Though Tiago Splitter was San Antonio’s big off-season addition, it’s an improved Richard Jefferson that could really give the ’10-’11 Spurs some teeth. San Antonio was a fine team last season, but with Splitter bolstering the Spurs’ depth and Jefferson revamping his approach, Duncan and company could conceivably improve enough to sniff the West’s top tier.
That master plan very much depends on Jefferson’s improvement, though. San Antonio could really use a more efficient and productive RJ this year, as opposed to the inferior ill-fitting model we saw with the Spurs last season. Jefferson put in a ton of work this summer with Gregg Popovich and his staff trying to better understand the offense and work on the fundamentals of his game, and so far, it’s paying off. Eno Sarris of HoopData expounds on which statistical areas of improvement have been the most significant thus far for Jefferson:
For example, his assist rate is at a five-year high at this point (16.34, 13.75 previous five-year high), which could come from learning the Spurs offense better. His percentage of long twos (the least efficient shot in basketball) is down to a career low (11.7%), which hopefully came straight from the coach’s mouth. Though his rebound rate is down slightly (7.0 after ranging from 6.2 to 8.3 the last four years), it’s about in line with his career numbers and it’s nothing a few more minutes a game (27 this year, 31 last year) couldn’t fix.
So far so good, but really the best news comes in one place and one place alone. Jefferson’s free-throw rate has jumped precipitously this year – it’s up to .88 from a five-year low last year (.37). He’s averaging 7.5 free throws a game so far, compared to 5.5 field goals. Last year, that was 3.5 free throws against 9.6 field goals. He’s getting to the line more often right now – that free throw rate has him at 16th in the league (9th in the league among players with 20+ MPG).
We know: sample size, sample size, sample size. But Jefferson’s style of play is what’s leading to his increase in free throw rate, not merely the frequency of beneficial calls. Numbers can tell truths even two games into the season, and while an entire statistical profile will mislead at this stage, there’s sill plenty to be learned.
There are not going to be dramatic changes to the look of the NBA when Nike takes over the apparel contract for next season, replacing Adidas. Instead of the Adidas logo, there will be a swoosh, sleeved jerseys will fade away, and some teams will modify their alternate jerseys, but the league is not getting a total uniform makeover next season. Things will look basically the same.
Except in Charlotte — they will not have a swoosh, they will have the Jordan Jumpman logo.
The why is obvious — Michael Jordan is the primary owner of the Hornets and, obviously, the guy the Jordan brand was named after. The Jordan Brand is part of Nike. The Hornets made the announcement this week buried in a press release about moving the fan shop at the arena, hat tip to Sole Collector for finding this. Here is what the release says:
The re-opening of the Hornets Fan Shop will coincide with the launch of the team’s new Jordan Brand uniforms as Nike becomes the NBA’s uniform provider beginning this season. The Hornets will be the only team in the NBA wearing Jordan Brand uniforms, and with the agreement taking effect, the Hornets Fan Shop will have even more of the popular Jordan Brand Hornets merchandise than it has had previously.
While it’s not like the Lakers or Celtics are going to be changing up their traditional uniforms, even teams like the Hornets will keep a similar look under Nike.
What should be interesting to see is what the Christmas Day and All-Star uniforms look like under a Nike touch.
The polls are closed, and the voting is already in on the NBA Most Valuable Player race, however, we’re all going to have to wait until June 26 to find out the result. So the debate rages on, with playoff performances shaping the narrative.
Why not ask a former MVP and Hall of Famer?
Allen Iverson told Bleacher Report he would pick Westbrook for MVP. Then he broke down the candidates.
I just think (Westbrook’s) headed to doing something that we never thought would happen again [in averaging a triple-double throughout a season]…
[Kawhi Leonard]’s the best two-way player in the league, plays the game the right way. Well, if you play with Pop [Gregg Popovich], then you’re going to play the game the right way anyways. But he does everything on the floor to help his team win. Right there in the MVP race. In any other season, I think him or James [Harden]—LeBron [James], you could give it to him every year.
But this year, it’s just one of those years for Westbrook, and we should cherish it and love it for what it is, because we never thought this would happen again, just like we never thought nobody will score 100 points like Wilt [Chamberlain] again.
It’s one of them years like you’re supposed to give that to him hands down with the great season those guys are having. I mean, Isaiah [Thomas] has been playing the way he’s been playing. [Kevin] Durant’s been playing the way he’s been playing. A lot of guys are having MVP seasons, but this guy’s just having a special season.
The MVP debate isn’t over because there isn’t one right answer — Westbrook, James Harden, and Kawhi Leonard all have a legitimate case. One is not vastly superior to the other, and LeBron James should be in the discussion as well (but the late fade by the Cavs hurt him). That said, a lot of former players seem to side with Iverson in the Westbrook camp.
You should read the entire interview, Iverson talks about his crossover and if Isaiah Thomas should be called for it (you have to know how AI answered that), the evolution of the game, and much more.
It’s a great read. Regardless of who you think should be MVP.
When LeBron James left Cleveland, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert released his infamous letter.
When LeBron left Miami, Heat president Pat Riley issued a classy statement.
The difference was nearly not as stark following Riley’s final meeting with LeBron in 2014 in Las Vegas.
Wright Thompson of ESPN:
Riley told his lieutenant, Andy Elisburg, to get the two championship trophies LeBron had won and pack them in their hard-shell carrying cases. Elisburg also brought charts and an easel for a presentation about the free agents the Heat would pursue. The day of the meeting, a hotel bellhop followed them with a luggage cart carrying the presentation and the two trophies. Riley brought wine from a Napa vineyard named Promise. It was the same label Maverick Carter had presented Riley with when they did the deal four years earlier. Riley respects Carter, and when he walked into the suite and saw James with agent Rich Paul and friend Randy Mims but no Maverick, part of him knew the meeting wasn’t sincere. He told Elisburg to keep the trophies and easel in the hall. James and his associates were watching a World Cup game, which they kept glancing at during the presentation. At one point, Riley asked if they’d mute the TV.
Riley flew home worried and got a text telling him to be ready for a call. About 15 minutes later, his phone rang and Paul was on the other end. The agent handed the phone to LeBron, who started by saying, “I want to thank you for four years …”
“I was silent,” Riley says. “I didn’t say anything. My mind began to just go. And it was over. I was very angry when LeBron left. It was personal for me. It just was. I had a very good friend who talked me off the ledge and kept me from going out there and saying something like Dan Gilbert. I’m glad I didn’t do it.”
The most shocking element of Gilbert’s letter wasn’t that he wrote it. People say dumb things, especially in the heat of the moment. But it was surprising nobody stopped Gilbert from publishing it. Of course, he runs the franchise. But nobody felt empowered to tell him it was a bad idea?
Riley was obviously fortunate to get that message and wise to heed it. But even he has let his disdain for LeBron leaving slip out a couple times.
The Wizards and Hawks are knotted in a 2-2 first-round series.
A subplot: John Wall vs. Dennis Schroder. They have a history – Schroder starting random trash talk and then telling a teammate to hack Wall’s recently injured wrist, according to Wall – and Wall stared down Schroder after a dunk in Game 2.
A sub-subplot: Wall’s and Schroder’s summer plans.
Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Wall, via Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic:
“I’ve never heard of that going on in the middle of a series,” Wall said Monday after shootaround for Game 4 later tonight at Phillips Arena. “I’m not talking about it right now. I’m locked into a series competing with a guy that’s playing well for his team, competing for his team. That’s probably a conversation I’ll have later on, but I’m locked into Wizards versus Hawks.”
Aside from that, Wall tends to be a loner during the summer when he’s getting ready. He was supposed to work out with Damian Lillard a few seasons ago, but even that didn’t come to fruition. Teammate Brandon Jennings sensed that about Wall.
“I really don’t work out with anybody, to be honest,” Wall said. “Brandon said the same thing, ‘You’re the type of guy that don’t like to work out with people.’ I just always worked out by myself a lot.”
Maybe Schroder thinks Wall will see himself in the Atlanta point guard – a fearless young player trying to prove himself by standing up to established players. And maybe Wall does.
But I suspect Wall just sees Schroder as a pest.
If that’s the case, it certainly won’t change until this series ends.