Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while trying to find Stephen Colbert’s cameo in “Hobbit 2”….
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers. This is what Blake Griffin looks like when his midrange jumper falls. Griffin was 7-of-10 from the midrange and even nailed a three on his way to 31 points — check out his shot chart.
People who don’t think Blake Griffin is still evolving as a player — anyone who tells you “all he can do is dunk” — isn’t watching him. His jumper is not as consistent as you would like, he can be too hesitant to make his move when he gets the ball on the block, he’s got work to do on the defensive end, but he and his jumper are improving — and he does make plays. Besides there is nothing wrong with dunks.
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors. The Raptors traded Rudy Gay and have been 9-3 since then counting the big win Wednesday over the Pacers. Apparently missing his former teammate, DeRozan did his full on Rudy Gay impression in this one — in the first three quarters he was 6-of-18 shooting for 16 points, just an inefficient gunner with Paul George defending well and forcing him into bad midrange shots. Then in the fourth DeRozan started hitting those tough shots — he had 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting and was key in Toronto owning the final six minutes and winning. DeRozan finished with 26 points on 24 shots and he was making the tough ones from the midrange. All very Gay like, but it worked for a night.
Denver Nuggets. Just when you think they have hit rock bottom, they find a new bottom. A struggling, tanking Sixers team came to Mile High and make it eight straight losses for Denver. Once again you can’t say it was either the offense or defense for the Nuggets as both were bad — over their last five games Denver has the 29th ranked offense and 29th ranked defense (in points per possession, via NBA.com). They used to run teams out of the building at altitude, but that starts with getting turnovers or stops and that isn’t happening. Plus their offense is stagnant and seems to be a lot of dribbling around, or a Ty Lawson/J.J. Hickson pick-and-roll, and not much else. Denver is 1-8 since Brian Shaw banned pizza and junk food from the locker room, time for someone to make a call over to Lucky Pie Pizza and Taphouse and get a delivery.
There’s this overplayed angle talked about by some fans and pundits suggesting the Warriors just got lucky last season — for example, they faced a banged-up Rockets’ team in the conference finals then a Cavaliers’ squad without two of their big three through the Finals. Then there was Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers saying the Warriors were lucky not having to play the Clippers or Spurs in the postseason.
The Warriors are sick of hearing they were lucky.
Friday Klay Thompson fired back at Rivers, via CSNBayArea.com.
– “I wanted to play the Clippers last year, but they couldn’t handle their business.”
– “If we got lucky, look at our record against them last year (Warriors 3-1). I’m pretty sure we smacked them.”
– “Didn’t they lose to the Rockets? Exactly. So haha. That just makes me laugh. That’s funny. Weren’t they up 3-1 too?”
– “Yeah, tell them I said that. That’s funny. That’s funny.”
Warriors big man Andrew Bogut phrased it differently.
If you think the Warriors just won because they were lucky — you are dead wrong.
They were the best team in the NBA last season, bar none. They won 67 regular season games in a tough conference, then beat everyone in their path to win a title. Did they catch some breaks along the way, particularly with health? You bet. Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant didn’t win a title without catching some breaks along the way, either. Nobody does. Luck plays a role, but it was not the primary factor in why the Warriors are champs.
All this talk of them getting lucky is fuel for the fire they needed not to be complacent this season. Way to give the defending champs bulletin board material, Doc.
Dwyane Wade has earned his status as an elder statesman, the E.F. Hutton kind of veteran who speaks and everybody listens.
Rookie Justise Winslow is listening.
Winslow (who should have gone higher in this draft) is a perfect fit for the Heat and he’s going to be part of their rotation off the bench from the start of the season (along with Josh McRoberts and Amare Stoudemire). Wade has already fully stepped into the mentor role with Winslow working with him on post moves, reports Jason Lieser at the Palm Beach Post.
“As his career develops, hopefully he’s able to do multiple things on the floor, but right now there’s gonna be certain things (Erik Spoelstra) wants him to do, and some of those things I’m good at,” Wade said. “I’m just passing down knowledge to someone who I think could be good at things that I have strengths at. It’s gonna take a while, but if he figures it out at 21, he’s ahead of the curve. I figured it out at like 27.
“All of us are where we’re at because someone before us helped us. They helped by letting us sit there and watch film with them or having conversations with them. If he’s a student of it and he really wants to know, I’m a pretty decent teacher in certain areas.”
This is what you want out of a veteran leader and some of the young teams out there have done an excellent job adding this kind of mentor — Kevin Garnett in Minnesota may be the best example. Someone who can pass on his wisdom and show the team’s young players how to be a professional and win in the NBA.
It’s a little different for Winslow, he and the Heat are more in a win-now mode, but he should be able to contribute to that.