- Eric Freeman | Ball Don't Lie – 18 hours ago
- Eric Freeman | Ball Don't Lie – 19 hours ago
In the immediate aftermath of Wednesday night's bonkers Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, discussion has focused on the failings of Pacers head coach for not having center Roy Hibbert in the game to protect the rim on LeBron James's game-winning, buzzer-beating lay-up. Analysis has covered how LeBron was able to finish so easily, various alternate realities in which Vogel did put Hibbert on the floor, and the Pacers' own reaction to the situation. Even those who have provided some explanation of Vogel's decision-making process — or at least argued that he was choosing between a bunch of insufficient options — have discussed the issue in terms of how Indiana was to contend with the Heat in this scenario.
This approach makes a great deal of sense, because Hibbert is one of the NBA's top defenders and just recently stonewalled Carmelo Anthony on a dunk attempt. Yet, while digging into the Pacers' side of the play is eminently reasonable, it also ignores the most readily apparent fact of the game-winner, which is that LeBron James did something really incredible.
Thankfully, we have the NBA's Phantom Cam to help us focus on LeBron's exploits. The clip is bereft of context — it's entirely LeBron making his move. The lack of perspective communicates the visceral experience: James catches, turns, dribbles, explodes, and finishes. No Pacers can stop him, because he is a unique basketball force.Read More »from Marvel at the LeBron James game-winner on the Phantom Cam (Video)
- Eric Freeman | Ball Don't Lie – Wed, May 22, 2013 8:20 PM EDT
Since the infamous "Malice in the Palace" brawl in Detroit in 2004, the NBA has done whatever it can to avoid any perception as a league that condones or tolerates fighting. Suspensions for relatively minor tussles have increased in length and flagrant fouls have become more common to stop players from crossing any lines of safety. It's an understandable goal that mostly seems to be working.
It's also possible that these efforts have ignored separate but related issues. In an interview with Dan Le Batard and Bomani Jones on ESPN's "Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable" on Wednesday, 18-year NBA veteran Jerry Stackhouse detailed the stories beyond a few of his many fights as a pro. Some took place off the court, some on. All were events that the league likely wishes never happened.
Yet, despite the NBA's institutional aversion to fighting, Stackhouse presents these events as normal and sometimes even cathartic moments in the life of a professional athlete. For instance, StackRead More »from Jerry Stackhouse details his NBA fighting history in ESPN interview (Video)
- Eric Freeman | Ball Don't Lie – Wed, May 22, 2013 7:10 PM EDT
Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade is well known for his garish sense of style, arriving at various high-profile games in everything from hot pink pants to Dwayne Wayne-ish flip-up glasses. Last week, Wade received criticism (read: lots of jokes on Twitter) for arriving to Game 4 of the Miami Heat's series against the Chicago Bulls in a suit with pants that went well above the high-water trend and towards something akin to capri pants. The look emphasized just how bold Wade is willing to be to make a fashion statement.
Given that the Heat take the postseason very seriously, it's easy to wonder how Wade has the time to seek out these off-the-beaten-path looks in the midst of the most important portion of the basketball year. The answer, naturally, is that he and his stylist picked out all his outfits for the playoffs ahead of time. From a Business Insider transcript of an ESPN Radio interview with Calyann Barnett, said stylist (via TBJ):
"Before the playoffs even started we went through all of his looks, straight through the finals," said Barnett. "And every look is set already...and I already know what he will wear for the next game and the Finals."
When asked what Wade looks for in an outfit, Barnett confirmed what many of us already knew. That is, Wade wants to be different, saying "he loves to have fun, loves to try new things."
This is smart planning, because important NBA players have their hands full with responsibilities at this time of year and need to find various ways to make their lives more convenient. (LeBron James selected his MVP outfit well before the announcement.) Picking out gameday clothes ahead of time is one way to do that, although it's unclear if Wade and Barnett expected each series to go seven games and have carried over outfits from one series to the next. I hope someone is keeping a calendar — this could get very confusing.
Yet, while this plan makes sense on a practical level, it's also necessary to note that Wade's style is worth talking about because of how impractical it is. Like other dandies through time, Wade usesRead More »from Dwyane Wade planned out all his outfits for the playoffs ahead of time
- Eric Freeman | Ball Don't Lie – Wed, May 22, 2013 2:30 AM EDT
The Memphis Grizzlies' slogan for these playoffs has been "We Don't Bluff," a reference to a semi-famous quote from Zach Randolph and an encapsulation of the toughness that's typified this team for the past three seasons. However, that distaste for play-acting was called into question for at least one key moment in their Game 2 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night.
With the score 85-81 in favor of San Antonio and 27 seconds left in regulation, Zach Randolph forced a steal from Manu Ginobili and passed ahead to Tony Allen, who seemed to have a clear path to the basket for a lay-up. Ginobili caught up, though, and pulled Allen down by his forearm as he rose up for the shot. Allen grabbed his head after crashing to the floor, which suggested that it was a serious foul.
The officials called a flagrant foul and headed over to the monitors to assess the severity. Replays showed a somewhat different picture of the action. While Allen did in fact hit the floor hard, his head never hit the ground. That indicates he bluffed, contrary to the Grizzlies' slogan. It worked, too — Allen nailed both free throws, Mike Conley hit a tough runner on the ensuing possession, and the Grizzlies forced overtime with the score tied at 85-85. The extra period wouldn't have happened if not for the flagrant.Read More »from Did Tony Allen fake the Manu Ginobili flagrant foul that put the Grizzlies and Spurs into overtime?
- Eric Freeman | Ball Don't Lie – Wed, May 22, 2013 1:05 AM EDT
It would be fair to expect San Antonio Spurs fans to let out sighs of relief after the end of Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals against the Memphis Grizzlies. After blowing a 13-point fourth quarter lead to see the Grizzlies force overtime (due in part to a questionable flagrant foul on Manu Ginobili with 26 seconds left), the Spurs controlled overtime to come away with a 93-89 win and 2-0 series lead heading into Game 3 in Memphis. They averted disaster and remain in strong position to make the NBA Finals.
Yet, for at least one attending fan, the game's end was not an opportunity to express relief, but rather a chance to celebrate the Spurs' win in the form of an excited yelp. With two consecutive screams of "We did it!" this man has now entered playoff fan lore alongside Joakim Noah flipper-offer and potential murderer Filomena Tobias, the woman who screamed during the entire Spurs comeback in Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors, and the Miami Heat's "good job, good effort" kid, his spiritual cousin. Congratulations, sir: you will now always be known as "We Did It" Guy.
Read More »from Fan yells ‘We did it!’ to celebrate Spurs victory, enters Internet lore forever (Video)
- Eric Freeman | Ball Don't Lie – Tue, May 21, 2013 9:50 PM EDT
It seems like Nick Gilbert brings a lot of luck to the NBA Draft Lottery for the Cleveland Cavaliers. For the second time in three seasons as the franchise's lottery representative, the teenage son of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has brought home the top pick in the draft. The Cavs, who finished the 2012-13 season with a 24-58 record, entered the lottery with the third-best chances of snagging the first selection at 15.6 percent.
The Orlando Magic, the league's worst team at 20-62, were forced to settle for the second pick. However, the biggest losers of the lottery were the Charlotte Bobcats (soon to be the Hornets), who dropped to the fourth spot after posting a 21-62 record, just one game better than the Magic. They were supplanted in the top three by the Washington Wizards, who entered the process with a 30 percent chance of jumping from the eighth pick into the trio of lottery spots.
While the Wizards will benefit the biggest boost of any team in the lottery, the Cavaliers are the clear winners of the event. In 2011, they won the top pick and selected Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, who earned his first All-Star selection this February in his second season. This June, Cleveland will have the chance to choose between Kentucky shot-blocker Nerlens Noel (currently rehabbing a torn ACL) and Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore. Given the presence of 2012 first-round pick Dion Waiters, the Cavs will likely opt for Noel, although that is merely an educated guess with the draft more than a month away.
While sitting at a desk festooned with a team logo is not typically considered a skill, Nick Gilbert has a strong argument for being the most effective lottery representative in NBA history. He's now been present for two lottery wins in three seasons, a record matched only by the time I won a Sega Genesis and Game Gear in consecutive raffles as a young child. Through it all, Gilbert has been extremely charismatic and likable. What's most impressive is that he has expressed that positivity despite being born with neurofibromatosis (NF), a nerve disorder that causes tumors to grow throughout the body at random. Gilbert has dealt with several rounds of chemotherapy, lost vision in one of his eyes, and lived through pain most of us will never have to experience. Yet, inRead More »from The Cleveland Cavaliers win the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery, get top pick for second time in three years
- Eric Freeman | Ball Don't Lie – Tue, May 21, 2013 7:45 PM EDT
Charlotte's NBA franchise will soon have a new but familiar look. At a media conference on Tuesday afternoon, Bobcats owner Michael Jordan announced that the team will change its name to the Hornets for the 2014-15 season and beyond. The official announcement follows a Friday report from Ken Berger of CBSSports.com that the Bobcats were beginning the process of formalizing a name change.
The NBA expanded to Charlotte in 1988 with the Hornets and played in the city through the 2001-02 season, when owner George Shinn moved them to New Orleans. The Charlotte Hornets built a brand on the basis of their ultra-'90s teal-heavy color scheme and the allure of young stars Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning. The Bobcats have not succeeded in building the same kind of fan base or image, and the New Orleans Hornets' decision to become the more geographically acceptable Pelicans has freed up the name.
Jordan explained the decision on Tuesday. From Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer:Read More »from Michael Jordan announces the Charlotte Bobcats will become the Hornets for the 2014-15 season
- Eric Freeman | Ball Don't Lie – Mon, May 20, 2013 7:15 PM EDT
In the world of professional sports, it's common for draft prospects to throw themselves at the mercy of their prospective employers. With most players having dreamed of making the NBA for as long as they can remember, their natural inclination is to do everything possible to please any team with a chance at drafting them. Any question or request is suitable. It's the best way for a player to prove he's ready to buy into the franchise's culture and long-term plans.
These actions are so prevalent that any example of a player pushing back against a team request deserves notice. Such is the case with forward Deshaun Thomas, who left Ohio State after his junior season. From Jason Lloyd for Ohio.com (via PBT):Read More »from Draft prospect Deshaun Thomas will not give the San Antonio Spurs his phone number
- Eric Freeman | Ball Don't Lie – Mon, May 20, 2013 5:45 PM EDT
Pending free agent J.R. Smith has been an enigma since entering the NBA in 2005. On the basis of pure talent, he should be one of the top wing producers in the league, and he often looks like exactly that. Yet Smith has never managed to put together a consistent string of performances to prove himself worthy of making him the cornerstone of a franchise.
He got closest this season with the New York Knicks, earning Sixth Man of the Year honors and receiving standard-issue statements from media and team officials regarding his improved maturity. In true J.R. fashion, he followed that career peak with a sort of greatest hits compilation of his worst tendencies, to the point where many Knicks fans begged for head coach Mike Woodson to bench a player who only a few weeks before seemed essential to fulfilling their postseason aspirations.
Nevertheless, Smith has the chance to parlay his award-winning season into a significant deal this summer. Despite the troubles this postseason, J.R. wants to stay with the Knicks for as long as he can. From Peter Botte for the New York Daily News (via SLAM):Read More »from J.R. Smith wants to retire as a New York Knick, is maybe not built for such a thing