Tag:Ricky Rubio
Posted on: March 7, 2012 11:56 am
 

Report: Wolves want league to be nicer to Rubio

Ricky Rubio is getting a lot of body from defenders. (Getty Images)
By Matt Moore

When Ricky Rubio was drafted, the questions were about how he would deal with the tougher defense of the NBA. Not in terms of acumen, the Euro leagues provide plenty of defense. But the players are so much bigger, so much more toned, so much stronger, that his wispy frame was considered an issue. Then he came over and lit the league on fire and it wasn't considered an issue. But it's gotten tougher and tougher as the season has gone on, and now the Wolves have decided to pull the "mom who finds out her son is being bullied and goes to the principle" approach. 
Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn said the team has sent video to the NBA , seeking to call attention to what Kahn and the team's coaches believe are opponents being overly physical with rookie guard Ricky Rubio.

The team sent many examples of what it deems are fouls never called against defenders who have decided the best way to play the skinny rookie is to muscle him.

"All our young guys are learning that, Ricky especially," coach Rick Adelman said about opposing defenses adjusting to stop the Wolves' offense. "They're putting bigger guys on him...They’re beating the hell out of him right now. The league has figured out you have to be physical with him. And he’s kind of learning on the fly.’’
via Wolves send Rubio footage to league, looking for some protection | StarTribune.com.

Thing is, that's what parents should do. Will it bring more Heat on the kid in the short term? Sure. But in the long-run it's better to establish an awareness of the issue. They should notify school officials. It's certainly true that kids have to stand up for themselves, but to make sure situations don't become dangerous, they need to give the school a heads up it's a problem. 

That said, this is just part of it for Rubio. It's not like it's significantly impacted his game, and he's still producing, the Wolvesare still winning. But he's going to see more and more of this. He's made a name for himself, and teams will target ways to stop that. The easiest way is to attack him physically. Rubio won't get special treatment, but it may help in cutting off excessively hard fouls that could cause injury.
Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:26 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 10:50 pm
 

Video: Rubio through Cousins' legs to Griffin

Posted by Royce Young



Ricky Rubio was created by the basketball gods for the type of open floor, no defense setting featured in the Rising Stars game.

Really, Ricky Rubio was just created to make ridiculous plays, period. Care-free exhibition or not.

What honestly makes Rubio's dribble through DeMarcus Cousins' legs a little bit cooler is that it's not all that hard to picture it happening in a real NBA game. Except for the part about throwing it to Blake Griffin, because, you know, he's not on Rubio's team.

But you know a play has to be impressive when it catches your attention in a game like this. And Rubio's completely slick move definitely has my vote for move of the weekend so far. It's going to be hard to top.

Via @jose3030
Posted on: February 20, 2012 12:42 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2012 1:05 pm
 

Eye on Basketball Midseason Awards

LeBron James is having one of the best seasons of his career and is the midseason NBA MVP. (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore
 

The 2012 NBA All-Star break begins this week as this season continues to fly by on a shortened lockout schedule. Already we've seen an incredible year, even in the midst of some ugly, ugly, ugly basketball. The Heat look better than ever, the Bulls are still dominant through injury, the Sixers are impressively complete. The Dwight Howard saga drags on. The Lakers and Celtics are struggling to find their dominant gear. The Thunder are blistering offensively, the Timberwolves surprising and of course, Jeremy Lin, Jeremy Lin all the time. 

With that, here are the 2012 NBA Midseason Awards, based on where we stand on February 20th, 2012. 

Eastern Conference Most Valuable Player: LeBron James


When CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel wrote that LeBron was different this year, he was spot-on. James has talked about how he spent the summer re-discovering his love of basketball, getting away from all the criticism, and getting back to the person he wants to be. He and the Heat have admitted that the resounding backlash to "The Decision" played a large part in their mental approach to last season. In short, James is not comfortable being bitter, angry, resentful. He's at his best when driven by a simple love of the game. That's the dichotomy with James. He is inarguably the single most arrogant and out-of-touch player in the Association, and yet he does possess a genuine love of basketball. It's always playing at his home. It's something he lights up when he gets to talk about instead of storylines. Basketball came easily to James athletically, but it's also something he works obsessively at. History teaches that you have to hate your opponent, have to be driven by anger and resentment. James is simply not built that way. In reality, he may be too goofy, too fun-loving to ever reach the kind of iconic play that is necessary to be considered one of the best, to have the killer instinct that so many criticize him for lacking, which he himself has admitted he may lack.

None of this changes the fact that there are only three things which can stop James from earning his third MVP this season, should he continue to play as he has for the first half of the year. The first is largely the same reason he failed to win it last season: vengeance. Voters showed their disapproval of James by not truly considering him for the award. Whether it was a distaste for the arrogance of James' approach to leaving Cleveland on national television, a disgust at the preseason championship comments at the presser with the smoke and fireworks, or disappointment with James seeking to team up with two great players instead of winning on his own (an element neither Carmelo Anthony nor Chris Paul have received criticism for), James was shut out, when by most measures, he simply played better than Derrick Rose. Rose was a phenomenal player last season and a wonderful story, well-worthy of the award. However, James was better. Those sentiments have cooled this season, but if voters decide to maintain their teeth-grinding disapproval of James, that could cost him. The second is simple injury. James has only missed a small handful of games, but that can always derail a player's path. And the third is the most likely impediment: minutes.

The Heat did not take the tactic of prioritizing homecourt last season. It wouldn't have mattered, the Bulls were simply better in every way during the course of the regular season. But the Heat were clearly more focused on being healthy for the playoffs than capturing homecourt. And it's likely to be the same this year. The Heat have managed to handle the compact schedule well, outside of some Dwyane Wade bumps and bruises as to be expected. But when March rolls around, this team will start looking for rest, and that means James could sit out several games. The Heat will happily trade in April wins, provided they have a top four seed, for rest. James could lose momentum in that case as he watches from the sideline and another worthy candidate pushes his way to the finish line.

What makes James worthy of the award this year? Pick one. The Heat are the best team in the East, and you may claim that Dwyane Wade is still the focal point of the offense, metrics be damned, and that's fine, but James' overall work on both ends of the floor still takes the notch. Without resorting to statistics, you see James take over games as if he's a one-man army. He's seemingly everywhere, interrupting passes, working in the post, snatching rebounds, blocking shots, lobbing to Wade, dishing to Chalmers, attacking the rim over and over again. It's awe-inspiring basketball. You don't need metrics to see he's the best player in the game this season. This is all factoring in the fact he's taken a step back defensively. He's turned it on the past five or six games, but this hasn't been a season of his usual defensive dominance... and he's still been this good overall.

But if you want them, they bear it out as well. James is enjoying a career high (tied) in points per 36 minutes, rebounds per game and 36 minutes, field goal percentage, True Shooting percentage (factoring 3-point shooting and free throws), and of course PER. The confusion with PER most often is that it somehow measures value, that it establishes how good a player is. Instead, it's just what it's defined as. Player Efficiency Rating. It establishes who produces the most per minute, considering how many possessions they use in doing so. And right now, James is doing the most of any player in history in that department.



So that's fun.

James may not win MVP this year, for a variety of reasons. But there is absolutely no question at this season's halfway mark, that he's the best player in the league, and most valuable.

Western Conference Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant

If you prefer the classic mold of the MVP, AKA a scoring machine, Kevin Durant fits pretty well. He's a jump-shooter shooting 52 percent from the field. Think about that. The league average is 36 percent. Durant is hitting 15 more shots for every 100 attempts from the hardest place on the floor to knock them down. That's ridiculous. That's just absurd. He is the best pure-scoring machine in the league. Kobe Bryant may topple him for the scoring crown, but he'll need five to six more attempts to do so. The cherry on Durant's Sunday has to be his 51-point explosion Sunday night. He managed 51 points on 28 shots.

And really quietly, Durant's become an elite defender. He's allowing just 26 percent from the field in ISO situations according to Synergy Sports. Defense was a huge weakness in Durant's game over the past few seasons and he's really hit his stride this season. The Thunder aren't even that great defensively, Durant has just been individually incredible.

For him to catch James, he would need for the Thunder to continue their impressive winning percentage. He would need to top the league in scoring, and for his impressive uptick in rebounding rates to continue. It's a tall order, but there's no question he's within range. Durant has become the most impressive offensive force in the league.

He is 23 years of age.

Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving

Ricky Rubio is dazzling. He's a phenom. He changes the course of games and wows you with the eyes. No rookie has impressed more than Rubio, who has silenced all his critics, of which I was very much one, regarding his ability translate his game to the NBA level. Rubio is honestly poetry in motion, and the feel he has for the game is joy-inspiring more than awe-inspiring. It is such a fluid and spectacular range of abilities, it makes the Timberwolves so much fun to watch.

And Kyre Irving is a better player.

It's not really close.

Get past the fact that Irving has been shooting at historic levels, that his overall production is in line with some of the all-time greats in this league in their first years. Irving has a mastery of the game that Rubio does not, even after so many more years of playing professionally. Irving can run an offense more completely and calmly, and is a superb crunch time scorer (Rubio is brilliant in that area in his own right). But if you want numbers, it's simple. Rubio's a 38 percent shooter. Irving is a 48 percent shooter. You can talk about how you would prefer your point guard pass than score, but Irving's numbers are truncated by a lack of talent on the Cavaliers, while Rubio has Kevin Love, Michael Beasley (a scorer for all his faults), an emerging Nikolai Pekovic and Derrick Williams.

Rubio would be a fine choice. He's the most exciting rookie. Maybe even the most impactful rookie.

Kyrie Irving is the Rookie of the Year, halfway through. This one will be tight to the finish.

Defensive Player of the Year: Andre Iguodala

I know. It's always Dwight Howard! It has to be Dwight Howard! But here's the thing. Howard's effort hasn't been as consistent this season. Whether it's the trade talk, the lockout schedule effect, coaching, whatever, it hasn't been there. His rebound rate is there, it's the highest of his career. He actually is allowing fewer points per possession than he did last year, but if we consider the lockout effects on all shooting percentages, Howard has slipped from the 96th percentile to the 77th percentile in rank on points per possession. Howard is maybe the most impactful defensive player in the league. But his performance hasn't been worthy of the award this year.

Iguodala, on the other hand, is the star defender on the league's best defense (Philly is tops in defensive efficiency, points per 100 possessions), and is most often given the toughest assignment night in and night out in this league. He is tasked with stopping the best perimeter threat on offense each game, and in doing so, has limited opponents to 35 percent shooting. He is able to body up larger opponents, stick with smaller ones, switch, shift, deter, block, steal, cajole, harass and otherwise make his opponent's life miserable and has done so for the majority of the season.

A close second on this list is Luol Deng, who actually has better marks via Synergy. But a combination of Deng's missed time due to injury, and the Bulls' reliance on help defense under Tom Thibodeau's system barely, and I mean barely, gives Iguodala the edge here. Dwight Howard will wind up winning this award, but ask yourself, is it more difficult to shut down perimeter elite scorers in this league or to stop the awful, horrible batch of big men currently roaming the lanes?

6th Man of the Year: James Harden

Harden should be starting. By any and all accounts, he is a much better player than Thabo Seofolosha, or Daequan Cook, or whoever you want to start at two-guard for the best offense in the land. Harden should be the starter, he plays starters minutes, he finishes like a starter, he's close with the starters, he's a star in his own right. And yet, he's much better off the bench. He provides the Thunder with not only a scorer off the pine, but an offensive creator, maybe his best asset. Harden can run the offense, he facilitates, and can make a play go even off-ball. He's a capable if not excellent defender, and his decision making and effort is often times the difference in close wins and losses for OKC.

This award has been wrapped up for a good long time.

Coach of the Year: Doug Collins

The Philadelphia 76ers have the third seed in the East as of this writing, with signature wins over the Lakers, Bulls, Magic, and just about everyone not from South Beach. Doug Collins has managed to turn a team without a central star, without an Isolation scoring threat, without a dominant big man or an all-world point guard (no offense to the brilliant Jrue Holiday) into a powerhouse that overwhelms teams with defense, savvy, bench scoring, team play, and fortitude.

The players genuinely love to play for Collins and he's gotten through to them to a man. Spencer Hawes is playing well, for crying out loud. Elton Brand is producing. Iguodala is having the best overall season of his career by the eye test. They have the best defense, the best bench, the best record in a tough division. Collins has done an incredible job and is every bit deserving of this award as much for his process as the results it has garnered.

Most Improved Player: Jeremy Lin

What were you expecting? Usually second-year players are exempt in my eyes. They're supposed to develop and improve in their second season. But Lin is a special case. Lost in the Linsanity and all the great storylines surround him is the fact he has talked a lot about what the D-League did for him. This league too often doesn't allow players to develop, simply shreds them through and only the strong survive. Lin is a testament to the idea that players can develop, can improve, can learn this game and get better to the point of success. He's improved the most simply by making himself relevant, let alone raising New York from the dead for 15 percent of the season.
Posted on: February 12, 2012 12:51 am
Edited on: February 12, 2012 1:19 am
 

Let the great Lin debate begin

Jeremy Lin was just 8-24 from the field Saturday but still got the win. (Getty Images)
By Matt Moore 

And now the fun part begins. Jeremy Lin is no longer undeniable nor deniable after the Knicks100-98 win over the Timberwolves. Let me take you down the road of point/counterpoint that will be hashed and re-hashed over the next 48 hours.

"Lin got the win, that's all that matters."

"Lin was inefficient and missed 14 shots from the field."

"Lin managed to pull 20 points and 8 assists while playing a quality defensive team surrounded by Tyson Chandler, Steve Novak, and Landry Fields as his best weapons."

"A good story doesn't erase a poor game."

"It was the Knicks' third game in four nights, and a back-to-back. The kid has logged long minutes. Everyone gets tired this year."

"It was against the 13-15 Timberwolves." 

"The Wolves are 15th in efficiency differential (12th in defensive efficiency), were above .500 before the Kevin Love suspension. And didn't the win over the Lakers kill the 'strength of schedule' argument?"

"The defense figured him out in the second half."

"Not enough."

And both sides are correct. It was not a great performance by Lin, but it was enough to help the Knicks win. It was inefficient, but highly productive. Lin made some poor plays, and some brilliant ones. Lin is entering the next phase of what happens when you're a phenomenon. And while Lin is not worthy of being compared to the great players of this league, not even close, if we examine this five game stretch as a microcosm of how analysts, fans, and media react to polarizing players, this is the next evolution.

Good enough for the supporters to herald, poor enough for the backlash to begin. Did he win the game, even when he hit the game-winning free throw, or was it defense and poor execution by Minnesota late that kept the Knicks' Linning streak alive? Did he struggle because he was exhausted from hoisting a team without Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, half their payroll, and on a back-to-back, third-in-four? Or was it Minnesota figuring him out?

The debate will rage. His supporters are validated by the simplified 20-8-6-3 line and a win, the backlash buoyed by his turnovers and shooting percentage. And the answer lies in the middle.

Lin was clearly exhausted, as the elevation on his second-half shots reveals. He would land and take longer to recover to his feet. He looked winded, he drifted to the edges at times, and admitted after the game everyone was tired.

But Lin also admitted that the Timberwolves did a good job defending him. And they did. It's been no secret since Lin's first explosive performance that the key is forcing him left. Lin is notably weaker with his left, and in fact, the Wolves shaded him constantly to his left. When Lin attempted to move right in the pick and roll, a second defender would pop to the elbow to drive him back left.

That said, Lin missed several very makeable shots going to his left, including a floater over Nikola Pekovic and a bank shot over Love. Pekovic may have been the biggest difference maker. Not only did he challenge Lin at the rim, but he managed to keep with him laterally without fouling. Most teams don't have a defender of that quality (speaking of players who came out of nowhere), but it does show that Lin is more than mortal.

And yet.

Lin also forced several possessions, often getting into the air and trying to finish with floaters over three defenders instead of passing out to a wide-open corner man, which he has done so much during this streak. Some of that is exhaustion wearing on his decision-making. Some of it is just forcing it.

Do we need to make excuses, though? Hasn't Lin already proved himself, especially since he had a poor game by the new established standards for him and still won the game with 20 points and 8 rebounds? Should we hold him to a higher standard, considering what should be lowered expectations?

It's too late for all that. This thing has taken on a life of its own. And you have to wonder if that was the real difference against Minnesota. The Knicks played well defensively. They got some breaks. Lin was productive but not efficient. But as much as I try and boil things down to metrics and plays and X's and O's, it's hard to watch this game and not walk away with a simple conclusion.

Some things can't be stopped. And while the rollercoaster has to end sometime, right now? Nothing has been able to stop Linsanity. Minnesota is just the latest to experience it.
Posted on: February 8, 2012 2:53 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 4:05 pm
 

NBA releases Rookie/Soph 'player pool'

Posted by Royce Young

Irving leads the rookie class in this year's reformatted Rookie Challenge. (Getty Images)

The NBA's Rookie Challenge is getting a facelift this season. Instead of just matching up rookies against second-year players, there will be a "player pool" in which two general managers -- Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley -- to pick from. Which means the rookies and sophomores will be mixed.

The 18 players picked are (sophomores first): Blake Griffin, Landry Fields, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Gordon Hayward, Greg Monroe, Tiago Splitter, Evan Turner and John Wall. From the rookie class, Kyrie Irving, Ricky Rubio, MarShon Brooks, Brandon Knight, Kawhi Leonard, Markieff Morris, Tristan Thompson, Kemba Walker and Derrick Williams.

No Iman Shumpert is definitely a snub though. NBA assistant coaches are the ones who voted on this list of players.

If Griffin indeed is playing, as one report says he is, he's the obvious No. 1 overall pick but after that, it'll be a little interesting. I imagine John Wall will be taken second, but Irving and Rubio have a shot at it.

Here's my rookie/sophomore big board:

1. Blake Griffin - Obvious top player. A franchise cornerstone where in this case, the franchise is a one-game exhibition no one really cares about.

2. John Wall - Maybe not having the best season for the struggling Wizards, but in this format could be the best player on the floor.

3. Kyrie Irving - Irving is maybe actually All-Star material. You can't go wrong taking him second overall, but if Griffin plays, an Irving-Griffin tandem is likely.

4. Ricky Rubio - Whoever has the No. 2 pick will likely be forced to pull a Kahn and take two point guards with his top two picks. But you can't pass on Rubio. Plus, a Wall-Rubio backcourt makes enough sense.

5. Greg Monroe - Every team needs a skilled big man and Monroe is the class of the class.

6. Paul George - You probably haven't noticed yet, but George is having a breakout season.

7. DeMarcus Cousins - Lucky for whoever takes Cousins, this is only one game and things like "character" and "chemistry" don't really factor in.

8. Evan Turner - It's not hard to see Turner excelling in this game. Good passer and a steady shooting guard that can score off the dribble.

9. Kemba Walker - Walker's versatility gives him value. He could play point or off the ball. And I bet he'll try a crossover so nasty in this game that it breaks someone in the crowd's ankles.

10. MarShon Brooks - It wouldn't shock me if Brooks ends up the high scorer in this game.

11. Derrick Williams - His jumper hasn't been as good as advertised thus far and he hasn't sniffed a breakout moment yet, but Williams might feel more at home against guys his own age.

12. Gordon Hayward - Now you're getting to the point where you're going off name recognition.

13. Kawhi Leonard - A good defender really isn't something that valuable in this game, but Leonard has a pretty solid outside touch.

14. Tristan Thompson - This isn't an indictment on Thompson as a player to have him this low, but in this format, I don't think he'll be much more than an alley-oop target and someone to grab rebounds that come directly to him.

15. Brandon Knight - Who wants a fifth point guard on their team?

16. Landry Fields - Pretty much the same explanation for Leonard could go right here.

17. Tiago Splitter - The biggest big man that needs the ball on the block to be effective. So who wants the boring post player?

18. Markieff Morris - I assume this is the better Morris because he was named to the pool. Bragging rights!
Posted on: January 30, 2012 2:03 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2012 2:41 pm
 

Rubio trash talks Kobe: Spain to win 2012 Gold

Posted by Ben Golliver 
Kobe Bryant and Ricky Rubio will go head-to-head in London. (Getty Images)

There's been a lot of media fuss over how well Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio's game has been a better fit in the NBA than in Europe. His swag is officially NBA-ready too.

HoopsHype.com transcribed a Marca.com video in which the Minnesota Timberwolves' rookie sensation dished out a little trash talk to Los Angeles Lakers All-Star point guard following a Sunday night game between the two teams. Rubio, who first became a household name internationally during the 2008 Olympics playing for the Spanish national team, told Bryant that Team USA won't be winning the Gold Medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Kobe Bryant to Ricky Rubio and Pau Gasol: "You talking about London?" 
Gasol: "Oh yeah." 
Rubio:"You're gonna be there?" 
Bryant "Yeah." 
Rubio: "You know you're getting the silver medal. You know that." 
Bryant: "[expletive]. I'm taking bets! [laughs] If I win I get the keys of Barcelona." 
Rubio: "I bet what you want." 
Bryant: "I take it!" 
Bryant was recently named one of 20 finalists for Team USA and is considered a likely starter on a team that will look to repeat its 2008 Gold Medal performance. Gasol and Rubio are both expected to be major players for Spain, widely regarded as the United States' only serious competition for 2012 Gold. 

USA beat Spain in the 2008 Gold Medal game, 118-107.  Bryant had 20 points in the final. Gasol finished with 21 while Rubio had 6 points and 3 assists off the bench.

Bigger, stronger and more experienced competitors have wilted from Bryant's trash talk over the years, so the fact that Rubio stands toe-to-toe in this tete a tete is further proof of his arrival and immediate acclimation to the NBA. Given his fearless play in 2008, it's also not all that surprising. London can't come soon enough.
Posted on: January 23, 2012 10:58 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 12:29 pm
 

Report Card: A's and F's

Kevin Garnett and the Celtics embarrassed the Magic Monday night in Boston. (Getty Images)
By Matt Moore

Your nightly report grade gives you the overview of what went on in the NBA. Share your grades with us on Faceboook or Twitter. 

Celtics effort

I'm not trying to dog the Celtics by saying that the execution wasn't there. But they didn't magically get younger. They were still slower than the Magic, still weaker than the Magic. But they showed the effort and intensity that made this team a title contender for four years. And that's going to carry them a long way, especially on nights when the opponent rolls over and dies like the Magic did. Celtics are on a win streak. Are they finally back?

Orlando Magic

Gameplan. Effort. Focus. Effort. Intensity. Effort. Cohesion. Effort. Everything went wrong for the Magic Monday night, but their effort was atrocious. Jameer Nelson let second-year man Avery Bradley get into his skull and turn him over constantly. Dwight Howard was failing to keep position or even jump against Kevin Garnett's half-centimeter hook shot. Brandon Bass stole Glen Davis' lunch money and pretty much ended any conversation about who got the better end of that sign-and-trade. This was one of the most pathetic performances I've seen by an NBA team this season and I've seen the Wizards and Nets play six times each.

Emeka Okafor's game-saving block

Down two against the Hornets, San Antonio ran a picture-perfect play which resulted in Tony Parker dishing to a wide open Tiago Splitter racing down the lane for what would have been a clinching dunk. Emeka Okafor recovered weak side and blocked him. No, I'm sorry, block is too weak a word. He obliterated him. He erased him. He undid Tiago Splitter and all seven feet of him to spark the possession that would tie the game. The Hornets lost the game, but it was honestly one of the best plays of the season.




Tim Duncan's game-winning hook:


Running, across the lane, from fifteen feet, for the win, simply net. Old man can still do work. Game, folks. Drive safe




The Washington Wizards

If this were actual school we would have told the parents the Wizards need to pursue repeating the D-League grade. They had as many assists as a team as Andre Iguodala in the first half. They lost by double-digits. They were down 30 after the first 24 minutes of play. They are bad. Still. 


The Rockets' balance

The Rockets only had a four-man bench, but they provided 36 points. Kyle Lowry had a triple-double. Kevin Martin was all kinds of special. And after a Kevin Love three took the lead for the Wolves, the Rockets responded by hammering the Wolves into nothingness. Very impressive win over a game Wolves team.


Ricky-Rubio-Kevin-Love connection

The two are concocting something special. Rubio dished four behind the back passes that I saw Monday night to Love on the perimeter. You can't defend Love's shot on the perimeter for the entire possession. With a point guard that can find him at any point, it makes it nearly impossible to defend. 


Philadelphia, Chicago and Oklahoma City versus garbage teams

They should have won by twenty. They won by twenty. The end.



Memphis Grizzlies


You just... cannot kill this team. The Grizzlies stormed back from down 16 in the fourth quarter to edge the Warriors, crushing the Dubs with yet another fourth quarter loss. They needed to create steals, they created steals. They needed to hit big shots, the hit big shots (including a Rudy Gay ice-cold turnaround). They needed to make free throws to ice it, they iced it. They needed to stop Monta Ellis, Marc Gasol hedged him all the way to the corner and avoided the foul. The Grizzlies' wild ride of the past two seasons continues. 

Golden State Warrirors



The 2012 Golden State Warriors. Motto? No lead is too big to lose! The irony of their biggest win being against the Heat because the Heat collasped down the stretch is just stunning.
Posted on: January 23, 2012 2:49 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 3:29 pm
 

Quarterly Report Awards: LeBron leads MVP

James leads the pack of first-quarter MVP candidates (Getty Images)


This lockout-shortened NBA season is already a quarter over for most teams, stunningly. It has been a crazy whirlwind under the compacted schedule, and we're seeing older teams like the Mavericks, Lakers, and Celtics struggle through it. Meanwhile, deep, younger teams like the Nuggets and Sixers are thriving, and yet the same powers that were expected to be at the top are, even with Miami fallen off a bit. So to get a fix on where we are this season, we thought we'd hand out some awards, roundtable-style. 

1. Who's your MVP?

Royce Young: LeBron James. The Heat lost their first game without Dwyane Wade this weekend, but still, they're 5-1 without him and that's pretty much because LeBron is still the best player in the world.

Matt Moore: I don't want to say LeBron James, because it seems too obvious, but I'm going to say LeBron James, because it's so obvious. No one takes over those first 46 minutes like he does, and without them, you don't get to the time where he has so many question marks.

Ben Golliver: We’ve exhausted the ways to explain LeBron James’ individual brilliance in recent years, but the modifications that he’s made to his game – slashing his three-point attempts, improving his mid-range shot, getting to the free throw line more than he did last season – plus ridiculous numbers (29.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 2.1 blocks, 56.4 percent shooting) make this James’ best season to date. Give it to him so we don’t have to listen to arguments in 5-8 years about how many times he was snubbed, like we’re been hearing from droning Kobe Bryant fans since 2006.

2. If star power wasn't a factor, just straight out "who helps their team the most," who's your MVP?

Royce Young: Still LeBron. I think it became pretty obvious last season how valuable he is to a roster when the Cavs went from a contender to the longest losing streak in NBA history just with the subtraction of LeBron.

Matt Moore: I think it's a tie between Gerald Wallace and Andre Iguodala. Both of those guys do such a phenomenal job in every facet of the game for their teams, and the wins and losses often correspond to how they come out. They're so active with and without the ball and make so many plays for their teams, they have a ridiculous level of impact on their teams, even if James is a superior player.

Ben Golliver: James’ PER ranking is 8 full points above the nearest competition (35 to Bryant’s 27) and he’s carried the Heat in Dwyane Wade’s absence due to injury, so his claim to “helping his team most” to date is essentially indisputable.

3. Is ROY a two-man race already?

Royce Young: Not yet. Ricky Rubio is the first quarter ROY, and Kyrie Irving is right there with him, but don't count out Kemba Walker and even Brandon Knight, who had quietly been playing well in Detroit early on.

Matt Moore: Rubio is drawing comments from people who say he is unlike anything they've ever seen and Irving is statistically dominant in nearly every category. If there were an award for Rookie to wind up making the most impact on wins and losses, I'd go with Kawhi Leonard, who will be making life very unhappy for some team in the playoffs.

Ben Golliver: We’ve definitely got the Ricky Rubio vs. Kyrie Irving two-headed monster that we expected, but the twist is that both the Timberwolves (11th in West) and the Cavaliers (9th in East) are fringe-y playoff teams rather than conference basement dwellers. Team performance could easily be the deciding factor.

4. If James Harden was starting like he should, who would be your sixth man of the year?

Royce Young: It's a close race between Al Harrington and Lou Williams. Both impact their teams greatly when they step onto the floor.

Matt Moore: Al Harrington. Harrington's ability to score anywhere on the floor combined with his active defense make him the prime candidate and it's not close.

Ben Golliver: Mo Williams of the Clippers has dealt with some injuries but has put up 14.5 points and 3.9 assists while shooting the ball extremely well (53.8 percent from the field and 44.8 percent from deep) during the season’s first month.

5. Who wins "worst coaching performance?"

Royce Young: Paul Westphal. Getting fired kind of seals your fate by default, doesn't it? But Westphal, who is a good basketball mind, just couldn't connect with his young team and lost them. That's not doing a good job.

Matt Moore: It pains me to say this because I think he's limited by his roster and will work out in the long-run for the Pistons, but Lawrence Frank has disappointed. Signing veterans with limite upside and impact isn't his fault, but relying on them is. The pieces are there for the Pistons to come together, but it simply hasn't so far this year.

Ben Golliver: I’ll give it to Flip Saunders of the Washington Wizards, if only because he was blown off so blatantly by referee Danny Crawford during this argument. He should have already been fired.

6. If we were giving an award for "strategic adjustment" by a team, who wins?

Royce Young: Rick Adelman has done the best job of any coach so far this season. The Wolves are finally organized offensively and he smartly managed the Rubio starting situation. He gave him time to ease in and made the move to start him before it became a nagging issue that was a constant topic of discussion.

Matt Moore: I'm going with Doug Collins' use of his bench. Deploying them as units and then integrating based on what's working in-game has been genius. Honorable mention to George Karl's two-point-guard lineup.

Ben Golliver: Completely disregarding defense was getting played out, so props to Mike D’Antoni’s Knicks for switching it up and completely disregarding offense.

7. Who has the best defense in the league, team and player?

Royce Young: The Bulls have easily been the best defense. Teams are having trouble cracking 80 on them for crying out loud. At home, they've held four teams to under 70. Best player, I'm giving credit to Andre Iguodala who had been terrific defending the perimeter so far this year.

Matt Moore: Chicago has the best team defense, but the Sixers' more basic, very stable set is a strong candidate as well. Dwight's the obvious pick, but with the Magic's overall defense not as hot, how about the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan? A block machine. He still overreaches on help at times, but overall he's been nearly dominant down low.

Ben Golliver: I think we’re at the same place we were last year: Chicago has proven itself to be the NBA’s best defense while Magic center Dwight Howard (16.1 rebounds, 2.3 blocks per game) is in a category all his own when it comes to individual accomplishments and impact.

Andre Iguodala has helped the Sixers to a surprisingly strong start. (Getty Images)
8. What wins "best storyline" for you?

Royce Young: The 76ers and Pacers quiet rise to contendership. Both teams don't really have any starpower and might not be able to sustain this success through the year, but they're playing well right now and positioning for a high seed in the East.

Matt Moore: The Knicks, Celtics, and Lakers falling apart like a flan in a cupboard. Nothing is more scinitllating that star-studded teams in big markets collapsing.

Ben Golliver: The Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz being so much better than the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets, the teams who made blockbuster moves for Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams at least year’s deadline.

9. Best free agent signing, first-quarter?

Royce Young: David West. He's given the Pacers exactly what they needed. An extra scoring option and someone to rely upon late in games for a big basket.

Matt Moore: Marc Gasol. Cheap out as he was re-signed, but Gasol has been even better than last year and looks like the franchise center he's being paid to be. Memphis made out huge with that deal.

Ben Golliver: Among the teams with the top records in the league, the Pacers adding David West – solidifying them as a likely top-4 team in the East – and the Clippers nabbing the amnestied Chauncey Billups – giving them a foul-drawing machine and a stand-in replacement when Chris Paul gets injured, both merit acknowledgement.

10. Who is the best team in the league?

Royce Young: Chicago. The Bulls are a bit boring -- especially when Derrick Rose doesn't play -- but you can't ignore how they're just hammering on people right now. Scoring against Chicago is a full on chore and with Luol Deng playing great, Carlos Boozer looking better and of course having Rose ready to carry the load when needed, the Bulls appear to have the total package.

Matt Moore: The Miami Heat. I know what the records say. I know how good Chicago and the Thunder have looked. But the Heat at their best are a better team than they were last year. OKC doesn't look as good, and Chicago is the same. Look me in the eye and tell me you're confident either of those teams can knock off the Heat if it's best vs. best. Chicago or OKC can both win the championship this season. The Heat are still the best team.

Ben Golliver: The Bulls are No. 2 in defense, No. 6 on offense and No. 1 in rebounding; their closest competition, the Thunder, are ranked No. 5, No. 14 and No. 16 in those categories. So far, this one isn’t as close as the records might indicate. I think Orlando – riding Howard and their point generating machine of an offense -- is a strong dark horse.
 
 
 
 
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