Tue Dec 10 09:30pm EST
On November 18, young Oklahoma City Thunder fan Cameron Rodriguez lived out every NBA attendee's dream when he hit a halfcourt shot for a $20,000 prize during the team's game against the Denver Nuggets at Chesapeake Energy Arena. A college student, Rodriguez came into a considerable amount of money to help him pay for his schooling and got to experience the joy of having an entire professional arena cheer his accomplishment. It's harder to imagine a young man having more fun.
Unfortunately for Rodriguez, that fun soon gave way to the reality of his situation as an NAIA athlete. As a member of the basketball team at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, Rodriguez is prohibited from using his athletic skills for monetary gain. Taking note of the conflict, Rodriguez immediately notified the relevant NAIA representatives and sought permission to keep his prize to pay for his tuition and academic expenses. He has been waiting to get official word on his status.
On Tuesday, Rodriguez received good news. As announced by the NAIA, he will be allowed to keep his prize. From the organization's press release:
Tue Dec 10 06:20pm EST
A look around the league and the Web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out.
C: Hoop76. This is not a drill, people: "Spencer Hawes is attempting more 3-pointers per game than Ray Allen, and he’s hitting them at a higher rate." Tom Sunnergren explores how the Philadelphia 76ers center has become an honest-to-goodness offensive weapon, whether Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie should flip Hawes while his value is (or at least figures to be) at an all-time high or hang onto a surprisingly intriguing modern-NBA player, and more.
PF: ESPN Insider ($). Now that advanced analytics like the ones favored by Hinkie and his ilk have taken deep root in NBA front offices, coverage and (to a certain extent) fandom, Amin Elhassan offers an interesting argument about whether being able to hit the "worst shot in the game" will become an increasingly valuable skill-set: "[...] as more and more teams adopt the type of defensive principles practiced by the Pacers and Bulls, the greater the need for players who are able to exploit the inherent weakness in the system: the midrange jumper."
SF: The Triangle. I dug this story by Charles Bethea about spending Kyle Korver's record-setting game with Korver's parents, then talking to Korver about paddleboarding, and why all that matters. My favorite line? "Worry isn't a Midwestern feeling." (The competition's heavy, though.)
Tue Dec 10 05:20pm EST
I'm still not sold on that cucumber, but I definitely see the Air Jordan Jumpman logo shaved into this young man's beard:
The word "BULLS," too, for that matter. (Or, more accurately, "BULL," followed by a lowercase "s" that looks a little like a "oh, crud" jammed-in afterthought.)
So, how does one come by such unique facial hair? Bleacher Report's Jake Silver has a brief description:
Tue Dec 10 04:00pm EST
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke initially decided to put together a strange arrangement last spring, replacing longtime Toronto Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo with the man who used to work as his second in command, reigning NBA Executive of the Year and former Denver Nuggets top man Masai Ujiri. The plan was for Colangelo, who is as connected as they come within NBA executive circles, to stick around to help grease the wheels as Ujiri dotted through the league’s ever-expanding Rolodex. The problem with the arrangement was obvious, though, because it would involve Colangelo reporting to a man who used to report to him, all while that new boss broke apart the middling and expensive team Colangelo put together.
The setup didn’t last, obviously, as the pairing didn’t even make it past NBA draft night before Colangelo was let go in full. Ujiri responded by dealing Colangelo’s notorious top overall draft pick Andrea Bargnani for cap space and draft picks in the offseason, waiving former Colangelo signing Linas Kleiza soon after using the amnesty clause, while carefully choosing his options with Colangelo-era leftovers like DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and coach Dwane Casey.
Swingman Rudy Gay was thought to be off the tradin’ table, not so much because Ujiri wanted to keep him (he didn’t), but because there was thought to be little interest in a player that attempts nearly as many field goals per game as he does score points per contest, while making over $37 million over the final two years of his contract.
Tue Dec 10 03:45pm EST
Thanks to advertising agency BBDO, Foot Locker's made a habit of dropping consistently amusing and engaging commercials to promote their sales, with spots featuring the likes of Kyrie Irving and Dennis Rodman, Stephen Curry and James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kris Humphries, and the Los Angeles Clippers duo of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul all generating laughs and brand awareness in recent memory.
The newest such commercial brings back CP3 and Blake, but since it's intended to plug the apparel outlet's Kids Foot Locker stores, it called for a slightly younger leading man: Paul's charismatic and precocious son Christopher Emmanuel II, a.k.a. Little Chris, a.k.a. CP4, a.k.a. Get Outta Here, Blake:
Kind of harsh treatment for the guy whose face helped make you an Internet celebrity (shouts to Dallas and Rafi), Little Chris. I mean, your dad himself told Jimmy Kimmel that you like Blake more than you like him, and now you're pushing the power forward out of the Clippers locker room? Ouch. I guess that photo of you helping Dad sign his max contract really told the tale: CP4's all business when it comes to finding big, cool cubbies in which to store all his stuff, even if it means bumping an All-Star power forward to the bus station.
It probably shouldn't surprise us that Little Chris' bright shining smile and warm exterior hides one tough cookie underneath. Like father, like son, after all.
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Tue Dec 10 02:40pm EST
Longtime sports executive Pete Babcock is best known for running the Atlanta Hawks during the tail end of Dominique Wilkins’ time with the team, developing the squad into a playoff fixture throughout the 1990s. A drought hit the squad following a second round sweep at the hands of the underdog New York Knicks in the 1999 Eastern Conference semifinals, though, as the Hawks would not go on to make the playoffs for another nine years – five years after Babcock was shown the door.
In a recent interview with Jeff Pearlman from The Score’s Quazcast podcast, Babcock in part blamed those late lean years on the infamous Time Warner/AOL merger. Time Warner had owned the Hawks for years prior to that merger in 2000, and Babcock points to cost-cutting and micromanaging new staff as a source for the team’s swoon following the fin de siècle. As transcribed by The Score, here’s Babcock’s take:
Tue Dec 10 01:40pm EST
After a slow start to the season, the Denver Nuggets have righted the ship underneath rookie head coach Brian Shaw. Though the team lost its best player and award-winning coach and top player personnel executive over the offseason, the Nugs are currently locked in at 13-8, on pace for a 51-win season that would far exceed the win total most predicted before 2013-14.
What the team still hasn’t figured out, though, is why Denver plays so poorly at the outset of games. The Nuggets are far and away the worst first quarter team in the NBA, and most League Pass watchers that witness those sorts of slow starts are shocked to see the team in top form in the fourth quarter, on their way toward yet another win.
Pressed for a reason behind this, Shaw decided to do a little housecleaning last week. Greasy fast food is off the pregame menu for Nuggets players, because there’s no way anything that is dripping with cheese is going to put you in place to roar out of the gate in the first quarter. From Tom Schad at the Denver Post:
Tue Dec 10 12:50pm EST
Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski reported last Tuesday that a "heated" Nov. 4 staff meeting in which Brooklyn Nets head coach Jason Kidd "blistered top assistant Lawrence Frank" precipitated the disintegration of their relationship, leading to Frank's eventual "reassignment" from on-the-bench defensive coordinator to tucked-away preparer of parody-inviting "daily reports." But what exactly did Kidd say to blow things up? According to David Aldridge's Morning Tip at NBA.com, something not-very-nice at all.
As has been previously reported, and as noted by Aldridge, the confrontation stemmed from steadily mounting discomfort at Frank's vocal role on the bench:
Kidd brought Frank in to run the defense, draw up plays, be the coaches' voice at practice. And then, Frank did that. And Kidd was taken aback.
Frog, meet scorpion.
"The assistant's job is to stand up and call coverages," an NBA coaching source said last week. "Every time the offense comes down and calls a play, my defensive coach stands up and yells 'four down!' or 'get to the side.' Jason didn't like it. He thought Lawrence was coaching the team."
That apparently rubbed the first-year head coach — who had previously chosen assistant Joe Prunty, not former head coach Frank, to lead the Nets when Kidd missed the season's first two games while he served a two-game DWI suspension — the wrong way:
Kidd tried, gradually at first, to start putting his own imprint on the team. He would be, a member of the organization said last week, direct and honest with players in film sessions, going over things one-on-one with players -- "that's a bad shot, and here's why. That's losing basketball, and here's why," the source said. He tried to point out that he did know a couple of things about defense based on his career as a player (whether he specifically mentioned his four first-team all-NBA defensive team selections is unknown), and that he had ideas that were different from Frank's.
But Frank "wouldn't stop talking," the second coaching source countered. [...]
The denouement came in the now well-reported blowup Kidd had with Frank, where Kidd, according to a source, told Frank: "Sit the (bleep) down! I'm the coach of this (13-letter word) team! When you're on the bench, don't (bleeping) move!"
While there are plenty of options when it comes to 13-letter words — I rather like thinking that Kidd told Frank he is "the coach of this characterless team," myself — the clear implication is that Kidd said something that would be frowned upon during Mother's Day brunch. Or, y'know, pretty much any other time or place, really.
Aldridge writes that Frank clammed up to the point that "other coaches playing the Nets thought he was ill," which probably led to some pretty amazing post-game small talk. ("What's the matter, Lawrence? Cold? Flu? Laryngitis?" "Um ... [whispers] yeah. That's it. [fake cough]") And then, last week, the other shoe dropped and Frank was spirited away to a cubicle somewhere deep in the bowels of Barclays Center.
On one hand, using such (shall we say) colorful language in the context of a professional sports locker room environment isn't the most shocking thing in the world, especially considering the one using it is all of seven months removed from occupying one of those lockers and dressing for games himself. And as former Kidd coach/Frank colleague Byron Scott noted last week, the personalities of the two men involved made this explosion less a total stunner and more a matter of time. (Which, again, makes it seem so curious that Kidd pushed so hard to bring Frank on-board, to the point where Frank is reportedly the highest-paid assistant in the NBA.)
If Kidd had opened a dialogue with Frank about dialing things down a bit so that he could take a more active role in the team's preparation, schemes and strategy, only to see Frank decline to defer, well, that's a pretty big problem. You could certainly understand Kidd being frustrated with feeling undermined in the midst of a disastrous start to his first season as a head basketball coach, especially given the high-profile nature of the job, Brooklyn's league-leading payroll, early-season injuries to key expected contributors like Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Andrei Kirilenko and Paul Pierce, massive expectations, intense media scrutiny and all the other pressure-packed elements of running the Nets.
On the other, though, yelling curses at your employees is rarely an optimal strategy for getting the best out of them, and if Kidd had let the temper get the better of him to the point where he just blew up on Frank before addressing the situation in a less explosive manner, that's a pretty big problem, too. Either way, the details of Kidd's fireworks-heavy approach — especially in light of reports that Frank "is in the process of retaining 'high-powered' legal counsel, presumably to settle a buyout" of his six-year contract — don't figure to make this situation (or the Nets' brand with which Kidd is earnestly concerned) look much better anytime soon.
We'll likely continue to hear about the rift, its causes and its effects until Frank's legal wranglings wrap up, but at this point, that's less an issue for Nets fans than Kidd's philosophical differentiation bearing on-court fruit for a team struggling to make up ground in the Eastern Conference. Unless Kidd's charges can start stringing together some wins — after a Saturday victory over the worst-in-the-East Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn welcomes the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Celtics on Tuesday — the 13-letter word best describing the Nets will probably continue to be "unsightliness." Or maybe "vexatiousness." (Man, that word list is fun.)
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Tue Dec 10 11:30am EST
On one hand, being a cameraman working at an NBA game sounds like a pretty amazing gig — sure, people are always mad at you for being too close to the action, but that's because you get to be so close to the action, granted a front-row, floor-level seat every night to watch some of the best athletes in the world ply their trade.
On the other, not only is it a tough gig to master, but there are certain occupational hazards that don't often plague those of us in other kinds of workplaces. For example, um, the high-post passing of Utah Jazz center Enes Kanter.
Ouch. I mean, credit to the operator for the brand of professionalism that kept him staring down the barrel even as it was barreling down on him, but oof.
As you might expect, the cameraman was a bit shaken up by the incident:
Cameraman just walked out of the game after getting hit in the head with an errant Enes Kanter pass.
— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) December 10, 2013
Team trainer Geoff Clark is attending to the camera man who got hit in the face by an errant pass from Kanter. He ... doesn't look great. — Casey Holdahl (@CHold) December 10, 2013
But you can't keep a good man down for long, as Blazers beat reporter Erik Gunderson of The Columbian informed us early in the fourth quarter:
CAMERA GUY BACK
— Erik Gundersen (@blazerbanter) December 10, 2013
We didn't learn the full extent of the injuries until Tuesday afternoon, though:
Best wishes to Brian Bunton cameraman who got blitzed by the errant Enes Kanter pass last night. 3 stitches and mild concussion. See u Sat— David Locke (@Lockedonsports) December 10, 2013
Oof. Best wishes, indeed. Rest up, Mr. Bunton, and here's hoping your next game's a less painful one than Monday was.
The Jazz are probably harboring the exact same hope. Despite game work from the backcourt troika of Gordon Hayward (17 points, five rebounds), Trey Burke (15 points, six rebounds, five assists) and reserve Alec Burks (a team-high 20 points on 8 for 11 shooting in 25 minutes), Utah fell to the Blazers, 105-94, to notch their fourth straight loss and see add another L to their NBA-worst 4-19 record. LaMarcus Aldridge the way with 24 points, six rebounds and four assists, and the Blazers got strong outings from Robin Lopez (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Nicolas Batum (seven points, 11 assists, eight rebounds) to improve their Western Conference-best mark to 18-4.
Kanter, who donated more than 200 gifts to Toys for Tots earlier Monday, finished with 19 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block and one memorable, and painful, turnover.
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Tue Dec 10 10:15am EST
While Rudy Gay moving to the Sacramento Kings was the headline news of the big seven-player trade agreed to Sunday and completed Monday, the swap also sent Kings starting point guard Greivis Vasquez back east to the Toronto Raptors, elevating Isaiah Thomas — who had been sensational off the Sacramento bench this season — back to the starting lineup. And in his first start of the season against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, the third-year dynamo wasted no time in making Kings general manager Pete D'Alessandro and head coach Mike Malone look like they'd made the right choice.
Thomas began the game on fire, scoring 10 points in the first six minutes to push the Kings to an 11-point advantage and imbuing the Sacramento offense with the sort of electricity for which he's become known as one of the league's top reserve scorers and playmakers. By the midway point of the first quarter, he'd canned two 3-pointers, set up a Jason Thompson jumper, darted into the passing lane for a steal that led to a runout layup, and blown past Dallas point guard Jose Calderon on this quick little hesitation move:
(It's also always nice when the help defense actually hurts.)
The 24-year-old Washington product showed there was more to his game than bursting to the rim and pulling up from long-distance, though — check out this second-quarter contest of an attempted dunk by Mavericks center Bernard James: