Wed Dec 18 03:45pm EST
Currently, Paul George is not your NBA MVP. LeBron James is playing one less minute per game than Paul, but he still has him licked in points (25.3 to 23.8), rebounds (6.8 to 5.8), assists (6.5 to 3.5) while shooting – holy cow – 59.8 percent from the floor. If LeBron James does not win every MVP from now until 2016 or so, then something will have gone very, very wrong for him.
The fact that we’re considering Paul George as a sound runner-up to the greatest player of his generation, though, speaks volumes. George won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award last year while actually not improving all that much – his per-minute stats went up a bit, but basically he just played far more minutes in Danny Granger’s absence while watching his efficiency numbers suffer along the way. George may not have deserved that award, but the turn he’s taken in 2013-14 more than makes up for it.
George is the NBA’s most improved player this year, he’s putting up fantastic numbers this season (along with two steals a game) to pair alongside his typically stellar defense on the wing for Indiana. The Pacers are once again the NBA’s top defensive team, and George has discovered a role in the offense that at times eluded him last year even as he won the MIP – Paul is able to create his own shot efficiently, and consistently.
Wed Dec 18 02:55pm EST
Apparently, even the Golden State Warriors' fans can light it up from downtown.
Check out this top-of-the-key connection from halftime of the Warriors' big Tuesday night win over the New Orleans Pelicans at Oracle Arena:
Step in, snap the wrist, bottoms, pop the
jersey shirsey T-shirt. All in a day's work by the Bay, man.
A Warriors spokesperson told BDL Wednesday that our spotlighted shooter — season-ticket holder Chris Powell of Vallejo, Calif. — was "randomly selected at the game by the Warriors game operations staff," and walked away from the intermission triple with not only the adoration of the Oracle faithful, but also something a bit more tangible value: "Groceries for a Year, courtesy of Lucky Supermarkets."
While I'd suspect that shooters' grocery budgets might vary, the financial value of the prize — $5,200, or $100 per week for a full calendar year — seems like a pretty solid boon for any shopper. It might not redefine "money ball" quite like those $20,000 halfcourt shots they favor down in Oklahoma City (or like this ball spied by KnicksNow.com's Jonah Ballow, for that matter), but it ought to help Powell keep himself and his loved ones laced with reasonably priced dinner rolls and Rockstar Energy Drink (four 12- to 16-ounce cans for $5!) for the next 12 months. Not a bad tradeoff for moving in about 23 feet.
If you want to be the next contestant on that Oracle screen, get thee to a Warriors home game and keep an eye out — the Dubs' spokesperson said the team will hold the contest three more times this season, although dates have yet to be determined. That's as good a reason as any to keep practicing your Splash Brothers rise-and-fire, Warriors fans. Stay hungry out there.
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Wed Dec 18 02:20pm EST
One nice side benefit to NBA suspensions and/or fines is the fact that all the money collected from a player as a result of either a fine or being docked a game’s pay goes to league-chosen charities. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, notorious for over a decade’s worth of fines for various referee-related reasons, even matches his personal NBA levy each time out with his own charitable contribution. It’s a good give back than everyone can get behind, even if we’re a little uneasy with the way we got to this benevolent turn.
Memphis Grizzlies defensive stopper Tony Allen, in his typically inimitable way, has created a unique turn on this sort of back and forth.
You’ll recall that in mid-November Allen inadvertently kicked Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul during a game. It was an accident, to be sure, but Allen left himself prone to criticism for being out of control on the court on his way to bonking the NBA’s top point guard, one that has battled the Grizzlies in both the 2012 and 2013 playoffs. Watch:
Wed Dec 18 01:35pm EST
New York Knicks fans who've spent most of this season being buffeted from bummer to bummer got some good news at the Knicks' Wednesday shootaround:
Woodson: Chandler is going to play.
— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 18, 2013
Woodson says Bargnani will come off the bench while Chandler starts. Melo at the 4
— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 18, 2013
That'd be starting center Tyson Chandler, who's missed the last 20 games after suffering a fractured right fibula in the first quarter of the Knicks' fourth game of the season, a Nov. 5 home game against the Charlotte Bobcats:
The Knicks went on to lose that game, and proceeded to drop 14 of the next 20 to fall to 7-17 on the season, the third worst record in the woeful Eastern Conference. Things have mostly been very bad, and weird, in Chandler's six-week absence. (Whew.)
The Knicks weren't yet world-beaters even with Chandler around and had looked disorganized and penetrable at times before his injury, but his absence has emphasized the massive difference he makes on the defensive end. In the 106 minutes Chandler played before going down against the Bobcats, his work in patrolling the back line, dissuading drivers and covering up mistakes on the perimeter helped New York hold opponents to just 92.2 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com's stat tool. With him off the court, replaced largely by reserve Kenyon Martin and sieve power forwards Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire, the Knicks have been among the league's most permissive teams, giving up 106.7 points-per-100 and dropping all the way down to 27th in the NBA in defensive efficiency.
Knick opponents have shot 47.6 percent from the field since Chandler hit the bench (third-highest mark in the league over that stretch, up 6.1 percent from when Chandler's in the game) and 66.3 percent inside the restricted area (second-highest, up more than 16 percent over the with-Chandler mark). The Knicks' lack of interior defense and rim protection has perhaps never been clearer than Monday night, when they allowed a game-winning layup by Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (who later said "There was absolutely nobody even paying attention, so I just drove it in there") that set off a final-seven-seconds meltdown that became the talk of the town after another remarkable loss. (It may well continue to be so, what with Carmelo Anthony saying Wednesday that he had his reasons for not calling a timeout on the game-ending possession after Woodson declined to, despite the Knicks having three timeouts left.)
It'd be unrealistic to expect Chandler to come in after six weeks on the shelf, play heavy minutes and solve all the Knicks' problems — he said Wednesday he'll be gauging his fatigue level and look to come out of the game if he's feeling too winded to meaningfully contribute. And while the Knicks will be facing the Milwaukee Bucks — one of just three teams that has both a worse record than New York and has been outscored by more points per 100 possessions than New York (joining the Utah Jazz and Philadelphia 76ers) — they will be doing so without the services of injured point guards Raymond Felton (sore left hamstring) and Pablo Prigioni (broken right big toe), as well as bigs Martin (strained abdominal muscle) and Stoudemire (who may or may not be injured, but who will reportedly not be available on Wednesday). Also, expected starting wings J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert are shooting 28.8 percent and 16.7 percent, respectively, from the field over their last six games. There are plenty of other problems facing Woodson's team.
But with the season seeming ready to spiral out of control and calls for Woodson's firing increasing, a healthy Chandler and a return to a Melo-at-the-4, spread-the-floor lineup (even if it's still not what Woodson prefers) seems to at least open the door to a solution. Then again, if the Knicks can't beat the league-worst Bucks even with Chandler back, famously cantankerous owner James Dolan might feel even more compelled to come up off that vote of confidence and make a change. Pretty high stakes for a Wednesday night matchup between two of the four worst teams in the NBA, huh?
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Wed Dec 18 11:00am EST
Coming off a disappointing defeat at the hands of the Phoenix Suns, the Golden State Warriors got some good news before tipoff of their Tuesday night matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans: Starting small forward Andre Iguodala, who'd missed 12 games with a strained left hamstring, was ready to go and would return to Mark Jackson's starting lineup. And while he didn't set the box score ablaze, the versatile 30-year-old swingman did show that he had his bounce back, getting up high to corral a Stephen Curry lob late in the second quarter:
But it was a play that came up short midway through the third quarter — thanks, it must be noted, to a fantastic contest by Pelicans center Jason Smith — that provided the most compelling evidence that the freewheeling, playmaking and confident Iguodala who helped spark the Warriors' strong start to the season is all the way back:
The last times I can remember a home crowd being that excited about a missed dunk by a member of the home team were when Blake Griffin didn't posterize Rodney Stuckey and Shannon Brown didn't posterize Jason Richardson, and that's just because nobody died. In this case, the Dubs-loving faithful at Oracle Arena lost their minds thanks to a slick behind the back/through the legs dribble that confused the Pelicans defense and created enough space for Iguodala to raise up and cock the hammer; that Smith's defense caused a misfire seemed almost incidental.
That's due in large part to Smith's block being just about the only thing that went New Orleans' way on Tuesday; you have the luxury of A) trying that sort of move and B) having its failure not matter when you're shaking defenders and inbound 'oop-ing your way to a monstrous lead, as Golden State did on Tuesday. The Warriors led by 22 when Iggy went showtime, pushed that advantage to 26 late in the third quarter, and went heavy on reserves in the final frame en route to a 104-93 win that restored some of the good vibes in the Bay Area.
Iguodala didn't play in the fourth — as a matter of fact, Jackson took him out after the dunk attempt — and finished with just two points, two assists and a turnover in 17 1/2 minutes, but his return reverberated far beyond his statistical impact, as the Warriors' head coach and star point guard told Carl Steward of the Bay Area News Group:
"He's a guy that makes it so much easier with his ability to make plays, read and react," [Mark] Jackson said. "We missed him, and we are glad to have him back. It was also a carry-over effect, because other guys began to read, react and make plays, so it was a big-time win for us." [...]
"We lost some games we should have won when he was out, and that helps you understand how important he is for our team," [Stephen] Curry said. "We need to be healthy and have a solid roster that Coach can utilize night in and night out, and hopefully we can reach our full potential as a team."
Iguodala said he still has some limitations physically, primarily moving side to side while defending.
"I was a little hesitant on the smaller guys," he said. "I think I had two drive-bys that I can remember. So that's something to work on. But we'll be cautious."
Yeah, that behind-the-back/between-the-legs move seemed pretty cautious.
"Has a missed dunk ever been a top-10 play?" David Lee asked after the game. "That was a sign there that he's feeling better."
And the fact that the Warriors outscored the Pelicans — admittedly shorthanded, playing without injured star forward Anthony Davis and big-minutes reserve guard Tyreke Evans — by 20 points in Iguodala's 17--plus minutes sure seems like a sign that Golden State's feeling much better with its "fill-in-the-blanks" guy back in the fold.
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Wed Dec 18 09:30am EST
Good morning. Have you already caught up on Damian Lillard's second straight game-winner, Ray Allen's Jesus Shuttlesworth jersey, Jordan Hamilton's "punch" ejection and the latest in Omer Asik trade rumors? OK, great. Here's about 90 seconds of Chris Webber doing "karate" in a wig in a hair salon, then:
I'm not entirely sure why this happened, but at least now I'm 100 percent certain that the five-time All-Star and Turner Sports NBA analyst is up on his Southern Comfort commercials. And hey, if that "Last Dragon" reboot ever gets off the ground and Samuel L. Jackson steps away for Nick Fury duty, now C-Webb's got the beginnings of a Sho'Nuff sizzle reel. That's something, I guess.
Anyway, happy Wednesday. Let's get weird.
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Tue Dec 17 11:40pm EST
Denver Nuggets forward Jordan Hamilton was ejected early in the fourth quarter of Tuesday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder after receiving a flagrant foul-2 for swinging his arm and hitting OKC center Steven Adams.
The play took place less than a minute into the final frame, with the Thunder leading by 10 points and having the ball after Oklahoma City reserve Jeremy Lamb rebounded a miss by Nuggets guard Evan Fournier:
After the miss and the rebound, Lamb began to dribble up court on the right wing. Hamilton pursued as Lamb exited the paint, only to be met with Adams' back, as the Thunder center held up and bumped the Texas product off course. Hamilton didn't seem to appreciate that, and swung his right arm toward Adams' shoulder. (Adams must have one of those faces, man.)
As Daily Thunder's Royce Young noted, the New Zealand-born big man "completely ignored it." The referees, however, did not, whistling Hamilton for a flagrant foul; upon further review of the swinging motion, they upgraded it to a flagrant-2 for "unnecessary and excessive" contact, which carries with it an automatic ejection and a fine of no less than $2,000, but "not exceeding $50,000 and/or suspension by the Commissioner."
It seems unlikely that we'll get to suspension on a not-exactly-vicious play that caused the Nuggets' announce team to use phrases like, "Well, that's not much," "It appeared to be punch-like," "I guess, by the letter of the rule ..." and "Some plays look more like a flagrant action than others, of course." Anything's possible, though, I suppose. The lesson, as always: Just take a deep breath, count to 10 and run back on defense, gang.
Hamilton finished with four points, five rebounds, one assist and one steal in 16 minutes, while Adams had just one point (splitting his two post-flagrant free throws) and two rebounds in nine minutes in Oklahoma City's 105-93 win over Denver. Kevin Durant (30 points on 11 for 23 shooting, six rebounds, three assists and two steals) and Russell Westbrook (21 points on 9 for 16 shooting, 13 rebounds, eight assists, eight turnovers) led the way for the 20-4 Thunder, while J.J. Hickson (20 points, 14 rebounds) and Ty Lawson (17 points, 13 assists, four steals) paced the Nuggets, who have now dropped four of their last seven to follow the seven-game winning streak that righted the ship after a sluggish start.
Original video via frank den.
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Tue Dec 17 10:10pm EST
Kyrie Irving nearly brought the Cleveland Cavaliers back against the West-best Portland Trail Blazers by himself. Unfortunately for him, Damian Lillard answered by adding to his rapidly growing late-game resume.
With 7.1 seconds on the clock and the Cavs and Blazers tied at 116-116, Lillard took the inbounds pass from Nicolas Batum, faced off against the defending Alonzo Gee, and pulled up from 30 feet. He buried it, notching his second game-winner in as many games after Sunday's overtime winner against the Detroit Pistons.
Irving got one last chance to send the game to overtime, but his three-pointer hit the back iron as time expired to seal Portland's 119-116 road win. Lillard finished Tuesday's game with a remarkable 36 points, eight three-pointers, 10 assists, and eight rebounds, becoming the first player to reach those totals since then-rookie Jason Kidd in April 1995.
However, Lillard's late-game heroics were almost outdone by those of Irving. With the Cavs down 114-108 with 1:34 remaining, Irving scored nine points in 61 seconds to bring his team within two points. After a LaMarcus Aldridge miss with 17 seconds on the clock, every person at Quicken Loans Arena knew that Irving would get the ball. So, naturally, he took Batum off the dribble, drew three defenders, and dumped off a perfect blind pass to Anderson Varejao for an easy game-tying lay-up.
Lillard, however, ensured that he would be the story of the game. Join us after the jump for some more information on his growing reputation as one of the NBA's best closers.
Tue Dec 17 06:45pm EST
Over three decades as an NBA head coach, Hall of Famer Don Nelson developed a reputation as something of a mad scientist. Whether it involved turning a forward into a point guard or playing five perimeter players at the same time, Nellie was always willing to try something new in the hopes of finding a favorable matchup or unforeseen advantage. Unfortunately, that penchant for experimentation often came across as somewhat impractical or megalomaniacal, with Nelson creating enemies for his methods and judgments. It was somewhat fitting that, when he broke Lenny Wilkens's record for all-time coaching wins record, the moment carried all the grandeur of an Employee of the Month ceremony. It was impossible to deny Nelson's abilities, but there was always something a little frustrating about him.
Apparently that quality has not left Nelson in retirement. In a new Sports Illustrated profile, Chris Ballard checks in with Nellie at the coaching legend's home in Maui. While the bulk of the piece — which hasn't yet been made available online — is apparently fun and positive, the notable quotes invovle Nelson criticizing current Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee and former Warriors star Monta Ellis. From the selections published at The Point Forward:
Tue Dec 17 05:40pm EST
A look around the league and the Web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out.
C: Cowbell Kingdom. James Ham on Isaiah Thomas' triumphant post-trade return to the Sacramento Kings' starting lineup, which has seen him shoot the lights out and average 23 points and 7.3 assists in four games, with Mike Malone's team going 2-2: “I’ve been ready for this moment since I came into this league. That’s what I work so hard for in the summers. I want to be (one of those) guards that I see on each and every team playing 40 minutes a night.”
PF: Bleacher Report. Jared Dubin breaks down the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop attack that's making the Phoenix Suns an incredibly tough cover for the defenses they're facing and arguably the biggest surprise (in a positive way, at least) of the NBA season thus far.
SF: The Point Forward. Rob Mahoney also likes what he's seen from the Suns through the first 23 games, but notes one reason to pump the brakes a bit: "In total, [Eric] Bledsoe — who may be the face of the franchise going forward — has not yet been successful in leading lineups without [Goran] Dragic’s aid. At the same time, he’s both more productive (as one would expect) and more efficient (as one likely wouldn’t) with Dragic out of the game."