Tag: Joe Johnson

Philadelphia 76ers v New York Knicks

Why J.R. Smith is not the totally selfish player you think he is


The Cavaliers had their back against the wall.

A day after losing its Christmas Day game to the Heat, Cleveland trailed the lowly Magic by four. Victor Oladipo had just made a free throw with 0.6 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

As the Cavaliers took the ball out of bounds, they surely realized they – by rule – had enough time left to catch and shoot. Cutting into Orlando’s lead on that final possession would be difficult, but it was at least possible.

Shawn Marion took ball out.

Mike Miller ran up court and left view at a pretty fast pace. Even if he were trying to get open, a long pass would have been risky. If the went ball out of bounds without being touched, Orlando would have gotten possession where the pass was thrown – right under Cleveland’s own basket. If the Magic had lost track of him, maybe it’s worth attempting the long pass. They didn’t, but at least he took a defender with him.

Marion first looked to Kevin Love, who barely moved from his rebounding position and puts up his hands as if to say, “Don’t pass to me.”

Meanwhile, Dion Waiters, bit further upcourt, pointed to Matthew Dellavedova and then slowly walked towards Cleveland’s bench.

Marion passed to Dellavedova, who showed no urgency and took one dribble to ensure time ran out.

Magic 75, Cavaliers 71. End of third quarter.

“I think it’s a dumb play, but that’s just me,” J.R. Smith, who was traded from the Knicks to Cleveland this week, said earlier this season when asked more generally about teams intentionally running out the clock to end quarters rather than attempting desperation heaves. “And I thank them for it, because if it would have went in, it would have hurt us.”

It’s quite common for players to pass on those low-percentage end-of-quarter heaves, and nobody batted at an eye when the Cavaliers did it.

Kevin Durant admitted there are situations he’d hold the ball rather than risk lowering his shooting percentage. Shane Battier said it’s not worth the hit on individual stats. And those are two of the NBA’s most respected players in recent years.

But Smith – who’s (mostly fairly) known for his bad habits – is unafraid to take those shots.

“I just do it because I think it’s the right play to make instead of just dribbling the clock out and being selfish,” Smith said. “…It can be an advantage for our team. I’ve never been one to worry about my shooting percentage.”

Who knows whether Smith’s intentions are truly altruistic? Maybe he just cares about his scoring average more than his field-goal percentage. Or maybe he (like so many NBA players) loves the thrill of attempting shots from halfcourt, so much so that he (unlike so many NBA players) takes them over protecting his field-goal percentage.

But those attempts are inarguably good for his team. In a sport where only points scored and allowed – not field-goal percentage – count toward the final won-loss verdict, the only downside to attempting them is on a player’s individual stats.

And Smith takes them without apology.

There’s no feasible way to count how players handle the end of every first, second and third quarter in every game. But I use attempts from at least 40 feet as a reasonable substitute.

Since Smith went to the Nuggets in 2006-07, he has take more such shots (73) than anyone in the league during that span. He just hasn’t made a single one.

Here’s the leaderboard for that time period on shots from at least 40 feet:

Player FG FGA
J.R. Smith 0 73
Andre Miller 1 69
Jamal Crawford 3 60
Steve Blake 1 57
Raymond Felton 3 56
Andre Iguodala 3 50
Corey Brewer 2 44
Aaron Brooks 1 43
Kyle Lowry 1 42
Derrick Rose 1 41
LeBron James 2 41
Monta Ellis 2 40
Rudy Gay 1 39
Devin Harris 1 38
Jarrett Jack 2 38
Caron Butler 1 37
Carmelo Anthony 1 37
D.J. Augustin 1 37
Joe Johnson 1 37
Mo Williams 1 36
Zach Randolph 4 35
Beno Udrih 0 35
Nate Robinson 2 35
Deron Williams 2 34
Tyreke Evans 4 34

You might be thinking Smith’s numbers are skewed, because he jacks up long shots during typical possessions. But I watched all 32 of Smith’s shots from at least 40 feet the last four years, which were available through NBA.com’s media site. Of the 32, 30 were the type of shots – a heave to end the first, second or third quarter – I’m discussing here. One exception was a desperation attempt to the end a fourth quarter, and the other came as the shot clock was expiring after a pass had been deflected into the backcourt.

Smith’s 40-foot attempts are not inflated by his penchant for jacking well beyond the 3-point arc whenever he pleases, though he says that trait helps on his heaves.

“You really get a sense for how far the basket is and what shot to shoot in that situation,” Smith said.

He practices the long shots frequently, and he knows exactly how he wants to attempt them depending where he is on the floor:

  • Halfcourt or near it: regular jumper
  • About three-quarter court: pushing ball from closer to his chest
  • Further back: baseball throw

One tactic many players take in those end-of-quarter situations is shooting with their best form no matter how much time is left. It seems that’s the internal compromise they make. If their best form means they don’t get off the attempt before the buzzer, they’re fine with that. But if they can use their natural motion and still get the shot off, that’s an attempt they’re willing to live with.

Smith – who is skilled at quickly releasing the ball when necessary – sees that trick and all the others, and like he said, he appreciates the opponent passing on those shots. But when a teammate declines the attempt?

“I get mad, because I’m like, ‘Y’all should have gave it to me. I would have at least tried to make it,’” Smith said.

Trying to make it is one – admirable – thing, but actually making it is another story. Despite all his attempts, Smith has never made a shot from beyond 40 feet, though he has had plenty of close calls.

Smith called his favorite desperation attempt a rushed 3-pointer to end the first quarter in Game 2 of the Knicks’ 2013 first-round playoff series against the Celtics:

That shot went in the books as a 36-footer, exposing a flaw in my methodology. That attempt probably belongs in this count, but there’s no feasible way to review all those slightly closer looks. Forty feet ensures nearly every shot is an end-of-quarter heave, and the evidence is conclusive enough that Smith is willing to take those shots.

What’s a little less clear is how that affects him.

Smith has battled injury this season and taken just two shots from at least 40 feet, but last year he led the NBA with 14 such shots. That season, he shot 39.4 percent on 3-pointers. Remove the 40-plus footers, and his 3-point percentage jumps to 40.6 percent. Those 1.2 percentage points aren’t a huge difference, but they at least slightly alter perception of Smith, especially because they drop him below the 40 percent bar from beyond the arc.

Is he worried that will affect him in contract negotiations if executives don’t realize why his shooting percentage is lower?

“I haven’t really thought about it like that,” said Smith, who has a player option for next season. “Actually, I think it’s a good thing. I think they should know my worth from the way I play and how I play. So, I don’t think shooting percentage should come into it.”

The Cavaliers, for contractual reasons or any other, obviously disagreed during that Dec. 26 game against the Magic.

Cleveland still won that game behind 15 fourth-quarter points from LeBron James, who was not on the court to end the third quarter. In many ways, that exemplifies who the Cavaliers have been this season – structurally unsound but usually talented enough to win anyway.

At this point, everyone believes they understand what J.R. Smith adds to the equation, and it’s no surprise when he says, “I feel as though there’s not a shot I can’t make.”

But maybe that’s just the team-first attitude the Cavaliers need.

PBT’s Tuesday night NBA Winners/Losers: Kobe drops triple double, has Lakers offense clicking

Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets

Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while figuring out what happened to the Mayans

source:  Kobe Bryant. The Lakers are evolving. Or, maybe more accurately, Kobe Bryant is evolving this season, is dragging Byron Scott into that light, and the Lakers are better for it. As Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding put so well, at the start of the season the Laker offense was a shrine to Kobe. He was asked to do everything, to do anything he wanted, and he can’t carry a team like that anymore. That offense made the Lakers defendable. But after a few games off to rest, Kobe has come back as a much more of a facilitator, a guy really leading the team and making them more difficult to defend because he trusts his other options — and that has made him a more efficient scorer. That is why the Lakers beat the Nuggets Tuesday night behind 23 points (on 6-of-11 shooting), 11 assists and 10 rebounds from Kobe. Sure, there were nine turnovers from Kobe. Sure, the Lakers are still a wretched defensive team. But when Kobe plays like this and other guys hit shots (Ronnie Price had 18, Carlos Boozer 19) they can win some games. Certainly enough games to make Suns fans happy.

source:  Jodie Meeks and Detroit Pistons. Note to teams playing Detroit — do not leave Jodie Meeks alone at the arc. Do not help off him. In the Pistons’ win over the Magic Tuesday Meeks had 34 points shooting 11-for-16 overall and a ridiculous 9-for-11from three. Thing is he was 9-of-10 on uncontested looks, he’s just too hot a shooter right now to leave open. This is three wins in a row for the Pistons — yes, all since Josh Smith was waived — and it wasn’t all Meeks. Andre Drummond had 17 points and 22 rebounds as he just owned the paint. Oh, and he did this:

source:  Mike Conley. He was simply the best player on the court as the Grizzlies beat the Spurs Tuesday. He owned this game from the start, with 16 points in the first quarter as the Grizzlies built a double-digit lead. Bottom line is that as nice as Corey Joseph and Patty Mills are backup points in the Spurs system, they are not Tony Parker — Conley realized early he could dominate and control this game and he did, finishing with 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists. He is the most underrated point guard in the game today.

source:  Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers. When it rains it pours. Consider this a reminder Cavaliers fans that Kevin Love has missed 125 games to injury over the course of his career (much of that for a broken hand and other, unrelated issues) and he was to be expected to miss a few here. Hopefully this back issue is not serious, but it comes at a rough time for the Cavs. There’s plenty of pressure and turmoil around the Cavaliers, there are questions about chemistry and they just need some wins. But it’s hard to get those when LeBron James sits out injured and Love has to leave the game. Kyrie Irving went Uncle Drew (35 points) but it’s not enough. It’s not like the Cavaliers can fall back on their defense to get them through this rough patch.

source:  Atlanta Hawks. We need to put them here because this wasn’t all about the Cavaliers losing — Atlanta won that game. The Hawks are very good and they did this one without Al Horford. Jeff Teague and Paul Milsap were destroying that Cavs defense with the pick-and-roll, Teague had 23 points and Milsap 26. Atlanta has won 16 of 18 and Mike Budenholzer has this team playing like one that is not going to fold in the playoffs (as has been the Hawks history).

source:  Brook Lopez. If you’re showcasing him for a trade — and of the big three the Nets are trying to move he is the most likely to go — this was a good way to do it. Lopez had a big night against the Bulls’ big front line, shooting 6-of-8 inside eight feet of the rim but also hitting 6-of-11 from the midrange. The Nets picked up a nice win to snap the Bulls win streak and Lopez along with Joe Johnson keyed that.

Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry and top clutch shots of 2014 (VIDEO)

Damian Lillard

You had to know what was No. 1, right? Damian Lillard had the best shot of 2014, hands down.

But there were other great clutch shots. I had forgotten about Randy Foye’s prayer to beat the Clippers. You get reminded that Joe Johnson is a s clutch a player as the NBA has right now. And for my money Vince Carter’s three to beat the Spurs should have been No. 2.

Thanks to the NBA for putting this video together, it’s a fun trip down memory lane.

Report: Trade talks between Kings and Nets ‘on hiatus’ with Mason Plumlee off the table

Mason Plumlee, Timofey Mozgov, Jarrett Jack

The Nets made it known that any of their three biggest stars in Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez could be had via trade, if a team could be found who was interested enough in taking on more in terms of salary than it would likely get in production.

The Kings bit initially, and talks began on a deal centered around Williams.

But the former All-Star point guard wasn’t Sacramento’s main target. Instead, it was Mason Plumlee that the Kings were after, the promising young big man in the early stages of just his second season. And they were willing to take on the contract of Williams in order to make that trade happen.

Give the Nets credit for being smarter than that. They have yet to make Plumlee available, and as a result, the talks have been shelved for the immediate future.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Sacramento Kings’ insistence on a trade package for Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams that includes center Mason Plumlee has pushed talks into a hiatus, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

After the teams’ front office officials again talked on Wednesday, both sides insisted they weren’t budging on Plumlee’s inclusion into a proposed trade and agreed there was no use discussing the deal further in the near future, league sources said.

“Talks aren’t dead, but nothing’s going to happen with Plumlee involved,” a league source told Yahoo Sports.

The Kings were offering Darren Collison as a Williams replacement, and low-grade big men Jason Thompson and Derrick Williams to compensate for the loss of Plumlee.

But Brooklyn has tried to build a roster around expensive, aging veterans in recent years, and with very few draft picks still in the team’s hands to use in the upcoming seasons, the only young talent in place is Plumlee. And moving him just to save some salary is far from a smart way to rebuild for the future.

Thankfully for Nets fans, the front office in Brooklyn seems to realize it.

Report: Mason Plumlee was Kings’ main target in trade talks with Nets for Deron Williams

Brooklyn Nets v Detroit Pistons
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It didn’t take very many games this season for the Nets to realize that the pieces on the roster don’t fit under new head coach Lionel Hollins, and so Brooklyn’s three biggest (and highest paid) stars were made available in trade talks with other teams.

The problem for the Nets is that the contracts of Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez are all prohibitive in terms of getting a deal done.

The Kings, however, were reportedly willing to take on Williams’ deal, and at the time, it was believed that he was the player Sacramento was seeking. But as it turns out, he was only the secondary player the Kings were targeting the way the trade was proposed.

From Chris Broussard of ESPN.com:

Talks between the Sacramento Kings and Brooklyn Nets about a trade involving Nets star Deron Williams have cooled, according to league sources.

Sacramento had recently initiated talks with the Nets, proposing a deal for Williams and second-year forward Mason Plumlee, who was actually the Kings’ main target, sources said.

With Plumlee struggling and clashing a bit with new Nets coach Lionel Hollins over the first month of the season, the Kings were hoping he might be available. To compel the Nets into moving Plumlee, they considered taking on Williams, whose contract and history of injuries has scared off many clubs.

Brooklyn wisely turned this scenario down, and has no intention of moving Plumlee — with good reason.

Plumlee is the one piece of promising young talent in place on the Nets’ roster. The team has been built to “win now” with those big names on high-dollar contracts, but it hasn’t worked out that way. At some point, Brooklyn needs to add inexpensive pieces capable of contributing while still on their rookie scale deals. And despite struggling to find his way with Hollins in the early part of the season, Plumlee earned a place onto the Team USA roster this past summer, and is a quality big man playing in only in his second NBA season.

Talks may continue between these two teams until February’s trade deadline passes. But it’s clear that the Nets aren’t going to involve Plumlee in a deal just to get out from under one of its star player’s unfavorable contracts.