Tag:CHris Bosh
Posted on: January 19, 2012 3:06 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2012 3:14 pm

5 Things to Watch: Lakers at Heat

The Heat need LeBron James, who is a gametime decision with flu-like symptoms, against the Lakers Thursday night in Miami. (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore

The Heat and Lakers are probably the most recognizable teams in the league at this moment in time. Featuring a likely six All-Stars between them, it's a marquee matchup of the season. Even with Dwyane Wade out and LeBron James a gametime decision, all eyes will be on South Beach Thursday night to see if the Lakers can get past the wall they've recently hit against LeBron's teams, and if Kobe Bryant can continue what has been an incredible month for him. The Lakers need this game to avoid another loss to a playoff team, and their second loss in three games, while the Heat need a win to stave off a disastrous four losses in five games stretch. With that, here are 5 Things to Watch or Miami Heat vs. L.A. Lakers 2012, Round 1. 

1. A Sick Attitude: LeBron James isn't feeling well. And it's not even the Finals! (Hey-O!) James is a gametime decision against L.A. due to "flu-like symptoms" that he's been dealing with this past week. James was also not feeling great against the Spurs and missed several layups and jumpers in the first half. Then apparently he had a Hi-C juice box at the half because he came out and demolished the Spurs in the third quarter to help the Heat turn a double-digit deficit into a double-digit route. That's what he can do. The question will be if his condition has worsened and how he reacts to it. Thanks to Michael Jordan, expectations actually raise if you have the flu. So LeBron's under pressure not only to win, but to extra special while sick. With the compact schedule, there's little rest, so James could be far less than 100 percent Thursday night. Which pretty much dooms the Heat. This is not the Hawks.

2. Spreading the Wealth: Kobe Bryant has been ridiculous over the past week, Mavericks game aside. He's been on tear of scoring 40 per game which came to an end against the Mavericks, but they got the win anyway. He's also been shooting an insane amount. His usage rate, or percentage of possessions used, is at 39.7 percent. So basically 4 out of every 10 times the Lakers come down the floor, he's the one who winds up with a shot or turnover. Against Miami, he may want to get everyone else involved so the Heat's help rotation defense doesn't neutralize everyone else, leaving him to go it alone. Granted, Dwyane Wade being out opens up chances for him (Shane Battier remarked after practice today that he was going to get some Hail Mary's in before the game). But the Lakers can dominate the Heat inside. An efficient game from Bryant that uses Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum's advantage over a small Heat frontline to open up opportunities for Kobe could be the difference. That way Kobe gets the points, and the win.

3. The Inside Man: Well, I was worried about Andrew Bynum tearing the Heat apart, but Eddy Curry might play. The Heat are saved! But seriously, Bynum should be able to have his way with the smaller Joel Anthony and much smaller Chris Bosh. The Heat may even put Dexter Pittman on Bynum due to his size, but the youngster won't have the experience or muscle to hang with the wunderkind. If Bynum gets touches, the Lakers can play at their pace and rough up the Heat. Do that and you slow down the Heat's transition attack, their biggest asset.

4. Old Friends: Mike Brown knows LeBron James' tendencies as well as anyone in the league, having coached him for years in Cleveland. And setting aside whatever personal history exists between them, Brown will likely have his team prepared to combat James' effectiveness, flu or no flu. Whether it's goading him into his ineffective mid-range jumper, bringing help at the right time and position, or attacking one hand or another, Brown will have one of the best books on James you can have in this league, and he has a quality defensive roster and Metta World Peace to implement on him. Classic matchup: superstar power versus coaching stratagem.

5. Next Generation: Norris Cole and Darius Morris could have a lot to say about this game Thursday night. Cole provides a full-speed, no hesitation bucket creator for the Heat they desperately need coming off the bench. Morris provides an athletic point guard, which they haven't had in eons. Derek Fisher's savvy and Mario Chalmers' athleticism and improved shooting should cancel one another out, which means whichever guard can make the most of the attention drawn by their superstar big brothers will make a big swing in a game that features a lot of veterans in role positions. You hate for a game to come down to two rookies, but considering the matchups, whichever handles the pressure better could help their team to a monstrous win.

Your Plus-3 for the game:

- Don't be surprised to see Chris Bosh heavily involved in trying to draw out Pau Gasol, who has struggled with defense in space this season. Bosh has excelled at the pump fake and go, but if his jumper isn't falling, Gasol can pack the lane along with Bynum, keeping the Heat in mid-range jumper mode.

- The odds of a physical conflict in this game are pretty high. Between Udonis Haslem, Andrew Bynum, Bryant and Battier, Matt Barnes, Metta World Peace and the rest of the Heat bench, this will likely not be a pretty game.

- Mike Miller hit his shots against the Spurs in his first game back. He better hope he hasn't used them all up. The Lakers will bring a lot of help and cheat inside on drives, which means Miller will have looks. If he knocks them down, that puts the Lakers' defense into disarray.
Posted on: January 17, 2012 11:45 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2012 12:01 am

Report Card: King James takes over

Posted by Ben Golliver and Matt Moore


LeBron James

There were plenty of reasons to shut it down and coast when things got off to a bad start on Tuesday night. Three straight losses entering a tough contest with the San Antonio Spurs. A 14-point halftime deficit. No Dwyane Wade. He was reportedly battling a cold. An opponent seemingly clicking on all cylinders and doing back-breaking things like hitting a half court shot at the end of the first half. But LeBron James went the other way, exploding in the third quarter for 17 points on his way to one of his stupefying stat lines: 33 points, 5 rebounds and 10 assists on 12-21 shooting in 35 minutes. James connected on four 3-pointers in this one, more than he'd made in the entire season combined up to this point. Thanks to James, the Heat won the third quarter 39-12 and never looked back, cruising to a 120-98 home victory. -- BG

Mike Miller

Mike Miller made his season debut on Tuesday night after sitting for the first three weeks as he recovered from a sports hernia surgery. His return was, well, flawless. iller played just 15 minutes, barely enough time to get fully warm, and hadn't played in an NBA game in roughly 8 months yet he shot 6-for-6 from the field, all 3-pointers, to finish with 18 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist. Ridiculous. He brought the hustle, too, as he crashed after loose balls multiple times but this game was all about making San Antonio pay for leaving him. -- BG

Chris Bosh

This right here is arguably the best play of Chris Bosh's career. It came near the end of an excellent two-way performance, one that will no doubt get overshadowed by James' explosion. Bosh finished with 30 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 setals on 14-22 shooting in 37 minutes. On this play, he corralled a defensive rebound, slowly pushed tempo. When no Heat guards came to collect the ball, Bosh casually dribbled at Spurs big man Tiago Splitter before unleashing a reverse spin move as he entered the paint and rising to slam with two hands. He swung so forcefully on the rim that he nearly hit his head on the backboard. Sensational stuff. -- BG

Utah Jazz

We harp on teams all the time for not taking care of business against weaker opposition or at home. With an excellent homecourt advantage and the absence of both Chris Paul and Mo Williams, a Tuesday night match-up is a should-win for the Jazz, even if no one is quite sure what their ceiling or basement is yet. Not only did Utah win, they blew out the Clippers, beating them at their own highlight-manufacturing game. Blake Griffin took a backseat to Jeremy Evans for a night, as Utah's long leaper through down alley-oop after alley-oop, adding two high altitude blocks for good measure. The Jazz's second half was a clinic on how to close the door on a beaten team, as they opened the game up with well-timed passes, hard cuts and excellent team defense. Rookie Enes Kanter fiinished with 10 points and 5 rebounds, cracking double-digits as a pro for the first time. And, wouldn't you know it, a strong two-handed dunk was included in that output. -- BG

George Karl's Second Quarter

Karl used seven players in three different lineup combinations during a 19-4 run against Milwaukee. He relied on Corey Brewer, who no one has ever relied on, and he delivered with 10 points in the quarter. Having depth on a team is one thing. Using it effectively is another. -- MM

David Lee

David Lee is playing well. On defense, even. He's got the tenacity of his Knicks days, a better offensive repertoire and keeps coming up with big buckets in key moments. The Warriors needed a big year from Lee and so far he's giving it to them. -- MM

Brandon Jennings' Fourth Quarter

He was rallying! And dropping floaters! And hitting threes! And the lead was single-digits! And then he took a series of Kobe shots. You know, 40-foot threes off the dribble. So close, Jitterbug. So close. -- MM

Cleveland Cavaliers

Truth be told, the Cavs kind of outplayed the Warriors on a lot of levels. But their turnovers destroyed them. Kyrie Irving had six all his own. His overall performance was great, but the turnovers were deadly. The Cavaliers are looking good in losses, though, and that's a step in the right direction. -- MM

San Antonio Spurs' Second Half

That's how bad they were in the second half. They deserve two "F"s. May God have mercy have their soul. -- MM
Posted on: January 12, 2012 2:45 pm

Bosh picks Wade over LeBron for last second shot

Posted by Royce Young

People have made a big stink about the Heat for a lot of different reasons, but one thing people really like to hone in on is the so-called "closer" talk. Who takes the last shot in a close game? Who closes out opponents, LeBron or Dwyane Wade? The team has played more than 100 games together now and it's become pretty obvious in that time -- it's Wade's time, not LeBron.

Nobody has necessarily declared that, but more just it's been the plan of action in close games. Well, now Chris Bosh has actually said what we all already know. Via GQ:

GQ: Quick hypothetical, toes aside: Let’s say the game was tied. 10 seconds left. You had 30 points, LeBron’s got 30, and Wade’s got 30. You got the same amount of rebounds, same amount of assists—having the same great game. Who takes the shot at the end to either win or lose the game.
Chris Bosh: [immediately] Dwyane.

GQ: Why?
Chris Bosh: Because of his success in the past, given what he’s done. He’s a champ. He’s an MVP, and he’s hit a bunch of last-second shots. That’s the time you have to put pride aside a little bit, and do what’s best for the team. He’s quickest, and he’s gonna get a shot off. He relishes those moments.

That sounds like something we should all make a big deal about, but here's the thing: I bet LeBron would agree with that. It's kind of the life he signed up for when he went to Wade's team. That doesn't mean LeBron won't ever have his opportunity, but unlike the situations for Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose or Dirk Nowitzki, it's not a given that LeBron gets that look. Even his own teammates say so, without hesitating.

Wednesday against the Clippers though, Wade played decoy and passed to LeBron at the end of regulation (LeBron was fouled and missed a big free throw). So they do interchange a bit.

But here we all are, mostly agreeing that LeBron James is the best player in the league and yet his own team doesn't want him taking the big shot. Isn't there something wrong with that? Does that say more about Wade, or does that say more about LeBron? Does Bosh, and the Heat, not trust LeBron or do they just believe in Wade that much?

Obviously Bosh isn't intending to take a dig at LeBron, but it's hard not to see it as that. He's saying Wade "relishes" those big moments which indicates that LeBron really doesn't. And there's proof of it: In Cleveland, where LeBron was The Man, he routinely passed to an open Daniel Gibson or Larry Hughes in the corner rather than taking things into his own hands. It's the player he is. He prefers to defer than dominate. It's his curse and his gift.

At this point though with the way the Heat are playing late in games, maybe he should've said Mario Chalmers.

Posted on: January 12, 2012 11:31 am
Edited on: January 12, 2012 11:33 am

Chris Bosh doesn't like the name-calling

Posted by Royce Young

Before he cut his dreads and joined the Miami Heat, Chris Bosh was regarded as maybe the best power forward in basketball. He was a consistent 20-10 guy on a bad Raptors team and had every team drooling over him.

Versatile, strong, smart and gifted -- Bosh was a prize.

He chose to join Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in Miami and immediately became a punchline. While Wade and LeBron were seen as the stars, the guys doing the real work, Bosh was the underachiever, the soft guy that didn't do his job. In reality, he averaged 18.7 points and 8.3 rebounds a game last season and is averaging 19.4 and 8.1 this season which aren't bad by any means. Not the 20-10 he consistently put up before, but he wasn't playing alongside two superstars then either.

Still, he's the butt of most Heat jokes, the guy that's easy to pick on. And he's kind of sick of it. Via SI.com:
"People created this stigma about [me] and they just ran with it," Bosh said. "And once it was out there, everyone ran with it. It was just talk. There was no evidence to back it up. The name-calling and stuff, it got a little too out of hand. If you want to say my game isn't where it's supposed to be, fine. But the name calling, that's not journalism. Too many people, especially when they don't know me, were just saying a whole lot of stuff that wasn't true."
I'm totally with Bosh -- the name-calling really isn't fair (except for "Like a Bosh," because that's hilarious). He's done his job and played relatively well. There have been times he's disappeared, but I'm not entirely sure you can blame that on him. For example, Wednesday against the Clippers, Bosh had a double-double in the first half, but scored just two baskets after halftime and grabbed a lonely rebound. Partially on him, but also on the fact that the Heat tend to squeeze him out late in games. It becomes all about Wade and LeBron instead of maximizing the five guys on the floor.

Bosh has been marginalized to a degree. He's not able to play entirely like himself, and for a reason. As a result, he gets called stupid things like "Bosh Spice" and other dumb names. It's not fair, but that's the deal he signed with the devil when he chose to go to South Beach.

He better get used to it though, because just because he asks nicely doesn't mean it's going to stop. In fact, it'll probably just get worse until the Heat shut their critics up with a ring.
Category: NBA
Posted on: January 12, 2012 1:59 am
Edited on: January 12, 2012 2:04 am

Theory and Proof: LeBron blows it again

By Matt Moore

Los Angeles 95 Miami 89

Theory: LeBron James cost the Heat a winnable game on the road against a playoff team by missing free throws. 

Proof: Eventually you reach a point where these things cross the line of believablility. One missed clutch free throw by an 80 percent free throw shooter, one of the best basketball players on the planet, OK. Sure. Weird, but it happens.

But the sheer volume of missed free throws from LeBron James against the Clippers on Wednesday is purely staggering.

And more so, James was clearly, visibly shook by the misses. He didn't settle for long jumpers, though he did brick a face-up J with Billups defending him in the fourth. He did what everyone asks. He posted, he drove, he got to the rim, and he drew the foul.

And he bricked. Over and over and over again.

It was comical. It was absurd. Some people will say they aren't surprised, that James has already shown himself to be that kind of player. But there's a reason so many people react the way they do. There's a reason James is regarded in such lofty compliments. He really is that good... provided it's not a crucial game since the Eastern Conference Finals ended last June.

The Heat missed 14 free throws against the Clippers. Hit half of those misses, they win the game. Any better than that and it's a walk. The game never goes to OT. The Heat absolutely melted down on multiple levels. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were equally as terrible in the fourth quarter and overtime as James. But it was James who had the opportunity, yet again, to step up and lead, to end it, to be the player that gets it done.

And again, he failed. Shrunk. Choked. Whatever cliche you want to rip out there. He finished 9-17 from the line. Eight missed chances, any pair of which in regulation would have ended it. Torching LeBron for his late game failures has become more boring and drawn out than players complaining about calls (which there was also a lot of in this game, and rightfully so). And yet it's based in reality. No one remembers him crushing the Celtics down the stretch in a dominant series. No one remembers him erasing the MVP Derrick Rose. And rightfully so. These performances aren't just questionable or soft. They're bad. He's played badly.

And Wednesday night, those failures cost the Heat a game they should have won.

It's not even funny at this point, but that's hard to tell over the sound of the world's laughter.
Posted on: January 10, 2012 6:55 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 8:58 pm

LeBron James: New master of the post-up game

By Matt Moore

Let's pretend for a minute that LeBron James isn't LeBron James. Let's take away his massive ego which has risen up and taken control of his cerebral cortex more than once a week over the past two years. Let's take away the polarizing nature of "The Decision" and the epic failures in the fourth quarter during the Finals (after Game 3). Let's remove him teaming up with too much talent, from premature talk of his greatness, from all the things that make us recognize LeBron James as the professional athlete or media entity we associate him with. Let's pretend, just for a moment, that he's just another basketball player. 

If we assume for a minute that we want all players to reach their potential, because that makes for the most entertaining games possible, even if fans hope for their particular team's best to be better than everyone else's best, then there's something to be noted about James this year. He's doing it. Particularly in the biggest area of criticism for him, outside of clutch play. 

For years, people have marveled at James' athleticism. To put it simply, the dude's a truck that moves like a jackrabbit. He's got so much power and speed packed into that 285 lb. (a rough number, he drifts between 295 and 260 and protects the number like his bank account) frame, but there's the hitch. He has never really exerted it in the post. He's bigger than any 3 that can guard him, faster than any 4. So why not just pound guys into oblivion in the post instead of drifting into those pull-up perimeter shots?

I've long thought that James' fascination with Michael Jordan had a lot to do with it. After all, kids of LeBron's generation didn't grow up emulating Kareem's sky hook or even the Dream Shake. They idolized "The Shot,'" worshipped Jordan's turnaround jumper, the push-off jumper against the Jazz. His game always seemed to take on the impression of trying to conform to what we think of as a star scorer. "Rise and fire" as it were.

But that's changing. As ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst noted Tuesday:  
Meanwhile, Spoelstra is growing a little fatigued of answering questions about James’ post game. He knows quite well that James posted up on seven percent of his offensive plays last season and now it is more than 15 percent. He knows that James is shooting 65 percent on those post plays, the best in the NBA so far. He also knows has that James averages 1.219 points per play from the post, another in-depth stat that Spoelstra specializes in.

Those stats and the ones fans are much more familiar with – like James’ 30.1 point scoring average and his 60 percent shooting percentage – say the obvious: keep doing it. They are a major reason the Heat are 8-1 and looking like a juggernaut offensive team.

Still the James in the post talk is what the coach calls “a storyline,” an easy idea for the media to ask and write about. In a new city, the questions about it are coming and Spoelstra answers them without much feeling behind it.

“It’s making us much more dynamic and efficient,” Spoelstra said. “We’re able to do it in different ways. Not just the post. People want to compartmentalize what we’re doing. There’s actually been a lot of tweaks.”
via LeBron's transformation into an inside man - Heat Index Blog - ESPN.

And that's definitely true. From the wide-open, Oregon Ducks-influenced changes in transition to the alterations to Chris Bosh's approach, to what Mario Chalmers is doing on and off ball, the Heat are a wildly different team. And yet the changes to James can be most impactful. In the post, there is no one that can guard him one-on-one. When single covered, James is unstoppable, scoring 68 percent of the time. But there is still a weakness. When doubled, James has turned the ball over 20 percent of the time. It's still a tiny sample in this young season, but at least it shows there is a weakness. 

More to the point than numbers and figures, however, is the philosophical change this demonstrates in James and what it means. Players are defensive of their game. After all, it's their craft. They have dedicated their lives to it and no one wants to have their job performance ripped apart, most often times by people who could never replicate it. There's a pride that goes with it. Consider for a moment, Kobe Bryant's comments to Yahoo Sports this week about how he will not be changing his game, despite struggles with his shot before this week's 3-game hot streak as well as continuing issues with turnovers while dominating the field goal attempts of the Lakers
“I shoot, I shoot,” Bryant said. “You’ve known that for 16 years. I’m not changing my game. If the defense is not doubling, I’m going to score. If I’ve got a good look, I’m going to score. My teammates know that. But I also give them the ball, too, and set them up.

“But at the end of the day, I’m a scorer first.”
via Kobe sees few cracks in championship foundation - NBA - Yahoo! Sports.

Now, it should be noted that Bryant has radically altered his game throughout the years, adapting a face-up game and then becoming one of the deadliest post players in the league. But these adjustments were largely extensions of his pre-existing skill-set. Turnaround-jumper, off-hand layup, driving dunk. What James is faced with is a need to become more than what he's been. And what he's been has been an MVP caliber player. So from that perspective it's easy to see why he may have resisted change. But alongside his work in the post, James has done much more in transition. His decisions are quicker when he's running point. He has arguably the widest skillset of any player in the league, but for the first time, he's putting all of them to use.

This could fade away. James could suffer a serious injury and return to pull-up threes and tentative jump-passes. But the work in the post stands for more than just the changes the Heat have made to their offense. It represents an extension of James' self-awareness and exploration of his own game, and hints at the possibility of him becoming the player he was so undeservedly crowned to be so early in his career. If it was any other player, you'd want to pull for that, you'd want to urge him to keep it up.

But then to take that blind approach is to ignore elements as plain as the nose on his face, a transgression as blatant as James' own avoidance of the post game.

James has to change his game before people change their minds.
Posted on: January 10, 2012 5:57 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 6:01 pm

Report: First 2012 Team USA roster set?

Posted by Ben Golliver


A recent report indicated that USA Basketball is set to announce its preliminary roster for the 2012 London Olympics. The roster reportedly will include members of the 2008 Beijing Olympics team and the 2010 Turkey World Championships team.

Initially, the report indicated that the preliminary roster would be made up of 18 players, however SheridanHoops.com reports that the roster is now 19 players deep with the addition of Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Here's how the reported roster shakes out by position.

Point Guards: Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams
Shooting Guards: Kobe Bryant, Eric Gordon, Dwyane Wade
Small Forwards: Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James, Lamar Odom
Power Forwards: LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love
Centers: Tyson Chandler, Dwight Howard 

A few interesting things to note from this roster.

First, veteran point guard Billups is included rather than the younger and more talented Rajon Rondo, who withdrew from the 2010 team after it became clear he was going to be left off of the final roster. Billups is 35 and figures to be one of the seven players cut from what will be the final 12-man roster. What does Rondo's exclusion mean for his Team USA future?

Second, positional versatility and two-way play was clearly valued in this selection process. The inclusion of both Iguodala and Odom over Rudy Gay is a mild surprise but both players complement the likes of James, Durant and Anthony a bit better. Both will also have a tough time squeezing into the final 12. The only way Iguodala gets there is if someone else is injured; Odom, a standout for the 2010 team, could be one of the toughest cuts.

Third, the reported addition of Aldridge creates an intriguing frontcourt logjam, akin to the dilemma that faces Western Conference All-Star team voters. Aldridge, Griffin, Love, Odom and Chandler figure to be in competition for the final two roster spots, with the top-10 seemingly secure. Griffin would seem to be the odds-on favorite for one of those two spots given his combination of on-court skills and immense international marketing potential. If so, the battle for the final spot between the other four talented big men will be heated. 

Aldridge can swing between the four and five better than any of the other candidates, but he also has the least Team USA experience, having backed out on the 2010 World Championships team. Aldridge's coach with the Blazers, Nate McMillan, happens to be a Team USA assistant, so that could help.

Love is the best rebounder of the group but his athleticism, even though it's much improved, is not on the same level as the rest of Team USA. Chandler boasts a championship pedigree with the Dallas Mavericks and is the pure defender and long, active big men that could be the centerpiece of an aggressive defensive unit. Odom's versatility and perimeter game creates mismatch opportunities but the wings are likely too crowded on this team to properly utilize his capabilities. 

Spain, the reigning European champs, bring both Pau and Marc Gasol to the table. Howard plus any of Team USA's starting power forwards should still have an interior advantage, but choosing the reserve big men will be critical in the event of foul trouble.
Posted on: January 9, 2012 1:11 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 5:06 pm

The Baseline Awards 1.9.12

By Matt Moore

Welcome to the Baseline Awards, a weekly feature that goes over the biggest stories of the past week and hands out awards. Because awards are fun!

Eastern Conference Player of the Week: Best Overall performance by Eastern Player

Chris Bosh

Carmelo Antony is the easy choice here, but with the Knicks' struggles this week, and the Heat's overall success, Bosh gets the run. Bosh averaged 21 points and 7 rebounds over 4 games with the Heat this week, but more importantly, he was the rock for the Heat with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James missing time with injuries. Bosh has been more aggressive on both ends of the floor this season. He's allowing just .788 points per possession defensively this season and has been more aggressive in all phases of the game. It's still not a true "Big 3" but Bosh is changing his reputation this year. 

Western Conference Player of the Week: Best Overall performance by Western Player

Kobe Bryant

Welcome to the new Kobe. Bryant averaged 33.0 points per game this week with scoring totals of 37, 30, and 39 before Sunday night's 26-point performance against the Grizzlies. And yet the Grizzlies game may have been his best performance. He worked in the flow of the offense instead of breaking off in perimeter ISO. He played out of the post to get his array of moves going and created space against quality defenders, and he tallied nine assists. More than the numbers, though, he took his shots when he could create them and down the stretch, when faced with an open jumper at the top of the key versus a closing defender or reposting Andrew Bynum, he gave the big man the ball and let him draw the foul. A phenomenal performance from Bryant, outside of his game against Portland. 

Struggler of the Week: Player with worst performance qualified for expectations

Danny Granger

Granger had the worst percentage of any player over the past week, shooting just 24.5 percent from the field. He nabbed just 3.3 rebounds and dished just over one assist a game. Those are numbers you show to your kids at night to scare them into being good NBA players. Granger's clearly affected by the ankle injury he's struggled through, but right now a Pacers offense that needs him to carry his share of the load is missing him. Granger, for his part, isn't worried about it, and says it's a bunch of layups rattling halfway down and out. 

DOMINATOR AWARD: Most dominant performance

Andrew Bynum

Bynum averaged 16 rebounds per 36 minutes of play this week, and that only begins to describe his impact since returning from suspension. Bynum is unstoppable right now. It's not just the tip-ins after tip-ins, it's how he's altering shots, finishing lobs, creating space, working in the block. Bynum is Godzilla right now. Dwight Hward was still better overall (one more point in twelve fewer shots) but Bynum is unquestionably the second best center in the league right now. 

The Puzzling Enigma Award: Strangest week from player or team

Atlanta Hawks

Beat the Heat in Miami, with Wade and James playing by eight. Lose to Chicgo by two. Lose to the Heat, at home, on national television, without James or Wade, in double overtime, then have the Bobcats take you to overtime the very next night... and then on the third game of a back-to-back-to-back, beat the same Bulls team by 15. 


The Hawks are that sibling that shows up for random family functions. Sometimes they bring toys for the kids. Sometimes they drunkenly stumble into the cake table. Sometimes they're not there at all. Sometimes they're solid as a rock. There's just no way of knowing what you're going to get form them on any given night. They're winning, and yet you can't watch them consistently and believe they're going anywhere. It's perplexing. I need to lie down. 

The Horde Award: Team you should fear

Portland Trail Blazers

No one is playing better overall ball right now. In a sluggish contest against Cleveland on a back to back Sunday, the Cavaliers had done a lot of things right and the Blazers couldn't throw the ball in the ocean. So what did they do? They came out after halftime and crushed them. This just three days after their biggest win of the season over the Lakers at home. 

And so much of it is Gerald Wallace. He is consistently the best player on the floor for Portland, and that's on a team with LaMarcus Aldridge. He's doing everything and doing it right. The Blazers are a buzzsaw right now. 

Cub Scout Troop Award: Team you should not fear

The Wizards are so easy it's painful. They're bad in every single phase of the game. Is it hot in here or it just Flip Saunders' seat? Wocka-wocka-wocka!

The McGavin Award: Best shooter

Paul George is hitting 73 percent from three-point range over the past five games. 

That's insane. 

George went away for the lockout and came back as one of the best catch-and-shoot assassins in the league. He's been a huge part of the Pacers' success. His length allows him to create separation any time he rises to fire and his release is Sundance-Kid-esque at this point. He pops over the screen and the nanosecond the ball hits his hands it's going toward his shooting motion. 

Searching For Bobby Fischer Award for Stratagem: 

Erik Spoelestra

Managed to keep winning without Wade and for a game without James against a playoff team. Has not only had the team adjust to the zone that gave them problems against Boston, but crushed teams who pulled it out. Has everyone motivated and on the same page and kept a low profile. It's easy to cast off the Heat's success as just talent, but if you watch the games, you'll know Spo is doing a hell of a job. 

Awkward Water Cooler Conversation Award for Coaching Struggle: 

Scott Skies

Bogut's been out, so that's obviously a problem. But for the second year in a row, the Bucks have come stumbling out of the gate. There's going to continue to be concerns that Skiles has lost this team as has happened in his other stops until they put together a string of good games, and that means on both sides of the ball. They have to find some offense somehow, someway. 

Blog of the Week:

Sactown Royalty

The Kings have a lot of moving parts and a lot of complicated issues on both sides of the ball. For a team that's been so bad for so long, you won't find a better place for analysis than SR, headed by SBNation's Tom Ziller. 

Awards Watch:

MVP Five to Consider (no particular order):
LeBron James
Derrick Rose
Kobe Bryant
Dwight Howard
Gerald Wallace

ROY Five to Consider:
Ricky Rubio
Kyrie Irving
Markieff Morris
Kawhi Leonard
MarShon Brooks

6th Man of the Year Five to Consider:
James Harden
Al Harrington
Jason Terry 
Lou Williams
Jamal Crawford

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com