So, Samuel Dalembert put together one of the better statistical lines of the NBA season on Tuesday. You may not have seen it, and you may not understand it, but Sam Dalembert managed 35 points on 17-21 shooting with 12 rebounds in only 27 minutes per game off the Bucks bench. He didn’t turn the ball over and had two assists. Denver, in the tough win, was rightfully gobsmacked. Sometimes literally smacked, in the case of Mike Dunleavy. Luckily, we have video to prove it all happened:
There’s no proper way to explain the explosion from a big man who didn’t play a single minute between Dec. 14 and Jan. 8. Though the Denver Post’s Benjamin Hochman, as is often the case, does as good a job as any:
Entering the evening, Milwaukee's Samuel Dalembert averaged 5.7 points per game. His season-high was 15 points for the 31-year-old center. He shredded Denver's defense. He was just in a zone. He even hit jumpers (he's a 6-11 backup center!). By halftime, he was 10-for-11 in just nine minutes. He tied his career-high of 27 with four minutes left — in the third! — and in just his 12th minute of play.
It was unreal, like that scene in "Old School," when Will Ferrell's idiot character, "Frank The Tank," has to debate political guru James Carville, and the first question is: "What is your position on the role of government in supporting innovation in the field of biotechnology?"
Ferrell, inexplicably, answers the question so eloquently that Carville said, "I have no response. That was perfect." (Later, Frank admits that he blacks out and doesn't remember the debate).
In case you’ve forgotten that scene as was the case for yours truly – I am an ardent fan of Ferrell’s strangeness but have only seen ‘Old School’ once – here it is:
On the surface, it doesn’t make sense. Then we see that a suddenly in-shape Dalembert has put together a pretty good little run over the last five games, averaging 13.4 points on 64 percent shooting with eight rebounds and nearly two blocks per game despite averaging just around 18 minutes a contest.
And then, on Wednesday morning, ESPN’s Marc Stein drops this tweet:
Word is Bucks have been shopping Sam Dalembert thanks to emergence of Larry Sanders. Let's see if Sammy's 35 & 12 has impact on interest
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 6, 2013
Dalembert’s expiring contract runs for $6.7 million this season, very tradeable money for a starting-caliber center (when engaged) whose contract expires in July.
Of course, the Bucks don’t want their season to expire in the third week of April. The team was built to make a return trip to the playoffs and the team currently holds a one game lead over the Boston Celtics for the East’s seventh spot and a four-game cushion over the ninth-place Philadelphia 76ers. Playoff scratch can mean quite a bit to a small market team, and with Larry Sanders going down on Tuesday with a nasty back injury …
… the Bucks might decide to keep Dalembert for that run.
Which seems just fine to us. Because if used properly, Dalembert can do very good things on both ends for any team that keeps him moving. Not from team to team, as has been the case, but from baseline to baseline. The thing that nobody wants to admit, behind our jokes, is that Samuel Dalembert has the talent to produce 35 points and 12 rebounds in an NBA game with a heightened pace.
You have to read and take that correctly. No player in the NBA should be consistently averaging those numbers, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t big men out there that can’t accomplish what Dalembert did on Tuesday every so often. It’s been the case throughout his career – Dalembert is a good dude with a big heart that does great things – but he also floats at times, and frustrates coaches that want him to be some single-minded defensive slayer.
He’s not. He can block shots very well and rebound, but he’s best served in working in an offense that moves, and one that doesn’t routinely offer him the same sad baseline jumper. These sorts of offenses tend to encourage players to float and lose interest, and they also encourage bad shot selection when big men (upset at not getting their touches) force a shot. Dalembert, throughout his career, has had to deal with those sorts of offenses, and he’s (rightfully) ticked off coaches that don’t like it when he tosses up a bad one or loses sight of things defensively.
It’s understandable that former Bucks coach Scott Skiles was more than peeved when Dalembert showed up to Bucks camp out of shape last fall. Samuel didn’t deserve the minutes Skiles passed on giving him … but we can also kind of get it, y’know? Dalembert had a great thing going in Kevin McHale’s free-wheeling Houston Rocket offense last season, and immediately after he was dealt to Milwaukee in a cap-clearing/Dwight Howard-hoping move, every pundit worth his puns immediately called Dalembert a one-year cap helper.
Someone to fill the cracks for a season in Milwaukee before being let go after the campaign ends, or used as trade fodder in February for his expiring contract.
Yes, they get to play a game for a living. Yes, they’re paid millions. But how would you react to that? Being openly discussed as a financial asset, and less of a starting center? Going to work for Scott Skiles’ notoriously awful offensive schemes, on top of that, and being told that you may have to pack your bags two-thirds of the way through the season to head to what would be your fifth team in three years?
This isn’t to excuse Dalembert’s lack of professionalism. It’s just to understand it. And also to understand why your favorite team trading for a now-svelte and confident Samuel Dalembert can be a great thing, something we’d say even before witnessing whatever the hell happened in Denver on Tuesday night.
The Bucks might want to hang on to him, though. He appears to be on a bit of a hot streak.