Tag: Erick Dampier

Chicago Bulls v Atlanta Hawks - Game Six

NBA Playoffs Bulls-Heat Game 1: Defending Derrick


Let’s get this out of the way. Derrick Rose is going to average over 20 points per game in this series, and the only reason I’m putting that that low is because the trudging slow pace of the series due to the defense will limit how many opportunities he gets. Rose is not only a nearly unstoppable force of nature that seems to rise to the biggest of occasions, he’s also a high usage player that has the ball in his hands, all the time. The question is not how he’s going to score 25 or more, it’s how many shots he’s going to need to get there.

That said, you can’t just accept Rose’s trample, so you have to do something. The Heat have made it clear, they’re going to throw multiple looks at him. It won’t just be Chalmers, or Wade, or LeBron, it’s going to be a little bit of everything. The trick is to try and exhaust him in getting all those points and shots, just making it that much harder on him to wear down his efficiency and take away whatever you can.

The ideal scenario involves Mario Chalmers playing Rose up, with help coming at the elbow from a wing defender, and then a final weak-side rotation low from one of the bigs to challenge Rose at the rim and try force him deeper. That worked in the Heat’s best game against Rose, forcing 15 misses on 24 shots. In that game, Erick Dampier spent a lot of time on the floor challenging Rose. Dampier has seen no time in the playoffs with Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Juwan Howard doing the lion’s share at center. Joel Anthony doesn’t have the raw girth or height to challenge in the same way, and Ilgauskas’ mobility is more limited than Dampier. Yes, I can hear your jokes now. It’s a matter of degrees.

The temptation is to check Rose with Wade or James, but doing so 1. exhausts your primary players on defense when you need them so badly on offense and 2. risks accumulation of fouls and 3. wastes them as help defenders. Both of those guys will see time on Rose, but honestly, Rose is too fast for either of them. Either can step in to attack the dribble or try and draw a charge, or if nothing else, force the dribble-back to reset the offense.

But there’s a bigger issue with bringing too much help. On so many of Rose’s floater misses when the defense does commit either at the wing or down low, it sets up both positioning and trajectory for the ball to land directly in a Bull’s hand on the offensive glass. It’s not just the first shot that hurts you, it’s all the second chance opportunities. That’s how a mediocre offense like the Bulls’ can survive when Derrick Rose isn’t producing.

The big key here is Rose’s jumper. If it starts falling, the Heat can’t go under the screen, which opens the edge to Rose. Rose is so fast, he turns that edge into a straight trajectory to the basket. Which means scores and fouls and points, or dump-offs. The other huge component is the Bulls’ outside shooters. The Heat’s wings will gamble off of Kyle Korver, and even moreso Keith Bogans and dare them to beat them. If they can’t hit, defending Rose becomes easier. Derrick Rose takes the Bulls’ offense on his back nightly. He has to get help to beat the Heat.

NBA Playoffs: Witnessing the ascension

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics

This was the dream. For all the criticism, the spontaneous hatred from people he never met in cities he’d never lived, for the questions and the scrutiny, this was what he had hoped for. When LeBron James decided to abandon the franchise that drafted him and pursue a team that didn’t think Wally Sczcerbiak/Ben Wallace/Mo Williams/Antawn Jamison was the answer to pushing a franchise over the top, it was in the hopes of getting past the Celtics.

The funny part is, in the end, it was James doing it himself anyway. While it may not have been possible without Dwyane Wade making one huge key play after another, it was still James finishing the game with 10 straight points. It was James taking over, James clamping down on Pierce, James unleashing a volcano of pent-up emotion which led the Heat into the conference finals and left the Celtics in their Mesozoic Era.

Heat 97 Celtics 87.

Afterwards, James was apologetic about the Decision, respectful towards the Celtics, humble about his career. There was no dancing, no preening, no over-the-top indulgence. Maybe he learned from the past three years of braggadocio and the reaction to the formation of the Heat. Maybe he didn’t. But Tuesday night represented the beginning of LeBron James’ reclamation project, the path from pariah back to “Chosen One’ status. Everyone will still hate him tomorrow that hated him Tuesday night, but they’ll respect him more.  His talents were stunning apparent at the end of Game 5, in the steal that became the dunk, and 3-pointers which should have been impossible.  There was no way to deny it Tuesday night. If LeBron James isn’t the best player in basketball, he shares that honor.

Winning is supposed to heal all wounds. It won’t make Cleveland feel any better, New York any less slighted, Boston, Chicago, or Los Angeles any less resentful. But James taking the step forward, downing the Celtics, signifies a move out of NBA adolescence, which James has been stuck in for years, since the infamous Detroit game, really. James grew up in this series against the Celtics. He closed games. He hit clutch shots. He didn’t abandon hope and sulk away when things didn’t go his way. Was it easier since he was surrounded by so much talent? Absolutely. But the story here is that evolution.

By the same token, it can come crashing down just as quickly if the same demons that have chased his game in the form of the Celtics simply inhabit Bulls colors. A failure next round and all this advancement means is that the Celtics have really fallen that far.  But for a night, the Heat vanquished the Celtics, and James has moved into a new stage in his career.

Game 5 was his finest moment, even better than the Detroit Game 5. It was a bigger stage, as counterintuitive as that sounds considering the Detroit series clinched his way to his first and only Finals appearance. This was when everyone was watching, waiting for him to fail. The Celtics were supposed to close him out, to shut him down. And instead, James took over, finishing with emotion and command. Maybe it was nothing more than a good game against a team whose timer had run out.

But it felt like more.

It was a classic performance, capping off a classic series from James. The ten straight points will be remembered most. But it was James, feeding James Jones on an outlet, trusting his teammate to make a big shot that defines the breadth of James’ game. He came, he saw, he conquered. Against the team that embodied defense, chemistry, greatness in the East over the past four seasons, James rose to the occasion, finally.

For a player who had been given so much before he’d earned it, who had been titled King before he had a kingdom, it felt like an ascension.  It wasn’t how people wanted him to do it, and he may never be forgiven. But maybe LeBron’s ready to be King of his jungle, finally.

If we can stop laughing, we’ll tell you about the Heat being interested in Eddy Curry

New York Knicks Media Day 2010

We’re going to get through this with a straight face. Or at least as far as we can. You ready?

Yahoo! Sports reports Saturday that the Miami Heat are strongly considering signing free agent center Eddy Curry to help with the playoff run.

… Hold it in.

Curry played, well, was on roster for the Knicks for five seasons, appearing in 222 games across that span (I’ll let you do the math). A combination of weight issues, injuries, weight issues, personal problems, and weight issues kept him from seeing much time and eventually his contract became the largest behemoth around the neck of the Knicks, and came to symbolize the failure of the Isiah Thomas era. But after being waived this season, Curry went to Chicago to work with Tim Grover. Estimates are that in just a few weeks, Curry has lost close to 25 pounds.

He is still reported to be close to 350 pounds.

Seriously, serious news story here. Don’t distract us.

To make room for Curry, the Heat would likely cut second round pick Dexter Pittman, who has seen almost no time this season, despite having quite the hefty frame himself and showing some potential in preseason in areas Curry might suffer in, like… dexterity. And freedom of movement. And cholesterol.

Sorry. Won’t happen again.

The Heat do need a center upgrade. Even adding Erick Dampier hasn’t solved their problems down low, and an effective Curry might be the difference in staving off some of the Eastern elite like Boston and Chicago…

I can’t do it anymore.

It’s Eddy Curry, for crying out loud. It’s great that he’s trying to get back in shape. It’s awesome that he’s lost 25 pounds. Him recovering and having any semblance of a career after what he’s gone through in his personal life over the past few years would be a remarkable story. And surely, Pat Riley used washed-up veterans like Antoine Walker and Gary Payton in 2006 to help the Heat win a title. But it’s Eddy Curry. He was never that talented to begin with, and the weight issues only further complicate that. When word leaked out that Curry was hopeful to sign with Miami, everyone laughed it off, saying how not even Miami was that desperate.

Turns out Miami is exactly that desperate.

What’s odd is why they don’t give Pittman at least a shot. A big, slightly overweight rookie who can come in and provide energy? Isn’t  taking a chance on a player like that exactly how the Celtics got Glen “Big Baby” Davis? Instead the Heat continue to be obsessed with veterans, particularly ones three to four years past their prime. If this doesn’t work out, and we mean in a big way, it’s going to be a pretty huge mark against Pat Riley. Signing the Big 3? Stroke of genius. Everything after that? Nothing but gristle.

Sorry. Couldn’t help it.

Update 4:51 p.m.: The Palm Beach Post spoke to Riley who said he worked out several players in Chicago, that it was a “big picture look” and that anything beyond that is purely speculative. Maybe, some sense in a world gone mad? Possibly?

Lakers at Heat: Five things to watch

Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers

Miami wants Christmas in March.

The Heat’s Christmas Day beat down of the Lakers was their signature win of the season. A few months later the Heat are just desperate for any win. Getting one against the Lakers would be that much more sweet.

But to the dismay of the Heat and four-year-olds everywhere, Christmas doesn’t come again in March. This is going to be very different. The weather is warmer, Santa is nowhere to be seen and these are two different teams. The Lakers have found their defensive identity, and with that look the contenders we expected. The Heat are still trying to find their identity, particularly at the end of games.

How is it going to be different? Here are five things to look for:

Miami and the midrange. Back on Christmas, Dwyane Wade abused the Laker big men on the pick-and-roll. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol would try to show out hard and cut Wade off from driving, or the Lakers would try to double and trap him. Wade just split the double and got to the hoop.

Now, the Lakers are playing their pick-and-roll defense a little differently. Los Angeles bigs are laying back off the pick, using those long arms and big bodies to clog the paint, cut off driving lanes and daring you to take the midrange jumper.

Wade and LeBron James can fall in love with the midrange. Too easily. Some games they knock that down consistently, some games they miss plenty, but keep shooting anyway. Whether the shots fall or not, know the Lakers are not going to let Wade waltz into the paint again.

Miami’s lessons from Chicago. The Lakers pick-and-roll defense now ties into their overall defensive strategy. When the ball goes to the wing they bring a big man over to the strong side early and overload. They take away penetration and defend the three point line. Again, they dare you to beat them from the midrange, the most inefficient shot in basketball.

That is pretty much what the Bulls did two weeks ago in beating the Heat. It is what the Celtics have done to Miami all season. And the Heat have struggled against those teams. The Lakers — when Andrew Bynum is healthy and they give a crap — play a similar style of defense. Bad news for the Heat — Bynum is healthy and the Lakers have been focused. Have the Heat adjusted.

Can Miami defend the paint? The Heat can play defense, too, they just haven’t done it as consistently lately. They need to again Thursday and do it like they did on Christmas Day, specifically.

In that game the Lakers made a point to get the ball inside but the Heat big men — Erik Dampier and Zydrunas Ilgauskas mostly, with a sprinkling of Chris Bosh — did a good job contesting shots at the rim. The Lakers struggled against that and missed a lot of shots close to the rim. And that fueled some easy transition points for the Heat. Miami needs to defend like that again because you can be sure the Lakers will try to establish themselves inside again.

Tempo. Miami will destroy the Lakers in transition. But pretty much every team that has played the Heat in the past two weeks has shown that if you can slow it down and make it a half-court game you can stall out the Heat offense.

Miami needs to force turnovers and missed shots, then use those to get out and run. The Lakers need take care of the ball and use their offensive rebounding — their insane length — to hit the offensive boards and thereby slow the Heat running.

Kobe Bryant, facilitator. The Lakers need to make shots and establish themselves inside. That happens when the Lakers get facilitator Kobe. Turnovers and missed shots, with the team out of position in the offense, is what you get when Kobe breaks out of the offense and goes rogue. Which Kobe shows up early will have a big say in this game.

Bosh even less clutch than LeBron as Magic finish huge comeback over Heat

Orlando Magic v Miami Heat

I don’t know about you, but I’m not getting fooled again. I’m done, I’m through. I will no longer be surprised when the Miami Heat completely collapse against a good team, no matter how large the lead. It’s over. It cannot possibly be worse than allowing the Orlando Magic to stage a 24-point comeback including an 18-0 run at one point, at home, in a 99-96 loss . There’s no way that any loss can top this one. Not even getting swept by the Celtics can top this, given that the Heat showed themselves as the superior team for two and a half quarters, then surrendered what can only be considered a blitzkrieg from the perimeter as the Magic dropped three after three.

The Magic’s perimeter attack will get the credit for this win, but to overlook the Magic defense is to fail to give credit where it’s due. When they finally stopped playing Like A Bosh, they buckled down, and executed on a level we haven’t seen since the 2009 playoffs. Even against the lowly Bobcats and Hawks last season, this was a stronger performance. The Heat ran pick and roll after pick and roll with LeBron James or Dwyane Wade and each time, the Magic defender stepped up to cut off the penetration at the elbow, then recovered. The result was bricked three after bricked three as the Heat faded back into their prototypical fail-fest offense. Perimeter pass, perimeter pass, perimeter pass, looping pick and roll, jump pass to Mario Chalmers. Brick.

Yet nothing really captures how badly Chris Bosh played at the end of this game. Dwight Howard snagged a key offensive rebound over Bosh as Bosh slammed to the deck like he’d been hit by a piano. He missed baseline jumpers like they were full-court shots, and oh, yes. The final possession.

The Heat called a twenty-second timeout, down three, with a chance to miraculously push the game to overtime with a 3-pointer. They had time to work up a play. The result, whether planned or not, was a Chris Bosh 3-pointer.

That’s right. A Chris Bosh three to tie the game. And he missed. Like a Bosh. The Heat managed to get a rebound and kick to LeBron for a desperation three which also clanged. So while Dwyane Wade, Mike Bibby, and Mike Miller all watched, the Heat relied on a power forward to make the key three-point shot. If that’s what was drawn up, it was a disaster. If it was not what was drawn up, the execution was a disaster. Bosh is a career 30% three-point shooter, which is great for him. He’s still not the player you want taking that shot. An ISO pull-up 35-foot LeBron heave is a better option at that point. Sure, Tim Duncan hit a big shot like that. Chris Bosh is not Tim Duncan, even with a better percentage.

The result is a huge win for the Magic, who now have split the season series with the Heat 2-2. Perhaps best of all it wasn’t Dwight Howard having to handle everything. It was the role players stepping up, most notably Jason Richardson who was unfathomably unconscious in the second half. He finished 6-8 from behind the arc, as the Magic shot 55% from three as a team. Jameer Nelson wasn’t hot from deep, but he set the tone in the second half, getting aggressive and creating offensively. Dwight Howard? Only four points in the fourth quarter… along with 10 rebounds and three blocks. This is the kind of performance the Magic want to duplicate for the playoffs.

For the Heat? Yet another blown lead. Yet another loss in a close game. Yet another night of terrible play by Chris Bosh. Yet another game-winner brick for LeBron James. But most concerning? Yet another night of the team losing its focus, especially disappointing after Mike Bibby looked as if he would give them that focus in the first half. We’re left wondering again what it will take for Miami to live up to its potential. Meanwhile the Magic make a statement about their window being closed.

Some leftover notes:

  • Anyone else remember when Wade was able to overcome nearly any defense in the fourth quarter and take a game over? Yeah, me neither.
  • Erick Dampier actually played impressively tonight, especially in the fourth with seven points. Granted, the Heat should never need him to do that, but at least he was working.
  • Chris Bosh slammed the ball after the loss. It was the most emphatic move he made all night.
  • It’s not that this is some sort of slam job on the Heat. But at some point, you have to call a spade a Bosh. Or something. Additionally, the resounding term I read from Heat fans about this loss was “unacceptable.”
  • The Heat starters played 8 minutes to start the second half. It might have been preferable to give them a bit of extra rest. Especially considering…
  • The Heat travel to San Antonio Friday. Fun.
  • The Magic finally got some production from Gilbert Arenas in the fourth quarter. One was a terrible shot that he should never have taken, but the other was a nice job of working in the offense.