Author: Rob Mahoney

Yi Jianlian

Yi Jianlian recalled by Mavericks, solving all their problems


The Dallas Mavericks don’t just want one low-cost project big man to fill out their rotation. They want all of them.

Dallas’ signing of Ian Mahinmi last summer has paid off nicely this year, and in an effort to find a similarly successful player on an equally affordable salary, the Mavs signed former lottery pick Brandan Wright, one-time cast-off Sean Williams, and — most recently — lottery letdown Yi Jianlian. As per Rick Carlisle’s custom, all of the Mavs’ bigs have received playing time rather randomly; Brendan Haywood and Mahinmi are the rotation regulars, but Williams’ 12-point outburst in the second game of the season was met with minimal playing time and an eventual D-League assignment, Dallas signed Yi and sent him to the D-League for a rehab stint, Wright logged 12 minutes over the Mavs’ last two games seemingly out of nowhere with Lamar Odom and Dirk Nowitzki filling in as utility centers in between.

There’s a shotgun feel to all of it, as Carlisle tests out each player in order to determine their capacity to bolster his lineups. Now, apparently, it’s Yi’s turn, as the Mavericks announced via releas on Monday that they’ve recalled Yi Jianlian from their D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends.

Based on Carlisle’s seemingly random rotation of extra bigs thus far, it’d be silly to make predictions as to how Yi might be utilized. But he’ll at the very least be with the team for their game against the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday, and will likely be in uniform as a member of Carlisle’s flexible corps of athletic bigs.

Do the Heat need another point guard?

Mario Chalmers

The Miami Heat may not have the most complete roster in the league in conventional terms, but thus far they’ve indisputably boasted the league’s most effective one. Miami is sitting awfully pretty with an 8-1 record, the NBA’s fifth-ranked offense, and its second best defense.

But even those on top of the world have their problems from time to time, and on Saturday, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel took note of a potential — though strictly hypothetical — issue in South Beach:

As Mario Chalmers was dealing first with a bum shoulder and then foul trouble Saturday in New Jersey, the oddest of realities for such a loaded roster surfaced: What if Chalmers were forced to miss a game or was forced out of a game?

The reaction is to point to Norris Cole and say just go from there. But as a starter, with his one-speed, high-octane-only approach? There is a reason either Chalmers or none of the Heat two point guards have been closing close games.

Compared to the ails of the league-worst Washington Wizards, the injury woes of the Memphis Grizzlies, or the lingering troubles of the Dallas Mavericks, such a concern seems rather minor. But what Miami’s flaws lack in magnitude, they certainly make up for in consequence; as the most talented team in the league and the favorite to win the NBA title, even the most minor rotational issue in Miami could have startling ripple effects on the outcome of the season on a league-wide scale.

Yet even with that in mind, the potential for a serious injury to either Chalmers or Cole should only register as a blip on Miami’s radar. Such season-altering breaks or tweaks often come without warning, but Erik Spoelstra likely sleeps well at night — err, would sleep well at night if he weren’t still spending the deepest hours of the night in the film room — knowing that his point guard rotation is as secure as any in the NBA.

On paper, the Heat do, in fact, have just two nominal point guards. Spoelstra has even made it a point of emphasis this season to have one of them on the floor at all times; according to, the Heat have played just seven of their 699 minutes thus far without either Chalmers or Cole in the lineup, a testament to Spo’s steadfast commitment to both spacing the floor and putting as many shot creators on the court as possible. Both of those things are incredibly important for Miami’s half-court offense, but not so much that those two ideals justify filling minutes with subpar talent.

The Heat are in the envious position of having more capable contributors than rotation spots with considerable playing time. Although a hypothetical injury to either Chalmers or Cole would remove one such player from that logjam, Miami would still have the non-injured point, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Mike Miller, Shane Battier, James Jones, and even rookie rebounding stud Terrel Harris to plug in between the 1 and the wings. It’s tempting and understandable to think that the Heat could benefit from adding a free agent point guard in order to bolster that rotation, doing so would overestimate the importance of conventional lineup configurations and undervalue the sheer talent Miami has on its roster.

I’ll spare you all the apositional preaching; we know that James and Wade are more capable of initiating Miami’s offense than the Marcus Bankses and Antonio Danielses of the world, and more importantly, they would theoretically allow Spoelstra to put more competent NBA players on the floor. Fit is required, as is a meshing of skill sets. But the objective is still to field a winning team regardless of structure, and the talents of James, Wade, and Miller — even in a physically demanding shortened season, even as Spoelstra is trying to play his best players off the ball more, and even in knowing just how much Miller struggled last season — give Miami a far better basis for quality lineups than a stopgap point guard ever could.

Courtesy of a technical difficulty: A brief, precious symphony of basketball

Chicago Bulls v Atlanta Hawks - Game Six

Every Tuesday, Turner Sports allows NBA fans worldwide to decide which game will be broadcast — in glorious high definition — nation-wide on their basketball-only network, NBA TV. “Fan Night” is the channel’s most overt catering to the game’s faithful, and a nice treat for basketball fans that, for whatever reason, opt not to invest in the full NBA League Pass package.

Only this past Tuesday, a technical difficulty gave NBA fans a nice — if brief — gift of a different kind. When Ernie Johnson, back in the NBA TV studio, attempted to throw the call of the Fan Night game to Neil Funk and Stacey King in Chicago, we were left only with the beautiful, organic sounds of the game itself:

The NBA’s play-by-play men and color commentators do a good job of keeping casual viewers informed as to what’s going on in the game and analyzing performances in progress, but for NBA TV’s Fan Night — which makes its target audience clear up front — I wonder if this isn’t something we should see (well, hear) for a full game every week. NBA fans generally don’t need to be told that Josh Smith is the player who just clanged a long jumper, or that Derrick Rose is that blurred speedster running down the lane. They know the names and faces of the game, but because of the format of the standard NBA broadcast, basketball’s organic rhythms are reserved solely for those lucky enough to sit in the lower bowl of the arena and limited to whatever sounds permeate the blaring arena music and P.A. prompts for “DE-FENSE.”

All of these presentational elements have their place and purpose, and I’m not suggesting that they be taken away from the regular game experience. Simply that on this one night a week, in which NBA TV surrenders its programming power to fans, that those same fans are allowed to experience the game on a more intimate, natural level.

Let’s hear the sneaker squeaks. Let’s hear that chatty Bulls defense communicating after every action. Let’s hear Carlos Boozer’s expletive after giving up an easy bucket to Josh Smith. Hell, let’s even hear the metronomic sound of a bouncing ball. This is what basketball sounds like, and it would do fans of the game — on their night, no less — good to hear that hardwood symphony a bit more regularly.