Miami Heat v Brooklyn Nets

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.

Nine-year veteran Eric Gordon finally chose his team, and he’s clicking with Rockets

AUBURN HILLS, MI - NOVEMBER 21: Eric Gordon #10 of the Houston Rockets tires to get a shot off against the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills on November 21, 2016 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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A New Orleans restricted free agent in 2012, Eric Gordon signed a max offer sheet with the Suns and infamously declared his heart to be in Phoenix.

New Orleans matched anyway.

“I knew it wasn’t going to happen,” Gordon said. “I knew they were going to bring me back all along.”

So why make those statements? Why alienate New Orleans fans?

“You just never know what a team might do or not,” Gordon said.

Gordon been around long enough now to know you never know, even when you’re certain you do. But this much he clearly believes: In his ninth NBA season and on the first team he picked, he’s happy with the Rockets.

Gordon was drafted onto the Donald Sterling, pre-Blake Griffin Clippers, who had made the playoffs just four times in the previous 32 years and had developed a reputation for cheapness and disarray. They went 19-63, 29-53 and 32-50 in Gordon’s three years in Los Angeles. Yet he says, “I enjoyed my time there.”

He was traded to New Orleans as the centerpiece of the Clippers’ package for Chris Paul, and he doesn’t look back on his time with the Hornets/Pelicans quite so fondly. “Nobody was on the same page over there,” Gordon said. “It was just different. We had the talent there, and things just didn’t work out.”

Gordon admits he sometimes wonders what would’ve happened if he had gone to the Suns. But they haven’t made the playoffs and are on their fourth coach since his offer sheet. “After looking back on it now, they had a lot of chaos and turmoil there, too,” Gordon said.

So, Houston is a welcome reprieve.

Gordon’s first unrestricted free agency yielded a four-year contract worth more than $52 million. He’s averaging 17.0 points per game, his highest mark in five years. He has been healthy after after missing 173 games in five years with New Orleans. And the Rockets are 15-7, on pace for what would easily be Gordon’s most successful season.

Playing with James Harden and for Mike D’Antoni – whose fondness for Gordon dates back to their gold-medal run with Team USA in the 2010 World Championship – has treated Gordon well. Houston is focused on offense, Gordon’s specialty, and its system accentuates his strengths.

Gordon leads the NBA with seven open 3-pointers per game, which he’s converting at 41.3% clip:

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Notice the other Rockets on that list: Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza. Benefitting from playing alongside Harden – an attention-tracker and willing passer – is not unique.

But Gordon does more than just rely on Harden to get him open shots. Since moving to the bench with Patrick Beverley healthy, Gordon has proven particularly valuable when Harden sits.

Houston scores 118.7 points per 100 possessions with Harden on the floor, per NBAwowy!. That mark obviously plummets without Harden, one of the NBA’s best offensive players.

Gordon has prevented it from falling too far, though.

He scores more points per 36 minutes (15.5 to 28.5) and does so with a higher true shooting percentage (56.0 to 62.5) from with Harden to without. He also handles more playmaking, increasing his assists per 36 minutes (2.4 to 4.1), though also, disproportionally, his turnovers per 36 minutes (1.5 to 3.6).

Still, Gordon’s effect on the Rockets’ offense without Harden is tremendously positive.

  • Houston’s offensive rating without Harden – with Gordon: 107.7
  • Houston’s offensive rating without Harden – without Gordon: 86.7

Propping up the Rockets’ Harden-less offense has made Gordon an early contender for Sixth Man of the Year. Here are the win-share leaders among eligible players:

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Given voting history, ranking eligible players by points per game is probably more predictive. It’s at least even more flattering to Gordon:

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Lakers guard Lou Williams deserves to be the early favorite for the award. I’m also quite high on Spurs guard Patty Mills.

But Gordon belongs solidly in the mix.

It might not be the stardom the Clippers predicted when they drafted him No. 7 or New Orleans envisioned when it twice acquired him, but at least Gordon is happily contributing to a winner. After so much controversy – both invited (his Suns saga) and uninvited (being part of the Chris Paul trade) – he sounds happy in Houston.

“You just try to stride it out with whatever team you’re on. So, you know, it’s been a unique situation,” Gordon said. “But here, it’s been good.”

Kyle Lowry to critical DeMar DeRozan: ‘Every shot you shoot is a bad shot, analytic-wise’ (video)

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Your reminder that Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are the best together.

DeRozan was asked about Lowry’s long 3-pointers after the Raptors’ win over the Timberwolves last night.

  • DeRozan: “”Them shots be lucky. … To me, it’s a bad shot.”
  • Lowry (off camera): “Every shot you shoot is a bad shot, analytic-wise.”

That’s not quite what the analytics say, but I won’t let the facts get in the way of a superb diss.

Gregg Popovich pins Spurs’ effort problems on players: ‘I don’t remember playing tonight’ (video)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gives instructions against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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The Spurs fell behind by 18 and eventually lost to the Bulls, 95-91, last night – which begged the question:

Does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich bear any responsibility for his team’s lack of early intensity?

Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:

Popovich:

I don’t remember playing tonight. I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. If a doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.

Like it or not, motivation is part of an NBA coach’s job.

But that’s also precisely what Popovich is doing.

His credentials dwarf any other coach’s. He can play to his own ego and absolve himself of responsibility – and players will seek to please him. His years of success have earned him the ability to motivate this way, a method no other coach could use without alienating his team.

Donatas Motiejunas signing four-year, $35 million contract with Rockets

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets is helped to his feet by teammates James Harden #13 and Patrick Beverley #2 of the Houston Rockets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Once the Rockets let Donatas Motiejunas back into free agency, this was only a matter of time.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This sounds remarkably similar to the salaries and incentives set in the original offer sheet from the Nets. But remember, the Rockets didn’t match some of those bonuses that Brooklyn would have been bound to.

So, why not hold Motiejunas to what became a four-year, $31 million offer sheet once matched? Houston got something in return – a later trigger date on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ 2017-18 salary. Originally, that decision had to be made March 1 – which would’ve meant dropping Motiejunas from the team this season to prevent his salary from counting next season. Now, the Rockets can make that call in July, after this season is complete.

The following two Julys, Houston will also have a choice on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ upcoming salary or dropping him.

Essentially, Motiejunas is signing the most lucrative Hinkie Special in NBA history. If he plays well and stays healthy, the Rockets have Motiejunas at an affordable rate. If he struggles or his back injuries flare up, they can drop him with little to no penalty.

After they backed themselves into this corner, Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, didn’t do so bad. Considering the similarity between this contract and the Nets’ original offer sheet, it seems Houston helped Armstrong save face after a bungled free agency (which is easier to accept when you’re adding a talented reserve to a formidable team).

But for how little is guaranteed and how much control the Rockets hold over the next four years, wouldn’t Motiejunas have been better off accepting the $4,433,683 qualifying offer?