Category:NBA
Posted on: February 23, 2012 10:41 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 10:49 pm
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Linsanity meets LeBrontology in Heat win

LeBron James lead the Heat to a win over Jeremy Lin and the Knicks. (Getty Images)
By Matt Moore 

Magic and momentum can take you far in this world. Things happen in sports that defy logic and reason. They happen all the time in the NBA. The 8th seed Warriors with no discernible defense knocking off one of the best regular season teams of the decade in Dallas. The Nuggets toppling the Sonics in the 90's. Sundiata Gaines hitting a game winner. In football, Tim Tebow knocked off the Steelers. It only took injuries to half of Pittsburgh's team to pull it off. Sometimes the story is greater than the facts.

But eventually, there's science. Cold, hard, science.

On Thursday night, Linsanity got a cold dose of LeBrontology, as Miami downed New York 102-88.

It wasn't primarily James doing the damage, it was the Heat's suffocating team defense. It was Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier attacking Jeremy Lin's dribble, it was Wade, Chris Bosh, Chalmers, and Battier on offense. But James was the tip of the spear at both ends, and putting on another MVP performance in a big game setting with 20 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals,, and 2 blocks. Want proof this game mattered to James? 40 minutes, before the All-Star break. He contained Lin, forced him into traps, and the Heat took away Lin's right, then took away his dribble, and always, always, always started the break with one of their athletic wings streaking in for the finish.

It was a blitzkrieg, it was a bum rush, it was a stampede by Miami, and the Knicks were left trampled underfoot.

By the end of the game any hope of Lin turning on one of the furious comebacks he's created this year fell by the wayside, instead the Knicks reverted to B.L. (Before Lin) thinking, with Carmelo Anthony isolating for contested jumpers, the rhythm destroyed for New York. It was an impressive win, but far from a blowout.

The Knicks had things going for them, and in reality, this game represents well where the two teams are. The Knicks are dangerous, now. When Anthony is slashing to the basket, when Amar'e Stoudemire is taking advantage of opportunities, when Tyson Chandler is a force at the rim, and on any other night when Lin is able to create scoring opportunities, the Knicks have what it takes to make a playoff run and run to the second round. That they were over-matched is not indicative of the degree of this team's flaws, less than a week in with this complete roster.

The fact that Miami slammed the door so emphatically in the second half is.

The Big 3 scored 67 points, the bench gave them 27. But it was their game plan that shows what this team can do when it's in gear. The formula is simple. Turn the opponent over, run, run, run it down their throat. Rinse, lather, repeat. There will come a time when the Heat offense again looks pathetic, stagnant, pedestrian. But the Knicks caught them at a time when they are at their very best. This Heat team smothers your possession, dissects your ball movement, then punishes you with their speed and athleticism. I call it the Flying Death Machine for a reason. That New York hung in says a lot about their talent level.

Lin was sloppy, running into defenders, desperate to try and create space, contained on the drive and deterred from his sweet spots. The Heat can talk all they want about not adjusting their game to their opponent, but this was a concerted effort to cut the Knicks' mythological head clean off. With Lin buried, the Knicks offense was fine, for a while, but eventually it caught up. That may be the most impressive piece of the Heat's performance. Amar'e Stoudemire hurt the Heat in the first half. They made him vanish in the second half. The perimeter shooting killed them throughout the game, but eventually the Heat started anticipating the passes. They gave up a lot of size inside, but the bigger the game became, the better Joel Anthony (5 blocks) played.

And there was James, at it all, running and swiping and cutting and shooting. The Knicks were within ten under two-minutes. Lin turnover. Outlet pass. LeBron James emphatic dunk. The end.

Lin will adjust and get better, the Knicks will be fine. But this game showed itself to be another example of what we already knew.

The Miami Heat play above the rim, and a step above everyone else in the NBA right now. They are faster, stronger, better right now. 

It's science.
Posted on: February 23, 2012 9:22 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 9:29 pm
 

David Stern: 'Linsanity' unprecedented in sports

Posted by Ben Golliver  
David Stern says "Linsanity" is unlike anything sports has ever seen. (Getty Images)

NBA commissioner David Stern was in Orlando on Thursday night, getting ready for Sunday's All-Star Game. Of course, all he could talk about was the only player anyone wants to talk about these days: New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin.

Hours before Lin took the court against the Heat, a few hundred miles South down I-95 in Miami, Stern told reporters that Lin's instant popularity hasn't ever been matched in sports history, not even by Sunday's biggest names, LeBron James or Kobe Bryant.

The Associated Press had the details.
"I haven't done a computation, but it's fair to say that no player has created the interest and the frenzy in this short period of time, in any sport, that I'm aware of like Jeremy Lin has," Stern said Thursday.

Lin, an undrafted guard from Harvard, has become the NBA's biggest story since coming off the Knicks' bench earlier this month to lead them to nine wins in 11 games heading into their matchup with Miami on Thursday night.

With Lin's popularity in Asia as the league's first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent, and with the religious community because of his strong Christian faith, Stern says he's "never quite seen anything like" the attention on Lin.

"It's fascinating," Stern said after the All-Star Jam Session opening ceremonies.

The top five videos on NBA.com since Feb. 4, when Lin joined the rotation, are all Lin or Knicks related. Lin went from 190,000 followers on Sina, China's version of Twitter, on Feb. 2 to more than 1 million as of Feb. 16.

Indeed, Lin's popularity is so out of this world that the NBA made a late roster switch to ensure his participation in the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star Saturday, a game that includes the NBA's best rookies and sophomores. Lin is in such high demand that all of the game's other participants will meet with the media following a team practice on Friday while Lin will have his own, separate press conference later in the night. 

This is Jeremy's world, folks. We're all just living in it. Even David Stern and the rest of the league's All-Stars, at least for the moment. 
Posted on: February 23, 2012 8:43 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 8:47 pm
 

Report: Lin and Tebow have "connected"

Lin and Tebow: BFFs. (Getty Images)
By Matt Moore 

It was inevitable really. If you're a young, warm and fuzzy rising star who professes your Christian faith proudly, you're going to get compared to Tim Tebow. If you admit you're a fan of his, even more so. So it is with Jeremy Lin, who has called Tim Tebow an inspiration, and has apparently connected with Tebow by phone. That is the word, "connected" which People Magazine used in their report on the two becoming BFFs forever.  
"They've spoken over the telephone. Jeremy's been a fan of Tebow's for a while, but only recently were they able to connect," says Tam of Lin, who's followed Tebow since his quarterback days on the national champion University of Florida football team.

"His comment to me was that Tim is a really great guy and that he's very inspired by him," adds Tam.

On Feb. 20 at the Cartoon Network's Hall of Game awards, Tebow told ESPN: "I've had the pleasure of getting to know him over the last few weeks and what a great guy he is."
via Jeremy Lin, Tim Tebow: Buddies : People.com.

This is news because people care about Jeremy Lin and people care about Tim Tebow. Tebow can't help Lin fix his turnovers, or on how to be a champion, or any of that. He can probably provide help on how to deal with media scrutiny and intensity, but in reality, these two have friends who are and are not Christians, and there's nothing surprising about this. It's a nice story, though, since Lin and Tebow are two who have a unique understanding of being professionals with intense love and scrutiny, being somehow quality players in their sports (well, Lin anyway) and icons for cultural adoration

In short, Tebow and Lin, best friends for life. Or something.
Posted on: February 23, 2012 8:25 pm
 

Lin's turnovers a problem for Knicks vs. Heat

By Matt Moore 

We told you that the Heat could create turnovers against Jeremy Lin and you saw it in the first half. After the first 24, Miami leads 5-47, as Jeremy Lin has six turnovers, and LeBron James has five steals (though not all are off Lin). Both Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers have done an excellent job of containing and pressuring Lin, while the rest of the Heat have attacked his dribble. Amar'e Stoudemire also has six turnovers, but has 11 points and 3 boards to go with it. Lin on the other hand has just 2 points and 2 assists.

It's a breakneck pace with the Heat running out in transition. LeBron James has 8 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals, and 2 turnovers. The defense for both teams has been very good despite the high shooting percentages.

Lin has to calm down and run the offense, and not force the issue. Mental and physical exhaustion have to be playing a part, but six turnovers in a single half is just too much. Steve Novak has nine points off the bench. A second quarter run gave the Knicks the lead briefly, but the Heat came right back by pushing the tempo again with Lin in the game. It's been a game of fast pace and big plays with huge blocks and dunks on both ends.
Posted on: February 23, 2012 5:15 pm
 

Chris Paul says he's decided on option

Chris Paul says he's already decided to opt-in to 2012-2013 with the Clippers. (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore 

When Chris Paul was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, it was done under the condition that Paul would exercise his option for 2012-2013 to give the Clippers at least two years to build a team around him. Still, there was still a feeling from skeptics that this could all go wrong. That since it was Paul's decision, if things didn't work with the Clippers, he could opt-out and test restricted free agency. Because that was part of the back-room deal in place, there has been little discussion of his option for next season. 

But in an interview with Jim Rome this week, Paul was asked if he'd decided to exercise that option and stay with the Clippers through next summer instead of becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer and seeing all his options. Paul said that the decision has already been made, and outlines why.

 


So Paul says the decision is made. He could back out of it, but you have to doubt that's going to happen with the Clippers in third place in the West, leading their division with signature wins over the Lakers and Heat. The Clippers aren't perfect, but in a short time they surrounded Paul with a quality cast of veterans (the kind stars like Paul want to play with), alongside Blake Griffin, and have changed a lot of the culture. 

Based off of how Paul talks about the quality guys they brought into the locker room, and the result so far, don't you have to consider Clippers Neil Oshey the Executive of the Year? He didn't just bring in player after player to fit in with a Chris Paul team, then pulled off the trade, but he managed to do so while building a locker room that Paul wants to be part of.

Even if things don't finish well for Paul in L.A. this year, they have a whole other year to build a championship team around the best pure point guard in the league and the most powerful power forward under 25. Everything's good news this year for Clippers fans.

When's the last time you could say that?

("ROME with Jim Rome" debuts on CBS Sports Network April 3rd.  You can follow him on Twitter @JimRome.)
Posted on: February 23, 2012 4:15 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 4:28 pm
 

Knicks vs. Heat headlines: LeBron vs. Jeremy Lin


By Matt Moore
 

Okay, I'm going to use one pun here for this Knicks-Heat game Thursday night, and then we're going to go through the rest of it without a single one, not even Linsanity. But I have to get this one out there, OK?

This is Nuclear Lin-ter.

The unbelievable story of Jeremy Lin rolls into Miami at 7 p.m. EST Thursday night, and it's not out of this world to say that this is the biggest matchup of the season. The Knicks, 7-2 in the Jeremy Lin era (3-2 in their last five) take on the Heat on a seven-game winning streak, all by double-digits. The unheard-of phenomenon against the superstar monolith. It's David vs. Goliath, only Davis is armed to the teeth this time, with Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, and J.R. Smith. It is the story that's captivated the minds and hearts of the sports world vs. one of the truly most hated, yet incredibly awesome in terms of ability teams in the history of sports.

This is going to be fun.

With that, here are your Knicks vs. Heat Storylines.

A Question of Fit

The superstar teams have not come together seamlessly. There have been hiccups, problems, issues, complications, struggles and downright disasters. Last year's Heat team was a mess of athletic dynamos running into each other at times, and simply standing around ball-watching others. Things are different this season. The Heat have become a much more fluid offense, but there are still times when the hesitation presents itself and the defense can stifle the Heat into looking like four-year-olds playing four-square. Meanwhile, the Knicks were disastrous without Lin. Carmelo Anthony, point forward, was an era that lasted approximately five games before Mike D'Antoni realized that wouldn't work. Is Lin the engine that can make this go? In two games with Anthony back, the Knicks are 1-1. Anthony hasn't put up big numbers, neither has Lin. But the offense has been efficient and balanced. This game is a chance for each side to present its best offering as to how they've come to fit together. The Heat can demonstrate the pieces have assembled into the Flying Death Machine they've been this season. The Knicks can show they have the engine to make the parts work with a legit point guard.

Because if neither team fits well together last night, the other might run away with the game.

Guarding Jeremy Lin

LeBron James has already said he will guard Lin for portions of the evening, and that's no surprise. What will be worth watching is how Lin adjusts. James is a monster perimeter defender because, well, he's the size of a truck and has the lateral quickness to stay with absolutely anyone. Lin, on the other hand, does a terrific job at two things, forcing the split of the double-team (though that's where most of his turnovers come from), and managing that set in terms of when to pass and when to finish. He can force the pass sometimes, but in general he has a good sense of the set.

He's running up against a big problem in James, though. According to Synergy Sports, James forces a turnover on the pick-and-roll ball handler 23.1 percent of the time, which is extremely high. Think of how shooting 45 percent in any set is pretty decent, now imagine out of ten possessions, the player turns it over twice, and hits just three of the remaining shots (James holds those shooters to 40 percent shooting). With Lin's turnovers coming mostly out of the pick-and-roll as ball handler (26 percent of the time in a small sample size), this could be rough. Great defenses like Dallas' have struggled with containing Lin when he splits that double-team, but again, this is Miami. This is really the crux of the battle right here. The Miami shooters can contain the perimeter threats with their rotations, but the biggest offensive set threat happens if Lin gets loose out of that double. That will force the Heat to adjust which opens up things for Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. No pressure, J.

Rivalry Renewed

This isn't going to get the press of the other stars, but does anyone else realize this is Tyson Chandler facing the same Heat team he annihilated in the Finals? Chandler's ability to convert offensive rebounds is going to be key in this game. Likewise, the Heat need to get him in foul trouble early. Chandler can be neutralized which puts capable but not-standout Jared Jeffries in to battle Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem, matchups the Heat would much prefer. Chandler can crush teams if he gets going in the pick and roll or on tap backs. This is the biggest game of Chandler's season to date with the Knicks. He put the Mavericks into the list of champions over this team last year. How he dominates the glass will go a long way into deciding this game.

One-on-One-on-One-on-One

Oddly enough, the same sets which give Miami and New York their worst performances may be necessary tonight. I've railed on the Heat for going Isolation too much as I do with nearly every NBA team, and the rest of the world has done the same to the Knicks, especially Carmelo Anthony. But the Heat's pick-and-roll defense is so good, their rotations so well-executed, that the best answer for them may simply be to let Anthony and Stoudemire do work one-on-one. Getting the Heat away from playing on a string takes away their biggest defensive strength outside of sheer athleticism. And for the Heat, the Knicks' defense is better this year despite having mostly the same players as a terrible one last season. The reason is systemic, not individual, and the best way to answer that is to isolate those poor defenders, Anthony and Stoudemire (and Fields) and try and blow past them.

In short, going hero ball is actually not a bad plan tonight.

The Indescribable

This is one of those moments. You know, the ones that form the tapestry of a season. The Heat are bagged on about not closing out games against elite competition, and Jeremy Lin has been as clutch as it comes in the fourth quarter. Carmelo Anthony has been accused of not being able to fit in an offense. The Heat crowd is typically terrible. Amar'e Stoudemire and Chris Bosh both have their demons. Both teams will blow off this game. It's one game in a regular season going by in a blur. But this game means something. The Lin phenomenon has taken the world by storm. Can it beat the best combination of talent in the NBA? Can the Heat finally step up and answer their critics resoundingly in a key moment?

This one's going to be fun.
Posted on: February 23, 2012 12:22 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 12:25 pm
 

Video: Mikhail Prokhorov raps. No, seriously.

By Matt Moore 

I can't think of a better pitch for Dwight Howard than him seeing this video. I mean, really, why wouldn't you want to play for this guy? 

 

"It's Mikhail Prokhorov on the microphone!"

(Via the New Yorker)
Posted on: February 23, 2012 11:26 am
 

Report: Warriors demanding star for Ellis

The Warriors want a star for Monta Ellis. (Getty Images)
By Matt Moore 

It just wouldn't be the All-Star break without incessant trade rumors about Monta Ellis and the Warriors over-valuing him. This year's starter is from the San Jose Mercury News and Tim Kawakami who says that the going price for Ellis hasn't changed, while providing the background for a trade that was discussed last year. Kawakami outlines a deal which would have sent Michael Beasley and Nikolai Pekovic in return for Ellis. The Warriors turned it down, Pekovic was largely irrelevant last year, but has become a monster in Rick Adelman's system, averaging 18.4 points and 11 rebounds per 36 minutes. The lessons, Kawakami says are: 
* The Warriors, as has been their stance for years, want a star in return for Ellis, who they consider a premium value because of his rare scoring ability and the dearth of scoring shooting guards in the league.

They don’t want to move Ellis just for cap relief. They are quite insistent on that, I’ve heard.

* But they have not yet been offered anything close to what they consider equal value–if Michael Beasley is the best player discussed in a casual offer, that’s not a big offer.

* You never know what you might get as a throw-in, however, since Pekovic suddenly has become much more valuable than Beasley, almost overnight.
via If the Warriors shop Monta Ellis: One example of what they’ve been offered recently | Talking Points.

That's the biggest reason Ellis hasn't been moved yet. He's too good not to get great return on, but not good enough to have teams clamoring for him to come in and dramatically change their offense. He's a player that as a third option would be monstrous, an absolute killer, and as a second option would be very, very good. But the market for stars is tight right now in the NBA. 

The most likely scenario involves Ellis staying through the deadline. There are teams interested in unloading stars, but would the Warriors' management want to part with Ellis for any of the Boston Big 3? Would they consider Josh Smith a star? Targeting Ellis' value is impossible, and until a major shift happens from the Warriors or someone gets desperate, Ellis should be lacing them up in the Bay. 

(HT: IAmAGM.com)
 
 
 
 
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