The Extra Pass: The best possible nickname jerseys; plus Tuesday’s recaps

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If you missed it last week, the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets played with nicknames on the back of their jerseys instead of their last names. Once I was able to shush the crotchety old man that sometimes takes over my brain, I really enjoyed it. Ray Allen’s “J. Shuttlesworth” jersey, a nod to his role in He Got Game, was fantastic. Joe Johnson being “JJ” was very Joe Johnson and made me laugh.

Not everyone could come up with a great nickname, naturally, because some guys just don’t have nicknames. Or if they do, we don’t know about them.

But as per usual, basketball-reference.com comes to the rescue.

The following 25 nicknames are taken directly from the player pages on that site. They are not made up, as I am not nearly creative enough to do such a thing.

I’ve made a quiz that matches the nicknames to their players. It is impossible. If you like knowing the answers to quizzes you take, do not take this quiz.

Hopefully that scared you off, and now you can enjoy 25 of the best nicknames listed on the player pages at basketball-reference.com. I’ll post the names of the players in the comments section a little later today. Enjoy!

25 Nicknames

Death & Taxes

Big Classic

Armadillo Cowboy

Big Penguin

The Pterodactyl

Frodo

The Hobbit

Chief Lightning First Step

The Natural

Beans

Swamp Thang

The Hitman

The Drunken Dribbler

Grocery List

Dolla Billz

Bean Burrito

Switchblade

Buffet of Goodness

The Dread Pirate

The Definition

Yaowa

Meal Ticket

Two Time

La Tanquera

And last but not least…

Carl.

More nickname jerseys, please!

– D.J. Foster

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Best line of the day, from Barack Obama during the Heat’s trip to the White House.

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Bobcats 108, Knicks 98: The big story out of this will be J.R. Smith getting benched again — is his time with the Knicks over? He is eligible to be traded Wednesday but who wants him? — and the odd timing of that because Knicks, unable to find enough offensive spark with out him, saw their five-game win streak come to an end. Al Jefferson was a beast for Charlotte, with 35 points on 14-of-20 shooting, making Tyson Chandler look slow and getting other Knicks to bite on pump fakes like they’d never seen them before. The Knicks defense was terrible. Charlotte got Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back and he played good defense on Carmelo Anthony, who struggled when MKG was in (‘Melo had 20 points on 22 shots).

Pacers 116, Kings 92: Indiana took control of this game with a 23-5 run in the second quarter and the game never really felt in doubt after that. For a change the Pacers won this one with offense, scoring a season-high 116 points on 54.9 percent shooting. Paul George was a beast, attacking when he got the ball and scoring 24 of his 31 points in the second half. DeMarcus Cousins did his part to push back — 31 points on 12-of-21 shooting plus 13 rebounds — but he didn’t get much help.

Grizzlies 90, Thunder 87: Marc Gasol looked pretty good — 12 points, including a huge late three, plus he pulled down 7 rebounds. You might look at the 87 points and the fact the Thunder shot 40.7 percent and think that Memphis played amazing defense… not exactly. They played good defense but the Thunder just missed shots, which includes Serge Ibaka having a wide-open three o tie the game and missing. Kevin Durant had 37 points on 28 shots, remove him from the equation and the rest of the Thunder shot 32 percent. Courtney Lee had 24 points and Zach Randolph had 23.

Cavaliers 120, Lakers 118: Defense? We don’t need no stinkin’ defense. Nobody played much in this contest, but that made for fun offense. Luol Deng adds another dimension to the Cavaliers offense and he had his best game since the trade against the Lakers “defense” scoring 27 points and going 5-of-5 from three. Three point shooting was a theme for the Cavs all night as they hit 13-of-17 from deep. On the other side Kendall Marshall exposed the Lakers slow rotations all night on his way to 16 assists. This was a game of big runs but the key one was a 12-0 Cavaliers run in the fourth quarter, sparked by Dion Waiters 13 in that quarter. The Lakers answered with an 11-3 run of their own in the closing minutes, but they couldn’t make the shots they needed at the end. The Lakers have lost five in a row, 11-of-12, and now they head out for 12 days and 7 games on the road. So, no, this may well not be rock bottom.

Watch LeBron James’ top highlight from each of his postseason appearances (video)

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LeBron James and Tony Parker are the only players to play in the last dozen postseasons.

(If you’re wondering, Manu Ginobili missed the 2009 playoffs due to an ankle injury.)

It’s fair to say LeBron was a bit more spectacular than Parker in that span. As LeBron enters his seventh straight Finals, the NBA released this awesome video showing LeBron’s best playoff highlight from each year:

There’s no entry for this year. Here’s betting it comes against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

David Stern: We thought we could re-work Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade until Mitch Kupchak ‘panicked’

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NBA commissioner David Stern – acting as New Orleans’ owner representative, he says – infamously vetoed a potential Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade in 2011.

But that didn’t close the possibility of Paul going to the Lakers.

The New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans and not be confused with the current Charlotte Hornets), Lakers and Rockets tried to rework the three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. But talks fell apart around the time the Lakers dealt Odom to the Mavericks.

Stern on Nunyo & Company (hat tip: Harrison Feigen of Silver Screen & Roll):

In fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kevin Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick – not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.

Remember, Stern – roundly criticized for his handling of this episode* – has blamed the Lakers and Rockets for the lingering perception. This could just be him again trying to shift responsibility.

*Somewhat fairly, somewhat not. Owners veto general manager-approved trades often enough, and Stern was acting as New Orleans’ owner after George Shinn sold the franchise back to the league. But Stern had an agenda as commissioner. He never should have assumed such a large conflict of interest. What he did with the Paul trade was reasonable for an acting owner, but because Stern was also commissioner, it’s fair to question how much New Orleans’ interests and how much the league’s interests factored into the decision-making.

But let’s take Stern at his word – that he and the Hornets thought they could re-do the trade and send Paul to the Lakers. That doesn’t mean they were right. Maybe the Lakers and Rockets (who had Kyle Lowry, not the “Kevin Lowry” Stern named) were never going to part with enough to get Stern’s approval.

And maybe New Orleans didn’t properly convey its interest in still completing a deal. Perhaps, Kupchak acted reasonably by trading Odom to Dallas – for a first-round pick, a deal Mark Cuban would ultimately regret – rather than wait around for the Hornets, who eventually sent Paul to the Clippers.

It’s easy to blame Kupchak, but he might tell a different story.

Isaiah Thomas makes it clear he wants to stay in Boston

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It’s been a long time since there was so much discussion about whether a team needs to trade or just let go of an All-NBA and All-Star player at his peak who is clear and away a fan favorite.

Yet that’s where the Boston Celtics and Isaiah Thomas find themselves. After landing the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft — where they will almost certainly take point guard Markelle Fultz — and with the Celtics looking a full couple steps behind the Cavaliers in the playoffs, the question about whether Thomas is part of the future in Boston has come up. He is a free agent in 2018 and are the Celtics willing to pay the big money it will take to keep him?

Know this, Thomas wants to remain a Celtic and win a Celtic. You can listen to his full comments above, but Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe has the money quote:

Outside of chasing Gordon Hayward, this summer the Celtics are going to focus on getter some frontcourt help, someone to help with rebounding and rim protection. They will look to get better, but Danny Ainge isn’t going to push all his chips into the middle of the table to make a gambit on immediate massive improvement. He will remain patient, building this team so that in three years and five years they will be a force in the East.

And the Thomas discussion likely gets put on hold for a year (unless there is a change of course and contract extension talks come up, but that’s only if Boston misses on Hayward and any other big targets).

Stephen Curry says talk of lack of competitive balance “disrespectful” to Warriors, Cavaliers

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This year’s NBA playoffs have been horribly lopsided and they lacked drama because we all knew where it was headed: Golden State vs. Cleveland. They were so dominant that between them they lost one playoff game so far. This has brought up discussions of competitive balance — we have seen the same Finals three years in a row, and we will almost certainly head into next season expecting a fourth. Then maybe a fifth.

Not surprisingly, Stephen Curry isn’t a fan of the lack of competition argument, saying it disrespects the Warriors and the Cavaliers.

“That almost is kind of disrespectful, because it’s not like it’s easy for us to get here. It wasn’t that at all. Us and Cleveland worked our butts off all year to put ourselves in a position to be playing for a championship. The league is as strong talent-wise across the board as it’s ever been. Every night we get challenged. Obviously, we had that one stat I guess, point differential, all year. We had a pretty solid showing in that respect. But, every night was hard. Every night was challenging. You can’t just sleepwalk through a season and sleep walk through the playoffs and expect to be here. You got to do something. You got to come out every night and prove yourself. Granted, anybody who was betting on who was gonna be in the Finals probably picked those two. It’s easy for them to say that and just wake up in June and see it happen. We had to put that work in all year long to make it happen.”

Curry is right in that nobody should question the work the Warriors and Cavaliers put in to get to this point, and that the other teams did not just roll over for them. Also, both teams did get a little lucky with injuries.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that right now there is a dominant team in each conference, and that sucks the drama out of the postseason. (Maybe a healthy San Antonio team could have pushed the Warriors, we didn’t get to find out.) Golden State has four of the top 15-20 players in the NBA, and that makes them a juggernaut — again, regardless of the work put in. Other teams don’t have much of a chance if the Warriors are healthy and focused, not in a seven game series. The fact that it was flukey circumstances that put a dominant team in each conference — there isn’t another LeBron James returning home, and out West it took a one-time salary cap spike to add Kevin Durant to a 73-win team — doesn’t change the fact this season has felt like a foregone conclusion from the start.

Right now we’ve got what we wanted and expected, the trilogy between the Warriors and Cavaliers. But if we head into next season expecting (and maybe getting) round four of this matchup in the Finals, is that good for the league? Why watch the movie if you know how it ends before it starts?