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."
Tue Dec 17 02:45pm EST
Yes, it comes in the service of promoting a sock drive asking Charlotte Bobcats fans to donate six-packs of new socks for the needy at 'Cats home games through Dec. 27, with fans donating socks (or at least $10, if they'd rather give cash over cotton) getting a voucher for a free ticket to Charlotte's Jan. 20 home game against the Toronto Raptors. That does not change the fact that this video does indeed feature Cody Zeller and Josh McRoberts playing with sock puppets:
Is Zeller's delivery of "That sounds amazing" more than a little disturbing? Absolutely. Is said delivery far less disturbing than the rookie having a fully coiffed sock stand-in for McRoberts to talk to? Of course it is. But if this leads to the Bobcats video promotion team launching their own off-brand reboot of Sifl and Olly, then I'm on board. I could really get behind Bismack Biyombo covering "Dude's House", or Jeff Adrien getting down on some "Rock 'n' Roll Friends." That'd be pretty cres.
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Tue Dec 17 02:00pm EST
You’ll recall that right before the 2013 playoffs started, the San Antonio Spurs surprisingly released swingman Stephen Jackson. The journeyman small forward was a pivotal member of the team’s 2003 championship turn, and had played well during San Antonio’s three-round run during the 2012 playoffs. Because the 2012-13 version of Stephen Jackson was shooting 37 percent from the field, while attempting a whopping 5.7 three-pointers per 36 minutes despite shooting just 27 percent from long range, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was forced to limit his minutes.
And you probably remember how Jackson, now with the Los Angeles Clippers, reacted to that. From Adrian Wojnarowski:
Nevertheless, disagreements over Jackson's role resurfaced in recent days, and the Spurs believed that Jackson had started to have a negative impact on the team's younger players. Within the Spurs, the organization didn't believe Jackson was playing well enough to bring him into the playoffs under these circumstances, sources told Yahoo! Sports.
This is why the Spurs dumped Jackson, bringing in the relatively benign Tracy McGrady to fulfill his non-role (T-Mac played just 31 minutes in total during the postseason) as the Spurs nearly pulled off another title. Jackson, publicly at least, claimed not to be bothered by the release because he “got my money,” even flying down to Miami to take in the NBA Finals as a spectator last June.
Tue Dec 17 01:05pm EST
It’s that time of the season, the time in which you’re given a $25 or so limit to try and come up with an anonymous gift for a co-worker that you may or may not admire enough to bequeath with any gift, however modest. Typically, “Secret Santa” gift hauls can usually be sourced out by a quick trip to the local drug store, picking up an iTunes gift card, a seasonal novelty tchotchke, or perhaps a small bottle of coffee-flavored spirits for Linda, who has had a really tough year.
If you’re the Miami Heat, though, you don’t stop with a desk-sized bottle of Bailey’s. When Heat players looked under the tree for their “Secret Santa” showdown the other day, they found some pretty impressive booty had shook out from Santa’s sleigh. Like telescopes.
Seriously, telescopes. Shane Battier bought Chris Bosh a telescope. From Jason Lieser at the Palm Beach Post:
Tue Dec 17 12:25pm EST
That the New York Knicks lost on Monday isn't surprising. The Knicks have lost 17 times in 24 games, sit five games below .500 both at home and on the road, have the league's fourth-worst defense in terms of points allowed per possession, and are only marginally better at scoring the ball (19th among 30 NBA teams, according to NBA.com's stat tool). The Knicks are bad; that they lost on Monday isn't newsworthy.
The way they lost, though? Allowing a nearly uncontested game-winning layup by Wizards guard Bradley Beal despite having a foul to give, then coming completely unglued in the final seven seconds and settling for an off-balance 25-foot runner by Carmelo Anthony (despite having three timeouts) that didn't come close? That's some headline-grabbing business.
If you'd like to refresh your memory:
So, after the dust had settled on a 102-101 defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, how did the Knicks go about explaining a final-seconds disintegration so staggering as to seem intentional? In a quintessentially baffling and thoroughly unsatisfying manner, of course.
(You'll note that there's no explanation tendered below for why/how the Knicks failed to execute a two-for-one despite having the ball with 45 seconds left and the score tied at 100 after a Beal 3-pointer. Which, y'know, stands to reason.)
The first question that coach Mike Woodson was asked during his post-game press conference, as you might expect, dealt with his thought process in not having his Knicks commit a foul to prevent the Beal layup despite New York having a foul to give, and not taking a timeout to advance the ball past half court and draw up a potential game-winning play with seven seconds left despite having three timeouts remaining.
"I mean, we said all those things," Woodson said. "I probably should have taken, for sure, the timeout there at the end. But, y'know, Beno [Udrih] grabbed it and [the ball] was in 'Melo's hands before I could even react to it. I should have reacted a lot sooner once the ball went through the bucket. So that's on me.
"You know, it had nothing to do with the timeout," Woodson continued. "You know, I mean, we knew we had a foul to give, but Beno opened the floodgates on the one, when [Beal] caught it on the side. It was just ... it happened so fast. And he's thinking the help was there, and it wasn't there, so he couldn't even reach to grab the guy to take the foul. So that's where the breakdown occurred. I mean, we all knew we had a foul to give, but we didn't even get a chance to use it. And then I didn't call the timeout, so I've got to take the heat for that."
We don't know what Udrih thought about "opening the floodgates," failing to take the foul and not having any help behind him. He wasn't made available to reporters following a game in which he played the final 21:49 after Pablo Prigioni — starting in place of the injured Raymond Felton — suffered a broken right big toe that's expected to keep him out for the next two weeks. The other point guard in a Knicks uniform on Monday, rookie Toure' Murry, is a 6-foot-5-inch, 24-year-old who earned a job this summer by showing a propensity for hard-nosed defense during Summer League and preseason play. He did not take off his warmups on Monday, despite Udrih showing signs of fatigue several minutes before Beal's final blow-by.
About Woodson's "we said all those things" remark:
Shumpert said team didn't discuss calling a timeout if they allowed a basket on WAS's last shot. Said they largely assumed they'd get a stop
— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 17, 2013
Melo reiterates that he/the team wasn't told to call timeout beforehand.
— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 17, 2013
But that's not really the coaching staff's fault, according to J.R. Smith, via Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News:
“As soon as the ball went through the net I was expecting to call timeout, but we have to do a better job as players,” said Smith, who broke out of a shooting slump with 18 points on 5-of-11 three-pointers, while adding six assists and three steals in the loss. “We knew we had three timeouts. We have guys who [have] been in this league, 11, 10 years. We were on the floor. We just have to do a better job of that. We can’t put everything in coach’s hand because he’s out there thinking and reacting like we are. We have to do a better job as players and be generals out there.” [...]
“Woody is going to put it on himself that he should have called timeout but we as players know we should have called timeout regardless of the situation,” Smith said. “We knew we had three timeouts with six seconds left on the clock. We have to do a better job of that.”
Anthony, for his part, didn't seem entirely sure which side of the fence to stand on. From the Daily News' Frank Isola:
“I think we was expecting a timeout,” Anthony said. “I think everything happened so fast. I don’t know.” [...]
Anthony at first said “we were supposed to call a timeout,” but after being told that Woodson had accepted responsibility for the mixup, Anthony replied: “If he said it’s his fault, it’s his fault. There’s no need for me to talk about that or make excuses for it. He said that was his fault, he’ll take the blame, then he takes the blame.
“As players we got to be smart enough to know as well — time, score and situation. In a situation like that we knew we had timeouts, we knew we had fouls to give at the end of the game. We can’t leave it on the coach to do it.”
Anthony continued with a fairly tepid vote of confidence in Woodson's continued employment, according to ESPN New York's Ian Begley: "As far as I'm concerned, he's secure right now. I haven't heard anything. There's nothing to discuss. He's our coach, and we're rolling with him."
For how long, of course, remains to be seen. Knicks owner James Dolan's reputation as a fickle sort prone to rash decision-making precedes him, but even his most ardent critics would have a hard time blasting him for wanting to make a change after watching such a fundamental meltdown and listening to everyone involved do such a lukewarm job of sharing the blame without assuming actual accountability.
The prospect of a Woodson firing followed by a third stint as interim coach for longtime assistant Herb Williams isn't exactly sending shockwaves of excitement through Knicks fandom. It also wouldn't address the team construction issues (no defensive bigs besides Tyson Chandler, roster-mandated reliance on Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire at center, few capable defenders anywhere on the roster, barely any depth to speak of, dubiously spending a roster spot on J.R.'s barely D-League-capable brother Chris Smith, etc.) that have helped contribute to the Knicks' disastrous start. Nor would it reflect how horrendous Felton, Smith, Iman Shumpert and Metta World Peace have been at shooting the ball, even when the ball movement's been good enough to provide open looks. There's a lot of stuff going wrong, and not all of it should fall on Woodson.
It might, however, indicate that the front office has been paying attention to the Knicks' repeated execution miscues and decided that someone has to be held accountable for near-constant disorganization that manifests in stuff like not calling a timeout to settle things down even when the players on the floor seem to have no idea what's up. Or not intentionally fouling terrible free-throw shooter Andre Drummond while trying to mount a comeback against the Detroit Pistons. Or intentionally fouling Dwight Howard inside the final two minutes, granting the Houston Rockets a technical free-throw and an extra possession.
Or fouling Paul George on a 3-pointer late in regulation that led to overtime and a loss. Or the consistent late-game isolations that have resulted in contested misses like the one against the Denver Nuggets. Or the nightly defensive breakdowns that result in two or more Knicks pointing at an open man rising for an uncontested shot or loping blithely to the basket. (We can keep going if you'd like.) Firing Woodson probably wouldn't solve all that, but it might at least suggest that out-to-lunch ownership recognizes that it's happening in the first place. That'd be something, I suppose.
The most damning explanations for Monday's debacle, and the ones that rang truest, came from the Wizards themselves, who praised coach Randy Wittman for drawing up a play chock full of off-ball movement that drew Knick attention, but also damned New York in no uncertain terms. From Jeffrey Bernstein of The Associated Press:
"I knew in the huddle that if I came off the pick and roll, they were probably going to double me," Beal said. "My first instinct was to reject the screen and go baseline if I had it. There was absolutely nobody even paying attention, so I just drove it in there."
"I don't know what they were trying to do," [Marcin] Gortat said. "They screwed up."
"They had no idea what was going on," Beal said. "They had no idea where the ball was." [...]
Beal said he knew the Knicks had a foul to give and didn't use it, but had no idea about the timeout situation until after someone told him.
"Did they really?" Beal said with a shocked look on his face, as if he was being told Santa Claus didn't exist. "Oh. Oh wow." A few seconds passed as Beal stood there stunned. "Man, that would have changed a few things."
Maybe it would have, Bradley. The fact that it didn't could change a few other things in the days ahead.
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