Wednesday, January 9, 2013

NBA LESSONS: v1.1

Felipe M

New Year, new name for our Random NBA Thoughts posts as we review and explain what we learned in the games that were played on January 8, 2013. 

Reggie, Reggie, Reggie: Power forward, Reggie Evans did what he has done best throughout his NBA career--REBOUND. However, in last night's victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, Evans set a new career high with 23 rebounds.  More impressive was that on most rebounds, he barely had to jump for the ball.  Evans can be best described as a big boulder--when he stands in one spot, it's almost impossible to move.

  • To look at it a different way, Philly's big men Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes grabbed a combined seven rebounds--Hawes only grabbed ONE!
  • Philly, as a team, grabbed 32 rebounds.
  • The Brooklyn Nets grabbed 50 as a team. That means that Evans, by himself, accounted for 46% of his team's rebounding totals.  
He might lack skill, but Evans makes up for it in heart, hustle, and hard-work.

Taking a Wrong Turn at the Crossroad: We discussed Kris Humphries fantasy stock early in the NBA season and concluded that he would be a player entering the "Crossroads" of his career. We warned that Nets' management doesn't think highly of him and proved it by acquiring Evans and Andray Blatche in the offseason. Well, both of those players have sucked away at Humphries' minutes and production as the former Kardashian is seeing a decrease in average across all of his counting stats and a dip in FG%. 

While Humphries has struggled, Evans and Blatche have been given credit for helping franchise center, Brook Lopez become tougher as he has seen an increase in rebounding (as he tries to shed his reputation as a big man who can't rebound) and is finally averaging over 2 blocks per game for the first time in his young career. Lopez is also shooting over 50% for the first time since his rookie season. 

At this rate, Humphries will get more air time (as opposed to playing time) on NBATV's THE ASSOCIATION. And can we start a countdown towards the day the Nets finally get rid of the reality star?

Speaking of Rebounding: When I watched the Miami Heat host the Chicago Bulls last week, I didn't think the Bulls would be able to beat the supposed best team in the East, let alone beat them at their court. What I soon realized (as well as everybody in the NBA) is that what they have in skilled, perimeter players, they lack players who are willing to do dirty work inside the paint. The Bulls not only out-rebounded the Heat in that game, but they accumulated a lot of offensive rebounds and second-chance points. The Heat shot the ball better, shot more free-throws, and committed less turnovers. The Bulls had no business in winning that game, but they simply worked harder on the boards than the Heat--the Bulls grabbed 19 offensive rebounds in that game while the Heat accumulated 28 total rebounds. 

Let that sink in for a bit.

Fast forward to last night's game at Indiana and what do we get?
  • Heat shot the ball better than the Pacers from the field and 3-point range.
  • Heat shot better from the FT line.
  • Pacers grabbed 22 offensive rebounds while the Heat grabbed 29 defensive rebounds!
  • Heat ended the night with a total rebound differential of  -19.
Yet many "experts" believe that the Heat are still the best team in the East and have a really good chance of repeating as championships.  However, I just cited two examples where two Central Division teams, who are playing without their best players (Derrick Rose for the Bulls; Danny Granger for the Pacers--although, Granger might be relegated to 4th best with the Pacers' other talent stepping up, big time. Especially Paul George) are just man-handling, playing tougher defense, and working harder than the Heat. Yes, it's only the regular season, I guess, but even poor, rebounding teams get exposed in the playoffs too. 

Is Deron Happy Now?: We've discussed how Deron Williams was missing the good, old days in Utah, running the pick-and-roll for head coach, Jerry Sloan (before he got Sloan to resign from his post). Well, now that the team is being coached by P.J. Carlesimo, Williams' numbers look different than under coach Avery Johnson:
  • Under Johnson: 16.6 PPG, 8.0 APG, 3.1 RPG, 3.0 TPG, 39.8% FG%, 29.5 3-PT%
  • Under Carlesimo: 17.4PPG, 6.4APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.7 TPG, 45%  FG%, 45% 3-PT%
And to top it off, Williams is shooting 96% from the Free-Throw line! So Williams has increased his scoring, cut back on turnovers, and is shooting lights out basketball.  More importantly, the Nets are 6-1 under P.J. and don't have to beg for another PJ (Phil Jackson) to coach the team--for the time being.

Play of the Night: Spencer Hawes got the ball in the high-post and looked to pass the ball to the wing, where teammate Dorrell Wright was rotating. Hawes was guarded by Evans, whom tried to anticipate the pass to the wing to trap Wright--except that Hawes faked the pass, started dribbling towards the net, and with no one blocking the lane to the basket, Hawes had a clear path for an easy dunk. (the play can be seen at the :43 second mark).

Buck Out: The Milwaukee Bucks and head coach Scott Skiles decided to part ways yesterday. Many fans joked that since Skiles is out, perhaps the Bucks' frontcourt would start seeing some consistent minutes and production. Here are the results:
  • Ersan Ilyasova: 12 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 5/10 shooting from the field
  • Larry Sanders: 10 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, 6 blocks, 5/9 shooting.
  • Luc Mbah a Moute: 11 points, 4 rebounds, 5/11 shooting.
  • John Henson: 12 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 4/7 shooting. 
Suddenly, the Bucks have depth at forward.

Trade Rumors: Grizzles' forward Rudy Gay might be shipped to the Phoenix Suns. The Suns, however, are gun shy to be taking such a high salary and giving up 1st round picks to Memphis--and they might be hesitant to trade away Jared Dudley. Dudley must have heard about the trade speculation because he played better than usual:
  • Dudley: 18 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals--all above his season average!
Grizzlies' management simply don't believe they can honestly contend for a championship this season and they don't want to continue paying, approximately $15 million to keep Gay around. Real shame.

Fan Night: This was a real treat for Lakers Hater Nation as L.A. went to Houston, short-handed as Jordan Hill, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard are out indefinitely with injuries. The stage was set for a blow out loss and for Kobe Bryant to chuck up 40 shots only to make less than 50% and to see him get frustrated and yelling at his teammates to, "just get the rebound and pass me the damn ball!"

And then a funny thing happened:
  • Right off the gate, the Lakers played with a lot of heart, high tempo, great ball movement, and draining 3s like their life depended on them. 
  • The Lakers shot 45.2% from 3-Point range.
  • Robert Sacre, the default starting center, played with a lot of energy and looked more like a linebacker than a center, but he was on a mission to not let the Rockets dominate the paint--from either side of the court. 
NBA fans started thinking that it took injuries to their star, big men to finally see head coach Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced, up-tempo style of offense to finally work in L.A. Lakers' fans were drinking Laker Kool-Aid and started seeing a near-future of scrappy, perimeter players gassing out other teams with their video game, style offense. And then Howard and Gasol would come back and solidify their playoff chances.

But then reality settled in as the Rockets, who play a similar offense showed that they were more talented, younger, faster, quicker, and stronger than the depleted Lakers. Yes, the Lakers scored 112 points...but they gave up 125 to the Rockets. 

Proving once again that even the best fantasies don't come to fruition in Hollywood.

Low Minutes, High Impact: We've discussed Dirk Nowitzki's and the Dallas Mavericks' playing with renewed energy (even though they're still losing with him) since he has come back into the lineup. The Mavs are playing tougher as a team, but with all the losing, Nowitzki has gone public in his desire to play for a winning team and would prefer to get traded than undergo a rebuilding process in Dallas.

Another player who is coming back from knee surgery is Ricky Rubio. We are seeing the same thing in Minnesota--even though they're still losing, the team plays differently and with more fervor whenever Rubio is on the court (we've even seen a slight improvement in Derrick Williams' play in the last few games with Rubio back on the court as well). The impact that Rubio has made is apparent and a quick look at his stats from last night's game can be used as a personification of his significance to the club:
  • 4 points (all from the free-throw line), 8 assists, 4 steals in EIGHTEEN MINUTES!
He was dishing on offense and hawking on defense!  (The Vikings should have used Rubio as their quarterback on Saturday night!), With Kevin Love out with a fractured hand, Rubio coming back slowly, but surely is not only important for Rubio's individual performance and confidence, but also more paramount for a franchise and a fan-base that is just crying and begging for hope.  Rubio can provide that light at the end of the tunnel. 





Quote of the Night: Was watching an episode of NBATV's OPEN COURT and Charles Barkley gave us a gem (it's an oldie-but-goodie): 
"What do you call a power forward that only averages 6 rebounds per game? A small forward."


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