thusly: "Wow. The Heat are so short handed now that they have a new player that doesnt even have a name!" The unnamed player is/was a kid named Blake Ahearn. Don't bother to memorize his name, though. I doubt he'll be sticking around longer than the end of this season. Note: The box score was updated. But you still shouldn't memorize his name.
Andrea Bargnani: He had a rough night against the Cavs on Friday, scoring zero points (0-for-5) against the suffocating defense of Egghead Zydrunas Ilgauskas. (Psst. Andrea was a number one overall pick.)
The James Gang: LeBron is starting to find out that one truly is the lonliest number of all. On Friday, the Cavs beat the Raptors despite the fact that Bron Bron's teammates couldn't have found the basket even if someone had decorated it with chocolate-coated supermodels (Sasha Pavlovic was 3-for-11, Delonte West was 1-for-3, Ilgauskas was 5-for-14, Ben Wallace was 0-for-0, Damon Jones was 3-for-9, etc.). The story was pretty much the same against the Bucks on Saturday, only Cleveland didn't win. At 40-31, the Cavaliers chances of reaching 50 wins -- and LeBron's chances of getting the MVP -- seem pretty remote.
Enver Nuggets: The Nuggmiesters are four games into a five-game road trip during which their best defensive effort was to hold the Raptors to 100 points on 50 percent shooting. Over this four-game stretch, they've "held" their opponents to 116 PPG on 55 percent shooting. But they're currently seventh in defensive efficiency, which proves, if nothing else, that numbers can lie.
Portland Trail Blazers: They were 2-0 for the weekend, but those two wins came against the Clippers. And on Friday night, the Blazers let L.A. score 102 points on 56 percent shooting, despite the fact that Al Thornton shot 2-for-10 and both Chris Kaman and Corey Maggette missed the game with tanking injuries. On Saturday, Portland "won" an ugly 83-72 game that made me hate God for giving me eyes. Both teams shot in the high 30s and the Clips hit only 9 percent of their threes (1-for-11).
Los Angeles Clippers: Well, I could hardly leave them out, could I? I mean, first they shoot 56 percent and lost, then they couldn't throw it in the ocean and lost. Oh, and did I mention they're tanking? Well, they're tanking.
C.J. Watson: He had a cool three trillion in Golden State's 109-106 loss to Houston.
Seattle SuperSonics: The Sonics did their best Nuggets impersonation against the Lakers, giving up 130 points and 60 percent shooting -- including 52 percent in threes -- in an ugly blowout loss. I only regret that the team name doesn't have a "D" in it so I could take it away. So I guess I'll have to take it from Kevin Urant instead.
Miami Heat: They went 0-for-the-weekend as Pat Riley missed both games to scout college players in the NCAA tournament. Do you realize that they're 12-57 and may not win another game for the rest of the season?
Sacramento Kings: Another 0-for-the-weekend performance, including a loss to the Grizzlies in which Darko Milicic burned them for 19 and 12. Webster's Dictionary should probably add an entry under "Shame" that includes "Burned by Darko Milicic."
Chicago Bulls: They should just change their name to the Chicago Fourth Quarter Collapses. The latest debacle was vomiting up a 13-point fourth quarter lead to the woeful Indiana Pacers, who outscored the Bullies 35-17 in the final stanza to win 108-101. In Chicago. Speaking of which, the Jerry Reinsdorf has decided that fans weren't paying enough money to watch this crap and therefore raised ticket prices for next season. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go get me some Bulls season tickets so I can love it live!
Andres Nocioni: On Saturday night, Chapu became the latest Bulls player to flip the hell out when he started cursing at Chicago coach Jim Boylan for benching him after less than three minutes of PT. In fact, Noc was venting so loudly from the bench that Boylan banished him to the locker room for the rest of the game. Nocioni issued an apology afterward, of course. It's probably also worth noting that Noc's family was "in Chicago and at the game for a rare visit," which might have had something to do with the outburst.
Mike D'Antoni: The Suns are winning, and looking good while doing so. But D'Antoni has been using a seven-man rotation for, like, four years now. He does understand that his team is, you know, kind of old, right?
Jerry Stackhouse: Uh, Jerry? I know Manu Ginobili can be a little annoying, but that doesn't mean you're allowed to pull him down from behind and then choke him. David Stern really frowns on that sort of thing. Besides, "crazy" is the exclusive province of Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson. They're not going to appreciate you borrowing their schtick.
Basketbawful: Okay. Maybe I was wrong about the Kidd trade. God the Mavs are in trouble. Especially if the team doctors can't but Humpty Dirky back together again.
Detroit Pistons: Here's a paradox for you: The Pistons have the second-best record in the league (49-20), yet they're only 10-7 since the All-Star break. Am I the only person who's noticed that something's wrong in Detroit?
ESPN headline writers: Joe from Magicballs noticed that ESPN's frontpage headline for the Denver/Toronto game -- A.I., Melo combine for 69, Nuggets hold off Raptors -- would definitely provide a chuckle or two for the maturity challenged. Such as myself.
Craig Sager: He's the reason I got out of bed on my day off to do a post. If you watched the Celtics/Mavericks game and looked closely enough during the Sager segments, you might have noticed that his handkerchief had a little, multi-colored tiger head on it. Fully exposed, in fact, so it's clear that Sager wanted it seen. I'll wait for you to stop shuddering. Okay. Now, I spent almost 20 minutes scouring the Internet for designer hankies with brightly-colored tiger faces on them and came up with nothing. Maybe it's because I spent 18 of those minutes actually searching for "Gwen Stefani in bikini," or maybe it's because Sager has one of those bubble-headed Area 51 aliens locked in his basement sewing space clothes for him to wear to work. The world may never know.
Of course, Sager's suits are a weekly source of discussion and entertainment for basketball fans who watch The NBA on TNT. Sager gets mentioned here every once in a while, like when Baron Davis laughed at Craig's ugly suit du Semaine, or when Steve Nash stole his hanky to give Amare Stoudemire a wipedown. A common question I get asked in e-mails and the comments section is, "Why does Sager wear those nasty suits?" I've never answered before because I always assumed the question was rhetorical. I mean, it's obvious, isn't it? Sager's zoot suits almost always get a cheap laugh and they are the only interesting thing about his sideline reports. Think about it. Can you think of one thing that Sager "the reporter" has ever said or done that was even remotely memorable? Okay, that time he pre-announced Reggie Miller's retirement, which caused Reggie to freak out on him, was pretty funny. But that's it. Getting made fun of by Kevin Garnett is the only reason we want to see Sager, isn't it?
Chicago Bulls: The Bulls played poorly -- 37 percent shooting, 18 percent in threes, 16 turnovers, and a 102-80 home blowout by the Spurs -- but that's nothing new. Not this season, anyway. The real problem, for me, was that the Bulls just kind of rolled over and died. Jim Boylan did what any other good lame-duck coach would do and blamed himself: "We just did not have our enthusiasm the way it needed to be. I have to be honest and say I did not have us ready to play. I will shoulder that responsibility." While it's nice and all that he was willing to literally take one for the team, and while I agree that a coach needs to be able to motivate his squad, I wouldn't be so quick to lay this turd pile at Boylan's feet. The Bulls haven't had much enthusiasm all year. That joy deficit got Scott Skiles fired, and it's going to doom Boylan too (I give it about a day or two after the regular season ends). At what point are the players going to choose to turn things around? After the game, Ben Gordan said, "We've been inconsistent all year. I can't say I'm surprised by the effort tonight." If that's not a player who's already planning his summer vacation, I don't know what is. And Gordan's attitude pretty much sums up everything you need to know about the 2007-08 Chicago Bulls: They know they suck, but they either can't or won't do anything to change it.
Ernie Johnson: He tried to make a big deal about the fact that, the last time the Lakers played in Utah, the Delta Center crowd -- yes, I refuse to call it the EnergySolutions Arena -- booed Derek Fisher, who had been last year's playoff hero. Johnson of course pulled the sympathy card and claimed that the only reason Fish had nulled his contract with the Jazz was because he wanted to move to a city where his daughter could get treatment for her eye cancer condition. He followed his explanation with a short video of Fisher saying how getting booed had felt very personal. How could those bastard Utah fans do such a thing?! Kudos to Charles Barkley for once again telling it like it is: Fisher could have gone a lot of places to ensure his daughter had adequate treatment, but the reality is he wanted to play for the Lakers. That means he was willing to forsake the Jazz for one of their bitterest rivals. What are the fans supposed to do? Send him a fruit basket?
Jason Kidd: Is it just me, or does it feel like Kidd's scoring ability has gone way past the point of no return? I thought he'd get some better, easier looks in Dallas -- which he is -- and that he'd start knocking some of them down -- but he isn't. Kidd's latest ham-handed shooting performance saw him score 2 points on 1-for-8 shooting. And mind you, it was reported during the game that Kidd showed up three hours early to work on his shooting with Dallas assistant coach Mario Elie. I can only assume that extra practice helped him be 1-for-8 instead of 0-for-8. Since the trade, the Mavs' ball movement has been better but Kidd's inability to put the ball in the hoop is killing them. They traded one problem for another and, for now, it seems like they're just sort of dog-paddling in place. Which I guess is better than sinking altogether, but still...
Dirk Nowitzki: I'm not going to bust on Dirk for failing again in the clutch. Instead I'm going to rag on out how he did it. Dirk missed a layup with 21 seconds left that could have tied the game. The reason Herr Nowitzki missed is that, on the drive, he received a little nudge from Kevin Garnett. Instead of focusing on trying to complete the play, Dirk intentionally fell sideways a little in what I'm assuming was an attempt to get a whistle. This, of course, is the exact opposite of how he blew the game versus the Lakers, when he deftly avoided a flying Lamar Odom to put up a crazy, off-balance three. The two situations were different, and he handled each one incorrectly. If he would have let Odom fly into him on the shot attempt, he would have gotten the call. No question. But the refs won't call a bump foul on drives at the end of a tight game. They just won't. Which is why Dirk should have ignored the contact and concentrated on hitting the layup.
Rajon Rondo and Sam Cassell: Rondo had zero points on 0-for-7 shooting and committed 5 turnovers. He was benched in favor of Sam Cassell, who performed only marginally better by scoring 4 points on 1-for-9 shooting and having three of his shots fed back to him. Rondo's shooting touch comes and goes, but he usually makes up for his alligator arms with a little fiesty scrapping. However, there was neither fiest nor scrap from Rondo last night. And as for Sam-I-Am, well, it's clear that he's not 100 percent comfortable within Boston's system, and he's not used to being an off-the-bench roleplayer. He's forcing things offensively, although he's playing better than expected defensively (he got a clean block on Jerry Stackhouse that shocked the hell out of me). It's a concern. Not a full-fledged "Orlando Magic backcourt" level concern, but it's something for Doc Rivers to keep an eye on.
Paul Pierce: I'm not letting Pierce off the hook just because the Celtics won. With a little less than two minutes to go and the Celtics leading 88-87, Pierce bricked a couple freethrows that would have given Boston a three-point lead (I know, I'm a real math wiz). Dallas took the lead on their very next possession thanks to a couple Nowitzki freethrows. Of course, a few possessions later, Ray Allen hit the go-ahead three to put the C's on top, but if he hadn't hit it, Pierce would have been The Goat.
Utah Jazz: Not to take anything away from the Lakers, because they came out focused and ready, but the Jazz seemed to decided en masse not to play any defense until the second quarter, by which time they were already down 20. And last time I checked, spotting good teams a 20-point lead doesn't lead to many wins. The SportsCenter guys got a real kick out of Utah's tissue-paperesque D, showing clip after clip of Lakers strolling to the basket for uncontested layups and saying that the Jazz "could best be described as conscientious objectors on defense." It was weird. I always expect a little more toughness out of a Jerry Sloan team.
Update!! Reuters caption writers: This Worst of the Night nomination comes from Ben Q. Rock of the Third Quarter Collapse: "WotN: The guy at Reuters responsible for writing the caption to this picture. I understand that the '1' on Ronny Turiaf's uniform is obscured, but how does anyone mistake Turiaf for Derek Fisher? Especially when he's dunking authoritatively?"
Miami Heat: Last night, the Heat were without Dwyane Wade (left knee), Udonis Haslem (left ankle), Shawn Marion (sore back), Jason Williams (jammed right thumb), Marcus Banks (right hamstring), and Alexander Johnson (right knee). This left the team with the following seven players (and I use that term very loosely): Ricky Davis, Mark Blount, Chris Quinn, Daequan Cook, Earl Barron, Bobby Jones, and Joel Anthony.
If you recognized more than half of those names, you're either lying or you're some kind of roster-memorizing savant. Either way, that's one seriously motley crew. I'm not sure that squad would even qualify as an expansion team for the D-League. Stitching a team together out of whatever crap you can find...that's no way to run a franchise. It's like the basketball equivalent of Frankenstein's monster, only at least the monster could complete basic tasks, like menacing villagers and destroying its creator.
I guess I should just cut to the chase and explain why I'm going off on these guy, although judging from the e-mails I received last night and this morning, most of you already know. The Heat scored only 54 points last night. It was the third-lowest point total of the shot-clock era, surpassing only the 53 points scored by Denver against Detroit in November of 2002 and the 49 points Chicago put up against Miami in April of 1999. They accomplished this feat by shooting 25 percent from the field (20-for-78) and 21 percent from beyond the arc (5-for-23). It was a performance so bad, so historically wretched, that Pat Riley was openly pitying his players after the game...this, of course, being one night after the team notched it's 12th win of the season and Riles comparied Williams and Quinn to Jerry West and Gail Goodrich. And frankly, the Heat would probably have played better with West (who's 70 years old) and Goodrich (65), even if those guys were blindfolded and forced to play with oven mitts on.
Awful. Just awful. But, honestly, it's about what you'd expect from a team that's led by Ricky Davis and started three guys who wouldn't even be the 12th man on most NBA teams.
Update!! Toronto Raptors fans: Loyal Basketbawful reader shrugz informed me that the mighty dino fanbase freaked out when their hopes for a little free taco excitement were dashed. "Please mention the pathetic booing/restless attitude of the Raptors fans when they realized they were not getting free pizza. JUST CHEER. GAWD. I'm embarrassed to be known as a Raptors fans with people like this."
Mike Dunleavy Jr.: One day after matching his career-high in scoring and forcing me into the huge concession that he doesn't suck any more, Funleavy shoots 2-for-12 and commits 5 turnovers. Like Mike, if I could be like Mike...
Dwight Howard: What happened to Superman? Did somebody shove a hunk of Kryptonite up his butt or something? Young Thunder grabbed 14 rebounds, but he shot only 1-for-6 and had more turnovers (4) than points (3). Astonishing. Maybe it's like in Superman II, when Superman gave up his powers so he could get it on with Lois Lane. And I guess that would make the Wizards a 12-man General Zod. Which gives me an excuse to say, "KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!" Okay. I'm happy now.
Update!! The Magic and the Wizards: An anonymous reader had this to say, and I couldn't disagree: "Oh man, you need to include the entire Magic team if you're going to call out Howard. Excluding Hedo, who was the only Magic player who didn't roll over and die last night, the team shot (as per Ben Q Rock from Third Quarter Collapse) "15-of-57 (.263) from the field and 7-of-26 (.269) from three-point range." It was appalling. I should know, I was there. However! We still only lost by one point, and that was up until the very last shot. Shouldn't the Wizards at least get a mention? Seeing as they couldn't even beat a team who performed as poorly as the Magic did last night."
Enver Nuggets: Yesterday, I blasted the Nuggets for their shocking lack of defense after they gave up 136 points on 60 percent shooting to the Detroit Pistons. A few readers contradicted me by explaining that Enver is ranked sixth in defensive efficiency (although Hollinger's latest stats have them in the seventh spot). So I said, "Fine, I'll keep a close eye on these guys -- two eyes, even -- and if they prove to be the stalwart defensive bunch that the numbers say they are, I'll openly and freely admit my mistake." We are one day into my added scrutiny, and the evidence looks good...for me: The Nuggets surrendered 115 points to a Sixers team that averages 96.6, while also letting their foe shoot 60 percent from the field for the second straight game (and Philly typically rat-a-tat-tats at a 46 percent rate). Enver did force 21 turnovers and blocked 7 shots, though, so there's that. But neither those numbers nor their sparkling defensive efficiency rank do much to change the scoreboard.
Vince Carter: I've got to hand it to him, dude played great: A season-high 39 points, 17-for-26 from the field, 10 rebounds, 8 assists. He even blocked a shot! Here's the problem. Vinsanity could play at this level, or pretty close, any night. Every night, even. But he doesn't. He avoids contact and shies away from his responsibilities as a franchise player. Always has. I wouldn't be surprised if Carter shot 5-for-21 in New Jersey's next game. So it's actually nights like this that upset me more than when Carter stinks up the joint, because he's not just stealing money from his employers, he's cheating the fans. And that's not cool.
Darrell Armstrong: I know he's old and stuff, but that doesn't excuse a three trillion.
Atlanta Hawks: I believe the Hawks are serious about making the playoffs. But someone needs to tell them that putting a hand in somebody's face -- as long as you don't face-guard them!! -- would help their cause. The Nets typically score about 94 PPG on 43 percent shooting, but Atlanta brought them out of their offensive coma by giving up 125 points on 58 percent shooting, in addition to the previously mentioned season-high 39 points to Vince Carter. This enabled New Jersey to usurp the eighth seed from the Hawks for at least a day.
Memphis versus Minnesota: Why do these games have to happen? Make them stop, David Stern. I'm begging you.
Detroit Pistons: When they were dropping 136 on the Nuggets, the Pistons scored a season-high 73 points in the first half. Last night against the Cavs, they scored 73 points, period. Which is so weird, since Cleveland is ranked five spots below Enver in defensive efficiency. Must be some kind of fluke or something. Anyway, the Pistons shot 39 percent from the field and hit only 5 of 17 three-pointers. As my buddy Craig from The Association said in a text last night, LeBron owns these guys.
Houston Rockets: Sigh. Well, I've got to be fair, right? I praised them for The Streak, and now I have to mock them for their second-straight 20-point loss. Tracy McGrady (6-for-21) led the brick brigade in Houston's 34 percent shooting night. They only hit 10 percent of their threes (2-for-19). They had only 11 assists and committed 18 turnovers. Believe it or not, the game was tied after three quarters, but the Rockets got outscored 31-10 in the fourth. And now Houston is suddenly streaking in the other direction.
Phoenix Suns doubters: You know, a couple weeks ago there were a few hundred articles and blog posts about how, due to the Shaq trade, Phoenix might not even make the playoffs. Suddenly, thanks to a six-game winning streak, they're only a half game behind the Hornets and Lakers for the top spot in the West. Oh, and remember how The Big Slowpoke was going to reduce the Suns fast break to a crawl? Let's take a look at how their offense has performed over the last five games (I'm tossing out the Spurs game because nobody puts up points against them): 132, 123, 127, 111, and 110 points on 59, 55, 60, 55, and 57 percent shooting. Oh, and the Suns have rediscovered the three-ball too: They were 15-for-21 from The Land of Three last night. And they're regularly out-rebounding their opponents now. Now, I'm not saying that Phoenix is going to win the championship this season, only that the reports of their collective death have been greatly exaggerated.
Smush Parker and Mike Dunleavy: I don't know what's worse: Smush's performance (4 points, 2-for-10 shooting) or the fact that Dunleavy played him almost 30 minutes off the bench. Only two Clippers (Al Thornton and Tim Thomas) took more shots than Smush. I know the Clips are bad, but I didn't know they were "Smush Parker is our third option" bad.
Charley Rosen: The NBA Historian's comments about Shane Battier's "illegal face-guarding" of Kobe Bryant last Sunday set off a storm of controversy across the Blogosphere. That storm uncovered the fact that -- regardless of how you feel about it personally -- face-guarding is perfectly legal within the context of current NBA rules. And I'm sure Rosen got a few e-mails to that effect. But instead of admitting that, Rosen included the following note in his article yesterday: "The league's refs routinely called face-guarding fouls until 3-4 years ago. But with the installation of the new no-defense rules, these same fouls began to be ignored — the idea being to prevent hand-to-shooting-arm fouls that would slow up the game. As it is, since the natural instinct is for shooters (as well as civilians) to move their heads away from an attacking hand, the license given to face-guarders impinges on a shooter's elevation and generally flattens the resulting shot."
Now, I hate to call bullshit -- I'm kidding, I actually love doing it -- but I've been following the NBA for 20 years. I have scads of classic games from the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s on both VHS and DVD, and I rewatch them endlessly over the summer when the only sports on TV are baseball, golf, and the WNBA (and yes, I did rank those sports according to how excited each one makes me). And I'm here to tell you: I do not remember seeing a single face-guarding foul called on any player at any time, let alone seeing the call made "routinely," not unless actual contact was made with the shooter. Yet I've seen countless examples of the old "hand in the face" defense over my 20 years of NBA fanaticism. So how is it I missed the many and routine face-guarding calls Charley is referring to? I think we know why.
The Golen State Warriors versus the Enver Nuggets: These two D-less teams are in a brutal dogfight for the title of "Worst Defensive Team in the League." The Warriors gave it their best shot by letting the Sacramento Kings score 122 points on 58 percent shooting, but the Nuggets hit first and hardest by giving up 136 points to the Pistons, who shot 60 percent from the field and from beyond the arc. The 1990-91 Denver Nuggets are officially getting nervous.
Marcus Camby: His Defensive Player of the Year award looks more and more ridiculous with every passing game. Rebounding and shot-blocking do not make you the best defensive player in the league. Let me put it this way: If you had to choose one defensive player to save your grandma's life, would you pick Camby or, say, Shane Battier? That's what I thought.
Detroit Pistons equipment manager: Who's that Hamiltion guy who was playing for the Pistons last night? Did they sign him out of the D-League on a 10-day contract or something? Wait, that was NBA All-Star Rip Hamilton? Oh, okay. I thought he looked kinda familiar. (Via Ball Don't Lie.)
Taurean Green: Mr. Green won the Mario West Award for least PT of the night, clocking in at a mighty 18 seconds.
Fun fact: Did you know that Taurean is the son of former NBA player Sidney Green? Well, now you do. Go here to download a Taurean Green widget.
Milwaukee Bucks: Way to choke one up to the worst team in the league, guys. And you get extra points for doing it at home. Said said Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak: "I don’t feel like guys have turned me off. People are still paying attention, but that’s a rough question to ask a coach." I hate to be the one to break this to you, Larry, but they started tuning you out a while ago.
Pat Riley: Is it just me, or does anybody else think Riley went a little crazy over his team's 12th win of the season? Either that, or he did a line of coke after the game, because insanity and drug use are the only plausible reasons I can come up with for why Riley comparied Jason Williams and Chris Quinn to Hall of Famers Jerry West and Gail Goodrich. And I really don't think he was joking, since basketball scientists have proven that Riley hasn't had a sense of humor since the early 1980s.
The New Jersey trade gang: Sure, Jason Kidd played like crap last night (see below), but that doesn't mean the Nets "won" in the blockbuster trade game. Devin Harris wasn't playing particularly well (4 points, 2-for-6, 3 assists, 3 turnovers, 17 minutes) even before he left the game with an ankle injury. DeSagana Diop (4 points, 2-for-4, 5 rebounds, 1 block) did not inspire awe. And Trenton Hassell was 2 personal fouls and an unlikely assist away from a seven trillion.
Jason Kidd: Last night was the worst game of Kidd's second stint with the Mavericks: 1 point (0-for-3), 3 rebounds, 7 assists. He played so badly that Avery Johnson left him on the bench from 6:27 of the third to 5:51 of the fourth. Doesn't The Little General know you can't leave old guys on the bench that long? They get all stiff and useless. Or in Kidd's case, useless-er.
Dirk Nowitizki's unclutchtasticness: Yes, he brought the Mavs back from a 25-point third quarter deficit, but -- in the final seconds with the game on the line -- he bobbled an inbounds pass and ducked out of the way of an airborne Lamar Odom to put up a wild, off-balance three-point attempt that wasn't even close. Charles Barkley freaked out over this after the game, and with good reason. Because while refs are reluctant to call ticky-tac fouls at the end of close games, once you get your defender into the air, you need to go into him and force the whistle. Most of the time, the refs are going to make that call, even in end-of-game situations, and especially when you're playing at home.
Josh Howard: Okay, it's not all Dirk's fault. Howard threw that inbounds pass way too low for Dirk to get a clean catch. If Howard really considers himself an All-Star-caliber player -- and he does -- then he needs to learn how to put the ball into play when it really matters.
Shane Battier's critics: After the Rockets beat the Lakers on Sunday, some people -- including "NBA historian" Charley Rosen of FOX Sports -- blasted Battier for "face guarding" Kobe Bryant. But what Battier did, which was put a hand in Kobe's face to contest his jump shots, was perfectly legal. And Rosen, who often displays an utter disdain for people who don't know their stuff, should realize that. Kudos to the guys at The Dream Shake for doing their homework. (Via The 10-Man Rotation at Ball Don't Lie.) Update: Don't you just love it when people freak out about something and bombard you with lots of meaningless facts but have no idea what they're talking about? Blogger "Tom7" over at FOX sports -- could there be a Charley Rosen connection?! -- drones on for quite a while about face guarding, noting that it is explicitly outlawed in high school rules, NCAA rules, and FIBA rules. Well...so what? This is the NBA. Tom7 should go check out page 41 of the Official Rules of the National Basketball Association, which clearly states that face guarding (or "eye guarding") is illegal only when guarding the offensive player from behind. They're called books people. Read 'em. On second thought, don't read 'em. Ask me and accept my answer as gospel. That'll work out better for both of us. (Thanks to Basketbawful reader reuben for the link.)
Rockets critics: After the Celtics ended The Streak, I got a flurry of e-mails and a couple texts telling me I was "wrong" about the Rockets. Which is funny because I never said how long The Streak would last nor that it was anything other than a cool, fun, historic run by a tough, scrappy team. And saying the Rockets didn't play well last night doesn't address the fact that Boston's defense was absolutely overwhelming, especially in the second half. With all the talk about the Western Conference playoff race, I think some people have forgotten, or never realized, how scary good the Celtics are this season.
Joel Przybilla: Look, I know it's important to stand up to Shaq and play him physically, but the constant pushing, shoving, and jersey-grabbing was a little much. Of course, the officials have let Shaq's defenders get away with that stuff for years. And, in all fairness, The Big Elbow has gotten away with his fair share of rough play. But now that the refs are starting to blow the whistle when Shaq gets a little too free with his flailing arms, shouldn't they stop letting his defenders wrassle him around so much? And also, isn't it interesting how officiating changes over the course of a player's career?
Update! Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor: Sometimes the best way to draw attention away from your crappy stewardship of the crappy team your crappy GM assembled is to take a cheap shot at your former stuperstar player. That way you're not a bad judge of basketball talent, you're just an idiot. And boy oh boy did Taylor let his stuperosity take center stage when he suggested that Kevin Garnett laid down on the job last season. In responding to a reporter's suggestion that the T-Wolves had tanked last season, Taylor said: "I don't think that. I don't like that so much. I don't like that. It was more like KG tanked it (for missing the final five games of the regular season). I think the other guys still wanted to play. But it sure changed the team and didn't make us (as good)." Now, some people think that experts and fans baby Garnett, and maybe we do...to a degree. But in this case, I'm going to let KG's intensity and work ethic speak for themselves. I mean, Garnett missed only 23 games in 12 seasons as a Timberwolf. Dude straight up brought it.
Kobe Bryant, quote machine: Basketbawful reader Mark submitted the best out-of-context Kobe quote of the week: "We got our hands on balls. We stretched them out offensively and we attacked them." I know this is from a while back, but still very much worth mentioning. Edit: I don't know why I didn't double-check that NBA.com link. Mark point out that Kobe's quote was, in fact, in reference to the Lakers/Mavericks game on Tuesday night.