With your busy schedules and lack of league pass, basketball is tough to keep up with. Lucky for you, our staff is addicted to every facet of the NBA and we’re here to keep you informed. Here are some random musings, irrational thoughts, and favorite moments of the past week.
Watch the Throne
Varoon Bose: It’s been a few days now since the Cavaliers fired their head coach David Blatt, instantly hired his assistant coach Tyronn Lue, and handed him a 3-year deal. The shockwaves of the move have settled after a weekend of reflection, but there’s still so much to think about. Situations like these, especially when LeBron James is involved, remind me why the NBA is the greatest league in the world. The best team in the Eastern conference just fired the man who was supposed to be one of the two coaches in the All-Star game. On his off day.
Digging through this one reminds me of “Lost” theory sites or rewatching “Fight Club.” There are so many rumors, so many clues, and even some video evidence that needs to be reviewed:
What stands out the most to be at the end of the day is this: a sense of desperation from LeBron James. Let’s not kid ourselves and think that LeBron doesn’t have a major say in the day-to-day operations of this team. That’s not to say that he didn’t try and make things work with David Blatt. Hell, some (not me) might argue that they were a Kevin Love and a Kyrie Irving away from a championship in 2015.
But the timing of all of this reveals so much. It comes off losses to the Warriors and the Spurs. The Cavaliers are looking to the future, the regular season doesn’t matter to them. They could very easily breeze through the Eastern conference playoffs. But they know they’ll more than likely be facing a 7-game series without home court advantage against San Antonio or Golden State, and if they can’t beat those teams then what’s the point?
It’s a harsh reality for 31-year-old LeBron James, now in his 13th year in the NBA. He likely only has 1-2 more years left in his prime, so there’s a razor thin margin for error in his quest to bring his home city a title. And with Stephen Curry only getting better and the Spurs’ innate ability to never seem to fade away, LeBron has no time to waste.
Was firing David Blatt the change to be made? The rumors of the tension between head coach and best player in the world
who’s probably the real voice in the huddle were no secret. It really just points to the idea that if King James is going to fail in this last few years in trying to win a title, he’s at least going be dethroned with an army general of his choosing.
If at First You Don’t Succeed…
Return of the Hack
Jared Mintz: “Hack-A-Gate” made its triumphant return to the NBA last week, and to quote Will Ferrell quoting Alex Trebek, we have reached a new low.
Pistons center Andre Drummond went 13-for-36 from the charity stripe in Wednesday night’s 123-114 win over the Houston Rockets, missing a remarkably embarrassing 17 free throws in the second half of the game. After setting the record for most missed free throws in a game with his 23 misses, Drummond, who’s shooting a league-worst (of all players with at least 40 free-throw attempts on the season) 35.8 percent from the free throw line, is now the focus of a greater conversation: How do we prevent this?
While some in the hoops community feel the onus should 100% be placed on the player to improve and completely dedicate themselves to the craft of making free throws, others think there should be some kind of league-wide intervention to discourage teams from applying this strategy to basketball games. As annoying as things like fouling a team so they can’t get up a three-point attempt near the end of a close game, and intentionally sending a horrid free throw shooter to the line can get, this is a team game where the ultimate goal is to win.
With that said, the NBA is only as good as it is aesthetically pleasing to fans, and there’s nothing pleasing about stretches of games being derailed by free throw shooting contests. To go the Desus Nice route, we gotta hear both side, which makes it worth questioning if it’s really worth implementing new rules so that the handful of players (mainly Drummond, DeAndre Jordan, and Dwight Howard in terms of mass hacking hijacking a game) are bailed out. So what should be done?
As much as I’d love to see Drummond, Jordan, and Dwight go full grandma and shoot their free throws underhanded, I’m going to suggest a crazy potential rule alteration: Make these intentional fouls result in three free throw attempts. I know, it sounds like this could just compound the problem and force more misses and stop the clock/rhythm of the game for more time, but what else could be a more reasonable response? You can’t make the made free throws worth more points, you can’t make these intentional fouls count for say two fouls a piece, and you certainly can’t alter the team fouls rule to make these fouls non applicable to a team’s total.
The only other suggestion, which might be more reasonable, is after two intentional fouls you give the team a technical foul similar to a defensive three seconds, allowing the fouled team’s best free throw shooter an opportunity to negate the misses.
I do recognize that it’s borderline crazy to make rules to prevent something that really only affects a handful of players, but this is such a unique case in the league and it really makes basketball unwatchable for stretches. I don’t like to be so reactionary, but the “Hack-A” strategy has made games less enjoyable, both in the regular season and playoffs, and if the idea behind it is to allow teams to catch up by forcing meaningless possessions, why don’t we just go the Rock-N-Jock route and allow teams chances to hit 10 and 25 point baskets?
I don’t think we’re going to see a solution to this problem in the near future, so I hope you all enjoy watching missed free throws.
They Didn’t Teach Us This in Algebra 2…
l love them
— 34-16 tho (@RapsFeed) January 12, 2016
Rubber Baby Barton Bumpers
Mel Evans: Denver Nuggets guard Will Barton took a moment out of his very busy half-time walk to the locker room at last week’s game versus the Pacers to fist bump a baby.
TO FIST BUMP. A BABY.
Will Barton fist-bumped the baby ???? https://t.co/nP6VggXw5n
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 18, 2016
If you didn’t already think Will Barton is the sweetest human being on earth, or at least in the NBA, this seals the deal. Will Barton casually took a second to fist bump a baby. Will Barton has, on the occasions I have been at Nuggets games, gotten on the microphone before the game and just thanked fans for coming out and wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving. Will Barton gives back to the community. Will Barton has incredible dunks. Will Barton just recently went to St. Jude’s in Memphis. Did I mention he took a second out of his day to bump fists with a baby?
He is the coolest. He just got a very handsome haircut, wore a white tuxedo cost to the Kroenke Sports Gala, and has a dope nickname no matter how many times announcers try to make “Slinky” happen instead of “Will the Thrill.” He’s just a delight. Can you vote for Will Barton for Sixth Man? Vote for him again. Signed, Will Barton’s Hype Person.
— An Nguyen (@The_NGUYENNER) January 20, 2016
“Seriously, Stop It Kyle”
Congrats to my little brother @Klow7. You making me a proud big bro out here man!
— DeMar DeRozan (@DeMar_DeRozan) January 22, 2016
I'm older than you… Lol… But thanks bro… https://t.co/gn1QIEFQZl
— Kyle Lowry (@Klow7) January 22, 2016
I Am (Still) the Captain Now
Nikhil Dandekar: Chris Paul, annoying as he may be to many, is still the best floor general in the league. Even Robin Lopez probably think so.
He has been absolutely carrying the Clippers over the past fifteen games (as of last friday) since Blake Griffin was diagnosed with a hamstring strain. They’ve gone 10-2 over that stretch, pummeling the minnows of the league, but they’ve done it playing primarily small ball. Paul Pierce has returned to the role in which he excelled with the Nets and Wizards as a stretch four. Though clearly past his prime, his job becomes easier with CP3 is barking out instructions. This season, they’ve run at their fastest pace since Paul arrived, which has been instrumental to their efficiency on offense without a low post presence like Griffin.
Players have been stepping up across the board (save for Lance Stephenson and the now-traded-back-to-Houston Josh Smith). Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford continue to somehow make high degree of difficulty shots while struggling with the easy ones. But they’ve both been integral to the bench scoring. Cole Aldrich posted two of the best games of his career in spot duty with DeAndre Jordan out for two games. As a backup big with Griffin hurt, he’s proven to be a staunch rim protector who can finish around the rim. And Wesley Johnson has been competent as a wing, far more so than Stephenson.
The second most important player to this run has been J.J. Redick. Redick has been raining threes at a career high level this season, attempting and making more than ever with the highest percentage (.495!!!) of his already impressive career.
However, the dominance of their run begins with Paul. He remains the little engine that could, a borderline psychopath on the court, who is locked in from the moment he steps onto the court. And his handles, which are perhaps the most functionally impressive in the league, remain overshadowed by Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, and his less efficient (understatement) backcourt mate, Jamal Crawford.
Paul (as of Friday) has averaged 21 and 11 in the month of January with .48/.53/.83 percentages with a number of throwback plays. It appears Griffin will return to the court within the next several days, but their charge back to fringe contender status has been surprising, and that’s heavily due to CP3.
— AP (@Ananth_Pandian) January 23, 2016