The Extra Pass: The best possible nickname jerseys; plus Tuesday’s recaps

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If you missed it last week, the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets played with nicknames on the back of their jerseys instead of their last names. Once I was able to shush the crotchety old man that sometimes takes over my brain, I really enjoyed it. Ray Allen’s “J. Shuttlesworth” jersey, a nod to his role in He Got Game, was fantastic. Joe Johnson being “JJ” was very Joe Johnson and made me laugh.

Not everyone could come up with a great nickname, naturally, because some guys just don’t have nicknames. Or if they do, we don’t know about them.

But as per usual, basketball-reference.com comes to the rescue.

The following 25 nicknames are taken directly from the player pages on that site. They are not made up, as I am not nearly creative enough to do such a thing.

I’ve made a quiz that matches the nicknames to their players. It is impossible. If you like knowing the answers to quizzes you take, do not take this quiz.

Hopefully that scared you off, and now you can enjoy 25 of the best nicknames listed on the player pages at basketball-reference.com. I’ll post the names of the players in the comments section a little later today. Enjoy!

25 Nicknames

Death & Taxes

Big Classic

Armadillo Cowboy

Big Penguin

The Pterodactyl

Frodo

The Hobbit

Chief Lightning First Step

The Natural

Beans

Swamp Thang

The Hitman

The Drunken Dribbler

Grocery List

Dolla Billz

Bean Burrito

Switchblade

Buffet of Goodness

The Dread Pirate

The Definition

Yaowa

Meal Ticket

Two Time

La Tanquera

And last but not least…

Carl.

More nickname jerseys, please!

– D.J. Foster

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Best line of the day, from Barack Obama during the Heat’s trip to the White House.

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Bobcats 108, Knicks 98: The big story out of this will be J.R. Smith getting benched again — is his time with the Knicks over? He is eligible to be traded Wednesday but who wants him? — and the odd timing of that because Knicks, unable to find enough offensive spark with out him, saw their five-game win streak come to an end. Al Jefferson was a beast for Charlotte, with 35 points on 14-of-20 shooting, making Tyson Chandler look slow and getting other Knicks to bite on pump fakes like they’d never seen them before. The Knicks defense was terrible. Charlotte got Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back and he played good defense on Carmelo Anthony, who struggled when MKG was in (‘Melo had 20 points on 22 shots).

Pacers 116, Kings 92: Indiana took control of this game with a 23-5 run in the second quarter and the game never really felt in doubt after that. For a change the Pacers won this one with offense, scoring a season-high 116 points on 54.9 percent shooting. Paul George was a beast, attacking when he got the ball and scoring 24 of his 31 points in the second half. DeMarcus Cousins did his part to push back — 31 points on 12-of-21 shooting plus 13 rebounds — but he didn’t get much help.

Grizzlies 90, Thunder 87: Marc Gasol looked pretty good — 12 points, including a huge late three, plus he pulled down 7 rebounds. You might look at the 87 points and the fact the Thunder shot 40.7 percent and think that Memphis played amazing defense… not exactly. They played good defense but the Thunder just missed shots, which includes Serge Ibaka having a wide-open three o tie the game and missing. Kevin Durant had 37 points on 28 shots, remove him from the equation and the rest of the Thunder shot 32 percent. Courtney Lee had 24 points and Zach Randolph had 23.

Cavaliers 120, Lakers 118: Defense? We don’t need no stinkin’ defense. Nobody played much in this contest, but that made for fun offense. Luol Deng adds another dimension to the Cavaliers offense and he had his best game since the trade against the Lakers “defense” scoring 27 points and going 5-of-5 from three. Three point shooting was a theme for the Cavs all night as they hit 13-of-17 from deep. On the other side Kendall Marshall exposed the Lakers slow rotations all night on his way to 16 assists. This was a game of big runs but the key one was a 12-0 Cavaliers run in the fourth quarter, sparked by Dion Waiters 13 in that quarter. The Lakers answered with an 11-3 run of their own in the closing minutes, but they couldn’t make the shots they needed at the end. The Lakers have lost five in a row, 11-of-12, and now they head out for 12 days and 7 games on the road. So, no, this may well not be rock bottom.

Report: Timberwolves rebuffing Jimmy Butler trade calls

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Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau reportedly had no interest in trading Jimmy Butler despite the star’s trade request. In fact, some believe Thibodeau would rather leave Minnesota than take a step back by dealing Butler.

Just how serious is Thibodeau about keeping Butler?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m curious whether Thibodeau and Taylor are on the same page as far as not entertaining offers for Butler.

There’s a selfish logic to Thibodeau’s stance: If the Timberwolves fail to reach the playoffs this season, he could get fired. Keeping Butler maximizes Minnesota’s talent right now, and even if Butler leaves in unrestricted free agency next summer, that buys Thibodeau time to figure out something.

Taylor can take the longer view, trying to do what’s best for the franchise. Maybe he feels immediately ending all talks right now maximizes the Timberwolves’ leverage.

Or maybe this is all Thibodeau’s doing so far.

At some point, Minnesota should hear out offers. That doesn’t mean trading Butler. Perhaps keeping him and trying to change his mind – and Karl-Anthony Towns‘ – is the right course. It depends what other teams offer. But the Timberwolves should at least explore the market.

This puts the ball back in Butler’s court. Will he report to training camp? Not showing up would certainly add pressure for Minnesota to take these calls more seriously. But it’d also escalate the situation into something even more dramatic.

Pistons PG Reggie Jackson says ankle injury still keeping him off court

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If Reggie Jackson didn’t injure his ankle, maybe Stan Van Gundy is still running the Pistons.

Detroit went 27-18 when Jackson played and 12-25 otherwise last season. The Pistons missed the playoffs by four games then fired Van Gundy.

Ed Stefanski takes over running the front office, and Dwane Casey is now coach. But they won’t necessarily get a healthy Jackson, either – even though Jackson played the final 12 games of the season.

Jackson, via Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

“Probably didn’t heal the way everybody thought it might once we had time off,” Jackson said. “Just haven’t been able to get on the court, but been doing everything I can to get healthy.”

“It actually feels good. I feel like I can cut again,” he said. “Once I get going fully, just see how it feels. But it feels night and day compared to last year. … I think anybody who watched, I never looked right. I never ran right. But that’s what you do. Everybody has nicks and bruises in this game. I wouldn’t change it any other way. I would still come back and play. It was just unfortunate that it wasn’t healed.”

“I’m going day to day,” he said. “I don’t necessarily know. I’m going to come in and do what they tell me, what they allow me to do. I think the organization, our coaching staff and the training staff have a great game plan on when I’ll be back and how to implement myself back into the workouts.”

Jackson not playing would be problematic for the Pistons, who look like a fringe playoff team. Ish Smith would be OK as a fill-in starting point guard, but moving Jose Calderon into the regular rotation could be dicey.

Calderon, who turns 37 next week, is fine in spurts. But I wouldn’t want to overly rely on him at this point. And, though Smith can hold his own as a starter, he looks much better as a reserve.

Even if Jackson gets healthy enough to play by the regular season, that wouldn’t solve everything. His endurance has been a problem at times, and limited offseason training could make that even more of an issue.

Report: Karl-Anthony Towns told Timberwolves he couldn’t coexist with Jimmy Butler

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Karl Anthony-Towns denied Jimmy Butler sleeping with Towns’ girlfriend caused a rift between the Timberwolves teammates.

But that doesn’t mean the rift is nonexistent.

Towns reportedly won’t sign his rookie-scale extension until Minnesota handles the Butler situation, and the standoff apparently isn’t at all over haggling about contract terms, particularly what would happen if Towns qualifies next season for the super-max.

Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN:

They’re offering him as much money as they can.

I’m led to believe that a big reason why he hasn’t signed it is that he – through his agent, Leon Rose – went to the Wolves and said, “Hey, I can’t coexist with Jimmy. Do something about it.” So, Figure out the Jimmy situation. On top of that – whether it’s right or wrong, this is the way he feels – that it’s been Jimmy and Thibs ganging up on him.

Towns can sometimes play passively, especially defensively. Two people who tend not to tolerate passive play, especially defensively, are Jimmy Butler and Tom Thibodeau. I’m not sure they’re ganging up on Towns as much as they’re each conveying similar messages individually.

That said, I can also see why Towns would feel like they’re ganging up on him.

Ideally, Thibodeau would have taken Towns’ message and worked with Butler to find a way to better communicate with the center. Towns is an elite young talent, and it’s worth making him happy.

But Butler’s trade request opens the door for another solution. Minnesota can just excise the problem, though it’d probably mean a talent downgrade.

The biggest issue is the Timberwolves didn’t heed Towns’ warning and find common ground for everyone. That seems to reflect poorly on Thibodeau as a connecter, a necessary skill for successful head coaches and team presidents.

Magic Johnson already excited by LeBron’s offseason impact on Lakers

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Magic Johnson can already see LeBron James‘ impact on the young Los Angeles Lakers before they’ve even had a regular practice together.

After just a few weeks of unusually competitive offseason scrimmages, the Lakers’ basketball boss can’t wait to see how James’ leadership will translate into real success.

Magic and general manager Rob Pelinka on Thursday pronounced themselves thrilled with the offseason progress made by their revamped roster and James, their prize free-agent acquisition. The Lakers have been working out together informally at the club’s training complex ahead of the start of training camp Tuesday, and Johnson likes what he sees so far.

“Just to see all of them together playing a pickup game, oh my goodness,” Johnson said. “It’s something to watch. I’ve watched LeBron from afar. I’ve been at many of his games. But to watch him in the gym is a whole different thing. How much he makes everybody better, but also how he raises everybody’s level of play. His basketball IQ and his leadership ability, it’s all on display.”

Lonzo Ball won’t be on display in every workout at the start of camp, however. The Lakers’ second-year point guard had knee surgery two months ago, and Pelinka said Ball will be held out of five-on-five scrimmages when camp begins, even though he has been fully cleared for all basketball activities.

Johnson and Pelinka praised Ball’s offseason work to improve his awkward jump shot by adjusting his shooting mechanics. They also realize Ball has plenty of work to do.

The Lakers are determined to allow Ball to grow into his role as a playmaking leader, and Johnson believes Rajon Rondo will play a mentoring role. Along with James, the Lakers also acquired Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley to form a new veteran core for a 16-time NBA champion franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2013.

The Lakers’ disparate collection of talent will need plenty of time to gel, but Johnson is already seeing it happen in those scrimmages.

“I mean, they are going hard,” Johnson said. “It’s physical. It’s tough. There’s trash talking. It’s just a lot of fun, and also a lot of teaching at the same time. It’s really great to see these young guys getting a chance to learn from champions.”

And as if he needed any reminder, Johnson has witnessed the singular skills of the 33-year-old James, who agreed to a four-year, $154 million free-agent deal.

“LeBron comes in, and he’s already in midseason form and shooting fadeaways and 3-pointers from almost half-court,” Johnson said with a broad grin. “And you’re sitting there saying, `Man, thank God we signed him.”‘

Along with blending their new additions, the Lakers must adjust to the loss of Julius Randle and Brook Lopez. Johnson and Pelinka aren’t worried about filling the space left by the departures of those two big men, believing they’ve got more than enough height to guard anyone.

“We feel we have two players at every position – a starter and then a backup to that person,” Johnson said.

Added Pelinka: “A lot of people have said this is one of the deepest rosters in the NBA, and that is an extreme strength to us.”