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 20, 2012 1:58 am
Edited on: February 20, 2012 2:06 am
 

Kobe Bryant: Pau Gasol trade limbo must end

Kobe Bryant pushes Lakers management to make a decision on Pau Gasol's future. (Getty Images)
Posted by Ben Golliver 

It's time for the agonizing waiting game and endless trade rumors to end, according to Kobe Bryant.

Following a double-digit Sunday night loss to the Phoenix Suns, the Los Angeles Lakers All-Star guard ramped up his recent public comments aimed at his team's management, stating clearly that it was time for the Lakers to make a decision regarding the future of big man Pau Gasol.

ESPNLA.com reports that Bryant summed up the situation bluntly: trade Gasol or publicly acknowledge that his future will be in Los Angeles.

"Basketball is such an emotional game, you got to be able to have all of yourself in the game and invested in the game. We didn't have that," Bryant said after Gasol had 17 points and 12 rebounds against the Suns. "Pau, it's hard for Pau because of all this trade talk and all this other stuff, it's hard for him to kind of invest himself completely or immerse himself completely into games when he's hearing trade talk every other day. I wish management would come out and either trade him or not trade him."

"I talked to (Gasol) a little bit about it," Bryant said. "It's just tough for a player to give his all when you don't know if you're going to be here tomorrow. I'd rather them not trade him at all. If they're going to do something, I wish they would just (expletive) do it. If they're not going to do it, come out and say you're not going to do it. This way he can be comfortable, he can go out, he can play and he can invest all of himself into the game."

On Saturday, Bryant said that ongoing trade rumors were affecting Gasol's play and that the Spanish center had his support.

"Personally I don't understand that crap," Bryant said about the rumors, according to the Los Angeles Times. "But it is what it is. It's important for him to know we support him. I support him especially. I just want him to go out there and play hard and do what he does best for us."

Those comments came a little more than a week after Bryant said he was "sure" the Lakers would make roster moves prior to the trade deadline.

Gasol, 31, was not named to the Western Conference All-Star team for the first time since 2008. His numbers this season -- 16.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.3 blocks per game on 49.5 percent shooting -- aren't terrible, but his scoring average is currently a career-low and his shooting percentage has dipped a few points since last year.

Of course, Gasol was nearly traded to the Houston Rockets back in December as part of a 3-team blockbuster that would have sent New Orleans Hornets All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the Lakers. That deal was nixed, and Paul wound up with the Los Angeles Clippers, while Gasol remained in Los Angeles, his future uncertain. The rumors including Gasol have been fairly steady since December, with a potential trade scenario involving the Minnesota Timberwolves surfacing last week

While still one of the league's most productive and versatile big men, Gasol has a monster contract. He's on the books this year for $18.7 million and has a 2012-2013 salary of $19 million and a 2013-2014 salary of $19.2 million, according to StoryTellersContracts.com. That figure, combined with Gasol's age, limits the Lakers' potential trade partners to teams that are serious about making a playoff run immediately. Otherwise, what's the point?

It goes without saying that public pressure from a superstar on management is less than ideal for the Lakers, who dropped to 18-13 with the loss on Sunday. Bryant seems to be giving his endorsement to Gasol and seeking the same from Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, an action which would essentially handcuff the Lakers at next month's trade deadline. Other than Gasol and franchise center of the future Andrew Bynum, there's not a true trade asset on the roster, although the Lakers do possess a trade exception generated by the Lamar Odom dump to the Dallas Mavericks.

In other words, a definitive public statement on Gasol's future would really paint the Lakers into a corner. It's a nice thing for Bryant to say and it might make Gasol feel better, but there are two dualling goals here -- getting Gasol comfortable and doing whatever it takes to upgrade the Lakers roster -- and it's impossible for Lakers management to do both right now.
Posted on: February 20, 2012 1:58 am
 

Report Card 2.20.12: Durant goes OFF

Kevin Durant scored 51 in the Thunder's win over Denver Sunday. (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore 

Each night, Eye on Basketball brings you what you need to know about the games of the NBA. From great performances to terrible clock management the report card evaluates and eviscerates the good, the bad, and the ugly from the night that was.

Kevin Durant These are numbers, but they are important numbers. 51 points on 28 shots, 19-28 from the field, 5-6 from three, 9-10 from the stripe. Eight rebounds, three assists, 4 steals and a huge win over the Nuggets in overtime. Denver was without two starters but dug deep and forced the Thunder to the edge. But Durant put on a performance for the ages, the shine on his MVP candidacy and lifted OKC to a win. It was the kind of performance you tell your friends about, your kids about, the kind you start the water cooler conversation about. He was unstoppable from the elbow, unstoppable from the perimeter, unstoppable at the rim. It was a transcendent performance, and this is alongside Russell Westbrook with 40 points and nine assists and Serge Ibaka's triple double in points, rebounds, and blocks. This Thunder team may not be good enough defensively to win a title, but they may wind up as one to remember for a long, long time.
LeBron James The surges are becoming more pronounced, the dropoffs less so. James is solving defensive adjustments used against him. He's finding open shooters in the corner who are actually knocking them down this year, he's battling more inside, he's still a freak of nature in transition, and on Sunday, he guarded Dwight Howard on a handful of possessions. James buried the Magic by doing all the things he does, and true to form, did them in less than 40 minutes of time. 25-11-8, a full-court lob to Wade, just one miss from the stripe, just five misses from the field. There are games where James feels like a one-man horde, storming the opponent's gates. Sunday was such a game and the Magic had no defense.
Jeremy Lin Defending champs? No problem. Shawn Marion who helped shut down Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James last year? No problem. Increased expectations, a Sunday afternoon double-header on national television, and the grind of interviews and a compact schedule? No problem. Jeremy Lin did his thing again, the Knicks won again, and Linsanity rages on. Lin managed the offense as well as he has. Were the turnovers great? No, clearly not. But a 2:1 turnover ratio is acceptable given his usage, and turning Steve Novak into a scoring machine deserves a reward all its own.
Denver Nuggets They were short-handed, and still the Nuggets managed to push the Thunder to the brink before a furious comeback landed them in overtime and a few good shots (a good roll for Westbrook on a three) and some Durant brilliance downed them. The Nuggets were without Nene and Danilo Gallinari, but they were stil stranded without a closer. Denver had such a good approach in the first half, attacking a weak Thunder interior (those Ibaka blocks all come on the weakside, not man-up) and killing them on the glass. They abandoned it in the second half and it cost them as the Lakers topped off a 2-0 run.
The Old Guard Boston loses to Detroit for the second time in a month. The Lakers get whacked by the Suns in a game that wasn't competitive after the first quarter. Neither side has any real idea of where they're going or if they can perform as needed to compete for a title. There's constant trade talk surrounding both teams. They look slow, they look old, they struggle to score and they struggle to defend. These teams were the two Finals squads two years ago. Time marches on.
Charlotte Bobcats After three quarters against the Pacers, the Bobcats, a professional basketball team by strict definition (only), were down 88-48. For-ty-poi-nts. That's embarrassing. That's disgusting. That's... not totally surprising. There is no hope in Charlotte right now. Not even with the rookies. It's all bad, all the time. This performance was worthy of inventing a new letter beneath F just to give it to them.


E FOR EFFORT
Jeremy Lin (28 points, 14 assists, general linsanity, magical powers)
Ersan Ilyasova (29 points, 25 rebounds in a win over New Jersey)
Kyle Lowry (32 points, 9 assists in a win over Utah)
LeBron James (25 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists)
Posted on: February 20, 2012 12:50 am
Edited on: February 20, 2012 12:51 am
 

OKC uses its closers to finish off Denver

Posted by Royce Young

Westbrook and Durant did something that two guys haven't done since two guys named Jordan and Pippen. (Getty Images)

OKLAHOMA CITY -- There's a very, very fine line that separates the Thunder and the Nuggets. And you can basically draw it in between No. 35 and No. 0.

Oklahoma City has 'em. Denver does not.

Just like Game 5 in last season's opening round playoff series when Denver seemed to have things locked up, or Game 1 that the Thunder stole late, or Game 3 where the Thunder finished Denver in the last five minutes, the Nuggets watched Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook break their hearts. Durant, a career-high 51. Westbrook, 40. Thirty-nine of OKC's final 46. And all 13 in overtime. Oklahoma City 124, Denver 118.

"The game of basketball can be really mean to you," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "To have a great player take a game from you like that is heart-wrenching. It's just the bounce of the ball."

The Nuggets had it too. I mean really had it. They led by nine in the fourth quarter and seven with 5:39 left. The Thunder’s play-by-play from that point on: Durant made 3, Westbrook made layup, Durant made 3, Durant made layup, Ibaka made putback, Westbrook made jumper, Westbrook made jumper, Durant made 3, Durant made dunk. Where did the Nuggets turn? Chris Anderson took two 15-foot jumpers, for crying out loud. 

People like to talk about “closers” in basketball, but it’s been pretty obvious as this theme has recurred in these games that the Thunder have not one, but two of them and the Nuggets don't have any. Granted, Denver played this game without Nene or Danilo Gallinari. But neither of those guys were able to step up in those moments last postseason either. The Nuggets tried to turn to Andre Miller, who was having a fantastic game. James Harden — who had a miserable offensive night — twice played him splendidly, staying down on Miller’s pump fakes and ended up forcing him into back-to-back traveling violations in overtime. Ty Lawson hit a big-time 3 to put Denver up three with 54 seconds left, but failed to his a pretty clean look at the end of regulation.

The Thunder, though, finished. Durant powered in a dunk with seven seconds left to send it to overtime. Westbrook drilled a free throw line jumper with 26 seconds left to ice it.

Said Durant, “A lot of people might talk about me getting 50, but Russell Westbrook carried us in overtime.”

Take it to those extra five minutes. Durant was completely gassed, so Westbrook stepped up, hitting a 3 to kick things off and then a couple jumpers to keep the Thunder in front. Then Durant found his legs again finishing a fast break layup and hitting all four of his free throws. Those two scored all 13 of OKC's overtime points. Denver got their seven on two baskets from Arron Afflalo and one from Kosta Koufos. The Nuggets just didn’t know where to go for points. It wasn't very hard for OKC to figure it out.

Here's how wild this game was: Serge Ibaka has a triple-double -- 14 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocks -- and it almost feels like a footnote. That's Ibaka's third double-digit block game of this season, in fact. (OKC is the first team EVER in NBA history to have a guy score 50, a guy score 40 and a guy finish with a triple-double.)

"He's been phenomenal man," Durant said. "It's just been fun to watch. You might not believe me but at the end coach said to press up on Afflalo and let him go to the rim. That sounds kind of weird, right?"

But that's an afterthought when you consider Westbrook and Durant did something nobody has done since Pippen and Jordan (two teammates scoring 40 or more). Westbrook and Durant actually had more points than seven teams tonight. The Heat, who were fantastic in a win over Orlando, we beat by Westbrook and Durant 91-90. Are you following me here?

Karl said after the game that in a lot of ways the Nuggets won the game. And they did. They played better than Oklahoma City. They executed better, worked the ball better and defended better. But they didn't have Batman and Batman. (There's no Robin here.) They had a group of sidekicks all trying to combine to finish out the superheroes. Just didn't have enough. Just couldn't close those guys from OKC.

Like Karl said, the game of basketball can be really mean to you.

Nah, just Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Posted on: February 19, 2012 6:23 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 8:20 pm
 

Video: Lin dunks on Mavs, nails three over Dirk

By Matt Moore 

Consider this your obligatory "Jeremy Lin did amazing things" highlights post. 

First, a half-court steal and finish to cap off a furious run to cut the lead before the fourth after the Mavericks had pushed the lead to double-digits:



 

And from the "monster stones" department, this three over Dirk Nowitzki with the Big German closing out on him: 





Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained? 

And from the Department of Awesome (and SBNation), here's Steve Novak celebrating with a Discount Double Check a la Aaron Rodgers Championship Belt move.

 
Posted on: February 19, 2012 5:13 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 5:39 pm
 

No question now, Lin is for real

Jeremy Lin did it again Sunday, leading the Knicks to 104-97 win over Dallas. (Getty Images)
By Matt Moore 

It is no longer a surprise. It is no longer unbelievable. It is no longer improbable. And that makes it no less fun to experience. The Jeremy Lin Experience is very, very real. 

Lin lead the the Knicks  to a 104-97 win over the Dallas Mavericks Sunday as Madison Square Garden was once again taken over by Linsanity. Lin finished with 28 points, 14 assists, 7 turnovers, and 5 steals against the 4th best defensive efficiency squad in the league, as he returned to his double-team-splitting, drive-and-dish-kicking, absolute takeover mode we saw through his first seven games and recovered from the Knicks' loss to the Hornets. He still turned the ball over at a high rate, but after 46 minutes and with that much usage, you have to expect some mistakes, and Lin more than made up for it with his efficiency (28 points on 20 shots), and five steals to convert opportunities for the Knicks. 

The Mavericks tried Shawn Marion on Lin, the same Matrix who shut down LeBron James in the Finals. They tried Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, hedging, trapping, rolling. Some of the traps worked. Dominique Jones put in good minutes on him. But Lin adjusted. That was the question with Lin, whether he could change his game to match how teams would attack him. He did, and made the Mavericks pay.

There isn't much you can say at this point that hasn't been said. But this was a statement game for Lin and the Knicks' belief in him as a legitimate starting point guard. Beating the Lakers with 38 points was his real arrival on the scene. Downing the Mavericks on national television after the Mavs are considered to be one of the best scouting teams in the league? That's putting his stamp on the league. Even if he did need to go right every time to do it (via GameTracker): 




Lin definitely got help from his teammates. J.R. Smith made his Knicks debut, and finished with 15 points. He slumped after a hot start, but also cherry picked a clinching bucket late to help bury the Mavs' last chance. More astonishing that Lin in this game may have been Steve Novak, another fringe player at the start of the season, absolutely lit up the Mavericks, working from the corner and hitting 4-5 threes. It was a pretty absurd shooting display on his way to 14 points off the bench. The Knicks' bench outscored Dallas' deep supporting unit by 10, 33-23.

Lin is a legitimate starter in the NBA. Right now, he's a legitimate star. It's possible he could fade, that he just caught the Mavericks (and Lakers and Raptors and Nets...) on a bad day. But the odds of that are now the same as any other great young player in this league. He's done it against the best competition, and he continues to improve as his team does. Mike D'Antoni has his point guard. The Knicks have a leader. And New York has a bonafide sensation worth getting behind.

The Jeremy Lin Experience is real.
Posted on: February 19, 2012 4:58 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 5:28 pm
 

LeBron hired a new PR strategist

Posted by Royce Young

So maybe LeBron saying he'd consider returning to Cleveland last week wasn't just him answering a question. Maybe it was all part of a master PR plan. Why might one think this? Because according to the News Herald in Cleveland, LeBron recently hired a new PR strategist.
The first thing we all should remember is LeBron James is a master manipulator.

James had to know the questions were coming on Thursday when the Miami Heat were practicing at Quicken Loans Arena. He recently hired a new "strategist," a man who worked on Arnold Schwarzenegger's gubernatorial campaign, so for all we know, his answers could all have been planned.

He had every chance in the world to discourage talk about returning to the Cavaliers. Instead, he encouraged it and embraced it.
It could be coincidental, or it could be part of a plan for LeBron to restore his image. Before the season, he seemed genuinely upset at how he had been cast as a bad guy. He didn't like being the villain and wanted to get back to having fun and being a fan favorite.

Unfortunately the fallout from "The Decision" is going to leave smoldering ruins around LeBron for a long time. Saying things like "I love Cleveland" and being nice and having more fun aren't going to fix that.

But it wasn't just "The Decision." It was a long list of decisions LeBron has made that's turned the public against him. LeBron has his own marketing firm -- LRMR -- but evidently wanted a little outside consulting. Maybe a little distance from that is a good start to rehabbing his image. I doubt it can be completely healed, but it's not going to happen on its own.

All LeBron can do is keep playing terrific basketball, keep saying the right things and most importantly, win. Image takes care of itself a lot of times, PR strategist or not.
Category: NBA
Posted on: February 19, 2012 2:44 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 4:26 pm
 

McGrady on playing time: 'I'm tired of this s--'

T-Mac is pretty upset about his playing time in Atlanta. (Getty Images)
Posted by Royce Young

When Tracy McGrady signed with the Hawks before the season, he knew he wasn't going to be playing a prominant role. He knew that, much like in Detroit last season, he'd likely be coming off the bench and would likely be playing less minutes than he did earlier in his career.

Last season with the Pistons, he did a great job with it. He played his role, did his job and didn't say anything about it. But that was with him still actually having a real role with the team. With the Hawks, he's seen his time on the floor cut game after game, with him not playing at all after halftime against the Hawks Saturday.

And McGrady's had enough. So he let it all out, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“I’m tired of this [bleep],” McGrady said. “You can put that in the paper, I don’t give a [bleep].”

McGrady has played in 26 of 32 games for Atlanta this season for an average of 18 minutes before Saturday’s game. Last season with Detroit McGrady averaged 23 minutes in 72 games.

As for the why, McGrady says coach Larry Drew hasn't given him a reason.

“If you don’t feel I can help, come tell me that,” McGrady said. “He ain’t told me nothing. I just want to help these guys win, man, which I know I can. But, damn, four minutes?”

Drew has previously used the excuse of wear and tear for limiting minutes, but McGrady says he's feels terrific and if he didn't, he'd say so and not play. If he's in uniform, he expects to play.

Does he want out? Under league rules, he's eligible to be traded on March 1. But he's not ready to go there yet.

“Hopefully, I’m here,” he said. “I like it here. I like the guys. That’s what I love most about it. I like the guys in this locker room. But at the same time, I still can play. No doubt in my mind.”

McGrady signed with the Hawks to help a playoff team hopefully contend. He expected to play a big role and get his time. He's frustrated and if Drew is saving him, that's got to be communicated. Otherwise, you're going to have a disgruntled veteran and that's not a good thing for a locker room to have to deal with.

The Hawks need McGrady because their depth has been challenged. The team isn't going anywhere, but if they're to stay in the Eastern playoff picture, they're going to rely on players like McGrady giving them good minutes. He's not psyched right now, and wasn't afraid to say so. You know Larry Drew has heard it, so we'll have to see if anything changes. If not, something might be happening March 1.
 
 
 
 
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