Author: Matt Moore

LeBron James Carmelo Anthony

Shaq has a plan for the Knicks to have a better chance against Miami which will help them not at all


ESPN NY got Shaquille O’Neal to talk about the Knicks for the upcoming season, not exactly a difficult thing to do, on any topic at any time. And apparently they decided to ask him what they have to do to get past the Heat, or, what they need to do to beat the Heat if they play them in the playoffs, or regular season, or something, because here’s his answer:

“I think when Carmelo plays against LeBron (James) and (Dwyane Wade), he should take it personally, like he’s always talked about last (among the three). When Amare plays against (Chris) Bosh, he should take it personally,” O’Neal said. “That’s what I always used to do. I played against guys, I used to take it personally that you’re not talking about me.

“They need to do that. In order to beat Miami, they’ve got to.”

via Shaquille O’Neal says New York Knicks, not Brooklyn Nets, are team to beat in New York – ESPN New York.

That’s great quote material, which is what Shaq does, besides laugh really big and give himself nicknames.

But here’s the thing. The Knicks will play 82 games this season (thank God). Four of them will come against the Miami Heat. The other 78 are against other teams. And there’s a substantial set of reasons to believe they won’t face them again in the playoffs. If it’s Boston, Brooklyn, Indiana, Chicago, having this be a focus is silly. Yes, they like to think of themselves as rivals to the Heat, because, well, let’s face it, New York aims high. But the weird thing is they actually mtach up conceptually with the Heat extremely well.

A slow-it-down, grind-it-out defensive team with a high-scoring forward who likes to work out of the mid-post and Tyson Chandler protecting the rim, along with quality veteran shooters on the outside. Yeah, that’s pretty much Dallas 2011, except that Dirk Nowitzki is considerably better than Carmelo Anthony.

They match up well with them. And yet they got steamrolled in the playoffs because of the talent disparity. There’s not much that New York can do to make up for that other than “be a lot better” and I’m not sure taking it personally is going to work. Also, considering how close Melo and that whole crew in South Beach is, I wouldn’t come along expecting any bad blood.

It’s not O’Neal’s fault, he was asked a question, answered honestly. Just not sure what it is New York’s really supposed to do with that information.

(Side note: Shaq does himself a disservice by saying that he and Kobe, in the years they didn’t win a championship, only played “OK” and then saying Melo and Amar’e played “OK” last year. Bad Shaq and Kobe was still very good, like pizza. So far Melo and Amar’e sharing the floor has been a dumpster fire in a sewage refinery. )

Do the Jazz need to ‘fix’ Al Jefferson and if so, how do they do it?

Utah Jazz v Dallas Mavericks

In a very thorough and open-minded post on the Jazz Blog SLCDunk, they’ve reached a conclusion that Al Jefferson is not nearly the player that Jazz fans want him to be or the organization needs him to be. This is going to run counter to what a lot of people outside of SLC tend to think about Jefferson, because, well, he’s a really good basketball player and we’re not pinning 35% of our hopes and dreams on him. (The other percentage is made of Paul Millsap 25%, Gordon Hayward, inexplicably, 20%, and Derrick Favors 20%.) The basic concept is that Jefferson’s defense is allegedly so bad, that he would need to be an elite scorer to justify his minutes and usage. So if that’s the case, how do you get him to elite scoring position without just having him throw the ball at the rim a bunch while Paul Millsap studies free agency?



If we’re serious about playing Big Al big minutes in a contract year, and we’re serious about having him deserve those minutes, he’s going to have to be an Elite scorer.

And he CAN be an elite scorer if he: goes to the line more, and takes more shots where he makes them from.

It’s almost too simple.

To fix Big Al he needs to do more of what he’s good at. I could care less that he improved his fg% from 16 feet by 7%. He shot 68 fg% at the rim last year. He only shot there 4.1 times a game. That’s the problem on offense.

via NBA Elite Scoring, and being constructive about Utah Jazz Center Al Jefferson – SLC Dunk.

So the idea that’s presented is that Jefferson needs to get the ball on the cut, off the pick and roll, in simple dump-offs for quick scores, essentially making him a “quick-strike scorer” rather than someone you just feed in the post and let him do his thing, because what winds up happening is that he shoots from further out where he’s less efficient. That’s bad. It’s a weird kind of idea. Can you have someone who is your primary option on offense but who isn’t given the ball to create the shot he’s comfortable with and instead merely charged with finishing simple plays?

And that’s kind of the underlying tone of the piece, that this entire exercise doesn’t make sense, which is why Jefferson has to go as the Jazz have more and more decisions to make about their frontcourt in the future.

Now a few issues with this. One, I’m not willing to set sail on the Al Jefferson defense train of Hope yet. Big men tend to reach their fullest defensive potential much later than any other types of players. I’m not saying Jefferson’s going to morph into Serge Ibaka, but he can get to a point where he’s passable. In fact, the post mentions Dirk Nowitzki who is just fine in the way that Rick Carlisle has designed his defense. Second, it’s not like we haven’t seen Jefferson with the ability to score efficiently in the post. In truth, if you told me there’s a minute left in the game and one guy has to get the ball for the Jazz in a close game, I’m going with feeding Jefferson in the post. Guy’s money in the clutch, and I mean that in the scientific sense of the term.

But the blog is right in that Jefferson needs to become an elite scorer, and that means efficiency. But instead of trying to find him different spots or create a new model for an elite scorer, essentially extrapolating Tyson Chandler to 25 shots per game, instead the offense needs to improve so that doubles can’t come, and Jefferson can take advantage of mismatches. From there, it’s mostly a matter of Jefferson just… doing it. Sadly, no one can really control that, perhaps not even Jefferson, and that’s what makes it such a boggle for the Jazz.

I’m going to keep telling you, the Jazz are one of the most fascinating stories this season. They could detonate and hold a firesale, make the playoffs and go on a surprising run, anything. It’s a complex and nuanced situation that deserves your attention.

Two weeks to training camp… Dirk Nowitzki can kill your dreams a million ways

Dirk Nowitzki

The wait is almost over. We’re two weeks and three days from training camp, and the start of the 2012-2013 NBA season. Basketball is almost back. As we get closer we’ll be bringing you reminders of why this game is awesome, what you’ve missed, and what to look forward to.

The angles Dirk Nowitzki uses out of the step-back should not be humanly possible. He’s throwing it straight at the rim at times, from seven feet to start with. It just should not work, but not only does he do it, he does it at an insane level of efficiency. Nowitzki had a down year, but so much of that can be pinned on the schedule last season and not getting his training in. There’s every reason to think that no matter how the new-look Mavericks do, we’re going to see more of the killer jumper and one of the best scorers, yeah, I’ll say it, in NBA history.

We know experience matters in the NBA, but the question ‘Why?’ lingers

Mavericks forward Marion, guard Kidd, guard Terry and forward Nowitzki stand with the Larry O'Brien Championship trophy before their NBA basketball game in Dallas, Texas

There’s a certain contrast when it comes to how people view age in the NBA. Coaches and players like, trust in, and believe in experienced veterans, while fans like young players. Younger players represent upside and potential, the unknown, athleticism and possibility to fans. But to coaches and veterans, they represent mistakes, sloppiness, a lack of awareness and a lack of focus. Casual disarray. For coaches and veterans, players who know what they’re doing bring that savvy and knowledge, a sureness of where they’re going and what they’re doing. But to fans, they can be stagnation, and a slow drive towards basketball purgatory. So it’s all in how you look at it.

But the success of experienced teams is a legitimate thing. The 2007 Spurs, the 2008 Celtics, the 2009-2010 Lakers, the 2011 Mavericks, the 2012 Heat, all featured teams with older players who relied on that experience. They were proud of those identities. Young teams tend to be exposed in the playoffs, to the point where you’re not even sure why they lose to certain teams. They just do. It’s in small moments and little plays and poise, always poise. That’s what it seems like, at least.

The bloggers at Detroite Bad Boys did some work on age and experience and their last work of  analysis was worth sharing:

Graph 3. Wins vs Age Matrix

What does this graph show? The horizontal line is set to 33, or .500 ball over 66 games. The vertical line is set to 27, the average age of an NBA roster.

Anything interesting? If you look to the right of the vertical line you see 11 dots representing 11 teams in the NBA with rosters above the average age. Of those 11 teams only 3 teams won 33 or fewer games last season. 8 of those 11 teams made the playoffs.

The three dots furthest to the right? Those are the Mavs (oldest), Lakers (2nd), and Celtics (3rd). The Mavs average age last season was 31.3 years old making them by far the oldest team in the NBA.

via Age vs. Experience (redux) – Detroit Bad Boys.

The analysis reveals that the correlation is very weak, but the evidence is there that experience does matter. It seems obvious but the discovery of supporting evidence in a modern or recent context isn’t really the point. It’s really the question that matters.


Is it really knowing where to play? Is it toughness? Is it a mental focus or resilience? Is it how they make their cuts or defend or their size? Is it the small victories at the edges, or some sort of big moment advantage with Paul Pierce hitting monster shots?

We don’t really know. You’ve probably got your own ideas on why, and so does everyone, but there’s no real evidence to the specific answer. It continues to be a mystery but a fact. And for those teams hoping to leap to the front with a younger roster, it doesn’t bode well.


Two weeks to training camp… Chris Paul’s teardrop is like a wizard from an 80’s metal animation

Chris Paul

The wait is almost over. We’re two weeks and three days from training camp, and the start of the 2012-2013 NBA season. Basketball is almost back. As we get closer we’ll be bringing you reminders of why this game is awesome, what you’ve missed, and what to look forward to.

Chris Paul is known for the acuity of his passing. He’s the best pure passer in the game, and it’s that skill that makes him the widely-considered best point guard on the planet. But what sometimes gets lost is that he’s an absolutely incredible scorer. He’s been flirting with 50-40-90 the past few seasons but injury has always managed to kick out the tires just enough to drag him back to just unbelievably good. And his floater is by far his most dangerous weapon. You cover the roll man, you play up to contain and bring help defense, meaning there’s just a narrow gap for him to shoot. And then he buries you.