Golden State Warriors v Miami Heat

Saturday Starting Five: First quarter LVPs

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Our first quarter is over, so it’s time for that time honored cliche, first quarter MVPs, which usually have nothing to do with four-quarter MVPs. But instead, for our Saturday Starting Five, we’ll be covering those players who haven’t lived up to what their teams have needed, or paid, them to be. Sure, there are worse players, but these are the ones who have been paid and expected to be more.

Vince Carter: On pace for career lows in points per game and per minute, as well as assists per game and per minute. His 3-point percentage is significantly down (33.8%, his lowest since an injury plagued 2004-2005 season).  Most importantly, in a season where the Magic were hoping Carter would buck up after more time in the system, for one last run. Orlando is staring down the reality of not being in the league of the East’s elite, and Carter was meant to get them there, even at his age. Worse still, even if he wasn’t doing enough, if he was at least performing to par his trade value would be higher. In essence, the Magic are getting the worst of both worlds.

John Salmons: Whoops. It’s not so much that Salmons is worse than he’s ever been, he’s just eerily similar to the marginal player that played for Chicago last year before he was traded to Milwaukee and underwent a resurgence that netted him his new contract. Of course, that guy could shoot. Salmons is shooting 37% this season, from the field. For a guy who’s supposed to at least share scoring responsibilities for the Bucks. If Salmons doesn’t get this turned around soon, the Bucks’ already dimming hopes for the season could go to black.

Tyreke Evans: Even with his plantar fasciitis, we expected more out of the former Rookie of the Year than this. The Kings certainly did. It’s not just Evans’ numbers that have plummeted, it’s that he’s not getting to the rim, attacking, and taking charge of the offense. The Kings moved him to shooting guard to give him the opportunity to be the tip of the spear, but instead they’re just charging the line with a shovel.

Baron Davis: Not surprising in the least, but here he remains. Davis was to be the bridge from Clipper past to Clipper future, the wily veteran helping the young team with leadership and the occasional clutch play. Instead, he’s simply been bad. Missing too many shots, showing up out of shape, and like he did on Saturday, wasting opportunities with terrible shot selection. The era of the Dizzle is over.

Chris Bosh: I remember that Chris Bosh was considered the third best free agent of last year, and that he was considered to be a great player. I just don’t really remember why. Amar’e Stoudemire had the explosive plays, the scoring potential, the playoff wins, the fiery nature, and the swagger. Bosh had a nice midrange. And that’s pretty much all he’s shown in Miami. No Heat player has underperformed like Bosh has and every attempt to get physical and attack with aggressiveness only comes off as yogurt trying to be stone.

Sunday is 16th anniversary of greatest dunk ever: Vince Carter over Frederic Weis

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It was the last game of the group stage of the 2000 Olympic basketball tournament at the Sydney Olympics, the USA was taking on France, another USA win on its way to another gold medal.

But what we all remember is this one play — Vince Carter dunking over the 7’2″ French center Frederic Weis.

Best. Dunk. Ever.

By anyone.

Weis was never the same.

In an impressive career — two-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star, hours and hours of crazy highlights — this is always going to be the highlight at the top of the list. So we will use the anniversary of this dunk to look at it one more time.

Hat tip to nitramy at NBA Reddit.

Hornets coach Steve Clifford suggests allowing teams to advance ball in final two minutes without timeout

Steve Clifford
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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The final minutes of a close NBA game rank among the best moments in sports – which is pretty remarkable, considering frequent stoppages interrupt and impede enjoyment of the game.

Clutch play. Timeout. Clutch play. Timeout. Clutch play. Timeout.

Coaches should probably call fewer timeouts, because drawing up a play also allows the defense to set. But timeouts give the offense the option of advancing the inbound spot into the frontcourt, a key advantage. So, teams will keep calling timeouts.

Unless…

Steve Aschburner of NBA.com:

For Charlotte’s Steve Clifford, the ability in the final two minutes of a game to advance the ball without requiring a timeout to be called could speed up the action. That has been used on a trial basis in the D League and in Summer League, and several coaches felt it worked well.

“The game is at an all-time high in popularity, but a lot of people complain about the last two minutes,” Clifford said. “I think it would add a different dimension but it would also be a good thing in addressing our biggest issue.”

Not that the coaches would be willing to lose any of their timeouts, though. They just wouldn’t save them specifically for that purpose.

I’m here for that.

I’m unsurprised control-seeking coaches want to keep all their timeouts, and reducing those seems unlikely, anyway. The NBA pays its bills through commercial breaks.

Would moving those advertising opportunities earlier in the game pay off? Audiences are probably larger in crunch time, but an action-packed closing stretch could hook fans and grow overall audiences. It’s always a difficult decision to forgo maximizing immediate revenue in pursuit of more later.

But I’m fairly certain fans would appreciate the change, which is at least a starting point in considering it.

Kyrie Irving feels validated after hitting game-winning shot to bring title to Cleveland

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Back in July during the pre-Olympics USA Camp in Las Vegas, I asked Kyrie Irving what had changed for him, what was different for him after winning an NBA title. His answer was about the doors it opened, the possibilities that suddenly felt available to him. A month after winning the title he still seemed a little overwhelmed by the experience, and he hadn’t fully processed it yet. Which is completely understandable.

Now, as training camp is set to open for the Cavaliers and their defense of that title, Irving clearly has gotten used to being a champion — and he feels validated. Look at what he told Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Yes, my life’s changed drastically,” Irving told cleveland.com Saturday, during Irving’s friendship walk and basketball challenge downtown for Best Buddies, Ohio — an organization that gives social growth and employment opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“It’s kind of, you’re waiting for that validation from everyone, I guess, to be considered one of the top players in the league at the highest stage,” Irving said. “That kind of changed. I was just trying to earn everyone’s respect as much as I could.”

It’s amazing to think of the impact one shot — Irving’s three over Stephen Curry with 53 seconds left in Game 7 — can have. If he misses, there is less pressure on the Warriors to answer with a three, maybe they come down and get a bucket inside for two (one could argue they should have done that anyway rather than hunt for the three), from there maybe the Warriors win. If so, that could change everything from Kevin Durant‘s summer plans to what the Cavaliers’ roster looks like today — there’s a good chance Cleveland’s lineup would have changed if they lost to the Warriors two Finals in a row.

One shot can have that kind of impact on a player, too.

Kyrie Irving was one of the top five point guards in the NBA for a while, a score first guy but one who had some floor general in him and got some steals. A lot of time seemed to be spent focusing on his flaws defensively and passing. But with that shot, he feels validated. If he carries that confidence into next season, the Cavaliers just got better.

Check out top 50 plays from Kevin Garnett’s Hall of Fame career (VIDEO)

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First Kobe Bryant. Then Tim Duncan.

Now Kevin Garnett. The Hall of Fame class in five years is going to be stacked.

But before we move on from Garnett’s announcement this week that he is retiring after 21 years in the NBA, let’s look back at his greatest plays (compiled by the folks at NBA.com). Enjoy this for 11 minutes rather than watching your NFL fantasy team flounder. Again.