Monday NBA grades: Celebrating the beautiful game of the Spurs

17 Comments

Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while drinking at the 20 best college bars in America (allegedly)….

source:  San Antonio Spurs. Take a step back and marvel at this team. No, not the 18 wins in a row after they beat the Pacers Monday, or at least not just that. Rather, marvel at the precision with which this team plays the game — if you are a fan of basketball you need to appreciate the Spurs. Their ability to recognize something simple — that Tim Duncan has sealed Roy Hibbert and with two quick passes they can get him a layup (and they did, Tony Parker passed from the wing to Boris Diaw at the elbow, who hit Duncan) is a thing of beauty. They play to their strengths. They move the ball and move off the ball. When they set a screen they get a piece of the defender then roll or pop. They are selfless and as Gregg Popovich has instructed they give up a good shot for a great one. In a couple years they are going to break this team up and we will all be the worse for it.

source:   Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs. This shoutout isn’t for a vintage Duncan performance (9 points on 10 shots is not impressive, although his defense on Roy Hibbert). However, with a dunk in the game he passed Patrick Ewing for 19th on the NBA’s all-time point scoring list.

source:   LeBron James, Miami Heat. Miami moved into first place in the East with a win over the Raptors in the kind of game we have see too much of from the Heat this season: No Dwyane Wade. No Ray Allen. No Greg Oden. No Michael Beasley. No Shane Battier. So LeBron took over and scored 32 points, pulled down7 rebounds and had 8 assists. With that the Heat beat the Raptors 93-83 and moved percentage points ahead of the reeling Pacers.

source:   DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings. No doubt Anthony Davis is one of the up and coming stars of the NBA, a 21-year-old with a great future ahead of him. DeMarcus Cousins completely outplayed him. In a “you guys should have picked me for the All-Star Game not him” kind of way. Cousins had 35 points on 13-of-18 shooting, 14 rebounds, three assists, two blocks. He seemed to be everywhere, he was physical and he took control of the game at points. Impressive performance.

source:   Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. This is what the Knicks need out of ‘Melo at this point. You knew the Hawks were going to pick up a win against the Sixers (what, you expected a Philly winning streak?) and the Knicks couldn’t afford to lose ground. Doesn’t matter if it’s the second night of a back-to-back, the fifth game in 7 days, New York had to win. They did, thanks to two things: 1) Utah is a terrible basketball team; 2) Carmelo Anthony. Utah had nobody who could begin to contain him and so ‘Melo torched his defenders for 34 points, eight rebounds and three assists. The next highest scoring Knick was Tyson Chandler with 15. Great job by Anthony putting the team on his shoulders.

 

Shaq attacks verse in new TV series "Poetry in America"

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Shaquille O’Neal called himself “The Big Baryshnikov” and “The Big Socrates” in his days in the NBA. Now he can add “The Big Shakespeare.”

The basketball Hall-of-Famer, TNT TV analyst, commercial pitchman and onetime rapper is putting poetry on his lengthy resume as part of a new public television series.

He brings his best bard to a dramatic reading of a poem in his episode of the 12-part “Poetry in America ,” then discusses it with Elisa New, a Harvard English professor who hosts the show.

“I’ve always been into poetry,” O’Neal said in an interview with The Associated Press in a sunlit conference room overlooking the Los Angeles skyline. “I’ve been writing rhymes all my life.”

“Poetry in America,” distributed by American Public Television and presented by WGBH in Boston, is airing at various times on local public TV stations. Some episodes, including Shaq’s, are already available to stream.

On the show the 46-year-old former All-Star from the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat recites “Fast Break,” a poem by Edward Hirsch from his 1986 book “Wild Gratitude.” It describes some very imperfect players who manage to put together a perfect basketball play.

“A hook shot kisses the rim and hangs there, helplessly, but doesn’t drop,” the poem begins, “and for once our gangly starting center boxes out his man.”

O’Neal, whose 350-pound bulk would never be called “gangly,” still related to the center in the verse, but said he initially missed the poem’s point.

“The first mistake I made was thinking it was about basketball,” he said. “I read it real quick I said `fast break, shovel passes, sure, this is what I do.”‘

He said New, who sat next to O’Neal in the interview and like almost everyone is utterly dwarfed by him, gave him whole new insights that led to a fast friendship.

“When she broke it down intelligently for me, I was very astounded and very amazed,”

The poem is written for a close friend and playing partner of Hirsch’s who had just died. That’s easy to miss if you skip past the dedication at the top, as most readers do.

“It’s fun that only later as you’re reading, you look back at that dedication,” New said. “One line can change everything.”

Suddenly it becomes an examination of transcendent moments and human connections.

“It’s about friendship, it’s about caring, it’s about emotions,” O’Neal said. “I had missed that.”

His latest learning experience took O’Neal’s thoughts back to high school, where he had a 69 percent in English after blowing a test during the basketball playoffs, and needed a 70 to stay eligible for sports.

The teacher allowed him a retest, and suggested a tutor.

“This guy, his name was McDougal, he was a geek, he saved my academic life,” O’Neal said. “Everybody bullied him in school, except me.”

O’Neal said he took the work and “broke it down, made it seem so simple.”

“I retook the test, got an 80, and we won the state championship,” O’Neal said.

“Now,” he said, “I always tell kids I’m a geek.”

The professor had another name for him. “He’s a learner!”

O’Neal partly looked the poet during the interview in a polo shirt and jeans, having traded his basketball sneakers for a pair of slip-on Toms shoes, size 22.

When he wanted them, a company executive told him “it wouldn’t be worth it to make them in my size unless I bought 500 of them,” O’Neal said. “I told him to give me 2,000.”

 

Rumor: Grizzlies had to choose between Marc Gasol and David Fizdale

AP Photo/Brandon Dill
Leave a comment

David Fizdale has been linked to most of the NBA’s head-coaching vacancies.

He developed a legion of backers as lead a Heat assistant, and he did good things guiding the Grizzlies before they unexpectedly fired him. He deserves consideration.

But he also must explain his fractured relationship with Memphis star Marc Gasol. They weren’t speaking for a while.

And maybe the problem was even worse than that.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

According to a source close to Fizdale briefed on the Grizzlies’ decision, it was ownership having to make a choice — trade their All-Star center Marc Gasol, who has fallen in love with its small-market city, or fire the coach. Their relationship had gotten that bad.

If Grizzlies ownership felt it had to choose between Gasol and Fizdale, it’s not clear why.

Fizdale benched Gasol down the stretch during the coach’s last game, and Gasol publicly expressed his frustration.

But Gasol denied issuing a me-or-Fizdale ultimatum. Fizdale said focus on his relationship with Gasol was “overblown,” adding he cared far more about whether he could win with a player than whether they got along personally.

Memphis obviously sided with Gasol – probably too strongly.

LeBron James bought Cavs teammates matching designer suits to wear to game tonight

Via Twitter
13 Comments

I’m still trying to decide if this is cool or a little too Stepford.

The Cavaliers rolled into the Bakers’ Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis tonight wearing matching designer suits, all paid for by LeBron James and custom fitted to each player.

If a college team rolled into a game in four-digit designer suits, the NCAA would have questions. And not about the vests.

The Cavaliers are LeBron’s team, and if he wants to buy his teammates suits and tell them to wear them it’s going to happen. Is it a bonding thing that helps bring them together? Sure. Is it in place to make sure LeBron remembers which ones are his new teammates? Probably not.

Do the suits help on the court? No. And the Cavaliers better bring it in Game 3 because if they go down 2-1 in this series — something that is a realistic possibility — the whispers of doubt are going to get a lot louder.

Report: Knicks to discuss coaching vacancy with Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer

Getty Images
2 Comments

Mike Budenholzer is restless in Atlanta, seeing a rebuild coming and looking at other jobs (something Hawks management is fine with). He went down the road a ways with the Suns before pulling out of that process, but he’s still looking around.

The Knicks are casting a wide net in their search, talking to virtually everyone looking for coaching jobs.

So, this seemed inevitable, right? Budenholzer and the Knicks are going to talk, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This will be very preliminary. The Knicks have already had some level of conversation with Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, David Blatt, Mike Woodson, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith (Jackson and Fizdale are the rumored early leaders). Budenholzer has established a style and culture in Atlanta, giving the franchise a path forward. New York could certainly use that.

However, the Knicks job comes with real challenges, too. That starts with James Dolan as owner and the erratic, at times paranoid culture he has created there. Also, expectations in New York are always high, but the team will be without Kristaps Porzigis for at least half (maybe all) of the upcoming season as he recovers from an ACL injury, and that puts a ceiling on the team in the short term. Is all that worth leaving Atlanta for?