- The Season's Over -

Rodney Stuckey Has Arrived

December 24, 2008

Rodney Stuckey is coming into his own as a starter in DetroitRodney Stuckey is making it abundantly clear why GM Joe Dumars felt comfortable sending Chauncey Billups to the Denver Nuggets.

With All-Star shooting guard Rip Hamilton already firmly entrenched in the Pistons’ starting lineup, it looked like the 6-5 Stuckey might have to wait another year before logging big minutes with Allen Iverson, a guy accustomed to demanding anywhere between 36 – 40 minutes a night, joining the mix.

But with two guys in the backcourt whose strong suits aren’t exactly running a team and distributing the ball, head coach Michael Curry made the move to “small ball,” a decision that shifted some guys around and allowed Stuckey to step in as the team’s starting point guard.

At this point it’s safe to say he’s there for good.

The last lottery pick of the ’07 draft, Stuckey has now scored in double digits in 11 of his last 13 games, a stretch in which he’s averaging 14.7 points, 7 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and about 2 steals per; he’s also totaled four double-doubles and narrowly missed a fifth. He capped it off with an absolutely dominating performance on Tuesday night at home against Chicago, bulling his way into the lane at will against whichever hapless defender coach Vinny del Negro threw at him, drawing fouls, hitting open and contested jumpers, and more than making up for poor shooting efforts from Iverson and Hamilton.

The second-year pro’s final tally on the night: a career-best 40 points (15-24 FG), 4 assists, 2 boards, and 4 steals in just under 42 minutes. The number of feeds is a bit low, but he was strictly in scoring mode from start to finish and wasn’t being asked to do anything more than that this time.

It was a thrilling performance by yet another rising star in this league, and it won’t be the last. Coming out of unheralded Eastern Washington, Stuckey was commonly likened to the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade because of their similar size, small-school collegiate background, and ability to flat out get to the hole and put up points in bunches. It was important then not to get carried away with such lofty comparisons and it’s important now, but we’re starting to see the 22-year-old’s promise and potential already bubble up in the early stages of his run as a full-time starter.

The Pistons may suffer some in the interim in Billups’ absence, but it’s clear that Mr. Big Shot would have been moved at some point in the near future anyway; Stuckey is clearly a cornerstone of the Pistons’ future and he needs and deserves as many minutes as he can handle now, not in a season or two.

There will be some growing pains and false starts along the way, like his less-than-stellar outing against Deron Williams and the Utah Jazz earlier this week when he finished with just 7 points (3-8 FG), 5 assists, 3 boards, and 3 steals before fouling out in his team’s 120-114 double-overtime loss. Make no mistake though: this kid has the skills to become an elite player in this league before too long. He has excellent court vision, delivers crisp passes, has made remarkable strides with his three-point shot, plays solid man-defense, and already has shown great reactions and awareness in the offensive pick-and-roll game.

There promises to be some great one-on-one battles over the years between the Pistons’ Stuckey and the Bulls’ first-overall pick from last summer, Derrick Rose. Give Stuckey an emphatic win in round one.

1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Dec. 24, 2008 at 11:20am in NBA

Dirk Nowitzki, 2007 NBA MVP… Anybody Out There Remember Him?

December 24, 2008

Dirk Nowitzki doesn't hear much about himself these days

Dirk Nowitzki Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Unless you’re in Dallas or live and die Mavericks basketball, you’re probably not hearing or reading much of anything about Dirk Nowitzki these days, positive or negative.

Compared to his MVP season just two years ago, however, Nowitzki’s individual stats are quite comparable. His per-game minutes, field-goal attempts, offensive rebounds, and points are all up through the first 27 games of his 2008-09 campaign; field-goal percentage, three-point percentage, and assists are down a bit. In other words, Dirk is for the most part still playing like the Dirk we’ve seen over the better part of the last decade. He’s currently the NBA’s fourth-leading scorer at 26 points per and remains one of its most consistently lethal offensive weapons.

So why does he feel like more and more of an afterthought in talks about the NBA’s premier players? And considering all the hype about the Summer of 2010 when guys like LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade will potentially become unrestricted free agents, why isn’t Dirk’s name floated in that discussion more often since he, too, could be on the market if he chooses to terminate his $21.5 million player option? All indications are that he prefers to finish out his career in Dallas–and might even take a pay cut if it means surrounding him with more marquee talent–but a lot could change between now and then.

A few possible explanations for why Nowitzki is having a “quiet” season thus far:

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No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Dec. 24, 2008 at 4:51am in ETB Articles, NBA

Reading is Great! Today’s NBA News, Rumors, and Moments of Extreme Clarity

December 23, 2008

Yao Ming Makes Reading Fun!

- Hoops Addict – The latest Blogger Power Rankings poll is up.
- 2nd Round Reach – A new comic tragedy comes to Broadway Madison Square Garden.
- SportsHubLA – The bar (and expectations) always remains high when you’re Kobe Bryant.
- The Hoop Doctors – The Miami Heat are doing it with defense.
- Bucks Diary – If Detroit can trade Billups, Milwaukee can trade Michael Redd.
- Thunder Rumblings – Scott Brooks harnesses the power of text messaging.
- Bright Side of the Sun – A “star-studded cast” of PGs are trying out for the Suns.
- Nets Daily – The Nets are leaving all options on the table for now with Nenad Krstic.
- Slam Online – Oh, that LeBron James is such a kidder.
- Interbasket – Bonzi Wells: 48 points, 11 boards, and 7 steals… for Shanxi Zhongyu.
- HoopsHype – Steve Kerr is waging all-out war on the Phoenix Suns’ fun machine.
- Dime Magazine – Stephon Marbury, one of the NBA’s Top 10 Villains.
- Need4Sheed – Congrats to any team scheduled to face the Pistons on a Sunday…
- Detroit Bad Boys – … or whenever Jack Nies is refereeing the game.
- Blaze of Love – Now they’re doing NBA cheerleader photo shoots in bathrooms… creepy.
- Denver Stiffs – George Karl needs to get over it and start J.R. Smith.

1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Dec. 23, 2008 at 1:27am in NBA

NBA Photo Friday – Where Ron “Snake Eggs” Artest Loves Dogs . . . See?

December 19, 2008

Ron Artest Loves Dogs

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Dec. 19, 2008 at 12:00pm in NBA

Reading is Great! Today’s NBA News, Rumors, and Startling Developments

December 18, 2008

The NBA Read to Achieve program makes reading FUN!

- Busted Coverage – Vote for your friends at ETB no later than Friday at 11pm EST.
- And One – NBA head coaches should probably avoid Lonnie Cooper like the plague.
- The Hoop Doctors – Mike D’Antoni, master of the gang signs.
- Basketball.org – Gotta love having a big basketball fan as president.
- A Stern Warning – First-round pick Nathan Jawai is set to join the Raptors.
- Raptors Republic – Speaking of the Raps, is Bryan Colangelo still considered a genius?
- SportsByBrooks – Kevin McHale thinks bloggers are bad for NBA head coaches.
- Hoops Addict – Six questions with Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Woodson.
- Deuce of Davenport – EX-NBA player Corie Blount caught with 29 (!) pounds of pot.
- SLC Dunk – A Jazz fan forever thankful for Adrian Dantley.
- The Sports Hernia – Louis Amundson is a dead-ringer for The Highlander.
- Sactown Royalty – Hawes and Thompson are as cold as ice, they’re willing to sacrifice…
- Blazer’s Edge – Today is a perfect day for some fun with stats.
- Detroit Bad Boys – Antonio McDyess, one of the NBA’s most loyal players.
- 3 Shades of Blue – Great roundtable discussion about the culture of NBA officiating.
- AZ Sports Hub – The best and worst trades in Suns history and one that didn’t happen.

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Dec. 18, 2008 at 7:37am in NBA

Fantasy Football – Week 16 Position Ranks

December 18, 2008

Calvin Johnson, Lions stud

Calvin Johnson Photo Credit: Icon SMI

As the fantasy football season draws to a close and those of you still paying attention brace for your championship match this week, I wanted to quickly recognize just how studly Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson has become in just his second NFL season.

There hasn’t been much to smile about for the Lions or its fans this year; indeed, their game against the Saints on Sunday is probably their last chance to avoid 0-16 because they ain’t winning at Green Bay. Despite all the distractions and losing and double coverages he’s had to deal with, however, Megatron Johnson has established himself as one of the NFL’s very best at his position.. if not the best.

Think about it: Johnson has had to adjust to no less than five (mediocre) quarterbacks throwing him the ball this season. After Roy Williams was traded to Dallas, the Lions have trotted out an underwhelming supporting cast at receiver that has hardly helped take attention away from him. He’s battled a few minor injuries. Through it all, Johnson has still caught 65 balls for 1,165 yards and 10 TDs. Just imagine what this guy will do if/when the Lions ever surround him with a few more weapons, field a somewhat respectable offensive line, and get him a highly talented quarterback.

So here’s to you, Calvin, for continuing to dominate the competition despite playing for one of the worst teams in NFL history. And here’s to you too, loyal ETB reader, for sticking with us throughout the fantasy season and checking out the ranks. We’ll do it all again next season–until then, enjoy our award-winning* NBA coverage.

Fantasy Week 16 – Top 20 Quarterbacks

Brees heads to Detroit

1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints @ DET
2. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts @ JAX
3. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles @ WSH
4. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers @ CHI
5. Jay Cutler, Denver Broncos vs. BUF
6. Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals @ NE
7. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers @ TB
8. Matt Cassel, New England Patriots vs. ARZ
9. Brett Favre, New York Jets @ SEA
10. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys vs. BAL
11. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons @ MIN
12. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans @ OAK
13. Eli Manning, New York Giants vs. CAR
14. Chad Pennington, Miami Dolphins @ KC
15. Tyler Thigpen, Kansas City Chiefs vs. MIA
16. Kyle Orton, Chicago Bears vs. GB
17. Jeff Garcia, Tampa Bay Bucs vs. SD (Check Status)
18. Jake Delhomme, Carolina Panthers @ NYG
19. Tarvaris Jackson, Minnesota Vikings vs. ATL
20. Dan Orlovsky, Detroit Lions vs. NO (Not a Misprint)

Rest of the Week 16 fantasy football ranks after the break…

Read the rest of this article »

5 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Dec. 18, 2008 at 4:01am in Fantasy Rankings, NFL, NFL Fantasy News

Harris Knows How to Stay Cool

December 18, 2008

He’s exhausted. He’s been on this street a thousand times, it’s never looked so strange. The faces, so cold. In the distance a child is crying. Fatherless, a bastard child, perhaps. His back aches, his heart aches, but Harris – Harris is resilient. Thank god he found that 7 Up machine.

As Harris takes a gulp all he can think is, “Feels so good coming down. Rain on me, rain on me…”

5 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Dec. 18, 2008 at 1:03am in NBA

What Did the Suns Get in Jared Dudley?

December 16, 2008

New Phoenix Sun Jared DudleyJason Richardson is a relatively known commodity at this point. The former NCAA champ at Michigan State has been a 20-point scorer, he’s led the league in three-pointers, he’s won a pair of dunk contests, he’s bounced a basketball off of Carlos Boozer’s considerable dome. We know him. Who we don’t know, or hear, much about is the other player sent to Phoenix in last week’s trade between the Suns and Bobcast: Jared Dudley.

What does this kid bring to the table?

The 22nd pick of the 2007 NBA draft, Dudley stands at 6-7 and weighs in at a 225 pounds, putting the 23-year-old forward in classic tweener territory. He’s not quite quick or athletic enough to guard small forwards and he doesn’t have the outside stroke of a 3, and yet he’s a tad undersized and underweight at power forward.

Despite that tweener status and generally underwhelming athletic prowess, Jared was voted ACC Player of the Year for 2007 and was a second team All-American the same season. There’s a reason for that: Dudley can do a lot of things fairly well and he has no glaring weaknesses in his game. At the NBA level he can be a Swiss army knife off the bench who does a little of everything.

Let’s take a quick look at some of Dudley’s rookie statistics. His per 36 minute averages last year were 11 points, 7.4 total rebounds, 3.1 offensive boards, 2.1 assists and 1.4 steals on 47% FGs. None of these numbers will jump out at you, but they’re pretty solid for a rookie who isn’t an offensive player and was stuggling to get consistent playing time on one of the worst teams in the league. His contributions amounted to a 41.2 Win%, above the team’s (and Raymond Felton’s) Win%.

He’s rarely played big minutes in his brief NBA career, but what I’ve seen from Dudley has been intruiging. Every once in a while he drops 15 points or 3 steals or 5 offensive boards in very few minutes. He shows a lot of grit, passion, and hustle – especially on the offensive glass. Dudley also looks to have a strong feel for the game and a high basketball IQ, almost always playing within himself, his skill set and the flow of the game. With an abnormal wingspan he also plays long, especially on the glass, and Dudley does possess some scoring skills that he could develop.

This summer during our Scribes of the NBA interview series we talked to Brett Hainline, the curator of Queen City Hoops, my favorite Bobcats blog. When asked about what we can expect from Dudley he had the following to say:

He is a future starter – as long as he is going to be the fourth or fifth guy on the court. Jared is a solid, smart basketball player – he knows what the team needs and he did his best to fill that role as a hustle player with an emphasis on rebounding. Though I was unsure of the comparisons around the draft, watching him play last season led me to accept the similarity with Shane Battier – though not the defender Shane is, Jared is the type of player winning teams need. A glue guy who can score effectively without requiring plays run for him.

Brett saw more of Dudley than I did last season, but I’m not sure I’m quite as optimistic. He’s a potential starter in an ideal situation, but I think Dudley more likely projects as a solid forward off the bench, a 6th or 7th man, in a strong rotation. His hustle on defense and smarts on both ends make him a player that you don’t worry about on the floor and his offensive rebounding skills provide a nice boost in whatever minutes you throw his way. His offense has been very limited thus far, but coming out of college Dudley’s mid-range game was supposed to be a strength and if he could get that on track he would be deserving of 20+ minutes a game. Hopefully Jared can get there, because I think the kid just has the feel of a role player on a winning squad.

Related Reading:
- ETB Scribes of the NBA Interview Series – Brett Hainline of Queen City Hoops
- Toothless – Why the Charlotte Bobcats Aren’t Making Progress and What Needs to be Done

Jared Dudley Photo Credit: Icon SMI

3 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Dec. 16, 2008 at 9:29pm in NBA

Still Searching for a Method to Don Nelson’s Madness in Oaktown

December 16, 2008

Don Nelson, NBA Head CoachIf Don Nelson has a a brilliant plan for his Golden State Warriors, there’s no better time than the present to start executing it. Otherwise, this franchise that just two seasons ago shocked the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs, and looked to finally have clawed its way back to respectability, will have completed its rapid plunge back into sub-mediocrity.

It turned out to be a tough summer for Nellie and the Warriors, to be sure. First they lost enigmatic fan-favorite Baron Davis to the Clippers, then lost out on the Elton Brand Sweepstakes. With a sudden stash of free-agent dollars, they then settled for injury-prone Corey Maggette, who seemed like a natural fit for the system but has already missed 9 of the team’s first 25 games; the team is 3-13 with him in the lineup.

And then after awarding their supposed franchise player (and ETB favorite) Monta Ellis with a healthy contract extension, Monta celebrated with an ill-advised moped ride that has severely submarined his season. Resigning double-double machine Andris Biedrins is about the only summertime move that’s panned out thus far.

But is that an excuse for Nelson’s lineup silliness we’re seeing on a nightly basis? It is if he’s purposely trying to join the ever-growing parade of fired head coaches, but otherwise it’s looking less and less like there’s still a method to this madness, and more like Nellie has finally lost it and/or thrown in the towel.

Almost every player on this 7-18 Warriors’ roster not named Biedrins, Stephen Jackson, or Jamal Crawford has no assured spot in the rotation on any given night; Maggette does when if he’s healthy (keyword “if”) and we assume Ellis will be logging big minutes later this season if that ankle of his can take it.

Everyone else seems to have their playing time allotted by chance, by whether or not Nelson pulls their name out of his hat during pregame warmups. This is a bad team with very few defined roles, little to no continuity or chemistry, and absolutely zero consistency–and Nelson is square in the middle of this trainwreck and one its main culprits.

It’s almost as if Nelson has decided to look down upon and punish individual success. How else to explain ’07 lottery pick Brandan Wright being rewarded for a two-game span in which he totaled 28 points and 11 boards on 75% FG with three straight DNPs? Or recognizing this year’s lottery pick, Anthony Randolph, for his first career double-double by barely getting him on the floor the next two games? For severely cutting rookie Anthony Morrow’s minutes after he scored 62 points in two games? Or for most recently giving rookie forward Rob Kurz a big, fat DNP two days after he went for 20 points on 63% shooting (including 3-3 three-pointers), 7 boards, 2 steals, and 2 blocks?

Playing mind games with the youngest roster in the NBA is a great way to shatter their personal confidence, lose their trust, and send your franchise spiraling into the league’s cellar. It’s also a great way to punch your one-way ticket out of town.

Related Reading:
- The NBA’s Top 6 Double-Double Machines Who Aren’t Household Names

Don Nelson Photo Credit: Icon SMI

1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Dec. 16, 2008 at 10:02am in NBA

The NBA’s Top 6 Double-Double Machines Who Aren’t Household Names

December 15, 2008

David Lee

David Lee Photo Credit: Icon SMI

David Lee, New York Knicks

At just 6-9 and 240 pounds, David Lee hardly casts the imposing shadow that Dwight Howard, Yao Ming, and many of the NBA’s other elite rebounders do. He’s a curly-haired white guy with little muscle definition and no visible tattoos–if you took a few inches off his height, you’d probably think he was the nice, mild-mannered neighbor from down the street who used to deliver the local paper when he was younger. Looks can be deceiving, though.

Now in his fourth NBA season after being drafted 30th overall in ’05 by the Knicks, Lee has flourished since Zach Randolph was shipped out and has developed into one of the league’s most consistent double-double threats. Back on November 3 we named him one of six players who could be bound for breakout seasons, and he hasn’t disappointed: he’s now scored at least 10 points and pulled down at least 10 boards in 13 of his last 15 games (his 10-point, 1-rebound game on Dec. 10 was cut short by a minor injury).

As many tend to do against the defense-less Golden State Warriors, Lee went absolutely apeshit back on November 29: 37 points, 21 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, and 1 block. Making just $1.7 million this season, there may not be a better bargain in the NBA.

Paul Millsap, Utah Jazz

With All-Star Carlos Boozer missing the last 12 games and counting with a strained quad, the Jazz could have easily gone on a damaging losing skid that they’d be trying to recover from all season long. They’ve instead kept their head above water with a 7-5 record that in large part is credited to the emergence of Paul Millsap, a second-round pick out of Louisiana Tech two summers ago.

Like Lee, Millsap is a bit undersized at 6-8, but makes up for it with relentless hustle and uncanny timing on the boards. Now comes the part where I wow you with Millsap’s insane stats from the past few weeks: since November 24, the man has averaged 17.4 points and 11.8 rebounds. That amounts to a streak of 11 straight double-doubles and counting. Eleven! This from a guy who averaged about 7 points and 5 boards per over his first two seasons.

Granted, he’s gotten more burn lately than he did then, but still–I’m not sure anybody saw this kind of production coming. The best part about this for Utah? He’s just as good of a bargain as Lee is, if not better: he’ll collect just under $800k in this, the last season he’s under contract. Something tells me his asking price next summer has taken a big, big jump.

Four more somewhat unknown double-double machines after the break…

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5 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Dec. 15, 2008 at 5:24pm in ETB Articles, NBA

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