Monday’s probably it for the 2011-2012 NBA season

47 Comments

This isn’t scare-journalism. I’m not being sensationalist, over-dramatic, or jumping to conclusions. I have ducked and dodged this scenario for as long as possible, believing there was always another chance, always another bargaining session, always another scenario that could happen to avoid it. But I can’t get around it any longer. They’ve broken me, and I’ve come to the conclusion based on everything in the past two days that it is inescapable.

The 2011-2012 NBA season is really, actually going to be cancelled. You may be saying “I knew this for months!” or something similarly cynical, but no one knew. They were talking. Not as early as they should have, but they were talking. No one knew how it would end. But here we are. We’re not going to have a season.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute, for all of us, before I continue.

The players’ union is set to pursue decertification after rejecting the league’s latest offer. I’m not going to rehash the issues or break down the MLE. I’m not going to point out how the players are just seeing what’s directly in front of them instead of the whole board and how, regardless of their consideration of threat, the offer must get worse from here on out to recoup the owners’ losses. I’m not going to rail on the owners for their continued program of bullying, intransigence, obtuseness and outright disdain for the lives, jobs, and joy of millions of people.

Let’s instead start here:

What I know for sure: David Stern didnt arbitrarily arrive at 72-game offer. To have a season, Im told, Stern insists on at least 70 games. League VERY unhappy w/50-game sked in ’99. Sources say Stern has conveyed to union deal must come soon so 2011-12 game count can start w/a 70-game season.

via Twitter / @ESPNSteinLine: What I know for sure: Davi ….

You may be one that responds with “Of course the league is leaking such thing to the media! He wants to put pressure on them to take the deal!” And that’s fine. That’s what this has come to. It’s down to whether you believe the league is bluffing or not. The players either think Stern’s bluffing, or don’t care. But to step back and look at it, it’s hard to believe the league has come this far down the path of playing “chicken” with any intention of swerving. This whole thing has been lead by forces which are irrational. They’re squabbling over a sign-and-trade for tax teams which has been used three times in ten years, for crying out loud. They’re arguing over table scraps, after they’ve taken half of the players’ food to begin with.

And for the players, there’s no one to say “step back and see the whole board.” The union’s entire plan has been predicated on living day-to-day, moment-to-moment, game-to-game. They’re taking it one game at a time, and it’s killing them.

“How about this deal?”

“No, we don’t like that. Rejected.”

“How about his deal?”

“No, we don’t like that. Rejected.”

“OK, this is our last offer before things get monumentally worse for everyone because we can’t control the forces on our side.”

“No, we don’t like that. Rejected.”

There’s no sense of what comes after they reject this, because the players are reacting emotionally to what’s right in front of their faces. The people who usually are looking out for them long-term? Those are the agents, who are looking at this long term, they’re just looking at it long-term for all players and all agents, ever, not for this group. Based on an infinite time-table, nuking the entire thing and risking everything on a decertification and lawsuit ploy that according to experts has a snowball’s chance in hell of working, and even less of a chance of being sustainable through the appeals process for the players who won’t have the funds to fight this thing to the need, that ploy is still preferable to the agents that swallowing this deal. Fighting is better than not-fighting and coming back in seven years. For the players, they don’t see that. They just see a group of owners who don’t care about their injuries, their wives and kids, their livelihoods, their game, and have bullied, pushed, prodded, and insulted them for two years. They’re reacting emotionally.

“You want a fight? Fine. Let’s fight.”

No one’s thinking rationally, no one’s thinking clear-headed, no one’s thinking big picture. It’s the Cold War, only without the economic and geographic realities to keep the two sides separated. The owners think the players will buckle, the players think the owners are bluffing. Each side’s going to die in this, everyone’s going to lose.

Except hockey. Hockey should make out pretty well.

In July I thought it would be settled by early November. In October I thought maybe Christmas. Now I can’t see it. The optimists are out of hope. Hope is stupid. The only thing being driven here is power and money and ego, and there’s nothing to derail the train. The only way to prove to the other side that they’re not afraid to kill the season is for both sides to kill the season.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe cooler heads will prevail at the players’ meeting Monday. Maybe the threat of decert will magically scare an organization almost entirely lead by lawyers into continuing negotiations on their offer. Maybe … maybe… maybe…

I’m out of maybes. The league’s out of maybes. The players are out of maybes. All that’s left is the press of a button, a mushroom cloud, and a nuclear winter for professional basketball. I’m not even angry anymore. I’m out of energy to be livid at the owners, frustrated with the players, disappointed in leadership. I’m just sorry for every parking lot attendant, concession worker, six-year old fan who would have seen his or her first game, every lifelong fan with season tickets, every writer looking forward to doing what they do best, every player whose career gets irreparably damaged, every community who gets a chunk of their economy removed, every blog writer and every fan, everywhere.

It all ends Monday.

 

Dwight Howard’s offensive rebounding defies convention

Al Bello/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Hawks president/coach Mike Budenholzer has the authority to set the Hawks’ priorities.

“Organizationally, fundamentally,” Budenholzer said, “transition D is more important than anything.”

Dwight Howard challenges that daily.

Howard has already built a Hall of Fame résumé:

  • Eight-time All-NBA center, including five-time first teamer
  • Three-time Defensive Player of the Year
  • Five-time rebounding champ

But the big man is doing something he’s never done before: Grab 15.2% of available offensive rebounds.

And he’s doing it at age 31 in a league that has increasingly deemphasized offensive rebounding. The NBA will set a record this season for lowest offensive-rebounding percentage for the fourth straight year.

Teams have just figured getting back on defense trumps crashing the offensive glass, the strategy emanating most prominently from the Spurs. Budenholzer, a former San Antonio assistant coach, brought the plan straight to Atlanta. The Hawks ranked 28th, last and last in offensive-rebounding in his first three seasons — in part for philosophical reasons, in part because they’ve lacked the personnel to do better. They’ve also been a below-average defensive-rebounding team each season under Budenholzer.

Then Howard signed and forced Budenholzer to adjust.

Atlanta has become an above-average offensive-rebounding team and far better with Howard on the court – a helpful crutch with ace 3-point shooters Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague traded. The Hawks are ceding more transition opportunities, though they remain very good at defending those.

It’s an obvious tradeoff, says Stan Van Gundy. The Pistons coach who coached Howard with the Magic sees the center in the rare class of players who deserve full autonomy to chase offensive rebounds.

“You don’t limit those guys,” Van Gundy said.

Howard has made the most of his freedom to chase rebounds. His 15.2 offensive-rebounding percentage ranks second to only Kenneth Faried among qualified players.

And, again, Howard is 31. Offensive rebounding tends to be a young man’s game.

Here’s top 10 in offensive rebounding this season, plotted by age:

image

Player Team Age Offensive-rebounding percentage
Kenneth Faried DEN 27 16.1
Dwight Howard ATL 31 15.4
Andre Drummond DET 23 15.2
JaVale McGee GSW 29 15
Tarik Black LAL 25 14.8
Tristan Thompson CLE 25 14
Rudy Gobert UTA 24 13.9
Enes Kanter OKC 24 13.9
Kyle O'Quinn NYK 26 13.9
Willy Hernangomez NYK 22 13.8

Howard’s previous career-high offensive-rebounding percentage was 13.8.

The only other players to set career-high offensive-rebounding rates north of 15% after their age-30 season: Dennis Rodman (20.8% at age 33 with the 1994-95 Spurs) and Alan Henderson (15.6% at age 32 with the 2004-05 Mavericks). Both Rodman (Cooke County Junior College and Southeastern Oklahoma State) and Henderson (Indiana) played four years of college basketball, giving them less wear and tear on their bodies and fewer opportunities to post career highs at a young age.

Howard jumped to the NBA straight from high school.

Yet, he’s having a resurgent year in his 13th season. How is he doing it?

“One, I’m not super old,” Howard said earlier this season. “Two, my body feels great. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff to take care of my body.”

Known for eating legendary amounts of candy earlier in his career, perhaps Howard has made a breakthrough. His defensive-rebounding percentage (31.8) is the second-best of his career and ranks fourth in the NBA. That has helped him anchor the league’s fourth-best defense.

Howard has been subject to widespread criticism, and last season with the Rockets was a low point. This year, Howard has recommitted to the basics: Rebounding, defending, scoring inside.

“He’s got a big personality, but I think we all knew that,” Budenholzer said. “But it’s all in the right place. He wants good things, and I’ve really enjoyed coaching him.”

So much so that Budenholzer has compromised a core basketball tenet for Howard.

And it has proved a worthwhile decision.

JaVale McGee misses open dunk (video)

Leave a comment

Shaquille O’Neal said he’d stop talking about JaVale McGee, who has featured prominently on Shaqtin A Fool.

This missed dunk, a low point in the Warriors’ otherwise-impressive win over the Spurs, will test Shaq’s sincerity.

Grizzlies’ James Ennis fouls out then hits half-court shot (video)

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Leave a comment

Against the Pacers last night, James Ennis missed all three of his 3-point attempts… that counted. And he makes this one after fouling out?

Mike Conley more than picked up the slack to lead the Grizzlies to victory.

Pelicans’ Dante Cunningham jumps on scorer’s table, Anthony Davis jumps on him (video)

1 Comment

The Pelicans are effectively out of the playoff race, but Dante Cunningham and Anthony Davis are still competing — even if it looks a little silly.

That tone and a big game from DeMarcus Cousins (29 points, 16 rebounds, six assists) led to a 121-118 win over the Mavericks.