- The Season's Over -

A Very Special Message from the LA Lakers

May 30, 2008

Yes, we’re all happy that the Los Angeles Lakers triumphed over the evil empire San Antonio Spurs last night. And today is a Friday, kicking off the first official weekend of the summer. I’m sure all you kids have big, big plans. You’re probably all going to “party.” You will undoubtedly get in some situations where crack cocaine is being smoked over the next couple of nights, and you will inevitably be offered some of that crack cocaine. I know, crack cocaine is extremely glamorous, and it’s going to be pretty tempting.

I know you’re saying, “Mr. Thell, why do you talk about crack cocaine several times a week, we’re sick of hearing about it.” And I know you kids don’t want to hear this from me again. That’s why I’ve asked a few of my close and personal friends to put together this video on the subject, perhaps you’ll be more inclined to listen to them. They’re the LA Lakers, and they’re here to say that drugs are killing every day. So just say no; just say no to drugs.

“Check” it out:


PS: Apparently Byron Scott likes the idea of being on top. Off topic, but fair enough.

Hat tip to The Basketball Jones

3 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on May. 30, 2008 at 5:43pm in NBA

The Cure for Rip Hamilton’s Elbow is Spit

May 30, 2008

Rip Hamilton keeps motoring against the CelticsIt remains to be seen how effective he is, but Detroit Pistons All-Star shooting guard Rip Hamilton will be in the starting lineup tonight as his team faces elimination in Game 6 against the Boston Celtics.

Despite hyperextending the elbow on his shooting arm during what looked like a rather innocent play late in Game 5, Hamilton said there’s “no way in hell [he's] not playing tonight.” He’s been getting treatments on that golden elbow for two days straight from super trainer Arnie Kander, but it was perhaps Hamilton’s father who will ultimately be credited for getting his son back on the court.

Hamilton said he talked to his father Thursday, and his dad simply told him to “spit” on it. “This is now or never,” Hamilton said. “Usually when you talk to your dad he is like take your time son. But he said spit on it. You are at war right now. You ain’t got no choice. I told guys today don’t look at me as a handicap out there. I am ready. I am good to go.”

One strategy that has worked especially well for the Pistons so far in this series is going small with three guards on the floor at the same time. Any combination of Hamilton, Chauncey Billlups, Rodney Stuckey, and Lindsey Hunter has absolutely wreacked havoc on the Celtics’ various backups behind starting PG Rajon Rondo. That has forced Rivers to either heap more minutes on Rondo, ask someone else (like Paul Pierce) to bring the ball up the court when Sam Cassell or Eddie House is in there, or to simply pray for no stupid turnovers; all approaches have seen varying levels of success but none of them has as of yet entirely solved the problem.

Rip Hamilton Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Given Hamilton’s tenderized elbow, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him rest during those stretches where Saunders feels it’s more important to pressure the Celtics and cause turnovers as opposed to needing buckets. Hamilton has 8 steals through five games against Boston and has done a good job of finishing on fast breaks off turnovers, so it could hurt the Pistons if he does indeed see a decrease in minutes.

It now becomes even more essential than it already was for the Pistons to get out to a fast start, establish an early lead, and maintain it. That means Billups and Rasheed Wallace will need to be at the top of their offensive games and that Tayshaun Prince (13-45 FG in the last four games) needs to rediscover his shooting touch. And once again Stuckey could be called upon to step up his game and make his presence felt in a big way, just like in the Orlando series when Billups went down with a hamstring injury.

If Hamilton’s sweet shooting stroke looks markedly off in the early stages, Flip Saunders needs to recognize it and make the minutes adjustment sooner rather than later. Anyone who’s watched Saunders at work knows that he tends to leave players on the court a few minutes too long at times before pulling them; he can’t make that mistake tonight in such a big game.

Okay, so now you want my prediction: surprise surprise, I like the Pistons by 10+. Both of us here at ETB have been calling for and hoping for not only a Celtics-Pistons Eastern Conference Finals, but also a hard-fought, seven-game series. We’ve gotten the first two, and damn it if I don’t want to see the Game 7 too.

Related: Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Rip Hamilton, Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Tayshaun Prince, Paul Pierce, Flip Saunders, Rodney Stuckey

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on May. 30, 2008 at 12:59pm in NBA

Postcards From LA, Vol. 13: One Lakers Fan Tracks His Team Through the NBA Playoffs

May 30, 2008

Postcards From Los Angeles

As long as the Los Angeles Lakers survive through the 2008 NBA playoffs, Empty the Bench’s West Coast correspondent Christopher Thell will be submitting a local fan’s take on his beloved Lakers’ postseason trials, tribulations and successes. In this edition: The Los Angeles Lakers are headed to the NBA Finals.


“Only a few chosen rise.”

-Tupac Shakur

17.

That number encapsulates Game 5.

When Brent Barry drained a 26-foot 3-pointer with a little under two minutes elapsed in the 2nd quarter, it put the Spurs up by 17 (33-16) and it looked like the Lakers were in for a return trip to Texas – the last thing in the world they wanted to do.

When Kobe Bryant went to the charity stripe after a Tim Duncan foul and calmly drained two free throws to officially seal the deal on the Lakers series clinching 100-92 victory with 15 seconds left in the game, it was the reigning MVP’s 16th and 17th points of the 4th quarter.

That’s right, his 17th point of the quarter, giving Kobe 39 for the game to go along with 3 rebounds and 3 assists.

After trailing almost the entire contest until their last possession of the 3rd quarter, when the Rad Man hit a deep 3-pointer to give them a 64-63 advantage to start the final period, the Lakers never relinquished the lead.

Not that the defending champions didn’t threaten, but Kobe had the answer every time.

Kobe Bryant is an assassin in high tops, after the jump…

Read the rest of this article »

2 CommentsPosted by ETB Contributor on May. 30, 2008 at 10:08am in NBA

Reading is Great! Friday’s NBA Rumors, Breaking News, and Blog Links

May 30, 2008

Reading NBA Blogs is fun!

- 20 Second Timeout – Kobe Bryant’s “performance for the ages” overwhelmed the Spurs.
- ESPN – Lindsey Hunter says now is not the time for ‘Sheed to pay homage to KG.
- SLAM – Walter Hermann, you are looking sex-ay on that Pistons bench lately…
- LA Ball Talk – Perhaps it’s time for the NBA to consider taking a “less is more” approach.
- Awful Announcing – Kudos to the Lakers… but Sasha Vujacic is a little a-hole.
- Ball Don’t Lie – Take the Ball Don’t Lie Board of Linguistics and Language challenge!
- Upside and Motor – Forget good cop/bad cop: John Paxson plays good idea/bad idea.
- Daily Basketball – The Boston Celtics will welcome any and all bandwagon fans.
- Raw Sports Blog – Will the Denver Nuggets be the next team to give up on J.R. Smith?
- Docksquad Sports – Euros playing in the NBA owe a debt of gratitude to Drazen Petrovic.
- MLive – The Pistons may lose more than just a game tonight if they don’t beat Boston.
- Rumors and Rants – Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out 2 for the Nintendo Wii? I’d buy it.
- Pistons Blog – Apparently some “Pistons fans” are already calling for change.
- HoopsAddict – Rashad Mobley sits down with Jemele Hill, a rising star in the ESPN family.

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on May. 30, 2008 at 8:46am in NBA

Reading is Great! Thursday’s NBA Rumors, Breaking News, and Blog Links

May 29, 2008

Rajon Rondo Makes Reading Fun!

- ESPN – It’s a glorious day for everyone but Spurs fans: floppers to be fined.
- Waiting for Next Year – So it’s good Anderson Varejao held out for that extension.
- The Arena – Those fines are all well and good, but they won’t stop flops.
- Mix Makers – Bidding the flop adieu with five of the best flops of the YouTube era.
- CNN – Monkey-controlled basketball robots to take over the NBA, world.
- Chicago Bull – Doug Collins will slow the pace in Chicago, and that may be a good thing.
- NBA Stuffer – Eddie F. Rush can’t stand to see the road team win a playoff game.
- Pistons Palace – Boston tried to give Detroit the game, but the Pistons refused to take it.
- LA Times – There have been some late whistles in these playoffs, but 48 hours late?
- Perk is a Beast – That’s the game you hope for with a blog about an obscure athlete.
- X’s and O’s – Ray Allen shot himself out of a major, major, major slump.
- Clips Nations – Clippers fans are weighing the PG alternatives: Hinrich vs. Ford.
- Newsday – Monta Ellis wants a raise and the Warriors may not be able to afford it.
- HOOPSWORLD – Who to pay, who to dump and who to watch from the class of 2005.

And finally, video of ‘Sheed Wallace’s take on the officiating (he didn’t like it):

1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on May. 29, 2008 at 3:35pm in NBA

Detroit Pistons Stymied in a Nailbiting Game 5—For the Fifth Year in a Row

May 29, 2008

Rasheed Wallace not happy after another Game 5 lossYou watched that game last night, right?

Pistons fans went to bed anxious and upset (and in some circles perhaps a little tipsy…) when all was said and done in what was, again, one of the most entertaining games of these 2008 playoffs. Meanwhile Celtics fans probably called it a night battling anxiety as well—the good kind mixed in with a little bit of the bad kind. Their team’s thrilling 106-102 win puts them within a single win of advancing to the NBA Finals and ousting the pesky Pistons once and for all.

It’s a good place to be. Teams who win Game 5 in a series tied 2-2 go on to win the series 83% of the time. I’m sure that statistic goes up when the team in question is an elite defensive squad stacked with veterans like the Celtics are.

But now they have to get on a plane once again and try to do what the Pistons nearly did on Wednesday: win on their opponent’s home floor twice in three attempts. It won’t be easy, but based on what we’ve seen so far between these Celtics and Pistons there’s no reason to assume anything. The Pistons are fully capable of blowing out the Celtics and sending it back to Boston for a Game 7 on Sunday. The Celtics—ditto but in reverse. (Does that make sense?)

Rasheed Wallace Photo Credit: Icon SMI

At any rate, there’s a lot to discuss from last night’s game: Kendrick Perkins’ beastly performance, the Ray Allen Ship finally landing, Flip Saunders’ effective three-guard lineup, all those triples Rasheed Wallace rained down on the Garden. We’ll try to get to all of that over the next day or so. (I’m sure ETB reader phil anselmo will have a few words about his man Perkins in the comments section of this post.)

For now, there’s just two things I want to point you towards. The first will be tough for Pistons fans to stomach, so read on at your own peril: a reader over at TrueHoop made the following astute observation of the final scores in the last five Game 5′s the Pistons have been a part of, all of which were played with the series tied 2-2. I had not realized this at all:

2008: Boston Celtics 106, Detroit Pistons 102
2007: Cleveland Cavaliers 109, Detroit Pistons 107 (2OT)
2006: Cleveland Cavaliers 86, Detroit Pistons 84
2005: San Antonio Spurs 96, Detroit Pistons 95 (OT)
2004: New Jersey Nets 127, Detroit Pistons 120 (3OT)

In a word—wow. (And in another, “thanks” to TrueHoop for posting that reader email.)

The other quickie is Rasheed Wallace’s gently worded post-game thoughts on the officiating in Game 5. This fine example of ‘Sheed being ‘Sheed will score him many points with David Stern and the NBA Police, I’m sure:

“All that bull(sh##)-(f–ing) calls they had out there,” he said. “With (officials) Mike (Callahan) and Kenny (Mauer) — you’ve all seen that (sh##). You saw them calls. The cats are flopping all over the floor and they’re calling that (sh##). That (sh##) ain’t basketball out there. It’s all (f–ing) entertainment. You all should know that (sh##). It’s all (f–ing) entertainment.”

More on Boston’s big 106-102 win in Game 5 later.

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on May. 29, 2008 at 9:16am in NBA

Where is Jesus Shuttlesworth’s Game?

May 28, 2008

Kevin Garnett has helped point the Celtics in the right direction

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett coulda sworn they saw it in on the bus…
Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Before the season began we knew that all of the Celtics’ so-called Big Three would likely have to take a hit in the scoring department. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett had all been prodigious scorers over the last decade plus, each averaging over 20 per game and a combined 64.7 points per game for their careers. There were simply going to be too many mouths to feed and there was no way each could continue to attempt the 16+ field goals per game they were accustomed to. And that’s how it played out in the regular season, with all playing unselfish, team-oriented basketball and none topping 14 attempts per contest in the regular season. It worked pretty well.

And while scoring was expected to dip, there was no reason to expect their peripheral stats to decline significantly. In fact, with opposing teams unable to consistently double any of these superstars efficiency from the field and assist production was expected to improve. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce improved significantly on their career shooting averages and shot 6.3% and 2.5%, respectively, better from the field this year compared to 2006-07. However, Ray Allen improved just 0.7% from a last year in Seattle and only 0.1% on his career field-goal percentage.

But Boston was winning, and nobody really noticed or cared.

By now if you’ve been watching Boston even casually in these playoffs Ray Allen’s great disappearing act of 2008 isn’t news. The statistical trends are extremely disconcerting. His scoring and shooting have declined three months in a row. After shooting a respectable (if unspectacular) 44.5% from the field and 39.8% from behind the arc in the regular season Allen is down to a putrid 38.4% from the floor and 30.1% on threes in the postseason. He went from 26.4 points a game last season to 17.4 this season to just 13.2 points per in the 2008 playoffs. Considering Ray Ray has never been a top-flight defender, on many nights that has rendered him a significant liability instead of an asset.

It’s gotten so bad that opposing defenders aren’t hesitating to slough off of Allen on the perimeter in favor of doubling Garnett and Pierce. And Ray Allen hasn’t drawn any attention in the opponent’s defensive gameplan in months. That’s criminal.

Back in June when Boston traded Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and the rights to rookie Jeff Green for Ray Allen most considered it a slam dunk. I know I did. But Allen is crumbling at the worst time, and his playoff averages aren’t significantly better than Wally World alone despite Allen playing nearly nine more minutes per game. And hell, Delonte West had a better statistical playoffs nearly across the board with a higher field-goal percentage, three-point percentage, more assists and more steals in fewer minutes. Throw in the fifth overall pick Jeff Green and suddenly the Allen trade doesn’t look so good anymore.

The Boston Celtics are lacking depth on the perimeter and they could use the dead-eye shooting of Wally and the ball-handling of Delonte West right now. Trading for Ray Allen was the right move, no doubt about it, especially since it was a huge factor in luring MVP candidate Kevin Garnett. But over the last month the Bean Town faithful are wondering what happened to one of the best pure shooters in NBA history. He needs to find that game, and fast, or this summer his acquisition and his play this spring will be pointed to as major reasons the Celtics juggernaut failed.

This season was finally a chance for Pierce, Garnett and Allen to define their careers after years and years of extraordinary play for losing teams. It’s a chance to prove that they are winners who simply languished on bad rosters for bottom-feeding franchises. the regular season is all well and good, but legacies are earned in the playoffs. Unfortunately, Ray Allen is defining himself as merely one of the most prolific regular-season stat machines in history, not one of the best players or even shooters. He can start changing that tonight.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on May. 28, 2008 at 7:11pm in NBA

Antonio McDyess’ Heroics Keeping the Detroit Pistons On Pace with Boston Celtics

May 28, 2008

Antonio McDyess, Detroit Pistons ECF MVPIt’s becoming clear that nobody on the Detroit Pistons roster is hungrier to win a NBA title—this year’s NBA title—than Antonio McDyess.

As the lone starter who wasn’t a part of the 2004 NBA Championship team, McDyess hasn’t had the luxury of going home and dusting off a diamond-encrusted ring as consolation these last few years after his Pistons bowed out in the conference finals. He came close in ’05 when Detroit made it back to the NBA Finals, only to be denied the chance for a repeat after the Spurs eventually prevailed in seven games. Close, but no cigar.

With the way he’s played thus far against the Boston Celtics, however—and throughout these 2008 playoffs in general—that could all change for McDyess very soon. Outside of diehard Lakers fans, is there anyone out there who doesn’t think the real NBA Finals are going on right now in the Eastern Conference? And that the winner should be a heavy favorite to oust the Lakers, assuming they get there (which looks very likely at this point). Should the Pistons somehow overcome Boston’s home-court advantage and eliminate the NBA’s top team in their now best-of-three series, McDyess would get my vote as the team’s Postseason MVP.

Antonio McDyess Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Consider what he’s doing both on the court and off it. In Game 4 at the Palace, Dice was nothing short of spectacular, doing his best impersonation of his former high-flying self in shooting 8-14 FG for 21 points and 16 rebounds—including 7 on the offensive glass—on the night. He came up with loose balls, nailed back-breaker jumpers at times when Boston was looking to turn the tide in their favor, and sunk 5 of 6 free throws. (McDyess is a career 67% shooter from the line.)

He’s now averaging 14.5 points, 10.7 boards, and 55% FG in four games so far against the Celtics, numbers that have helped compensate for poor overall series’ from two of the Pistons All-Star starters in Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace. His playmaking ability is also making things tough on Celtics head coach Doc Rivers because he doesn’t feel comfortable with Big Baby Davis or Leon Powe guarding Dice for any length of time. That means more minutes (and wear and tear) for Garnett, Perkins, and Brown.

Without his increased intensity and personal motivation, this could very well be a close-out game tonight for the Celtics, not a chance for Detroit to take a 3-2 advantage.

He’s also getting it done off the court, shedding his laid-back demeanor in favor of a more vocal role when it comes to pushing his teammates to leave it all out on the floor:

He no longer is silently deferring to the stars. At the film session Sunday he said his piece after others had talked about the Pistons being fine.”He was very emphatic,” coach Flip Saunders said. “He said, ‘We been talking everything is all right. We got to make it happen.’ I’ve never seen him with this much emotion.”

“For me, I’m almost to the end of the road, and I just feel like leaving everything on the floor so there won’t be any excuses,” he said. “I’m kind of fed up with the excuses. Since I’ve been here, we’ve had excuses why we haven’t won another championship, and I feel that if I don’t say anything vocally that we would have an excuse this year. I don’t want us to have no excuse.”

The time for excuses has indeed passed. Game 5 tips off at 8:30pm tonight on ESPN.

1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on May. 28, 2008 at 4:42pm in NBA

DeSagana Diop was One Tall Maverick

May 28, 2008

When the Mavericks consummated their ill-fated deal with the Nets to acquire aging point guard Jason Kidd, most NBA observers were shocked at how much they sacrificed. People often noted they had given up the younger, quicker Devin Harris and two first-round picks in the deal. They didn’t talk as much about DeSagana Diop though, and we thought he was a major component.

On the court Diop was their most athletic big man and a cheap source of capable defense, rebounding and shot-blocking. Off the court he was a $2.146 million expiring contract and one of their finest product peddlers.

Then again, as DeSagana Diop says in his casual southern drawl, “For me, the right fit is very important.” It’s hard to say if that fit is with a rebuilding Nets franchise or wearing a ten-gallon hat and conversing about Ford Expeditions with an aging cowboy in the heart of Texas…

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on May. 28, 2008 at 3:06pm in NBA

Reading is Great! Wednesday’s NBA Rumors, Breaking News, and Blog Links

May 28, 2008

Chris Paul and Kevin Martin think reading is GREAT!

- Awful Announcing – Everybody agreed Joey Crawford wouldn’t be a factor. He was.
- FanHouse – Brett Edwards can’t imagine giving the Spurs that call 30 feet from the basket.
- Basketball 24/7 – NBA.com to broadcast the playoffs for free in the UK, but not the US.
- Straight Bangin’ – The Spurs weren’t much fun, but they were wonderful for basketball.
- Draft Express – Say it ain’t so, Kevin: Timberwolves to draft Kevin Love? Gah!
- Bobcats Baseline – I had no idea there were Charlotte Bobcats fans this cool.
- Hoops Addict – The latest from Hoops Addict is sure to cure your mock draft shakes.
- DC Sports Bog – Gilbert Arenas is focused on basketball his blog and selling $5 magnets.
- The World of Isaac – Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, does this look like a drug user?
- Ballhype – During draft season the combo guard is the leper of today’s NBA.
- HR World – Completely out of left field: 10 NBA coaches who would make great CEOs.
- NPR – Last night aside, a recent study showed racial bias among NBA referees.
- Denver Post – The Chicago Bulls are considering Jeff Bzdelik and his 73-119 NBA record.
- The Scores Report – If you’re going to tank, tank hard. Like, Miami Heat hard.
- The Angry T – In honor of J-Maxiell’s massive swat of KG: The Top 35 Blocks of All-Time.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on May. 28, 2008 at 2:45pm in NBA

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