Weekend Observations 1.21.12: Dead legs and the dirty ground

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Each weekend we bring you 25 random observations from the NBA week that was. 

1. The Lakers use the pick and roll a lot but what winds up happening is it just resets the offense on the weak side. It doesn’t result in shots or quick passes. It’s like spending 10 hours cooking a hamburger. Just cook the thing.

2. Apparently the European baskets Rubio was shooting on were much smaller.

3. Kyrie Irving’s game is incredibly balanced in ways you rarely see for rookie point guards. The numbers really are a reflection of how well he’s playing.

4. Oh, hey, John Wall’s alive. Good to know.

5. The Kings’ win over Sacramento was a great example of what the Kings are trying to do. Both Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans were involved in scoring and producing.

6. The worst thing for Boston and L.A. right now is that teams simply aren’t afraid of them anymore.

7. The Sixers can have a terrible start and still annihilate you with their depth. You have to limit their first and second units and if you can’t do that, they’re going to be at your throat.

8. Ty Corbin has turned Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and Derrick Favors from a cluster, into a well-defined frontcourt that just hammers teams offensively.

9. Turns out the key in a compacted, lockout-shortened season isn’t just depth or talent or youth, but coaching.

10. Of course, coaching doesn’t always help. Sorry, Doc Rivers.

11. Well, the Lakers were barely winning over lottery squads and not winning versus playoff teams with Kobe chucking, and are getting blown out with him playing restrained and efficiently. So… yeah, I got nothin’ for you, L.A..

12. Mike D’Antoni needs to title his eventual book: “Why Didn’t Anyone Ask Me First?.” Between Steve Kerr trading for Shaq and the Melo trade he’s had his whole program undone in two spots by unnecessary and premature tinkering.

13. Kawhi Leonard works harder than you, and probably harder than anyone you’ve ever met.

14. I told Memphis radio a week ago that the Grizzlies need Rudy Gay to score 25 points a game in order to win with Zach Randolph out. I was wrong. Turns out he only needs 22. 21.8 during the win streak, actually. His ability to create perimeter scoring is unique to Memphis.

15. The Nuggets keep adding new skills, like “winning tough games where they don’t play well.” Tough to find teams with better resumes.

16. Don’t look at the Thunder’s defense. It’ll spoil all the wondrous positive feelings everyone has about them.

17. Toronto misses Andrea Bargnani. So. So badly.

18. The Bulls would win the Western Conference. They could win the East. They would win the West.

19. It’s weird for a team that supposedly had trouble with cohesive offense. The Thunder have a ridiculous amount of playmakers right now. And Russell Westbrook re-signing with the Thunder shows a tremendous amount of maturity. How he handles it going forward will also be important, but anyone who underrates the weapons the Thunder have offensively is a fool.

20. Player I feel the worst for this season, non-injury award: Greg Monroe. He’s been versatile, well-coached, efficient, working in the flow of the offense, and he’s stuck on a team trying to go two directions at once.

21. Some team is going to wander into a dark first-round alley against Philadelphia and there will have be officers called to the scene.

22. The Suns are very much a wounded animal. They can get overrun easily, claw up their opponent, anything right now.

23. Tony Parker’s teardrop is still a weapon that should be outlawed in most states.

24. LeBron James is nothing if not great for the headlines. He gives both sides what they want. Fails in huge moments, takes over in big games, plays terribly to start then plays amazing. Dominates a game then fades away. Really, he gives everyone what they’re looking for.

25. And in conclusion, I suppose, for better or worse, Iman Shumpert.

Michael Beasley: “I’m literally just Carmelo on the left side of the floor”

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Michael Beasley recently signed a one-year contract with the New York Knicks for the veteran minimum. Hopefully, this is just the start of an interesting year with the Knicks. I think you know what I mean.

Speaking to reporters this week, Beasley had lots to say about his potential new role with New York, his interplay with Carmelo Anthony, and his new weight loss.

Specifically, Beasley spoke of how long he had known Anthony and how much he had mimicked his game off of the star on the left side of the floor, saying, “If you watch my game, really watch my game, my jab series, all that, I’m literally just Carmelo on the left side of the floor.”

Since Kevin Durant has apparently set the offseason tone for athletes being frank with reporters, Beasley did say that he was not as great on help side defense as he could’ve been in recent years. However, he said that he wasn’t as bad as people made about to be, and it appears he is going to try to make that something to focus on this season.

Beasley has also lost about 20 pounds — it appears he has cut out sugar and red meats — but the most interesting thing he said to ESPN’s Ian Begley was about his offensive production.

Via ESPN:

“I’ve came in and out of this league. Every year my per-36 [minute average] has been top of the league. And still everybody looks at me as a bust. I just want an opportunity to play more than 15 minutes. And you know if I play more than 15 minutes I’m going to score more than 15 points. And if I can do that for 82 games, that’s an All-Star level. I don’t know. I’m just talking. I just want an opportunity to play basketball. I just want the respect I deserve. Not for what I can do in the future but what I’ve done in the past. And I just want a fair opportunity, a fair chance, a fair shot to play basketball.”

It’s not immediately clear what kind of fair shake Beasley wants here. True, he played less than 30 games in two of his last three seasons in the NBA. However, that was preceded by six seasons of at least 47 games a year. We do know who he is at this point in time, and there is a large swath of game tape and statistics that can be analyzed to prove it.

It is also interesting that Beasley brought up his per-36 numbers. It’s true that Beasley has been an okay scorer when looking at those numbers out of context. But per-36 numbers are not a direct correlary to how effective a player is on the floor. Indeed, even when he was playing starter-level minutes, Beasley’s best numerical seasons are spread all over the place when you take a look at his per-36 production.

Meanwhile, Beasley has had only one season out of nine where he had a positive value over a replacement player. That was his sophmore season with the Miami Heat at 0.2. Five of those seasons he’s taken a larger percentage of his shots from 16 feet to just inside the 3-point line than he has from 0-3 feet. He’s a career 39% shooter on those long jumpers, and 63.5% from that close-in range.

Would it be great if Michael Beasley somehow turned into a strong driving, hard rebounding, diving and passing pick and roll man? Yes. That is exactly what this Knicks team — and any team, frankly — could use.

For now, it appears it’s more likely we end up with the Beasley who says he is a carbon copy of Carmelo — long 2s and all.

Goran Dragic holds back tears after Drazen Petrovic’s mother gives Slovenian star his jersey

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It’s been a big week for Slovenian star Goran Dragic.

First, he led the Slovenian national team to the 2017 Eurobasket championship over Serbia, winning the gold medal.

Then, the Miami Heat point guard announced that he would be retiring from the Slovenian national team. Shortly thereafter, we learned that something special had taken place between Dragic and the mother of former NBA player Drazen Petrović.

Specifically, Biserka Petrović sent over her son’s New Jersey Nets kit as a gift for Dragic.

Via Sportando and SiolNET:

“It is one of the most beautiful gifts I’ve ever received in my life” Dragic told Siol. “He was my idol. We all know what he did for Yugoslavia and the basketball world. It was a great honor for me to wear the jersey no.3” Dragic added.

Petrović, who played for the Nets and the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA, died in a car accident in Germany in June of 1993. He is considered a sports hero in the successor states that make up the former Yugoslavia, including Slovenia.

You can watch Dragic receiving the jersey and his reaction in the video above. The video does not have English subtitles, but you can clearly see the emotion in his eyes and it’s pretty powerful.

Kevin Durant admits after decision to leave OKC he felt “f—— up”

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Anyone who has made a major, life-changing decision has been there — you make the call, take the steps, commit yourself to the new plan, and then start to wonder “what did I just do?”

Hopefully, usually, the decision works out. It did for Kevin Durant when he chose to leave Oklahoma City for Golden State. However, not only did he have the normal doubts the rest of us had, he had a nation on basketball Twitter ridiculously slamming him for “taking the easy way” to a title.

Durant talked about it in a feature in San Francisco Magazine, along with his agent Rich Kleiman (a story mostly dedicated to KD’s tech investments, which in and of itself is interesting).

(Durant) and Kleiman were in China for a weeklong tour of the country sponsored by Nike Basketball, and the flak he was taking from people in Oklahoma City who had once professed deep affection for him was overwhelming. “To have so many people just say, ‘F— you,’ that really does it to you,” Durant tells me, still clearly anguished. “Because I truly had invested everything I had into the people I played for…. And for those people that I know and love and trust to turn their back on me after I was fully invested in them, it was just…more than I could take. I was upset….

“That was before I met anybody from the Warriors and dove into the culture. I was basically on my own,” Durant says. “It was like you were in between two teams.”….

“We were all messed up on jet lag,” Kleiman says, turning to me, “and I was up at 6 a.m. and he calls me and says, ‘Yo, are you up?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, what’s up?’ And he’s like [yelling], ‘Why the f— did you let me do this to my life?’ And I’m like, ‘Ohh s—, I’m coming over to your room.’”

“That hotel was rock bottom,” says Durant.

Durant’s haters will read into this whatever they want, and the world should look at them and shrug (unfortunately, Durant does not).

I’m impressed that he opened up about this. To me, this makes him more human and relatable because we’ve all had doubts after making a life-changing decision. You know LeBron James has, but he’s not going to let that show. Durant allowed himself to be vulnerable, to show this was not an easy decision for him. It was emotional.

Granted, it’s easier to do that when in a few weeks Durant will put on a championship ring. His decision worked out. Still, good on him for talking about it.

Tyronn Lue says Cavs will stick with LeBron, Love, Tristan Thompson as starters

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With the acquisition of Jae Crowder, a theory started to pop up among Cavaliers observers: Could they go small?

The idea is to start Kevin Love at center, LeBron James at the four, and Crowder at the three — that’s a mobile front line with a couple good defenders and the ability to switch a lot. It provides more options on offense and spaces the floor. Then the Cavs could bring Tristan Thompson off the bench.

That’s not going to happen, at least to start the season, according to Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue, speaking to Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Right now we’re just trying to get all of our pieces together and right now Tristan’s our starter,” Lue told cleveland.com. “I’m just thinking we’re going to run a lot more stuff through Kevin, more at the elbows, like we’ve done the last year and a half. Just trying to figure out with our new pieces and our new players and just see what works best for us.”

Thompson brings value and defense to the starting lineup, Cleveland needs that.

I could see a lineup of Isaiah Thomas (once healthy), J.R. Smith or Kyle Korver at the two, Crowder, LeBron, and Love working in sort of the way Steve Kerr uses his “death lineup” — just put it on the court for 10-15 minutes a night as a change of pace teams can’t adapt to. Use it in key moments to pull away, and in crunch time as needed. Golden State starts Zaza Pachulia, and Thompson is certainly the better of those bigs.

Lue has a lot of rotation decisions to make this season, both before Thomas gets back on the court and after. How to work the trio of Jeff Green, Crowder, and Kover off the bench is just one of them. With Irving gone a lot of options become available, and that should mean a lot of experimentation the first part of the season. Lue is and should be willing to sacrifice some wins now to see what works down the line, because for the Cavaliers the season doesn’t really start until mid-April.