Marcus Camby and the mid-range jumper

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Portland Trail Blazers center Marcus Camby had a strange stat line in last night’s game against the Golden State Warriors. Camby was able to dominate the undersized Warriors on the boards, finishing the game with 17 rebounds. However, Camby bricked both of his jump shots in the game and had trouble finishing at the rim, and made only one of his seven attempts from the field. 

Since the guys who grab a lot of rebounds are usually the guys taking the highest-percentage shots, it’s rare to see someone finish with 17 rebounds while shooting so poorly from the field. Camby is different. Since the 1986-87 season, a player has grabbed more than 17 rebounds while shooting worse than 1-7 from the field 25 times. It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar to Camby’s career that Camby is the current master of the high-rebound/low shooting percentage game. Camby has gotten 17 or more rebounds while shooting 1-7 from the field or worse six times in his career. Dennis Rodman also has six of the aforementioned games. The only other players who have managed to get that odd single-game stat line multiple times are Jayson Williams and Michael Cage, who each did it twice. (Sorry if that was confusing to read. If you click the link, I promise it’s easier to see what I’m talking about.)
To be fair to Camby, his shot selection wasn’t that bad against the Warriors last night. Camby only took two jumpers; the rest of his misses were on botched layups, which Camby has been plagued by during his eight games with the Blazers. 
Even still, Camby did launch two of those slingshot jumpers from the top of the key, and it was tough to watch. Marcus Camby has the size of a true center, an insane wingspan, and is very athletic for his size. That’s why Camby has been a very good defender and rebounder throughout his career. What is, was, and always has been strange about Camby’s game is that Camby seems completely unwilling to utilize his physical gifts on the offensive end, instead choosing to settle for a shot he’s not very good at over and over again. 
In the past, Camby made about 40% of his jumpers from the top of the key. Because he made a fair amount of jumpers and theoretically stretched the floor a bit, it wasn’t entirely unacceptable for Camby to so many of his signature slingshot jumpers. 
This season, there’s simply no reason for Camby to be shooting those jumpers. He no longer making an acceptable amount of them; Camby shot 27% from 16-23 feet in Los Angeles while taking two attempts per game from that range. According to NBA Hotspots, Camby has made 19% of his jumpers from the top of the circle this season. Camby is no longer stretching the floor, either; in the game against the Warriors last night, it was obvious that the Warriors were perfectly content to let Camby shoot from outside. Finally, Camby starts alongside LaMarus Aldridge, who is an extremely confident midrange shooter for a big man. If Camby parks himself under the basket, it’ll free up Aldridge to shoot from his favorite spots on the floor. 
Camby is what he is; a very talented big man who’s shot better than 50% from the field in three out of his 14 NBA seasons. If Camby can end his decade-long love affair with the deep jumper and play like the true center he was born to be, it could help Portland’s chances of hanging onto the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. 

Pacers’ Lance Stephenson will get his chance, but coming off the bench

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Indiana is Myles Turner‘s team now. Gone from last season are Paul George, Monta Ellis, Jeff Teague, Aaron Brooks and more. More than just Turner, everyone on the Pacers’ roster is going to get a chance to shine.

That includes Lance Stephenson.

But he will do that coming off the bench, coach Nate McMillan told the Pacers’ website.

Coach Nate McMillan said he has a starting lineup in mind heading into training camp, but wouldn’t reveal it. He did acknowledge, however, that Lance Stephenson likely will start the season as the sixth man…

“I hope he can establish (that role),” McMillan said. “A sixth man is like a starter, and he can be a guy who can do a lot of things with that second group with his ability to handle the ball, score the ball. He’s an unselfish player.”

Stephenson was only with the Pacers for a few games at the end of last season, but he was their second best player in the postseason brought an energy and toughness the team lacked. He hit threes (62 percent for the Pacers), played hard, and looked more like the guy Indiana had years ago than the guy who has bounced around the league since. But that was a very small sample size, it’s something else to do this over the course of a season.

Indiana is rebuilding but they did not bottom out and tank, they brought in guys who can handle the ball such as Victor Oladipo (the George trade), Darren Collison, and Cory Joseph. Stephenson is going to have to accept and find a role behind and with those guys. But he’s going to get a chance, and he has played his best ball in a Pacers’ uniform.

Suns’ center Alex Len expected to sign qualifying offer, head to camp

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In the free-spending summer of 2016, Bismack Biyambo got a $72 million contract. Timofey Mozgov got $64 million.

Those kinds of contracts — and there were plenty more of them — had a lot of NBA big men (and players in general) heading into this summer thinking they were going to get PAID. Instead, teams learned the lessons from their drunken spending binge and the market got tight. Especially for centers.

Which leads us to the news Suns big man Alex Len is going to bet on himself and sign his qualifying offer before coming to camp, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Barring an unforeseen change of events, Phoenix Suns center Alex Len is planning to sign the team’s $4.2 million qualifying offer before training camp, clearing the way to become an unrestricted free agent in 2018, league sources told ESPN….

Phoenix wants to study’s Len’s progress in the 2017-18 season before committing to a long-term, lucrative contract extension to him. Len has started 80 games over the past two seasons, including 34 in 2016-17 when he averaged eight points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks a game.

Phoenix wants to leave its options open. Len is mobile, can protect the rim, and has some skills that would help him fit in a modern NBA style offense — he could play with Devin Booker and Josh Jackson — plus last season he improved his shooting around the rim and in the paint. However, he’s not consistent on either end of the court. He shows his potential in flashes, but the Suns need to see more.

Len will now be an unrestricted free agent next summer — he is playing for his next payday. If that can’t motivate him, nothing will.

Report: Lottery reform will really help teams in middle of lottery

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Tanking in the NBA is a problem more of perception than reality — Adam Silver and the league office doesn’t like that there are portions of team’s fan bases rooting for their team to lose. It doesn’t like that tanking is openly discussed on radio shows and online. Combine that with the resting of star players on the road, and in nationally televised games, and the league sees sports talk radio talking points as real problems for the league’s image.

Spreading out the NBA’s schedule is done, and with that the resting of players’ in those high-profile games will decrease (of course, if teams want to sit LeBron James or Stephen Curry or Kawhi Leonard in a nationally televised game, they will just say he has a sore back/ankle/shoulder that needs rest).

Lottery reform looks like it will pass as well, even though it’s putting a band-aid on a broken leg. The league’s new rules will decrease and flatten out the odds at the top of the lottery, and it will reward the teams more in the middle, according to a new report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

 The worst three teams’ odds would now have an equal chance at the No. 1 overall pick: 14 percent. Presently, the teams with the three worst records have descending chances of 25 percent, 19.9 percent and 15.6 percent. Also, the worst record can drop as far as No. 5 in the new lottery proposal, down from No. 4….

Teams in the Nos. 7-10 range will have a stronger chance to move up into the top three picks, ESPN has learned, with No. 7’s chances improving from 15 percent to 23, No. 8 from 10 percent to 19 percent, No. 9 from six percent to 15 percent and No. 10 from four percent to 10 percent.

He adds that the odds for the three teams at the top of the lottery — picks 11, 12, and 13 — increase only a couple of percentage points, which the league believes means teams will not try to tank their way out of the playoffs and into the lottery. There is extra money in terms of ticket sales and revenue — at least $5 million for a couple home games — for teams that get into the postseason, and that money can matter to teams.

That said, teams are still going to tank for picks. The league seems to be chasing the ghost of Sam Hinkie with this proposal, trying to make it less likely teams go on a multiple year deep dive, but that was never really a problem anyway — few owners would have the stomach for that, and the one that did (Joshua Harris in Philly) eventually bowed to the pressure from the league and others and canned Hinkie as GM. No GM is trying to put his job at risk with a rebuilding plan.

Tanking will continue because teams need one of the game’s franchise changing stars — of which there are maybe 10 in the league at any one given time — to compete at the highest levels, and for 24 or so markets the only way to get that player is via the draft. What’s more, land that player and thanks to the CBA, teams control that player for four years at a very affordable salary, then thanks to extensions/restricted free agency the team can keep that player for another four or five years. They have this great talent locked in for at least eight or nine years (for example, Kevin Durant spent nine years in Seattle/Oklahoma City before moving on, same with LeBron the first time he left Cleveland, and that list goes on). Now with the “designated player” designation — call it the Kevin Durant rule — teams are more likely to keep that star for another four or five years beyond that.

If you really want to end tanking, make rookie contracts two years then they become unrestricted free agents. Now the motivation to tank for a pick goes away, but of course, small and mid-market teams would rightfully complain about that because then they will have a very hard time keeping talent around.

Bottom line, if you have a truly elite player you win more basketball games, and for most teams the only way to get that player is the draft — so tanking will continue. It’s a smart strategy to rebuild.

The new lottery odds will pass, and they are not a bad thing, but it is far more about perception than reality. And you can be sure there will be unintended consequences.

Jeopardy uses “crying Jordan” meme for question

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You know a meme has jumped the shark when it appears on Jeopardy. (Also, the phrase “jump the shark” has jumped the shark.)

The “crying Jordan” meme reached that level this week when Alex Trebek asked a question about it.

This in no way means we should stop using the crying Jordan meme — even if it bothers MJ himself, and it does — because it’s still funny.