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Yao Ming being considered for Hall of Fame through international committee

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Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson and Yao Ming are on the Basketball Hall of Fame ballot a year sooner than initially expected.

But Yao faces an easier path to enshrinement.

Despite spending a majority of his career in the NBA, Yao was nominated through the international committee, which can directly induct him. He’ll be judged against players like Vlade Divac and Toni Kukoc – hardly the bar set with the North American committee.

Shaq and Iverson are trying to enter the Hall through the North American committee, which names finalists. Then, another committee chooses among the finalists. Shaq and Iverson – whose career accomplishments easily top Yao’s – should clear that two-step process.

But Yao would have had a tougher time. Luckily for him, he won’t have to deal with that.

This exemplifies my problem with the Hall. It values diversifying the backgrounds of its members rather emphasizing their accomplishments. Why should Yao’s playing career face less scrutiny because he’s from China than Shaq’s and Iverson’s? They all spent the relevant portions of their careers in the NBA.

Similarly, too many players are enshrined for excelling at lower levels. The numerous paths to the Hall leave the NBA undervalued.

At least Yao proved himself a quality NBA player.

If only that’s how he were being judged.

Here’s a full list of nominations:

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2016 Ballot

* Indicates First-Time Nominee

North American Committee Nominations

Mark Aguirre (PLA)

Geese Ausbie (PLA)*

Bill Bertka (COA)

Junior Bridgeman* (PLA)

Irv Brown (REF)

Maurice Cheeks (PLA)

Terry Cummings (PLA)

Lefty Driesell (COA)

Hugh Evans (REF)*

Bill Fitch (COA)

Cotton Fitzsimmons (COA)

Darell Garretson (REF)*

A.C. Green (PLA)

Tim Hardaway (PLA)

Del Harris (COA)

Robert Hughes (COA)

Allen Iverson (PLA)*

Tom Izzo (COA)*

Kevin Johnson (PLA)

Marques Johnson (PLA)

Bobby Jones (PLA)*

Jerry “Tiger” Jones (COA)*

Gene Keady (COA)

Rollie Massimino (COA)

George McGinnis (PLA)

Gary McKnight (COA)*

John McLendon (COA)*

Danny Miles (COA)

Sidney Moncrief (PLA)

Dick Motta (COA)

Swen Nater (PLA)

Shaquille O’Neal (PLA)*

Mark Price (PLA)

Glenn Robinson (COA)

Lee Rose (COA)

Bo Ryan (COA)

Jack Sikma (PLA)

Steve Smith (COA)*

Fred Snowden (COA)

Eddie Sutton (COA)

Reggie Theus (PLA)

Rudy Tomjanovich (COA)

Chris Webber (PLA)

Paul Westphal (PLA)

Women’s Committee Nominations

Leta Andrews (COA)

Jennifer Azzi (PLA)

Rebecca Lobo (PLA)

Muffet McGraw (COA)

Susie McConnell (PLA)

Pearl Moore (PLA)*

Kim Mulkey (COA & PLA)

Harley Redin (COA)

Theresa Shank (PLA)

Marianne Stanley (COA)

Barbara Stevens (COA)

Sheryl Swoopes (PLA)*

Wayland Baptist (TEA)*

Theresa Weatherspoon (PLA)

DIRECT-ELECT CATEGORY

Early African-American Pioneers Committee Nominations

Clarence “Puggy” Bell

Sonny Boswell

Zack Clayton

Chuck Cooper

Bill Garrett

Inman Jackson

Clarence “Fats” Jenkins

Bucky Lew

Dave Minor

Hudson Oliver

Cumberland Posey Jr.

Al “Runt” Pullins

James “Pappy” Ricks

Paul Robeson

Eyre Saitch

William “Wee Willie” Smith

DIRECT-ELECT CATEGORY

International Committee Nominations

Tal Brody

Jackie Chazalon

Vlade Divac

Nick Galis

Semen Khalipski

Vladimir Kondrashin

Toni Kukoc

Yao Ming*

Aldo Ossola

Amaury Pasos

Dino Radja

Manuel Sainz

Togo Soares

Ranko Zeravica

Marcos Leite

DIRECT-ELECT CATEGORY

Contributor Committee Nominations

Marv Albert*

Al Attles

Dick Baumgartner*

Marty Blake

Vic Bubas

Wayne Duke*

Harry Glickman

Marty Glickman

Curt Gowdy

Tim Grgurich

Mannie Jackson

Tom Jernstedt

Johnny “Red” Kerr

John Kline

Red Klotz

Jerry Krause

Jack McCloskey

Johnny Most

Dennis Murphy

Joe O’Toole

Billy Packer

Jerry Reinsdorf

Zelda Spoelstra

Jim Valvano

Donnie Walsh

Frank Walsh

DIRECT-ELECT CATEGORY

Veterans Committee Nominations

1936 US Olympic Team*

1964 State Dept Basketball Ambassadors

Zelmo Beaty

Ron Boone

Sid Borgia

Carl Braun

Frank Brian

Joe Caldwell

Mack Calvin

Charles Eckman

Leroy Edwards

Leo Ferris*

Clarence “Bevo” Francis

Buck Freeman

Donnie Freeman

Travis Grant

Bob Grody

Joe Hammond

Robert Harrison

Flo Harvey

Cam Henderson

Robert Hopkins

Lou Hudson

Warren Jabali

Jimmy Jones

Freddie Lewis

Jim Loscutoff

Loyola of Chicago

George McGinnis

Ray Mears

Donald Moore*

Willie Naulls

John O’Brien

Philadelphia SPHAS

Mel Riebe

Glenn Roberts

Holcombe Rucker

Kenny Sailors

Fred Schaus

Charlie Scott

Kenny Sears

Frank Selvy

George Senesky

Paul Seymour

Charles Siler

Talvin Skinner

Ken Suesens

Tennessee A&I

Dick Van Arsdale*

Tom Van Arsdale*

Willie Wise

Max Zaslofsky

Lakers LeBron James “pissed” about NBA MVP voting

LeBron MVP
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LeBron James, like many of the great players ever, gets his motivation wherever he can find it.

Like, for example, only getting 16 first-place votes for MVP. It was announced Friday that Giannis Antetokounmpo won his second consecutive MVP award, with LeBron second. Of the 101 votes from select media members, Antetokounmpo got 85 first-place votes, LeBron 16. LeBron vented about it on Twitter.

After the Lakers won Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, LeBron talked about how unhappy he was with the voting.

“It pissed me off. That’s my true answer,” LeBron said. “It pissed me off because out of 101 votes I got 16 first-place votes. That’s what pissed me off more than anything. I’m not saying that the winner wasn’t deserving of the MVP, but that pissed me off. I finished second a lot in my career, either from a championship, and now four times as the MVP.

“Like I said, I never came into the league saying ‘I’m gonna be MVP’ or ‘I’m gonna be champion,’ I’ve always said I just want to get better every single day and those things will take care of themselves. Some things are just out of my hands, some things you can’t control, but it pissed me off…

“The voting scale is a little weird to me sometimes… And then I looked at the Most Improved this year, and rightfully so, Brandon Ingram was amazing and I thought he should’ve won it, but did you see the votes Devonte' Graham got? He averaged four points last year compared to 17.5. If that’s not improving, what is? It’s just a weird thing sometimes that, I don’t know how much we are really watching the game of basketball, or are we just in the narration mode? The narrative.”

LeBron is right, sometimes the media voters can get sucked into a narrative for MVP and other awards. However, this year the narrative favored LeBron, not Antetokounmpo — having that kind of season at age 35 and lifting the Lakers franchise back to the postseason after six years, that all had voters leaning toward LeBron.

Why did voters pick Antetokounmpo? Because on offense he scored more points and did it more efficiently than LeBron. While LeBron had his best defensive season since he played in Miami, Antetokounmpo was better on that end of the court as well. Antetokounmpo led his team to more wins than LeBron. And if you want to make the argument about LeBron lifting up his teammates you’re right, the Lakers were +11.4 points per 100 with LeBron on the court this season before the bubble (which is the time frame voters had to consider, bubble games didn’t count toward the award, per league rules). The Buck were +12 per 100 with Antetokounmpo on the court.

(To be transparent: I am one of the NBA’s award voters, and I had Antetokounmpo first and LeBron second.)

LeBron had an unbelievable season, at any age, and for a playoff run this season I would rather have had LeBron than Antetokounmpo even before the games tipped of. Other players around the league respect Antetokounmpo, but not the way they respect LeBron or other players who have gotten it done in the playoffs. That’s understandable. That’s also not the award — it’s an NBA regular-season award.

But LeBron is going to find his fuel where he can, like saying earlier this season people were calling him washed when nobody said that. Or saying the Lakers won the No. 1 seed when nobody said they could do it when, again, not exactly sure who said that.

If LeBron wants to use the MVP voting for fuel, go for it. It’s just bad news for Denver.

 

 

Anthony Davis scores 37 as it was all too easy for Lakers in blowout win

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It was all too easy for the Lakers.

Too easy for them to get out in transition, or even run on made baskets and beat Denver down the court.

Too easy for Anthony Davis to rack up 37 points.

Too easy for an attacking Lakers team to get key Nuggets players — including Nikola Jokic — in foul trouble.

Too easy for the Lakers’ defense to bottle up the Nuggets guards in the pick-and-roll, never letting Denver’s offense get on track after the first quarter.

And the “too easy” list goes on and on. It resulted in a 126-114 Lakers’ win where the Lakers led by 27 at one point and never felt truly threatened in the second half. The Lakers now lead the Western Conference Finals 1-0 with Game 2 on Sunday.

“Even in that first quarter, we didn’t guard anybody… Nuggets’ coach Mike Malone said, trying to target his team’s troubles in Game 1. “There was little defense.”

Add to that this Laker offense is relentless and will punish mismatches and mistakes in a way that other Staples Center team rarely did. Denver lear

After an even first quarter, what changed was that the Lakers started locking down on defense — the Nuggets had seven second-quarter turnovers, which led to the Lakers getting out in transition on plays like this.

But the Lakers were running on everything, including made shots, and beating Denver down the court for buckets.

Denver scored 41 points over the second and third quarters combined, with an 88 offensive rating. Part of the frustration from the Nuggets was the foul calls, which they thought bent toward the Lakers, but also Los Angels was the more aggressive team. The Lakers simply outhustled the Nuggets down the court time after time.

L.A. went on a 19-3 run from the end of the first half to early in the second, never looking back from there. Los Angeles was led by the 37 from Davis, while LeBron James had 15 points and 12 assists. As a team, the Lakers were 11-of-26 from three (42.3%).

Denver had 21 points each from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, and both played far fewer minutes than normal due to foul trouble. Michael Porter Jr. had 14, and the game was such a blowout that by the end Bol Bol was in and had a bucket.

Denver needs to consider this a game spent to learn more about their opponent and how they will have to play the rest of the series. Not exactly a game to flush completely, but it’s pretty close.

The Lakers need to remember that Denver has come back twice in playoff series already, the Nuggets learn from their mistakes and improve. Things are not always going to be this easy.

But the Lakers could not have asked for a better start.

Watch the Alex Caruso to LeBron James alley-oop

LeBron Caruso
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One of the keys to Denver having a shot in the Western Conference Finals: Keep the Lakers out of transition.

That did not go so well to start.

Denver had seven second-quarter turnovers, which allowed the Lakers to get out an run and the result was this highlight, Alex Caruso to LeBron James for the monster alley-oop.

The Lakers added more points per 100 possessions in transition than any other team in the league, and the Lakers have started a higher percentage of their offense in transition than any other team in the playoffs (16.5% of their plays start that way, stats via Cleaning the Glass). Denver has improved halfcourt defense this postseason, but their transition defense has struggled in the playoffs. That is potentially a bad combo for the Nuggets.

 

Report: Heat tried to trade Goran Dragic away in Jimmy Butler deal

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The Miami Heat are not in control of the Eastern Conference Finals — just two wins from the NBA Finals — without the combination of Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic. They are the shot creators, the two penetrating into the paint, breaking down the Celtics’ defense, then kicking out to shooters. Butler is an All-NBA player, and Dragic is playing like the All-NBA player he was six years ago.

That pairing almost never happened.

Michael Lee at the Athletic told the story.

What’s hilarious about the Dragic-Butler partnership – a bromance that has found them bonding in the bubble over bottles of Michelob Ultras, cups of Big Head coffee, and singing the “Bad Boys” theme song from “Cops” – is it nearly didn’t happen. The initial three-team trade [Heat president Pat] Riley facilitated to get Butler involved sending Dragic to Dallas. Dragic would’ve teamed up with his Slovenian little homie, Luka Doncic, but would’ve said farewell to what he intended to do with the Heat.

The Mavericks had no interest in taking on Dragic – a 30-something hobbling on a surgically-repaired knee whose best years were way in the rearview – so the Heat had to get more creative, while remaining stuck with seemingly damaged goods. Again, nothing went according to plan.

We knew this at the time, consider this a reminder. Also, don’t blame Dallas on this one. Dragic played 36 games last season, had knee issues, and had looked like a shell of the All-NBA player he used to be, and on top of it he was getting paid $19.2 million. There were not a lot of teams looking to get in the Dragic business before this season started.

Instead, Dragic stayed, got healthy, accepted a sixth-man role (until the playoffs, before that Kendrick Nunn started and Dragic was the change of pace off the bench), and found his stride.

In the bubble, Dragic has taken off as the second scoring/shot-creating option in the Heat offense. Erik Spoelstra, as he does, has put Dragic in positions to succeed.

And, after these playoffs, get paid this offseason when Dragic is a free agent.