January 28, 2009
The Lakers’ four-game winning streak came to an end Tuesday night following their 117-110 2OT loss to the visiting Charlotte Bobcats, but the emergence of their 21-year-old big man in the middle pushed full steam ahead.
Honored recently as the Western Conference Player of the Week, seven-footer Andrew Bynum dominated former second-overall pick Emeka Okafor in the paint en route to 24 points (10-14 FG), 14 boards, and a season-high 6 blocked shots. With Kobe Bryant fouled out and assuming an assistant coach’s role on the bench during the second overtime stanza, the Lakers turned not to Pau Gasol but to Bynum, who responded with a dazzling mix of fakes, jukes, and drop steps that effectively rendered Okafor a slumped-shouldered stiff, a gawking bystander, and another in an increasingly long line of defenders finding out just what this young man is capable of.
Bynum and the Lakers ultimately came up short, again, versus the Bobcats. (Charlotte has now beaten them in five of the last six meetings.) In the bigger picture, however, Phil Jackson’s show of faith in not only leaving Bynum on the floor during the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, but also in running sets designed to get him the ball in double OT, is a step in the right direction for the evolution of this talented player and for this loaded team.
Over his past four games, Bynum has played with passion, poise, and a palatable sense of increasing confidence in averaging an astounding 26 points (61% FG), 13.5 boards, and 3.5 blocks. Maybe it has something to do with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s positive influence from the bench in recent games, or with Kobe sacrificing field-goal attempts and going out of his way to better get Bynum involved early and often. Or, maybe, the kid that was 17 years old when the Lakers drafted him straight out of high school with the 10th pick of the 2005 NBA Draft is finally ready to put last year’s devastating knee injury behind him, and is finally realizing that he has the body, the skills, and the surrounding cast to be a 20 and 10 guy now.
He gets his fair share of gimmes, but unlike some other young bruisers in the post, Bynum’s offensive repertoire is hardly limited to the dunk. He’s running the floor hard and getting easy looks off of his teammates’ penetration. He’s getting the ball outside the paint, backing his man down, then spinning, faking, and laying it up as his hapless defender puts his socks back on. He’s working much harder to establish himself low on the block, then keeping the ball high once he gets it, facing up, backing up, then being decisive in whichever move he makes from there. He’s shown some flair with an improved baby hook, too, but that part of his game is still very much a work in progress.
On the other end, we’re seeing him challenge shots, pressure shots, and block shots and for the most part stay out of foul trouble. Against the Bobcats, he also did a nice job defending the high pick-and-roll for a man of his size, showing good instincts and reaction time–yet another sign that not only is Bynum’s agility and knee strength improving, but also his basketball IQ.
Remember when Kobe was furious that GM Mitch Kupchak refused to trade Bynum in a package deal for Jason Kidd? We’re now seeing the wisdom in Kupchak’s restraint and the big payoff he anticipated might one day come.
January 28, 2009
This is some serious weak sauce. We’ve known for a while now that three of the four participants in the 2009 Sprite Slam Dunk contest would be defending champion Dwight Howard, 2006 winner Nate Robinson and also-ran Rudy Gay from the 2008 contest. Yawn. The fourth participant was decided by a fan vote, which I’ve always thought was a strong idea. It’s always good to get the fans involved and let them see somebody they actually want in the contest. I’m a fan of the young guns, but I’ll admit fans were given some less-than-stellar options: Joe Alexander, Rudy Fernandez or Russell Westbrook.
The results were announced last week and now I’m re-thinking this whole fan vote thing.
Of those three options, Russell Westbrook was the obvious choice. It wasn’t really close. He’s a rookie on a team most people don’t get a chance to see very often, but he’s dynamite. Westbrook is an explosive leaper and pure athlete who takes it hard to the rack and would have undoubtedly brought some energy. I could get behind that.
Joe Alexander, another rookie, was certainly a more curious option, but the guy at least had a reputation as a finisher. Coming out of West Virginia last summer the scouting report on him said, “When deciding to go all the way to the rim, Alexander has all-world finishing ability off of one or two feet. He showed signs of finishing aggressively with awesome power.” OK, I could get behind that, too.
Instead of those two the fans, undoubtedly influenced by that all-important Spanish vote, decided to select Rudy Fernandez. I can’t get behind that. Yeah, one half of Portland’s Spanish Inquisition is having a nice season on one of the more up-and-coming squads in the league – but a potent dunker he is not. Far from it. Most of the time he barely seems capable of getting the ball over the rim. And sure, he’s gotten a reputation of freeing himself for alley oops. We’re not talking Trevor Ariza oops here though, we’re talking mild, bland, boring, run-of-the-mill oops. Did the fans even bother to watch his highlight reel? It’s not what I would describe as awe-inspiring:
Fernandez’s opponents don’t exactly give me the vapors either. Nate Robinson? Yeah, he’s tiny and it looks kinda weird when he dunks. We get it. We’ve seen it before. He also flat-out robbed the vastly superior Andre Iguodala in 2006. Rudy Gay? He’s an athlete, but Gay lacked creativity and wasn’t even one of the top two dunkers on the court in 2008. We’ve seen his stuff before, too. Dwight Howard? Yeah, dude was sick last year and deserves a chance to defend his title, but how many slams can a man his size really come up with? I guess we’ll find out.
This is coming from a huge dunk contest fan and somebody who relishes the chance to see lesser known kids in the contest over high-profile superstars. I was ecstatic to see Gerald Green in it the last two years. I don’t hate the contest and I don’t hate fresh faces representing it – but I hate this Fernandez pick, and I’m nonplussed about the other selections. I guess Fernandez can’t be much worse than The Birdman though, with Brandon Roy throwing the oops we can take solace in the fact that he won’t be any more pathetic than this:
January 27, 2009
Use the special house call session to work out with Dr. J*! And you can cool down with a bonus music video! And unlike everybody else, he’ll stay with you forever!
It’s an exciting prospect, I know, but I wouldn’t suggest sending $19.98 plus $3.00 S&H to ole’ Building 73 in Hanover, PA just yet. I called the 800 number from my office and it appears the shipping center is defunct – I was invited to, “jump into fun, exciting live talk,” at which point I got nervous and promptly hung up.
*Julius Winfield Erving II will not actually make a “house call” to your home.
I was able to track down a full review of the video cassette (apparently it actually has a lot of good highlight clips) as well as some insider advice on how to track down a copy of your own…
See all Movies & TV Shows reviews at Expotv
January 27, 2009
The old adage traditionally passed down from NBA coaches to NBA rookies struggling to play their way into the rotation goes something like this: “stay ready and stay focused because opportunity will knock.”
For 20-year-old LA Clippers rookie DeAndre Jordan, that cliche has turned into prophecy.
As Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman, and Zach Randolph watch the Clippers-game carnage unfold from the bench due to lingering injuries, the depth-strapped and long-foundering Clipper Ship were finally forced to give the starting nod at center to Jordan, a raw seven-footer drafted in the secound round after playing just one year at Texas A&M.
Coach Mike Dunleavy really had no other choice, despite the fact that Jordan had logged 20 DNPs over the team’s first 31 games, with all but one of his 11 appearances amounting to nothing more than ineffectual garbage time. Dunleavy’s only other option in the middle for now is Cheikh Samb.
It’s only been a few games, but Jordan’s early returns are intriguing if nothing else. Heading into Monday night’s tangle with the Trail Blazers, in four turns as a starter Jordan has averaged an impressive 10.5 points, 12.3 rebounds, 70% FG, and 3 blocks. Looks good on paper, but most NBA players are capable of filling up the boxscore if given 35+ minutes and little competition in the paint and on the glass from teammates. Is this kid for real?
I’m not masochistic enough to tune into and sit through many Clippers games, and admit to having not yet to see the big man in action. For an insider’s view on Jordan, then, here’s some thoughts from Kevin Arnovitz over at Clipper Blog, the Web’s foremost authority on everything Clippers:
Jordan has some horrible tendencies, which you might expect from a 20-year-old rookie who spent most of his one year at college coming off the bench. The most painful Jordanism to watch is his habit of trying to throw down every potential dunk with spectacular force when an easy two-handed jam would do fine. Jordan’s hijinks are particularly cringe-inducing when he tries to do this eight feet from the basket standing still. It’s like a ten year old at a pool table trying to hit a cue ball in the open field without the aid of a granny stick. Jordan also needs some work defending the high screen and roll.
Whatever Jordan lacks in grace on the [screen and roll], he makes up for on the glass. He finished with 20 total rebounds, seven on the offensive glass [against the Warriors]. When we say a big man has “a nose for the ball,” that often just means that he has the good timing and quickness, which is the case with Jordan.
It’s also worth noting that in addition to Jordan’s inability to defend the pick-and-roll against the Golden State Warriors, he was on the floor for much of Andrew Bynum’s dominating 42-point, 15-rebound effort in the Lakers’ 108-97 win over last Wednesday. Significant refinement is clearly needed on both ends of the floor before the Clippers consider handing him the keys to the middle.
If you’re a Clippers fan, though, you have to take what little you can get this season (and please, do step away from the ledge, it’s only basketball.) That means watching the young trio of Jordan, Eric Gordon, and Al Thornton get as many minutes together on the floor as possible to see if they can start to develop some chemistry. They are potential building blocks of this franchise, not Marcus Camby, or Zach Randolph, or Baron Davis for that matter.
What does this 10-34 team have to gain from relegating Jordan to limited minutes once/if Kaman and Camby are healthy again? Maybe a few more wins and less lopsided blowouts? There’s a bigger long-term commitment to Kaman–he’s signed through the 2011-12 season–but at this point the Clips should be scrambling to move Camby before this season’s trade deadline.
Jordan is raw, and unpolished, and needs a lot of work. Fine. The Clippers should be able to live with that. This team is going nowhere this year, so there’s no better time than the present for Mike Dunleavy to keep knocking on DeAndre Jordan’s door.
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DeAndre Jordan Photo Credit: Icon SMI
January 26, 2009
- NBA Mate – Meet the league’s all-time top 10 ballers from Down Under.
- Truth About It – Here’s what a coach looks like when his team commits 26 turnovers.
- New York Times – Brandon Jennings isn’t too crazy about his new life in Europe.
- New York Post – The Knicks happily welcome their wealthy, fairweather fans back to MSG.
- Red’s Army – Celtics fans are absolutely clamoring to buy this new Lakers t-shirt.
- Arizona Republic – The Suns’ Matt Barnes: “The wind is out of our sails.”
- Bullets Forever – Here’s why Caron and Antawn aren’t playing well together…
- ESPN – Will the third time be the charm for Lionel Hollins in Memphis?
- Pro Basketball News – More talk about the Orlando Magic and their legitimacy.
- Basketball.Org – Ten guys competing for a spot in this summer’s NBA lottery.
- The Sports Hernia – Be afraid of the Shirt-Tank 3000. Be very, very afraid.
- BlackSportsOnline – Chucky Atkins made about $39,512 to eat popcorn on the bench.
- Raptor Blog – On hating this version of the Toronto Raptors.
- Slam Dunk Central – The Houston Rockets are the latest beneficiaries of a date in Detroit.
- Fox Sports – Speaking of the Pistons, A.I. is one of their many problems.
January 23, 2009
I am impressed by their 33-9 record, and even moreso by their recent West Coast swing that saw them 4-0 against the likes of the Spurs, Lakers and Nuggets, a streak which brought their NBA-best road record to an astonishing 17-5. Coach Stan Van Gundy has them playing the style of offense best suited to his scoring-studs’ abilities, and their rock-solid defense has them amongst the lead leaders in allowed field-goal percentage at 42.6%, good for third best behind the Celtics and Cavaliers and ahead of the Pistons.
This is, by all accounts, a better Magic team than the one which bowed out to the Detroit Pistons 4-1 in last season’s Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. As my esteemed colleague wrote earlier this week, the time has come to take the Orlando Magic seriously. They are to say the least a very capable squad and one that has elevated itself into the upper echelon of the NBA.
Unless something drastic happens between now and playoff time, however, I do not expect the Magic to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Boston Celtics or (probably) even the Detroit Pistons in a seven-game playoff series. I know a lot of you out there will disagree, especially with my assertion that they will not best the up-and-down Pistons.
Hear me out, and rest assured that my opinion is hardly based on last night’s defeat at the hands of the Boston Celtics. A quick search of the ETB Archives will reveal that I’ve long been one of those Magic critics who, while impressed with their progress the past few seasons, has remained skeptical about their depth, their leadership at the point, Dwight Howard’s still-in-development offensive game, and their reliance on the three-ball.
It’s been so far, so good on just about all of those fronts during this regular season, but we all know defenses tighten up, pressures build, and rotations are shortened come playoff time… and I’m still unconvinced that the Magic’s perceived Achilles’ heels won’t ultimately come back to haunt them once again.
Why the Orlando Magic won’t win the East after the break…
January 23, 2009
January 21, 2009
- Bullets Forever – The Magic move to the top of this week’s NBA Blogger Power Rankings.
- Hoops Addict – A cozy fireside chat with NBA great Clyde Drexler.
- Dazadi – The best way to get to the 2009 NBA All-Star Game is on somebody else’s dime.
- Bright Side of the Sun – Should the Suns consider moving Amare Stoudemire?
- Slam! Sports – Frustration continues to mount for Chris Bosh and the hapless Raps.
- Detroit Bad Boys – Amir Johnson in, Richard Hamilton out of the Pistons’ starting lineup.
- Ball Don’t Lie – Jermaine O’Neal is anything but a good fit for the Miami Heat.
- Waiting for Next Year – What oh what to do with Wally World and his bloated contract…
- Bend It Like Bennett – Desmond Mason, fan of gingerbread lattes.
- 20 Second Timeout – Part I of David Friedman’s interview with Dr. Charles “Chic” Hess.
- 3 Shades of Blue – Must-read thoughts and insight on Darius Miles in Memphis.
- The Hoop Doctors – The NBA throws the ball back into liquor’s court.
- Sactown Royalty – We all know the Kings truly suck, but read this and you’ll know why.
- Blazer’s Edge – Rudy Fernandez is prepping a soccer-themed dunk for the Dunk Contest.
- Brownie Troop FS – Congrats are in order for
Mickey Captain Mickey Melchiondo.
January 21, 2009
Having the best record in the NBA after the halfway point, for however briefly it may be, means you are an elite NBA team. Nobody is going to suggest that the Orlando Magic aren’t in the league’s upper echelon. However, perception among NBA observers in recent years has been that the Magic are very good, but not great.
Sure, Dwight Howard is a beast. And they have a plethora of outside shooters to complement him – but they aren’t title contenders. This team is buit for the regular season. They couldn’t actually best Boston or Cleveland or Detroit or Los Angeles or San Antonio in seven games.
It might be time to change that perception.
Orlando proved their mettle on their recent swing out West. The NBA title may belong to Boston, but the West is still the more stacked conference – nobody with a losing record will make the playoffs out there. Beating up on the Eastern Conference in the regular season can only be so impressive.
But to go on a four-game road trip and come out 4-0 with wins against each Western division leader in San Antonio, Denver and Los Angeles? That is a most impressive statement. In fact, it is by far the most impressive statement by the Dwight Howard-led Magic.
“This isn’t an, ‘enjoy it while it lasts’ ranking. The Magic are the best team in the NBA right now. And unless the C’s commit to taking care of the ball, they’ll stay that way. And if Big Z doesn’t return to his early season level of play, they’ll stay that way. And if Los Angeles’ perimeter defense doesn’t shore up, they’ll stay that way. The Magic are legit.”
While Howard may get all the press, this is not a one-man team. It’s been a balanced effort. Jameer Nelson has been looking like a leader at the point while posting career highs in points (17.1), steals (1.2), field-goal shooting (51%), free-throw shooting (87.5%) and three-point shooting (45.4%). Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu have been their usual efficient selves, lanky wings that do a little bit of everything and help lead their perimeter charge on both ends.
That perimeter currently leads in the NBA in three-pointers made with 10.5 per on a league-leading 40.3%. Compare that to their opponents, who are second-to-last in both threes made at 5.3 and shooting percentage from behind the arc at 33.6%. No, this team isn’t all about Dwight. The wings are having a major impact on both ends.
I’m impressed. And, for now, I’m buying. But you know how they can make me a true believer? Beat Cleveland or Boston in a seven-game series.
Jameer Nelson Photo Credit: Icon SMI
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