Mourning: "they don't have any shot-blockers anymore"

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There are some spectacular blocked shots in the NBA with guys flying in from the weakside and sending shots three rows deep. But there are precious few guys who own the paint and intimidate. Plenty of guys who can block a shot or two , few who alter more shots than they block. Few who make point guards think twice about entering the paint.

Alonzo Mourning owned the paint. Owned it. And he has noticed the current trend, something he talked about it with Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie (read the whole interview, you’ll be glad you did).

Well you know, they don’t have any shot-blockers anymore. And, to tell you the truth, most of the big men are playing on the perimeter. It’s amazing now, our perimeter-orientated game. One thing I was never afraid of was contesting shots, that’s how I made my living. I led the country my freshman year in blocked shots. As a freshman. And in high school I averaged a triple-double in blocks; 10 blocks a game in high school.

It’s a mentality. It’s a mentality you have to develop, and when you’re playing down in that painted area, the instincts just take over. That’s your painted area, and you want to guard it…

They don’t block shots, they don’t post up anymore, they’re just shooting a lot of jumpers. That makes all the difference in the world. It’s amazing – if I came into the NBA now, like I came back into the NBA in ’92, I’d probably be averaging 30 a game.

The center position (and the idea of position) in the NBA is evolving. But who was in the NBA Finals last year — Orlando and Dwight Howard, the Lakers with Andrew Bynum (and Pau Gasol). Cleveland was missing a piece, they went out and got Shaq. Notice a trend here?

In the end, basketball is a simple game — put the ball in the hoop. A center who can own the paint makes that job a lot harder for the other team. It makes a team much, much better. And while the idea of a center evolves, there will always be room for a guy who played like Mourning.

2017 NBA playoffs have been historically uncompetitive

AP Photo/Elise Amendola
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The NBA Finals so many wanted to see – Cavaliers-Warriors III – is here.

At least it will be.

Today is the first of six off days before the 2017, which begin June 1 in Oakland.

The lengthy delay is the product of an underwhelming postseason featuring few competitive series and numerous blowouts.

Golden State swept its way through the West, and Cleveland dropped only one game (to the Celtics in the conference finals) while winning the East. There have been only two Game 7s, but considering the magnitude, neither felt that compelling. Blake Griffin‘s injury undercut the Clippers against the Jazz, and Celtics over Wizards felt inevitable with home teams winning each game of the series. Between, there have been several lackluster games and series.

There have been just 74 playoff games this year – the fewest before the Finals since since the NBA instituted a best-of-seven first round in 2003:

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That’s 74 of a possible 98 games – 76%, the lowest since 1999 and seventh-lowest ever.

Even if the Finals go seven games, it will be the fewest games in a postseason since 2007. If the Finals go five or fewer games, it’ll be the shortest postseason in this playoff format.

And it hasn’t just been quantity. The quality of games has been lacking, too.

Though there were more blowouts last year by nearly any measure, the 2017 postseason’s average margin in pre-Finals games (13.5) is fifth-highest all-time and second-highest since 1959 (behind 2016, 14.2).

Combine the two factors, and these are the drabbest playoffs in nearly 50 years. Here’s each postseason plotted by average margin in pre-Finals games and percentage of possible games pre-Finals:

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This probably just confirms what you’ve seen: The 2017 playoffs have been in a rut.

We’re all counting on the Cavaliers and Warriors to salvage this postseason, but considering how deep the hole is, anything less than an epic Finals probably won’t cut it.

Kyrie Irving crosses over Avery Bradley, hits 3-pointer (video)

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Avery Bradley got around one screen then, thanks to Kyrie Irving‘s excellent ball-handling, lunged at another that wasn’t coming as Irving hit a 3-pointer.

LeBron James beautifully pass-fakes, makes layup in transition (video)

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LeBron James is a treasure.

Shaquille O’Neal’s big toe is seriously jacked up (PHOTO)

shaq o'neal
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Remember how we we all freaked out when we saw pictures of LeBron James‘ feet back in 2013?

You probably didn’t want to be reminded that it existed, but it does. Still. And apparently jacked up feet is the consequence of a lifetime of playing professional basketball. Once can only assume it has something to do with tight shoes and constant, hard changes of direction in said tight shoes.

We got yet another vision of what basketball shoes can do to feet on Thursday when TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal showed off his, er, little piggies.

Much to the horror of the Internet in general, it was Shaq’s right big toe that took social media by storm. Mostly because it’s not even close to pointing in the right direction.

I’m going to show you what it looks like. Be forewarned, it might just be NSFL.

Via Twitter:

Oh. Oh … why?

Social media reacted appropriately and proportionately:

Shaq did have issues with that toe during the course of his career, and at one point it was so bad that he had to have surgery to remove bone spurs from the toe in 2002.

That still doesn’t explain why it’s all over your TV and the Internet, but here we are. I am sorry.