Tag:Matt Moore
Posted on: August 9, 2011 10:32 am
Edited on: August 9, 2011 10:35 am
 

The Willis Reed tunnel is gone

By Matt Moore

It is one of the most memorable moments in NBA history, for better or worse. In Game 7 of the 1970 Finals, Willis Reed was expected to miss the game with a torn thigh muscle. In pre-game warmups, Reed walked down the tunnel and joined his teammates in the starting lineup. That Reed didn't actually have that great of a game is irrelevant in the narrative. That moment still stands out as a defining moment in the history of the National Basketball Association. That tunnel is iconic for the image it provided. 

 

And it's gone. From the New York Post
The spot where the Knicks and Rangers have emerged from is history, replaced by prime-time center-court seats.

The Knicks instead will enter the court from the corner, and Dolan will try to create a new tradition, as the players have to pass through the plush Delta Sky360Club, frequented only by elite season-ticket holders. Patrons there can watch the Knicks or Rangers take the stage through windows.

However, the Reed tunnel is already a goner, as the new seats -- Yankees-blue in color -- are in place, encased in plastic wrap.
via Stoudemire plans Knicks workouts in Florida - NYPOST.com.

Not only is it gone, but instead the players will walk through an area encased by glass where on the other side the highest of the sports high class sip martinis. Because when you're getting psyched for a game, you really want to be eyeball-to-eyeball with a CEO's six-year-old daughter eating chicken tenders while her dad sips Glenlivet. 

In reality, the information age has diminished the value of the memory. In reality, Rajon Rondo's dislocated shoulder and subsequent play against the Heat this past year was actually more impressive from an "overcoming injury" standpoint.  But that's the deal with legends. Sometimes they extend past their truths and that's what makes them legends. And now the guys in the cheap seats can't point to a tunnel and tell their kids that's where Willis Reed ran out. 

Oh, well. Maybe the Knicks will use the extra money from the renovations to cover the $300 million in losses from the rest of the league and we can end the lockout.  Right?

OK, probably not.

(HT: HoopsHype
Posted on: August 9, 2011 9:09 am
Edited on: August 9, 2011 9:21 am
 

T-Will jams, then rips shirt off to celebrate

By Matt Moore

Terrence Williams is largely headed the way of Gerald Green. An exciting young talent that for whatever reason can't find time on the floor, mostly attributable to attitude and basketball intelligence reasons. But he's entertaining every second of it. For example, take this video taken from this weekend at one of the Pro-Ams. There are dunks, we've seen those. And there are celebrations. And then there's this. 

 

That's the basketball version of "Not to put too fine a point on it, but... SHAZAM!" Point taken, T-Will.

Oh, and the unfortunate soul who just got yammed on is the Lakers' Derrick Caracter. That'll make for a nice summer memory for him.
Posted on: August 8, 2011 3:59 pm
Edited on: August 8, 2011 4:04 pm
 

The EOB Elite 100, 61-70: Buy or sell



By Matt Moore


This is the third segment of the CBSSports.com Eye on Basketball Elite 100, counting down the top-100 players in the NBA. 

Check out the earlier installments: 100-91 | 90-81 | 71-80
 

As we move on, we're starting to see an interesting mix of stars blending together with what are the NBA equivalent of critically received indie albums. Guys like Aaron Afflalo and Nicolas Batum aren't starring in commercials nationally, but they're the kind of guys who can help your team win. Six of the players in 61-70 are under 26. Only two players did not make the playoffs, and one has excellent upside and the  other missed the playoffs by only a handful of games. We're starting to get to the meat of the rankings. 

Things become tough here. Is Kyle Lowry really not as good as Chauncey Billups? Is Aaron Afflalo better than Wesley Matthews, despite a much smaller role? Can Jennings' promise make up for a downturn as a sophomore? In a difficult exercise, this is where things start to get nearly impossible. 

In figuring all this out, this is kind of like the stock market. And in times like these, you know how unstable that can be. Some of the younger players like Brandon Jennings you want to buy at a stock this low, and some of the players whose ages are getting up there you want to drop like Billups who will be 35. Just one problem. The gap between those two point guards? Winning

Right or wrong, and sometimes it's very, very wrong, being a part of a winning team means something in this league, and it means something in these rankings. There's a subtle element of making your teammates better. Maybe that's offensive rebounding and providing them more possessions. Maybe it's leadership on and off the floor, keeping their team's head where it needs to be. Maybe it's being the emotional spark plug. But most of the players on this list bring something beyond the stats, and they have the record to show for it. This is the big time, and the cost of doing business is victories. 

70. Kyle Lowry, PG, Age 25, Houston Rockets

2011 Stats: 13.5 ppg, 6.7 apg, 4.1 rpg, .506 eFG%, 16.5 PER

Composite rankings (random order):79, 69, 67 

: This is another one of those rankings that make us nervous. Lowry was ninth among point guards playing 20 minutes in Assist Ratio. He averaged 14-7-4 and played great defense. The only thing really dragging him down statistically is his shooting percentage. Lowry raised his 3-point percentage 10 percentage points to 37 percent, and still topped out at 42 percent from the field. He's efficient, but only really in spurts. That he wound up with as great of a season as he did speaks to his overall ability. If Lowry keps improving (a challenge as he just hit 25), there's some room to jump there. As it is, we'll congratulate Lowry on a tremendous season and hope he sustains it going forward. KLOE. (Kyle Lowry Over Everything, via Zach Harper.)

69. Wesley Matthews, SG, Age 24, Portland Trail Blazers

2011 stats: 15.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.3 spg, .449 FG%, 15.5 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 53, 60, unranked

Throwing aside his rather absurd contract, Matthews ranked 47th among all guards playing 20 minutes a night in PER. He was 17th in True Shooting percentage, however, even if he was just 38th in points among the same group. Matthews is an expensive reserve guard, and that fits his spot here well. He's versatile, though. If it weren't for the glutton of players at the same role, he likely would have found himself higher.

Matthews has games where he looks very much like a quality roleplayer. He's in an uncomfortable spot, splitting time with Brandon Roy. At age 24, he's not a spring chicken, but he's still got room for growth. He needs to focus on defense to round out his game (he's already fairly solid on defense), and learn to be more of a playmaker. The Blazers need playmakers, not just finishers. He'll have a bigger role with Rudy Fernandez moved on, though. Every minute counts. 

68. Aaron Afflalo, SG, Age 25, Denver Nuggets

2011 Stats: 12.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.4 apg, .498 FG%, .423 3pt%, 14.8% usage

Composite rankings (random order): 79, 64, 79

Aaron Afflalo shot 50 percent from the field last year. Now, that's a pretty good number if you're a center or power forward. It's quite another thing if you're a perimeter player. Quite simply, Afflalo can shoot the rock. He's a deadly shooter who doesn't overshoot. He's like J.R. Smith with a conscience. Afflalo's likely to see his role grow in Denver next season. If he can improve defensively and become more of a playmaker, he's got a real shot at being a legit star. He's already 25, though, so the clock's ticking, just like Lowry.

Until then, he's a crack shooter on a playoff team who the Nuggets are likely making room for by letting Wilson Chandler head elsewhere and building around Lawson and Afflalo. The kid I call Spellcheck is poised to have a real shot to make himself a name. 

67. Nicolas Batum, SF, Age 22, Portland Trail Blazers

2011 Stats: 12.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, .9 spg, .6 bpg, 14.8 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 74, 65, 71

AKA The Untouchable Blazer. Batum isn't an elite scorer. He's not a tremendous rebounder or a brilliant passer. Batum is the entire package. He's a player you can plug into a rotation spot and watch him work at both ends. Key 3-pointer? He can hit it. Need a steal and a dunk? He can make it happen. Need to lockdown a perimeter weapon? He's your guy. Batum has been targeted in trade after trade in the past two years and the Blazers have rebuffed every offer. Batum's overall value as a basketball player extends beyond specific roleplay and into comprehensive ability. That's why he's here, and there's a strong likelihood he'll head up the numbers in the next few years.

66. Brandon Jennings, PG, Age 20, Milwaukee Bucks

2011 Stats: 16.2 ppg, 4.8 apg, .390 FG%, 15.6 PER, 25.5% usage

Composite rankings (random order): 

Brandon Jennings shot less than 40 percent from the field last year. You don't have to like numbers to know that's bad. Jennings had one of the worst assist ratios among point guards playing 20 minutes in the league. He suffered through an injury which held him to missing nineteen games. And his shot selection often borders somewhere between perplexing and the edge of insanity. Still, you want to buy low here. Jennings has shown a willingness to improve, he doesn't turn 21 until the fall, and has been putting in the work during the lockout. He's low today. A year from now? We think he'll be higher. For now, he's stuck with that percentage, the injury, and room to grow.

The question is if he can learn to have a shooting conscience, or if he's just going to try and do what he does, just make more. Not a bad plan, but a better philosophical approach might do wonders for the kid. 

65. Jason Richardson, SG, Age 30, free agent

2011 Stats: 15.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, .396 3pt%, 20.6% Usage

Composite rankings (random order): 85, 50, 70

Richardson likely would have cracked top fifty before last season. He was a key player for the Suns' 2010 Western Conference Finals run, and was filling it up as usual to start the year in Phoenix. Then in Orlando, things fell off a cliff. Richardson never got comfortable, averaged just 13.9 points on 43 percent shooting, and saw the Magic fall to the floor in the playoffs after a Hawks haymaker. Richardson's a free agent when the offseason begins, and will likely carry a large amount of interest from contenders. But at age 30, there's only so much left in the tank for Richardson as a starter.

64. Emeka Okafor, C, Age 28, New Orleans Hornets

2011 Stats: 10.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.8 bpg, .573 FG%, 102 Def Rating

Composite rankings (random order): 73, 60, 70

Centers are at a premium in this league. And Emeka Okafor's a pretty good one. After a disappointing first season in New Orleans, Okafor responded and became the third component in Chris Paul-David West- capable center that the Hornets have used as a blueprint for success. Specifically, Okafor is a tremendous defender at the rim. It's true that after this year's playoffs, the Hornets look terrible for trading Tyson Chandler, now champion Tyson Chandler, but Okafor is a quality center in this league. Unfortunately at 29 next year, he'll likely never reach his draft ceiling and will have to settle for just being the kind of guy a playoff team can rely on.

63. Serge Ibaka, PF, Age 20, Oklahoma City Thunder

2011 Stats: 9.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.4 bpg, .543 FG%, 6.5 blk%, 17.7 PER, 27.0 mpg

Composite rankings (random order): 63, 65, 59

Oh, Iblocka. One of the most divisive players in the league. Everyone loves his energy. Some people trust his jumper. Some people think he's impetuous and gets caught with his head spinning. Ibaka is going to improve and will be a force to reckon with. But for all his defensive stewardship, the Memphis series exposed that a crafty offensive post player can put him into a tizzy, while his offensive reportoire still needs work. Ibaka had one of the lowest variances in scores in the back half of our list. We all know he's pretty good, we just know he's not top fifty. Not yet.

62. Elton Brand, PF, Age 31, Philadelphia 76ers

2011 Stats: 15 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 18.5 PER, .512 FG%, .780 FT%

Composite rankings (random order): 43, 85, 59

 Finally, a bounceback year from Elton Brand. Brand's resurgence under Doug Collins was long overdue, but still solid. Brand scored the same number of points per 36 minutes that he did in 2010, but he shot over 50 percent for the first time since 2007. He played 81 games, helped the Sixers make the playoffs, and increased his rebounds and blocks, and lowered his turnover rate. Brand is getting up there and his ability to contribute will only decrease, especially with his knee issues.

But 18.5 PER and 1.3 blocks per game as the rock of a Philadelphia team we're still not sure how they made the playoffs? That's pretty good stuff for a guy who cruelly saw what would have been his prime ruined by injury. To work as hard as he has to get back and produce is wothy of respect, and this rating respects that. 

61. Chauncey Billups, PG, Age 34, New York Knicks

2011 Stats: 16.8 ppg, 5.4 apg, 1.0 spg, 2.0 tov, 18.7 PER, 72 games played

Composite rankings (random order): 75, 34, 74

 So two of us think Billups is pretty much over, and belongs squarely towards the end of this list. One of us thinks he's pretty good. The truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle. Billups' field goal percentage dropped to 40 percent last season. That's just slightly better than Brandon Jennings. The difference is that Billups is exceptional at drawing fouls and converting at the free throw line, still is an excellent defender, knows how to run an offense, produces assists at a decent rate, and knows how to run a team. But most importantly, consider this. The last time Billups did not play a single game in the NBA playoffs was the year 2000. He's been a part of the playoffs for a decade, mostly in prominent roles. He'll fall down this list next year; the guy's going to be 35 for crying out loud But for now, he sticks at 61.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference and HoopData
Posted on: August 8, 2011 10:25 am
Edited on: August 8, 2011 10:35 am
 

Video: Kemba Walker coast to coast



By Matt Moore


I wasn't big on Kemba Walker as a prospect last year, despite all his success. And I wasn't big on Walker pre-draft because of the same concerns plus his size. But as time has gone on and I've went back and watched more of his work last year, you can see why some scouts had him so high. Walker's got great quickness, handle, and scoring ability. That should be enough to keep him on the floor in some capacity in the bigs. Trying to predict draft pick defensive potential is impossible given the sharp curve they face and the change in fundamentals from one level to the next. Walker has all the pieces to put it together. 

We'll talk more about Walker, but first, we interupt your regularly scheduled analysis to bring you this video of Walker going coast to coast in the Dyckman Pro Am this weekend. Ba-boom:

 

Nice, Kemba. 

One thing that switched my head around on Walker is this piece from NBA Playbook, talking about his ability to work in an area that is seldom used in college: the pick and roll.
When Walker is looking for his own shot coming off of a ball screen, he is a very dangerous player.  He does a good job of creating space for his shot, but what makes him really special is his ability to get to the rim when coming off of a ball screen.  Walker was in the top 15% of all college players (in terms of PPP) when taking it all the way to the rim coming off of a ball screen drawing a foul 33.3% of the time (Basically, every three times Walker attacked the rim off of a screen, he went to the free throw line).

What makes Walker so tough to cover when coming off of a ball screen is that he has a combination of quickness and shooting ability.  Walker is a good enough shooter that if you go under the screen, he is going to pull up and knock down the jumper.  This means that defenses need to try to go over screens while hedging.  Walker is simply too quick and is able to take advantage by driving by the hedge man and getting into the lane (while not shying away from contact).  Finally, he is good enough with the ball that he won’t turn it over often (only turned it over 3% of the time when attacking the rim).
via Draft Pick Scouting Report: #9 Kemba Walker | NBA Playbook.\

How do you neutralize a size disadvantage? Be quicker than everyone else and be able to effectively use ball screens. Walker's not an elite level of fast in the NBA, especially not when compared to other elite point guards. But he's got great quickness and a knowledge of the floor. His curve to learn how to operate an offense at the next level isn't as sharp because of his experience. He's going to have to learn when to shy away from the shot and how to distribute to other players, but that natural scoring instinct will translate, and if he's efficient enough, that will keep him on the floor.

Maybe I was wrong on Walker this whole time. We'll have to wait and see.

Emphasis on "wait."

(HT: PBT
Posted on: August 8, 2011 8:54 am
Edited on: August 8, 2011 11:51 am
 

Rookies taking loans to survive lockout

By Matt Moore

You've worked your tail off on the court and in training since high school. You played well enough to be considered a draft prospect. You dealt with the draft workouts. You made it through the nervousness of where you'd go. You were finally drafted, a dream come true. You're an NBA player, and along with that comes the perks, like millions and millions of dollars to change a life of just getting by you've known your whole life. 

Then you're locked out, and you don't get a cent.

While the league's biggest stars work to protect max contracts, and league veterans work to protect their long-term earning stability, the rookies are left hanging out without the stockpiles the other players have. Rookies have few friends in the league, few places to turn, no endorsement deals for the most part, and no paycheck. They're not unemployed, but they're not being paid for what they're employed to do, nor are they able to do what they're employed to do.

So they take loans.

From the Oklahoman comes the tale of Reggie Jackson, a rookie drafted by Oklahoma City out of Boston College, and how he's now among the world's elite in professional basketball players.... and already in debt thanks to a loan.  
While most veteran players have had their paychecks suspended, they at least have, or should have, some kind of coin in reserve. Jackson has yet to receive his first pro check at all. Instead of signing his rookie contract last month, Jackson was forced to take out a loan. He says it's a small amount that only keeps him afloat.

“I'm trying to pay back as little as I can and just get through the times right now,” Jackson said.

“I've grown up not being super wealthy. I went to college being broke and found a way to manage through that. So I'm just getting by. Basketball's never been about money and never will be. I'm living comfortably enough to where I'm satisfied. But I'm also not out there buying a big house and a big car. I'm not trying to do that. I'm OK with settling for less fancy things.”
Most players are going to rely on loans from their agents, which is only going to make their representatives more bloodthirsty to end the lockout. If you're an agent, you may be floating cash to a rookie to keep him afloat during the lockout, only to find later that he busts out, ruining the long-term earning potential for you as his rep. You're essentially taking a bath on a player. Kind of weird to think about a bust actually costing an agent money, but maybe it'll be a humbling experience. 

OK, probably not.

The lockout is an ongoing affair and it affects more than just the guys who already own four cars, it affects kids who have waited years for this moment only to find that there's nothing to celebrate. Instead they're just trying to get by, but at least they're still able to do that. That's more than a lot of the workforce in this country can do right now.

Interesting side effect that rookies are seeing the real effects of the lockout immediately while many players are paid through November. You wonder if that will affect them and what the rookies of 1998-1999 think about what they're going through.
Posted on: August 7, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: August 7, 2011 11:54 am
 

Alex Meruelo reaches agreement to purchase Hawks

By Matt Moore

The Atlanta Hawks finally, finally have an owner. After years of internal strife amongst the myriad owners involved in the team's ownership group, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports today that Los Angeles pizza chain owner and diverse business mogul Alex Meruelo has an agreement to become majority owner of the Hawks. The Hawks can finally move on. From the AJC:
Although his primary residence and business will remain in Southern California, Meruelo said he plans to spend a lot of time in Atlanta and to buy a home here.

"If you look at my previous ... business ventures, I'm very hands-on, and this will be no different," he said.

Asked if there is any scenario in which he would seek to move the Hawks out of Atlanta, Meruelo said: "Absolutely no. None."

Owning an NBA team, he said, "has been a dream of mine and a passion, and you'll definitely see that as I become, hopefully, the owner in a short period of time."
via L.A. businessman buying majority stake in Hawks  | ajc.com.

The Hawks have been handcuffed by a minority group that allowed them to conduct business and make deals but had no long-term leadership plans due to their desperation to end the agreement that caused a rift amongst the various owners. Meruelo won't take control of the Hawks for another few months while the Board of Governors works through the lockout and tries to get themselves into one place, which is really difficult all of a sudden. But when he does, Meruelo told the AJC that there's no risk he'll try and move the team to Los Angeles or anywhere else. The plan is to keep the team in Atlanta. 

All of this comes as a relief for Hawks fans, who not only had to be concerned about the team moving out like their co-tenants the Thrashers did, but have become increasingly frustrated with what is perceived as a lack of organization to the team's approach as it has stalled in the second round of the playoffs. Larry Drew actually took the team the furthest it has gone with the current core, but showed a number of tactical errors, and the contract of Joe Johnson is so expensive and so long there has to be concerns about the team's viability as a contender in a few years. As a result, Josh Smith has been on the block for the past few months, and that will likely only increase after the expected lowering of the salary cap. 

With new ownership and a clear, unified voice in the way of a central owner, Hawks fans have reason for hope. Now the only question is whether Meruelo's hands-on approach will be for the benefit of the team, and exactly how much change this will bring to the franchise.  

Also notable is the fact that Meruelo becomes the first Hispanic majority owner in the NBA, a sign of the increasing diversity of the ownership in the league, even if it has been slow developing.
Posted on: August 6, 2011 2:25 pm
Edited on: August 6, 2011 2:32 pm
 

'Chocolate Thunder' name came from Stevie Wonder



By Matt Moore

So how exactly did this:

 

become linked with this:

 

From Dime
Dime: How did the nickname Chocolate Thunder originate?

DD: Stevie Wonder used to come the ball games and they would have a guy sitting with him. And the guy would be holding on to his arm, telling him what’s going on, and he would say, “Hey, the big chocolate guy just put down a thunder dunk. The chocolate guy with another monster dunk.” And Stevie Wonder actually gave me the nickname Chocolate Thunder. So a guy who never saw me can give me that name. I think I can wear that well. I don’t even know if he remembers, it’s been so long, but I’ll keep that.
via Dime Q&A: Darryl Dawkins Reveals The Origin of His Nickname And Recalls His First Dunk | Dime Magazine (dimemag.com) : Daily NBA News, NBA Trades, NBA Rumors, Basketball Videos, Sneakers.

 That's a pretty spectacular story. 

If you're unfamiliar with the work of Dawkins, he's considered one of the game's all-time great dunkers. He's widely considered to be one of the first truly remembered players of "potential" who never quite capitalized on it. Dawkins' highest PER came when he was 21, averaging just 11.7 points per game in 25 minutes of play time. His best overall season saw him average 14.7 points and 8.9 rebounds in 1980. He was traded as parf of the Sixers' moves which led to acquiring Moses Malone, which led to their championship. In short, moving Dawkins was part of what they had to do in order to win a title.

Yet, with his dunk-naming, prolific style, and unbelievable swag (that over-used phrase is apt here; come on, the man said that he was from the planet Lovetron), his left his mark on the game. He's a cult figure in the history of the game, and mentioned because what he could do not because of what he did do. In a way, Dawkins stands out as the rare player whose promise actually overshadowed his lack of accomplishments, instead of the other way around. 

Here's an interesting mental exercise. Given their respective careers, say that Gilbert Arenas' career ended right now. Who would have had the better career?

Both had brilliant nicknames (Agent Zero vs. Chocolate Thunder). Both were known more for their personalities than their play. Both never lived up to their fullest potential. Arenas had the better individual seasons, but Dawkins went deeper in the playoffs. Arenas was at one point top 15 in the league, which Dawkins never was. Dawkins had trouble with drugs, Arenas had trouble with guns, and teammates, and defecated in a teammate's shoe. Arenas could take over a game, but rarely did, and suffered from injuries which kept him out for most of the past four years. Dawkins never lived up to his potential and at one point was playing for the Sioux Falls Skyforce in the Continental Basketball Association after his retirement. 

Dawkins was traded for a first-round pick. Arenas was traded for Rashard Lewis.

This goes round and round. It's an interesting debate for the next time you're in the sports bar. Before you have it, though, put Stevie Wonder on the jukebox, won't you?

HT: TBJ via PBT 
Posted on: August 6, 2011 11:38 am
 

Video: Beasley encounters the KD Shake and Bake

By Matt Moore

You don't expect to see much defense in summer leagues. The defensive principles just aren't in play, though you could argue that some of these clips make it seem like players are actually trying harder in urban league play than in the NBA, which is just insulting. But nonetheless, watching Kevin Durant completely shake and bake Michael Beasley into batter as he whips by him for a dunk is pretty special. And no, Michael Beasley did not mush anyone after this play, especially not Durant. 

 


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