Weekend Observations 2.4.12: Where corn don’t grow

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Each weekend we bring you 25 random observations from the NBA week that was. 

 

1. Blake Griffin is not human.

2. Denver’s a really great team this season, they’re just not so impressive you know you can count on them in the WCF. The lack of star power is going to continue to be a question and it’s really going to come down to which matchups they land as to how far they go. The losses to the Lakers are probably indicative of something, regardless of how close they are. But their ability to consistently show up in spots they should fold says something as well.

3. Atlanta is nothing if not consistent.

4. Given Joe Dumars’ continued insistance on building around veterans, isn’t it worth it for a team to at least explore trying to pry Greg Monroe away? Detroit’s likely laughing as they put down the phone, just seems terrible that Monroe’s not only stuck on a terrible team, but one without a youth movement to allow for improvement.

5. Rajon Rondo should sit the All-Star game out if he’s selected as a reserve. With the injuries and the need for rest, it’s just going to have been too soon for him not to take a breather. If he does, I like Kyrie Irving over Brandon Jennings for the replacement. Irvin is one of the league leaders in true shooting percentage for a guard and of Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Rondo, Jennings and Irving, he’s second in PER behind Rose. Jennings and he both suffer for assists but you have to wonder how much of that is a product of who they’re surrounded by. If Griffin made it last year, Irving’s just as deserving.

6. The 8th spot in the West could actually get interesting. It’s unlikely Golden State won’t stabilize to a certain degree with the talent on roster. Utah is starting to wobble, but has the depth. Memphis is a total question mark, and Minnesota is able to make a run. Do you go with star power? Team defense? Youth and vitality? Interior scoring?

7. Isaiah Thomas is a more complete ball player than Jimmer Fredette. We probably should have seen this coming.

8. The Pacers do two things incredibly well. They follow transition layup misses for putbacks and space the floor incredibly well. Their balance means that they’re pretty much always shooting inside the paint or on the perimeter. Smart basketball.

9. The Rockets may have a very low ceiling, but they continue to make the most of it. They’re 7-3 in their last ten. This is better than any expected from Kevin McHale’s first year.

10. Philadelphia not being able to beat Miami should not diminish their accomplishments with the schedule toughening for them. Miami’s a matchup nightmare for a lot of teams, but Philly is modeled in such a similar way to Miami (no quality centers, abundance of perimeter ability, do-it-all wing) it shouldn’t suprise that Miami overwhelms them with talent. The Sixers are still going to be an absolutely brutal out in the playoffs.

11. Brian Cardinal told me last weekend he’s reading “Boomerang” by Michael Lewis. So there’s that.

12. If anyone, at all, can figure out Memphis, please let me know. Because this team is an enigma wrapped in a puzzle disguised as a mystery.

13. Milwaukee has defeated Miami and the Lakers in the past week. So naturally they lost to Detroit on Friday.

14. If you comprised teams of non-stars who were All-Star snubs, those teams would probably have a fighting chance against the All-Stars just due to ball movement and cohesion, right? No? Because star players are better? OK, then.

15. The Clippers have an excellent model for the whole star-power team thing, offensively. For 45 minutes they play a pretty complete game with contributions from everyone, with an emphasis on Griffin, Paul, and Billups. Then in the final three minutes of a close game, Paul takes over and just slams the door shut. Their defense is why they won’t win the title. But offensively, they kind of have the model for how the star teams should operate.

16. Kyrie Irving’s change of pace on his dribble-hesitation at the elbow bodes really well for his long-term viability as a scorer at the rim.

17. The Nets got 42 points from Anthony Morrow and still lost. I’m just going to leave that one be. This has to be the year Morrow is let into the 3-point Contest, right? He’s suffered enough?

18. I’ve kind of moved on from “the Knicks need a point guard” as the source of all their troubles. If they did have a capable point guard, say Baron Davis does come in and be the savior. Is that going to make Carmelo Anthony work off-ball? Because that didn’t really happen in Denver. Anthony’s making a concerted effort to pass and not gun in the last few games, and that’s not helping because his teammates can’t hit either. It’s a no-win for Melo, because his DNA is what it is, and it’s not really built to share.

19. Do you think Luol Deng has recurring nightmares about having to play 55 minutes a night during back-to-back double-overtime games through Tom Thibodeau’s rotations?

20. Everyone brings up Derrick Rose missing free throws against Kansas when he was at Memphis in the national title game, but Rose also missed a big pair last season against the Clippers late, and had issues against Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals. This doesn’t mean this is a trend or an issue, it’s just something that has happened in the past. It’s not inexplicable. He’s not automatic. Very, very good. But not automatic.

21. The Boston Celtics: Can’t count them out, can’t believe they’re going to drag these carcasses through a compact season like this intact and make it to a meaningful game.

22. If the Lakers can win their third game in four nights against Philadelphia Monday, there’s no reason they can’t sweep their six-game Grammy trip. They’ll get up for the game against Boston, and they’re still a better team right now. The Knicks are a disaster and the rest of the schedule is soft. That could land the Lakers in the top spot in the West with the Thunder showing a few cracks.

23. The Spurs are 19th in defensive efficiency, but have had three solid defensive games. That figure will tell so much about how their season goes. It’s honestly more important than getting Manu back, because of how good their overall offense is.

24. Remember when Portland was a dominant, brilliant team, like two weeks ago?

25. And, in conclusion, Iman Shumpert.

Paul George’s 37 in home debut lead Clippers past Hawks 150-101 (VIDEO)

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Paul George scored 37 points in his Clippers home debut, Lou Williams added 25, and Los Angeles led all the way in routing the Atlanta Hawks 150-101 on Saturday night.

The anticipated first game with George and Kawhi Leonard in the lineup together didn’t happen when Leonard sat out with a left knee contusion.

But the Clippers didn’t need both of their new superstars on a night when George tied his career high with six 3-pointers and made all 11 of his free throws in the team’s biggest blowout of the young season.

George was clearly having fun in the fourth when he stole the ball, dribbled down and tossed it off the glass, setting up Montrezl Harrell for a two-handed dunk that ignited the crowd and pushed the Clippers’ lead to 36 points.

George sat down for good with 9:58 remaining in the game, having done all his damage playing 20 minutes.

Two nights after scoring 33 in his debut at New Orleans, George had it going from the start. He scored 15 of the Clippers’ first 22 points in a six-minute span. They led by 17 and shot 59 percent in the opening quarter.

George is the first player in franchise history to score 30-plus points in his first two games with the team.

The Hawks scored 11 straight points to close within four early in the second quarter, the closest they would come the rest of the game. The Clippers answered with an 18-6 run, fueled by George’s nine points, to go back up by 17 again.

George had 25 points at halftime when the Clippers led 74-62, shooting 52% and making all 16 of their free throws.

Leonard also sat out on Thursday when George made his Clippers debut in a loss to the Pelicans.

George missed the season’s first 11 games while completing rehab from offseason shoulder surgery.

“I would love them to play every game and be out there,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before the game. “We knew early on this would be a tough go.”

Trae Young had 20 points for the Hawks, who dropped their second in a row. They trailed by 52 points in the fourth.

The Clippers dominated in nearly every category, with their bench outscoring the Hawks’ reserves 81-35. Los Angeles made 17 3-pointers and hit 33 of 35 free throws.

 

Gregg Popovich gets ejected, Tim Duncan takes over coaching, Spurs still fall to Trail Blazers

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Tim Duncan was back in charge in San Antonio and the Spurs were flourishing under his leadership again.

Duncan was directing players on defensive assignments, encouraging them and providing needed leadership. But in the end, he couldn’t provide the same late-game heroics from the bench that he long did on the court.

CJ McCollum scored 32 points and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Spurs 121-116 on Saturday night to spoil Duncan’s first shot at coaching following Gregg Popovich’s ejection.

Duncan took over just 13 games into his first season as an assistant coach. Popovich was ejected after walking onto the court to berate official Jason Goldenberg over a non-call. Popovich calmly walked off the court following his first ejection of the season (you can see it in the video above).

On Twitter, this led to a debate as people tried to figure out who took over as coach. Assistant Coach Becky Hammon ran one time out, but it was Duncan — the assistant coach assigned to scout Portland on the staff — who was the main man. Duncan, Hammon and Will Hardy coached by committee, but it was Duncan calling the plays and screaming out instruction.

“It was cool,” Spurs guard Bryn Forbes said. “It didn’t really feel like a huge difference. I think he did a good job. He took control. He helped lead us to a big lead.”

Popovich was asked if he considered having Becky Hammon take over to make history as the first woman to lead an NBA team.

“I’m not here to make history,” Popovich said.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 30 points and 13 rebounds but the Spurs lost their fifth straight and fell to 5-8.

Damian Lillard added 22 points and Hassan Whiteside had 21 points for Portland (5-8), which rallied from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter to snap a four-game skid in San Antonio.

“We’ve blown leads before, so we kind of know what to expect,” McCollum said. “Once you do it, you’ve got to stay grounded, focus on the little stuff.”

Before the game, Popovich said coaching could only go so far and it was up to each player to take responsibility for his own mistakes and performance during this losing streak. Popovich put that responsibility squarely on the Spurs when he was ejected early in the third quarter.

McCollum had 23 of his points in the first half.

Bryn Forbes added 17 points and DeRozan and Rudy Gay added 16 apiece.

 

Jamal Crawford finds it “baffling” no team has called to sign him yet

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Iman Shumpert got his call from the Brooklyn Nets.

Carmelo Anthony got his call from the Portland Trail Blazers.

Jamal Crawford is still waiting for his call, and he’s confused why it hasn’t yet come. From Shaun Powell of NBA.com.

“I know I can play,” Crawford told NBA.com, “and I would think my reputation is still solid. It’s baffling to me…

“Physically, I feel better than I did last season,” he said. “I’m able to get my body together. My skill set is sharp. I feel that I’m good. My mindset is be patient and hopefully something good comes about it. I’ll be ready for the opportunity.”

Like Anthony, Crawford needs the right role, but he can help teams.

He’s not young at age 39 but, in the right situation, he could help a team get buckets off the bench. The three-time Sixth Man of the Year has slowed in recent years, and his defense is a bigger concern to front offices, but the man still averaged 7.9 points per game last season off the bench and lit it up for the depleted Suns at the end of last season (including a 51-point game against Dallas). 

Some team is going to give Crawford a chance. Probably. Until then, he is staying ready, waiting for the phone to ring.

 

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks over not one but two Pacers (VIDEO)

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Once Giannis Antetokounmpo gets rolling downhill, good luck.

The Pacers found that out the hard way with not one but two players getting dunked on by the Greek Freak. On the same dunk.

Damn. That’s not fair.

It’s also not the only highlight play for Antetokounmpo on the night.

Milwaukee was up double digits on the Pacers early in the fourth quarter, and of course, Antetokounmpo was leading the way.