Wed Dec 11 08:05pm EST
With a 19-3 start, the Indiana Pacers have continued to establish themselves as one of the few legitimate title contenders in the NBA, building on the success of their run to the final game of the Eastern Conference Finals last spring. The team's players are earning more notice from diehard and casual fans alike, and Paul George and Roy Hibbert could be on the brink of becoming household names. It's a good time to be part of the Pacers.
Apparently, this new level of popularity has its perks. After Indiana's very impressive 90-84 win over the Miami Heat at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday night, Paul George got the opportunity to play HORSE against a very famous fan and admirer: Justin Timberlake. Check out the Instagram video below from Rich Nye of Indiana's WTHR (via All Ball via EOB):
Timberlake is in Indianapolis to perform at the arena on Wednesday night as part of The 20/20 Experience World Tour. While it's unclear who won the HORSE contest, Timberlake does appear to have considerable skills. In addition to this video and his long history of participating in celebrity games, Timberlake has had his skills vouched for by none other than BDL editor Kelly Dwyer. According to Kelly, who was at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday covering the game, Timberlake hit six straight three-pointers from the top of the arc during his post-game shootaround. Apparently the guy has more talent than we ever could have imagined.
Yet this game wasn't the extent of Timberlake's experience with the Pacers. After the jump, check out a video of Danny Granger, George Hill, and George performing Timberlake's hook (poorly) to Jay-Z's "Holy Grail" (NSFW lyrics at link).
All credit to Timberlake for being a good sport about the whole thing, but something tells me it's not fun to listen to some people butcher your song. Of course, after nearly 15 years of large groups singing 'N Sync at karaoke nights, he's probably used to it.
As far as I can tell, the only problem with this Timberlake-Pacers friendliness is potential tampering. As a minority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies, Timberlake can't make any overtures to players about joining his team. Please investigate this issue, NBA office, because we have to find some mistake in Timberlake's life choices. A man can only make fun of "In Time" so often.
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Wed Dec 11 06:50pm 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: SB Nation. Kurtis Blow’s 1984 hit “Basketball” is a dead set classic, so the good folks at SB Nation decided to put together an oral history on the songs roots, production, and influence. To the hoop link, y’all.
PF: NBA.com. Scott Howard-Cooper discusses Pau Gasol’s contract options following what could be his final season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
SF: Grantland. Jonathan Abrams breaks down the career arc of Andre Iguodala, and how his semi-superstardom and often overlooked contribution somehow relate to Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen.
SG: National Post. Eric Koreen with a fascinating feature on former Toronto Raptor Quincy Acy, a heady banger attempting to work his way into the rotation in Sacramento despite a lingering ankle injury.
PG: HoopsAnalyst. Harlan Schreiber with his always-great ‘Quick Thoughts,’ including an aside on miserable free throw shooters, and Pablo Prigioni’s inability to get to the charity stripe.
Wed Dec 11 04:50pm EST
Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard was hit with a shocking diagnosis during his lone season with the Los Angeles Lakers last year. According to a physician working with the team’s medical staff, Howard was consuming “the equivalent of 24 Hershey bars a day” because of all the candy and glucose-rich carbonated soda he was drinking.
Dr. Cate Shanahan, in a fascinating feature by CBS Sports’ Ken Berger, described her shock at Howard’s alarming levels of glucose in his system, telling CBS that she became concerned because Howard’s sluggish play and blood work “reminded me of patients who have pre-diabetes and neurological problems because of how sugar impacts the nervous system.” A subsequent blood test revealed frightening amounts of glucose in his system.
And before you dump on the often immature Howard for continuing to gorge on sweets and soda well into his mid-to-late 20s, have some compassion and understand that Dwight showed all the signs of a sugar addict, someone who needed help more than he needed a lock on the pantry drawer. From Berger’s report:
Wed Dec 11 02:25pm EST
Famously, former Knicks and Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy won’t speak with nor comment on coaching jobs midseason, or any other time an incumbent coach is still with a team pre-firing. That policy stems from the spring of 1999, when MSG openly courted free agent coach Phil Jackson to take over for Van Gundy as Knicks coach, with the Knicks struggling to make the Eastern playoff bracket. Jeff bristled at Jackson interviewing for the job while Van Gundy was still in the postseason hunt, and though Van Gundy got the last laugh by dragging that year’s Knicks team to the NBA Finals, he’s sticking to his guns and not having any contact with a team while a current head (or even interim) coach is under contract.
This is why the recent New York Post report of the Knicks being interested in Van Gundy was somewhat laughable, because while relations have improved between the 1999 incident and Van Gundy’s admittedly rash 2001 midseason resignation as head coach, he’s still not going to have any meaningful much less exploratory discussions about returning to New York with Mike Woodson still running the team. Van Gundy was pained to even have to address it in radio interviews that followed the Post’s report, stressed that he had to answer to innuendo while Woodson was fighting for his job.
This is probably why ESPN lifted Van Gundy as analyst for Wednesday night’s Knicks/Chicago Bulls contest at Madison Square Garden. It’s a smart, tactful move that all should appreciate. From the Post:
Wed Dec 11 01:55pm EST
Texts from spammers feel far worse that emails from spammers, or Facebook and/or Twitter direct messages from spammers. A person’s private phone number is not a part of the social media grindhouse, so it’s never fun to pull up your mobile device after something buzzes or beeps or flashes, expecting to read something pertinent from someone you trust with your phone number, only to realize that some bot on the other end is trying to sell you something.
Still, in the era of unlimited text messaging plans, it’s quickly forgotten. Unless you’re ex-Los Angeles Clippers fan Ari Friedman, I suppose. According to TMZ, while attending a recent Clippers game, the gentleman in question reportedly wanted a message to the Clippers to be shown on the scoreboard for all to see, for some reason. What followed was apparently a bit of a nuisance.
Wed Dec 11 12:55pm EST
It’s not as jarring as seeing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in a Brooklyn Nets uniform, and it won’t have the same emotional resonance as when a fan with a thick Boston accent yelled out “we love you Cooz!” at Bob Cousy’s retirement ceremony 50 years ago, but Doc Rivers’ return to Boston on Wednesday night will tug at the emotions a wee bit. Rivers understandably left the Celtics last spring so as to avoid the rebuilding project he once committed to, and his high-priced Los Angeles Clippers will have their hands full with a young Celtics team that hasn’t laid down for anyone in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season.
Rivers’ departure from Boston was complicated. Both the Celtics and Rivers offered similar stories about wanting to stay together even as C’s general manager Danny Ainge explored ways to prepare for the future in dealing Garnett and Pierce, but both also showed several signs that suggested that either side of the table knew it was best to have an amicable parting. Though Rivers drew much deserved criticism for going back on his promise to see the Celtics through whatever rebuilding phase awaited upon signing a five-year contract back in 2011, it’s completely understandable that Doc would shy away from the second rebuilding turn of his Boston career, and look to secure a second ring with a formidable Clippers squad.
Rivers admitted that he didn’t want to work with a rebuilding team in a conversation with Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski a few months back, and in talking with CBS Boston’s Felger and Massarotti on Tuesday night, Doc copped to walking out on his former Celtics team with three years left on his deal.
Wed Dec 11 11:15am EST
A great many New York Knicks fans (this one included) have spent at least some time over the past two seasons pleading with head coach Mike Woodson to give more playing time to Pablo Prigioni. The backup point guard is arguably the lone unselfish/pass-first player on the Knicks' roster and, when he has seen the floor, has seemed the team's sole tether to the two point guards/Carmelo Anthony at power forward/space the floor, share the ball and bomb 3-pointers identity that propelled the Knicks to 54 wins and the second round of the playoffs last season, but has been in very short supply through New York's miserable start to the 2013-14 campaign.
The 36-year-old Argentine did get some burn on Tuesday night, playing just under 27 minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers — his second-highest total of the season, surpassed only by the 37 1/2 minutes he played during New York's season-opening win over the Milwaukee Bucks — and chipped in six points, three rebounds and nine assists with just one turnover. But he also got some burn on Tuesday night, courtesy of a scorching Kyrie Irving:
This is probably not going to make Woodson feel much better about playing Pablo for longer stretches.
Hey, Cavaliers fans wondering what it would take for Irving to shake the cobwebs loose and resume hitting shots/annihilating defenders? Seth Rosenthal of Posting and Toasting has your answer:
The Knicks are here for you, struggling guards of the NBA. Kyrie Irving had been a bit off since mid-November, so New York's defensive organization — the Friendly Alliance of Really Terrible Defenders for Opposing Guards (FARTDOG) — rehabilitated him.
After eight straight games of making less than half of his field-goal attempts, Irving exploded against the Knicks. The 2012-13 All-Star scored 37 points on 14 for 23 shooting, dishing 11 assists against just one turnover in 36-plus minutes, and propelling the Cavs to a 109-94 win that improved them to 4-1 in their last five games and dropped the Knicks to 5-15 on the season, matching the worst 20-game start in franchise history. (The Knicks have started 5-15 five times before; as MSG Network's Alan Hahn notes, none of those five teams made the playoffs.)
Irving proved an equal-opportunity abuser whether guarded by Prigioni, shooting guard Iman Shumpert (the Knicks' nominal top perimeter defender) or starting point guard Raymond Felton en route to what first-year Cav Jarrett Jack (17 points on 6 for 8 shooting off the Cleveland bench) told Irving after the win "was the most 'mature' game that [Kyrie] had put together during [this] season," according to Scott Sargent of Waiting for Next Year.
"It was just another game," Irving said, according to Jodie Valade of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Every game I play, I just think about the next one. I haven't shot it as well as I've want to, but I've put in a lot of work on off-days, and trying to reap some of the rewards. That's what happened tonight."
And here's how it happened, in breathtaking detail:
It comes as no surprise that Irving had his "mature" breakout performance against the Knicks. For one thing, the Knicks' Felton/Prigioni/Shumpert/occasional Beno Udrih group has been largely abysmal in defending point guards at the point of attack this year, and with Tyson Chandler still sidelined ("I'm close. I'm not that close. I know I'm not game ready," Chandler said Tuesday) and the Knicks playing defensively challenged bigs Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire at center, there's nobody behind those beaten point guards to clean things up and protect the basket once the blow-by has taken place. (The Knicks could have used Kenyon Martin, shelved with a sore left ankle, on Tuesday; that statement in and of itself contains multitudes about how New York's season is going.)
Irving has averaged 32.8 points in his last four games against New York. That's the highest average versus the Knicks over the past two seasons (minimum: 3 games). The only other Cavaliers player ever to average 30 or more points over four games against the Knicks was LeBron James, who did it several times with a maximum of 38.3 points over a four-game span versus New York (2007-08).
No wonder Clevelanders want Kyrie to stick around.
Irving put the finishing touches on the Knicks by scoring 10 points on 4 for 6 shooting in the fourth quarter, repeatedly escorted to the rim and left alone on the perimeter to do his work. As J.R. Smith (14 points on 14 shots, plus one of the more acrobatic and horrendous turnovers you'll see this week) noted after the game, according to Scott Cacciola of the New York Times, "It’s like kicking a man when he’s down." Your fighting New York Knicks, ladies and gentlemen.
Prigioni could get a chance to redeem himself defensively in the days ahead, when the Knicks take on fellow Tuesday losers the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden. Felton (six points on 3 for 8 shooting and three assists against Cleveland) re-aggravated the lefty hamstring injury that cost him four games earlier this season, according to Newsday's Al Iannazzone:
Felton wasn't optimistic about playing tonight against Chicago. "The way I feel right now, I have no chance," he said.
With the Knicks playing three games in the next four nights, he might just shut it down for at least the rest of the week. "That's what I'm hearing,'' Felton said. "That's the advice I'm getting, but we'll see what happens."
If Prigioni finds himself being put in the spin cycle by the likes of Kirk Hinrich and Marquis Teague, though, Woodson might eliminate all the mystery about how hot his seat is and just leave the World's Most Famous Arena in the middle of the game without clearing out his desk. It'd be hard to blame him, really.
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Wed Dec 11 10:05am EST
Back in March, Turner Sports analyst Chris Webber had a bit of fun during NBA TV's weekly "Fan Night" broadcast — they tend to get loose on Fan Night — by highlighting an Indiana Pacers fan who didn't seem too keen on sharing his ice cream with the young lady to his right. Lest we forget:
The "Ice Cream Couple," later identified as Jake Moran and Georgia Arnett of Zionsville, Ind., became a bit of a viral sensation, making appearances on both local and national television programs to chat about the snub, whether sharing really is caring, and other matters of global import. Things pretty much died down from there, as tends to be the case with items and individuals of fleeting interest in This Internet Age.
With the Pacers once again in the Fan Night spotlight for Tuesday's marquee matchup against the Miami Heat, though, the NBA TV decided to ring up Moran and Arnett for an interview as the evening's Fans of the Week, to check in and see how they've fared over the intervening months. A pleasant time was had by all ... until one last question that caught the couple off guard. Hit the 5:20 mark for the moment of truth:
If you're wondering why Moran covered his mouth, why Webber bounced up and down like a beside-himself schoolboy, and why Greg Anthony said he had to go take a call from the FCC, it's because Moran's knee-jerk reaction to being asking when they'd get hitched was to curse on live television. I'm not positive how many letters his expletive was, but I do know that it triggered a quick dump-out of NBA TV's audio. Whether it triggered a fresh round of "You really have to stop making us look bad on cable" chatter from young Ms. Arnett remains unclear, though.
I'd suggest Moran try to smooth over the choppy "when's-the-question-getting-popped?" waters by taking his lady out for ice cream, both as a kind gesture and a gentle little poke at the moment that brought them here. I'd stay away from ordering rocky road, though; that's a bit on the nose, you know?
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Wed Dec 11 09:00am EST
It's the second week of December, which means that the holiday music season has ramped up to absurd levels. It's impossible to go anywhere without hearing some sort of festive song, whether it's a Christmas tune like "Jingle Bells," a slightly more religious Christmas ditty like "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," or a commercial monstrosity like Justin Bieber's "Drummer Boy." There is a popular song for everyone (not including those who celebrate Hannukah, Kwanzaa, or nothing at all)!
But what about the basketball fan looking for a little roundball cheer? Sure, there will be some song that serves as a tie-in for the NBA's slate of Christmas games. Yet that's really just a basketball-adjacent song, a poor substitute for the real thing. Where shall we turn?
Thankfully, "Tanking Time Is Here" is here:
If you're unaware, the song is a parody of the Vince Guaraldi Trio classic "Christmas Time Is Here," which first appeared in the 1965 special "A Charlie Brown Christmas." It's slow, sad, wistful, and also a little hopeful — in other words, perfect for the experience of watching a team tank to get a top draft pick.
Tue Dec 10 11:15pm EST
Kobe Bryant's still working his way back into form, shape and rhythm after nearly eight months on the shelf following surgery to repair a ruptured left Achilles tendon. But while the 35-year-old Mamba very clearly has a long way to go before he resembles the All-Star offensive performer he was before his injury, he showed during the first quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers' Tuesday matchup with the Phoenix Suns that he's still capable of taking you baseline off the bounce if you crowd him too much.
Head's up, P.J. Tucker:
Bryant bodies Tucker up, gives him a little shoulder shove to create separation, then makes his move, seals Tucker off, gets up and shows us that throwing down isn't just reserved for practice. Sure, it's only two points, but Kobe stuffing one is still a sight for sore eyes ... and after all that time away, you'd have to imagine that it felt pretty good.
Kobe looked a bit more comfortable offensively in his second game back in the lineup, scoring a team-high 20 points on six for 11 shooting and a perfect 8 for 8 mark from the line, and dishing three assists against three turnovers in 29-plus minutes. He didn't seem to force the action quite as much as he did in his debut, taking more shots in the flow of the offense while looking to work a draw-and-kick game out of the post that would generate open looks for his teammates, albeit a different style of looks than those created by pick-and-roll action and dribble penetration sans Bryant.
Bryant did still look a step or two (or maybe three) slow defensively, though, and on that score, he wasn't alone. Phoenix outscored L.A. on the fast-break 21-18, got stellar nights from the point-guard combo of Goran Dragic (a game-high 31 points on 9 for 18 shooting, five assists and just one turnover in 38 minutes) and Eric Bledsoe (18 points, nine assists, four rebounds, three steals) and benefited from the inside-out frontcourt work of twins Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris (37 combined points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two blocks off the Phoenix bench) en route to a 114-108 road win. Jeff Hornacek's team improved to 12-9 on the season, while Mike D'Antoni's squad dipped below .500 at 10-11, and 0-2 since Kobe's return to the lineup.
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