Posted on: September 21, 2010 5:56 pm
It wouldn't be time for another NBA season without the Mavericks feeling like championship contenders. But this time, the feeling is different. This time, there's a palpable belief that the Mavs had better get it done this year or their window will be closed -- for a long time, if not for good.
That's a little drastic. They're still not better than the Lakers, and still might not be able to get past the Spurs in a best-of-7 playoff series. But the Mavs enter training camp as a much better team than the one that lost to San Antonio in the first round a few months ago. With no cap space -- cap space can't score or defend, after all -- Mark Cuban struck out on the major free-agent targets. But the addition of Tyson Chandler certainly will help. Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki know the window is closing, but maybe this is a good spot for them to be in. With all eyes on the Lakers, Celtics, Heat and Magic, maybe the Mavs can quietly be in the mix. If it's possible for Cuban's team to do anything quietly.
Training camp site: Southern Methodist University
Training camp starts: Sept. 28
Key additions: Tyson Chandler (trade), Alexis Ajinca (trade), Ian Mahinmi (free agent), Dominique Jones (draft).
Key subtractions: Erick Dampier (trade), Eduardo Najera (trade), Matt Carroll (trade).
Likely starting lineup: Jason Kidd, PG; Caron Butler, SG; Shawn Marion, SF; Dirk Nowitzki, PF; Tyson Chandler, C
Player to watch: Butler. When he’s good, he’s very, very good. And when he’s bad, he’s divisive.
Chemistry quiz: There shouldn’t be any chemistry issues on a team with so many veterans getting their last realistic shot at a championship. There shouldn’t be. But there could be, especially given that not everyone (Mark Cuban included) was on board with the rotations and substitution patterns Carlisle utilized during another underwhelming (and brief) playoff run. Teams like these, with established players vying for their spot in the pecking order, can come unglued if things don’t go well. (Did we mention Cuban’s recent comments that the Mavs have enough size and depth to beat the Lakers?)
Injury check: Speedster Rodrigue Beaubois is likely out until November following surgery on his broken left foot.
Camp battles: Ultimately, Carlisle faces only two starting lineup decisions. But they’re important ones: Whether to start Chandler or Brendan Haywood at center, and whether Butler starts at shooting guard with Marion at the three, or Butler at the three with Beaubois (once he’s healthy) starting in the backcourt with Kidd. Neither one of those decisions will be made in October. But all eyes will be on first-round pick (acquired from Memphis) Dominique Jones, a slasher who has a chance to crack Carlisle’s rotation and give the Mavs the dribble-penetration element they sorely lacked last season.
Biggest strength: Size and depth. If 6-11 Frenchman Ian Mahinmi stands on a croissant, the Mavs have five legitimate 7-footers: Mahinmi, Nowitzki, Chandler, Haywood and Alexis Ajinca. It can be argued – as Cuban did recently – that Dallas is the team best equipped to combat the Lakers’ twin towers of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. First, the Mavs should worry about getting past the Spurs.
Glaring weakness: Age and miles. The window is closing fast on Kidd, Dirk and Marion, and Jason Terry, all of a sudden, is 33.
Posted on: May 28, 2010 6:35 pm
Edited on: May 28, 2010 6:42 pm
PHOENIX -- The last time Kobe Bryant walked out of U.S. Airways Center, he was “jovial” – which is to say, he was spitting mad. The Lakers’ defense had faltered badly in Game 4, and Bryant was none too pleased that such a lapse would come at a crucial time in the Lakers’ championship defense.
So he fumed in the postgame interview room, railing stone-faced about how the Lakers had lost their defensive urgency and how they needed to get it back – and fast. The defending champs had succumbed to a barrage of 11 3-pointers, 49 percent shooting and 18 offensive rebounds in losing Game 4 115-106.
There was another defensive lapse in the second half of Game 5 at Staples Center – or “lapses,” as Bryant called them – when the Suns erased an 18-point deficit in the third quarter and an 11-point deficit in the fourth. Everyone will remember the chaotic, improbable finish, with Ron Artest catching, landing, and shooting the game-winner at the buzzer off Bryant’s air ball. But the other 47 minutes, 56.5 seconds of Game 5 provided a lot more clues as to how Game 6 might turn out Saturday night in Phoenix.
The Lakers did a much better job handling the Suns’ 2-3 zone, despite the fact that their shooting percentage declined from 50 percent in Game 4 to 42 percent in Game 5. They did it with dribble-penetration and ball-reversal, which made it easier to get the ball into the post, where Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom either kicked it out of the collapsing zone, worked their hi-lo interior passing Magic, or went to the basket. The Lakers’ triangle offense still wasn’t nearly as crisp against the zone, but it was more efficient than it had been since Suns coach Alvin Gentry adopted the strategy early in Game 3.
But Bryant had made it clear after Game 4 that he didn’t want the focus on offense, “which doesn’t win championships.” That’s why it’s worth noting a key tactical shift for the Lakers’ defense, and a greater commitment to rebounding and running the Suns off 3-point shots – with Bryant himself, unsurprisingly, leading the charge.
The Lakers’ defensive effort, the kind prescribed by Bryant after Game 4, began showing up midway through the third quarter as the Suns were trying to cut the deficit into single digits. Artest, who later would go from goat to hero in a matter of seconds, blocked Amar’e Stoudemire’s shot and then stole the ball from Steve Nash leading to his own layup that made it 67-51 Lakers with 6:13 left in the quarter. The teams exchanged baskets for the next two minutes, a breakneck pace the Lakers want to avoid, when Bryant put a stop to it himself.
Stoudemire, seeing a different look with the Lakers switching on pick-and-rolls, lost the ball out of bounds for his fourth turnover. On the Suns’ next trip, Bryant soared in the lane and blocked Stoudemire’s shot – a statement play from the “jovial” Bryant, who got his third block of the night. It was 73-56 Lakers, but they couldn’t sustain the defensive effort – sure to be a point of emphasis in Game 6.
“We had a mental lapse,” Bryant said. “Mental lapses – transition defense and giving up 3-point shots and great looks. But the defense had been steady pretty much all night, except for that spurt when we enabled them to get back into it.”
There were more statements from Bryant, who aggressively closed out on Jared Dudley at the 3-point line and forced him instead into an off-balance runner that he missed with the Lakers leading 83-72 early in the fourth. After the Suns cut it to 88-83, Bryant got his fourth block, this time on Goran Dragic, and grabbed the defensive rebound with 6:24 left.
“Defensively we were terrific,” Bryant said. “We did a great job. We had a stretch where we enabled them to get back in the game, but for the most part we did a good job.”
Despite the way it ended for the Suns, Game 5 was the first time in the series that the road team dictated its tempo and style. The Lakers survived with a little luck, with consistent – if not always effective – effort on the defensive end, and with Artest showing far better instincts on the last play than he’d shown moments earlier when he launched an ill-advised 3-pointer when the right play was to run out the clock and wait for the Suns to foul.
Despite the shift in venue, expect a carbon copy of Game 5 Saturday – without the ending, of course. For five games, the Suns and Lakers have felt each other out, and now it’s clear how they’re going to attack each other and try to stop each other.
“We know what they want to do now,” Stoudemire said. “They’re going to switch the screen-rolls and try to take me out the game. We still need Steve to be aggressive.”
By switching on pick-and-rolls, thus doubling Stoudemire and leaving a big man on Nash, the Lakers turned the Suns’ prolific passer into more of a scorer in Game 5. Nash was up to the task, ripping off one difficult and clutch shot after another in the closing minutes. Nash will be a scorer if he needs to be, but the Suns can counter the Lakers’ strategy by simply setting another screen for Nash and forcing the Lakers to make another decision. If there’s an open man to be found, Nash will find him. And as is always the case with the Suns, if they shoot the ball at a high percentage, they usually win.
“Whatever they throw at us, I think there’s something we can do to use our abilities,” Nash said. “They had a big guy on me. I tried to be aggressive, and the next game I’ll do the same. Or if they change it, we’ll go to whatever else they’re giving up.”
Before he’d even left the arena Thursday night, Nash was already moving pieces around on the chess board in his mind. And you can bet that Bryant, albeit more quietly this time, was doing the same thing.
Posted on: May 18, 2010 6:26 pm
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Amar’e Stoudemire wasn’t able to come up with anything on the court to stop Lamar Odom from having a dominant 19-point, 19-rebound performance in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. So on Tuesday, he came up with an excuse.
“I’m not giving him no hype,” Stoudemire told reporters before the Suns practiced at Staples Center. “He had a lucky game.”
Among other things, Stoudemire is known for his quotability. In a “Twitterview” with NBA media this week, I asked him how far Cleveland would’ve gone if he’d been traded there instead of Antawn Jamison. True to form, Amar’e came through with a one-word answer: “Championship.”
Beautifully done. He may or may not be right about that. But when it comes to Odom, he’s dead wrong.
And foolish for saying it.
As exhibited in the Lakers’ 128-107 victory in Game 1 Monday night, Kobe Bryant is going to get his numbers in this series. With 40 points – 35 of them by the end of the third quarter – Bryant enjoyed his sixth straight 30-point playoff performance. He seemed to relish the Suns’ strategy of trying defending him with 37-year-old Grant Hill. Bryant called that challenge “enjoyable,” and by that, he meant, “Get this old man away from me before I embarrass him.”
Whether it’s Hill or Jason Richardson or Jared Dudley, the Suns have no one who can check Bryant with any semblance of success. For that reason alone, this is going to be a long series for the Suns – or a short one, depending on how you look at it.
But to a man – including Stoudemire – the Suns have insisted that the key to challenging the Lakers is preventing Bryant’s supporting cast from hurting them. This did not go well in Game 1, with Odom’s monstrous game leading a 44-35 scoring advantage by the Lakers’ suspect bench over the Suns’ reserves, who were supposed to have been a key strength going into the series.
“[Bryant] is gonna score,” Stoudemire said after the game. “That’s one thing he’s gonna do. We know that, so we’ve got to make sure we try to contain him a little bit more. But we’ve got to close out the other guys. We’ve got to do a better job on their role players.”
The two sources of consistent production for the Lakers during their title defense have been Bryant and Pau Gasol. Andrew Bynum has been in and out of the box score. Derek Fisher has made some big shots and has held up better than anyone anticipated against three prolific point guards – Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams and now Steve Nash.
But during their run of postseason success in the past five years, Odom’s performance has been a tipping point for the Lakers. When he plays well, the Lakers usually win. When he plays like he did Monday night, the Lakers almost never lose.
With the possible exceptions of Bryant and LeBron James, Odom is as physically gifted as any player who’s come into the league over the past dozen years. It’s often a question of motivation, but there’s no doubting his talent.
“I’ve played with Lamar for a long time, so I wasn’t impressed,” said Ron Artest, who grew up playing with Odom on the playgrounds of Queens, N.Y. and in AAU ball. “I’ve seen him do that all the time.”
So why any opposing player would want to ignite the one area of Odom’s game that is lacking – his motivation – is beyond me. Stoudemire should know better than to rattle Odom’s cage, and he should know better than to say his performance Monday night was an aberration.
The Lakers are 9-2 this season when Odom has 15 or more rebounds, including a 17-point, 19-rebound game against Houston in January and a 10-point, 22-rebound effort against Portland in February – both wins. In his postseason career with the Lakers since the 2005-06 season, the Lakers are 7-2 when Odom has 15 or more rebounds. Four of those nine games have come against the Suns, and Odom scored in double figures in all four, as well. In those games, the Lakers are 2-2.
But even if Stoudemire forgot about those games, surely over the past five years he’s noticed at least a handful of Odom’s 47 games with 15-plus rebounds since he put on a Lakers uniform. If not, maybe he’s seen highlights of one or two of his 174 double-doubles as a Laker. During the same five-year period, Stoudemire has 28 games with 15-plus rebounds and 156 double-doubles. How many of those were luck?
After throttling Stoudemire and the Suns’ supposedly improved defense in Game 1, Odom wouldn’t engage him in a war of words Tuesday.
“I’m not gonna do that,” Odom said. “Not when it comes to basketball.”
As for his performance, Odom said, “It was good. Could be better. Hopefully I can have another lucky one.”
Posted on: April 27, 2010 4:49 pm
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – If you ask Phil Jackson – and we did – nothing has changed for the Lakers as they face a must-win Game 5 Tuesday night against a team that has run them ragged and put the defending champs in a precarious 2-2 tie in their first-round series.
“Same old basketball team,” Jackson said on the Lakers’ practice court Tuesday. “Same old group of guys.”
Well, not really. The last guy on the court shooting jumpers, Ron Artest, had notably shaved his head. No more Dennis Rodman lookalike routine.
“Just a new look,” said the Lakers’ defensive specialist, who along with his teammates needed a change of scenery – among other things – after going oh-for-Oklahoma City.
The Lakers are facing the same situation – tied 2-2, with Game 5 at home – that was in front of them when they eventually beat the Rockets and Nuggets on their way to the Finals a year ago. But with Kobe Bryant’s sore knee, arthritic finger, and assorted other ailments – not to mention the Thunder’s speed and fast-breaking dominance in the past two games – there’s a sense that the Lakers are in more trouble now than they were in either of those aforementioned series.
“I think you just have to go with what’s here,” Jackson said, downplaying the notion that anything useful can be drawn from those experiences. “The guys that have been here know that they can do it and they know what it’s like and what it takes. … It’s a veteran team that knows how to play in the playoffs.”
Not in the past two games, it hasn’t.
Defensively, the Lakers haven’t been able to slow down Russell Westbrook, who has consistently gotten the Lakers out of sorts with dribble-penetration. Offensively, the Lakers are settling for too many jump shots, failing to take advantage of the prominent size advantage owned by Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom. Bad, long shots lead to long rebounds, which have only accelerated the Thunder’s fast-breaking tendencies. Oklahoma City owned a 47-9 advantage in fastbreak points in Games 3 and 4.
Jackson has been preaching better shot selection, more persistent inside play, and better floor balance as the elixirs for slowing Westbrook’s thundering herd. After shootaround Tuesday, he revealed two more factors that he believes will be crucial in keeping this series from slipping away.
It went like this: I asked Jackson, “You wouldn’t consider any lineup or rotation changes at this point, would you?” And he replied, “Yes, I would.”
“Try and get Lamar involved,” Jackson said. “He’s got to get involved in the game. If he plays well, we usually play well.”
Jackson said he’s not contemplating any changes to the starting lineup for Game 5. But he would like to see some changes from Artest besides a haircut.
Though Artest has done a good job holding Kevin Durant to 38 percent shooting in the series, his own poor shot selection and inability to take advantage of his post-up advantage against Durant on the other end of the floor has been one of many trouble spots for L.A. Though Durant would be no match for Artest in the post, Artest has hoisted 23 attempts from 3-point range in the series, making only three.
“He does have real post-up skills,” Jackson said. “He’s got to get inside instead of standing on the outside. The post is a real free-for-all situation on our team. He’s gone in there a couple of times and has chosen not to stay in there. The last game we posted him up a couple of times in the second half to start with just to get him back in there.”
And Kobe? Jackson wouldn’t say whether he expected a more aggressive approach from Bryant in Game 5. That sort of goes without saying after Bryant managed only 12 points on 10 shots in Game 4. But only to a point, if the Lakers know what is good for them.
There are those who think everything the Lakers do has to be about Bryant all the time. Not in this case; it’s too early in the postseason for Bryant to carry the load by himself.
There’s no question Bryant will be more aggressive, and will be more of a factor than he was in Game 4. But if the rest of the Lakers stand around and wait for him to take them to Oklahoma City up 3-2, they will be in very real danger of losing this game – and thus, the series. Instead of Kobe shooting all night, what the Lakers need is more assertiveness from Odom, more dominance from Gasol and Bynum, and smarter play from Artest – and yes, that includes backing the rail-thin Durant into the paint and beating him up. Artest needs to recognize that such a strategy would make his job of defending him on the other end infinitely easier.
If the Lakers don’t do these things Tuesday night, they could be spending a long, miserable summer beating themselves up.
For what it’s worth, I asked Artest what needed to change for the Lakers to regain control of this series. Take his response with a grain of salt, because one of the beauties of Artest is that he talks first and thinks later. But the words that followed my question shouldn’t exactly inspire confidence for Lakers fans.
“Play the same way,” he said.
Which is exactly what the Lakers can’t afford to do.
Posted on: March 27, 2010 12:18 am
Edited on: March 27, 2010 12:21 am
OKLAHOMA CITY – With a signature win for a franchise on the rise, the Oklahoma City Thunder forced the defending champs to look into the future and cringe.
The Lakers won’t know for a couple more weeks who they’ll be facing in the first round when they begin their title defense. If it’s the Thunder, who ran them out of the gym Friday night in a 91-75 rout, things could get a little uncomfortable.
“It’s disappointing we didn’t respond to the challenge,” said Kobe Bryant, who had 11 points and nine turnovers before sitting the entire fourth quarter with fellow starters Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher. “That being said, when the playoffs start, it’s a different situation.”
Probably so. But the Lakers were reminded Friday night of a weakness that was exposed in the conference semifinals last spring against the Rockets: Quick teams and quick guards cause them problems.
A year ago, Ron Artest was playing for the Rockets and Aaron Brooks was forcing Lakers coach Phil Jackson to protect Derek Fisher in that matchup by putting quicker guards Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar on Brooks for long stretches.
“The death knell was ringing for us last year in the Houston series when Brooks was lighting us up, and we actually had to make a change a little bit in our rotation,” Jackson said. “In fact, Derek helped us out by getting suspended a game, otherwise I would’ve stuck with him. But we started playing a little different, with speed on speed in that situation. Before you know it, Fish is right back in the lineup and contributing the rest of the playoffs, and I anticipate that’s going to be his role.”
But on Friday night, it was Russell Westbrook playing the role of Aaron Brooks, and Jackson was never able to find an answer for his speed. Westbrook had 23 points and six assists on 10-for-13 shooting with only two turnovers – despite leaving the court briefly in the second quarter with what appeared to be a badly turned ankle that caused him to miss only three minutes.
“I tried everybody but Sasha [Vujacic] in the backcourt on him,” Jackson said. “We tried to match him and see what we could get done. And he got in a zone there in that lane, and that’s his strength.”
Kevin Durant, who had 28 points, called Westbrook “one of the toughest players I have ever played with. … He won the game for us. He was incredible.” Oklahoma City snapped a 12-game losing streak against the Lakers -- a streak that dates to the franchise's final days in Seattle.
These are problems the Lakers could very well have to contend with again in a month or so. The Thunder (44-27), currently in the sixth playoff spot, are only 1 1-2 games ahead of eighth-place Portland. San Antonio and Phoenix are in that mix, too. But until now, the Thunder were the biggest unknown – a team the Lakers hadn’t played since November, when L.A. handled them easily.
This time, Oklahoma City built as much as a 33-point lead against a Lakers team that offered little resistance. What was billed as a marquee matchup of Kobe vs. Durant wound up being a layup drill with D.J. Mbenga getting posterized by Jeff Green and Durant on consecutive trips in the fourth quarter.
“We know what San Antonio is; we know what they’re going to come out and do,” Jackson said. “We sort of have a dance that we do between us. This team is a young team with a lot energy, somebody we’re not aware of – we haven’t seen them in four months – and those things change up how you play.”
Pau Gasol took issue with Jackson’s assessment that he played soft, but didn’t have much more to say. He discouraged the traveling analysts from reading too much into this one.
“You don’t want to search too deeply into it,” Gasol said. “There’s nothing to search for.”
Nor was Bryant in an inquisitive mood. Asked by a nemesis in the L.A. media if he got caught up in the competitive challenge of playing against Durant, Bryant shot him a puzzled look and said, “That’s a silly question.”
Earlier, he was asked the same questions he’s asked every time the Lakers serve up a clunker like this: Do you have a feel for your team? Do you know what you have?
“I will when the playoffs come around,” he said.
Posted on: January 28, 2010 11:53 am
Edited on: January 28, 2010 7:45 pm
First of all, as Charles Barkley would say, I love the seven first-time selections. All-Star weekend is badly in need of some juice, and I think there's a good chance that some of these first-timers -- Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo -- will provide some of the weekend's most memorable moments.
I know this is a knee-jerk sports world and we're supposed to fight about everything, but I don't have enormous problems with the coaches' selections. In the East, they picked Rose and Al Horford over my picks -- David Lee and Josh Smith. I disagree on Horford; Smith is the Hawks' most important player after Joe Johnson, and Horford doesn't play enough minutes to be an All-Star. Lee deserves to be there, too. Being based in New York, I have more than my share of chances to watch him bust his behind on a talent-less team. Rose? I don't have any problem with him being an All-Star. He'll be great to watch in an All-Star Game. Guys like Rose understand the moment and know how to rise to it.
In the West, I only differed with the coaches on one selection: They chose Zach Randolph; I chose Chauncey Billups. If I met with every coach who chose Randolph and we debated outside some NBA locker room, I don't think anybody would win. Z-Bo is having a great year on a surprisingly competitive team. Billups remains the glue that keeps the Nuggets together. I'll take the No. 2 pick in that draft and be happy.
In making my picks, I used the same criteria the coaches are instructed to use: select seven reserves, ranked 1-7 for weighting purposes, according to the following positional breakdown: center, two forwards, two guards, and two wild cards.
Here were my picks -- with the coaches' alternative in parentheses, where applicable:
1. Chris Bosh, F, Toronto: The "other" 2010 free agent went into the season determined to put up huge numbers, which he is. Bosh's steady play also is a big reason for the Raptors' recent resurgence.
2. Rajon Rondo, G, Boston: Nothing against Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen, but Rondo may have surpassed both of them as the most important Celtic after Paul Pierce.
3. Josh Smith, F, Atlanta (Coaches picked Derrick Rose): Defense, shot-blocking, scoring -- J-Smoove does it all, except take too many 3-pointers. He's eliminated that annoying aspect of his game and deserves to be rewarded.
4. Gerald Wallace, F (wild card), Charlotte: This is a tough call between Wallace and Danny Granger. I'll give the nod to Wallace because of defense and team success.
5. David Lee, C, Knicks (Coaches picked Al Horford): It's time to stop attributing Lee's machine-like double-double production to Mike D'Antoni's system and recognize that there's nothing wrong with being one of the best pick-and-roll big men in the league.
6. Joe Johnson, G, Atlanta: Johnson should send a thank-you gift to Jamal Crawford, whose ability to absorb some of the end-of-quarter/end-of-game scoring load has kept Johnson fresh.
7. Paul Pierce, F (wild card), Boston: Rondo makes the Celtics' engine go, but Pierce is still the closer -- one of the best in the league at both ends of the floor.
1. Dirk Nowitzki, F, Dallas: Still playing at an MVP level and never gets the recognition he deserves.
2. Chris Paul, G, New Orleans: In terms of statistics and overall talent, the best point guard in the league.
3. Brandon Roy, G, Portland: With all of Portland's injuries -- including Roy's own balky hamstring of late -- this budding superstar deserves credit for keeping the Blazers afloat.
4. Chauncey Billups, G (wild card), Denver (Coaches picked Zach Randolph): We take Mr. Big Shot for granted because he's so consistent, but remember: He's consistently great. Monta Ellis deserves serious consideration here or for one of the wild-card spots, but there are simply too many great guards in the West for him to break through.
5. Pau Gasol, C, Lakers: Despite missing a big chunk of the season, Gasol has played enough to warrant an All-Star nod. When he's on the floor, he's among the most gifted and impactful big men in the league. Gasol or Randolph? I'll take Gasol.
6. Kevin Durant, F, Oklahoma City: We knew he could score, but now KD is emerging as a much improved defender and leader.
7. Deron Williams, G (wild card), Utah: This is why there's no room for Randolph on my squad, despite his solid 20-point, 11-rebound averages on a much improved Memphis team. D-Will is too good -- and the Jazz's recent resurgence too notable to overlook -- for one of the top point guards in the NBA to continue to get overlooked.
Posted on: June 12, 2009 12:16 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Mickael Pietrus won't be fined or suspended for Game 5 of the NBA Finals after the league office reviewed his hard foul against Pau Gasol at the end of overtime in Game 4 and decided not to take further action, CBSSports.com has learned.
This was the convenient way to handle this; the last thing anybody wanted was a controversy heading into a closeout game in the Finals. But it was not the right way to handle it. After so many upgrades and downgrades of flagrants this postseason, it was incumbent upon the NBA to get this one right. I don't think they did, but I am willing to give them a chance to explain.
At the competition committee meeting in Chicago last month, team executives told league officials that they need explicit guidelines for what constitutes a flagrant-one and flagrant-two. The rule book defines a flagrant-two as "unnecessary and excessive contact," but Stu Jackson and his comrades have a compendium of factors and circumstances that they consider when reviewing flagrant calls to determine if the punishment was assessed correctly.
The league has agreed to provide these guidelines to players, coaches, media, and fans before next season. Obviously, we could've used them sooner, because it has become virtually impossible to look at a flagrant foul and determine what the league will make of it.
It's supposed to be like obscenity. You're supposed to be able to know it when you see it. To me, Pietrus' foul on Gasol fit that description better than any other flagrant foul I've seen this postseason.
Posted on: June 9, 2009 8:15 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The hot topic before Game 3 Tuesday night was still Courtney Lee's missed layup at the end of regulation in Game 2, with Lakers coach Phil Jackson advancing the story by saying he believed basket interference should have been called on Pau Gasol.
"Basket interference according to the rules, yeah," Jackson said.
As Lee caught an inbounds pass with 0.6 seconds left and the score tied 88-88, Gasol's fingers touched the rim as he contested the shot. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy refused to revisit the situation, saying, "Calls didn’t decide that game. I don’t think his hand being there or not being there had anything to do with the shot going in or not. You're not going to get a complaint from me on that call."
Jackson added, "It's called basket interference is what it's called. Even if you hit the net supposedly in the process that's part of it, but that rule is kind of archaic. It isn't called in this day and age as much, but when we were in high school ... that was something a high school ref might call, basket interference."
When pressed on his position, Jackson admitted that Gasol's contact with the rim "didn't interfere with the shot, basically. That was not something that destroyed the shot."
With all due respect to Jackson, Magic fans, and talk radio yappers, I pose the following question: Is ESPN.com not available in central Florida? We give credit where credit is due here in the BergerSphere, and Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com put this issue to rest two days ago. After Game 2, he spoke with the NBA's supervisor of officials, Bernie Fryer, who clearly explained the rule, why basket interference wasn't called, and why it was the correct call.
Here I am quoting from the NBA rule book -- Rule 11, Section I. A player must not:
* Vibrate the rim, net or backboard so as to cause the ball to make an unnatural bounce, or bend or move the rim to an off-center position when the ball is touching the ring or passing through; or
* Touch the rim, net or ball while the ball is in the net, preventing it from clearing the basket.
Gasol didn't do any of those things, which explains why Fryer said after the game that it was a "cut-and-dried no call."
There. Can we move on?