Posted on: March 8, 2012 9:12 am
Edited on: March 8, 2012 2:12 pm
By Matt Moore and Ben Golliver
Wednesday night was one of those nights in the NBA. Multiple game winners, so many that we decided we need to break them down, power rankings style.
1. Rose does MJ: Derrick Rose's game winner had to be the best of the night for pure elegance. It had everything we look for from a winner: at the buzzer, walk off, isolation, high degree of difficulty, total calm, nothing but net. So much was going on in this one. He read the defense patiently, unleashed some crippling dribble moves, created and took the exact shot he wanted and even had large swaths of a road crowd cheering for him. Watch that thing and try not to think Michael Jordan.
2. Kyrie Irving's end-to-end. Irving's dash to the rim for what would be the game winner wasn't 94 feet of basketball brilliance, but it was as close as you want it to be. The fact that Byron Scott had the confidence in Irving to navigate all that space and the tactical knowledge to know the Nuggets wouldn't expect Irving to just get a running start and barrel to the basket deserves some points, while Irving's approach to switch hands on approach shows off his handle. That kid is something special.
3. Isaiah Thomas read-and-react. Thomas, at his best, is the type of undersized guard that just makes you marvel. That he was the 2011 NBA Draft's "Mr. Irrelevant" just makes the story that much better. Thomas was at his best on Wednesday night, intercepting an idiotic entry pass at full stretch and with perfect timing. Thomas' game is all action/reaction/action and he made an incredibly heady play to move the ball forward to a streaking John Salmons, hitting him in stride. No second-guessing, no covering the ball to allow the defense to react. Just pure open court instinct in a very unusual game situation. The only downside is that it wasn't a walk off winner, or the Power Balance Pavilion might have stormed the court. Thomas' growing reputation for putting smiles on faces continues to grow.
4. DWill trusts Farmar. What? Why aren't people flipping out over Deron Williams passing up the crucial shot in the Nets' win over the Clippers like they did with LeBron James? Regardless, Williams made a great play and Farmar didn't get too excited or go hero-mode. He just lined up and knocked down the open jumper. You know, the right basketball play. On the opposite end of the spectrum,CP3 was never going to take that pass, and gambling on it meant he couldn't run Farmar off. Big mistake as Farmar's been en fuego from the outside this year.
5. Nick Young has daggers on daggers. If this was later in the game, it would be a top-three candidate. After all, Young did rise and fear to knock off the master of rise and fire. But alas, we had more free throws and missed Kobe Bryant threes to get through before it was said and done. But make no mistake, Nick Young's dagger to punch the Lakers' comeback attempt was the game winner in the Wizards' stunner over L.A..
Posted on: September 16, 2011 12:57 am
Edited on: September 16, 2011 1:16 am
Posted by Ben Golliver.
Thursday night marked the end of Week 1 of the Las Vegas "Lockout League" at Impact Basketball. The fourth day of games was probably the week's most spirited, with some new faces upping the talent level and some technical fouls and trash talk livening up the week-long basketball marathon. Here's a quick look back at the week that was and a recap of the day's highlights.
Telfair eyes contender
At 26, Sebastian Telfair is now a decade removed from being one of the most hyped high school players of all time. His superstar trajectory never materiaized; Telfair just concluded his seventh NBA season, has yet to make a single playoff appearance and has only played in more than 60 games once in the last four years. A free agent, Telfair hopes all that changes next season.
"I sure do have a list of teams in my mind," Telfair said. "Those teams being one of the teams to make a run for a championship or the teams that are fighting every year for a championship. Seeing Dallas win a championship, congratulations to them, but I'm jealous. I'm extremely jealous. Dallas is definitely on my list. They've got the gold right now. It's not a bad thing in this league to want to go where the gold is. If you can compete and help the team win a championship, that's one of the main focuses in the NBA.
Aside from the Mavericks, Telfair clammed up a little bit as to who was on his radar. "The obvious teams," he finally allowed. "I won't say any teams in particular, but the obvious teams."
There is plenty of good news for those considering checking out the "Lockout League" play next week. First, there are plenty of tickets available. Second, Impact Basketball has shown itself to be very flexible in making improvements to the series.
On Thursday, Impact added an in-game emcee to help narrate the action. This is a particularly fan-friendly addition because the players are playing in jerseys that do not bear their names and sometimes rotate from team to team throughout the week. There's also no large scoreboard or video replay, so it can get a bit confusing keeping track of everyone, especially for the non-diehards. Many of the players in attendance are not particularly recognizable or well-known, either, so the emcee was a thoughtful improvement.
On Wednesday, Impact also cut back from four games per day to three games per day. While you might think at first that this would be less basketball for your money, the move actually improved the games considerably. Less was more here. The change allowed the games to be standardized to 10-minute quarters and rosters were condensed so that each team had seven or eight players instead of the five-a-side that was the norm during the four games per day earlier in the week. That meant each player could go harder, each guy could get breathers if necessary and the threat of a single injury stopping play was no longer a problem. Perhaps most importantly, it cut down on the total number of hours a fan would need to devote to seeing all the best players play. Instead of being in the gym from 1:30 p.m.to 9:30 p.m., fans could leave closer to 7:30 p.m.
The new presence of bigger-name players like Al Harrington, Stephen Curry and Rudy Gay (who watched from the sideline) on Thursday didn't hurt either.
In this no-frills environment there was bound to be edgier player behavior. Profanity from the court and from the pre-game soundtrack was the norm at Impact; the sterilization that you find at the NBA in that regard was not present.
With only a few exceptions, the players, who were not forced by anyone to conduct interviews or interact with media or fans, were thoughtful and kind on and off the court. Of course, the exceptions are far more entertaining than the rule, so here are a few highlights.
Melvin Ely, who is reportedly heading to China, crumpled to the ground after taking a blow to his face. In some fairly serious pain, Ely was escorted to a training area away from the court, where he was attended to by medical personnel. On his way there, though, he took a quick detour to upend a large gatorade bucket in frustration, crashing the contents behind one of the team's benches. Players chuckled and media members raised their eyebrows.
On Thursday, Denver Nuggets forward Al Harrington made his debut with a bang, earning two technical fouls in one game for disputing calls. The first time, he merely shouted at one of the referees; the second time, he chucked a ball so far off the court it hit a brick wall some 20 or 30 feet behind one of the baskets. Harrington was not ejected after receiving his second technical, although free throws were awarded on both violations.
The best trash talk exchange of the week occurred on Thursday, when Indiana Pacers forward Dahntay Jones and Detroit Pistons forward Austin Daye got into an entertaining back-and-forth. Jones, as you might expect, was the Impact Basketball king of the hard foul, sending player after player crashing to the hardwood in an effort to prevent lay-ups. He also was quick to chat too.
Daye found himself arguing a call while waiting to rebound a free throw attempt. Jones, who was in the backcourt, piped up to let Daye know that he was "soft" and that he should end his argument. Daye, an exceptionally skinny man for an NBA player, took real exception to Jones' label, raising his arms up to gesture towards the media section located behind the basket.
"You've got the worst game in here, ask any of them," Daye told Jones twice. Jones responded by mocking Daye's arm motions and sarcastically mimicking his aggravated tone. Play eventually resumed.
'When you work out with guys for three or four months," Dudley explained, "they get under your skin. You're tired, you want to go home."
Houston Rockets guard Kyle Lowry had the high point scoring game of the week, notching 56 points in a heated Thursday contest.
Probably the most entertaining team to watch was a late-arriving Golden State Warriors crew that made its debut on Thursday. Curry, David Lee, Jeremy Lin, Ekpe Udoh, Jeremy Tyler, Klay Thompson, Lou Amundson, Charles Jenkins and Dorell Wright all got some run in. There were so many Warriors they actually had to be split up into two squads. What was great about Golden State was that you could see real chemistry at work rather than the slapped together teamwork that you usually see in summer exhibitions. Lots of communication and instruction. Lee hollered across the court at Lin, instructing him to stay in the weakside corner and serve as an outlet whenever he drew interior defenders on a drive. Thompson got a feel for establishing an inside-outside game with Lee, and lit it up from deep, draining jumper after jumper.
Undersized Thomas feels he has a leg upOf the incoming rookie class of 2011, Isaiah Thomas, the draft's final pick by the Sacramento Kings, stood out for how comfortable he looked against more seasoned competition. Thomas is an undersized scoring guard who will struggle to defend at the NBA level. But he's also exceedingly quick, confident and able to create his own shot, a nice combination for a reserve, change of pace guard.
Thomas said he fit in right away at Impact because of his previous experience playing against professional players in Seattle, where he attended the University of Washington.
"It's a blessing because not everybody in my position has that [experience]," Thomas said. "We've got guys like Brandon Roy, Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson and the list goes on. Jason Terry. They really look out for the younger guys, the guy like Brandon Roy is such a great guy, he gives me input before games, after games, even when we workout together up in Seattle. He's a great guy and I learn from things like that.
He said he feels like he has a leg up on many other rookies in his position, both on and off the court, because of that guidance.
"It makes the transition smoother. Every guy up in Seattle has been through the situation I'm about to go through, but in different ways. If I can ask them about practice is going, what to expect, what's the business side of things. They all got different input, I take that all in. They are just trying to help, they are never going to steer me in the wrong direction."
As the last man selected in the draft and with a nonguaranteed contract likely in his future, Thomas realizes he will have to get in where he fits in with the Kings. "Play hard, play every possession like it's my last," Thomas explained. "Do whatever that want me to do. Score, get others involved, get on loose balls, play defense, I just want to play. After the draft, the Kings said, 'Keep doing what you're doing. We're excited when the time comes.'"
Posted on: September 13, 2011 11:08 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2011 11:50 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
LAS VEGAS -- A giant banner spans the entire baseline and rises some 20 feet into the air at Impact Basketball's Competitive Training Series. In full color, it depicts a player holding a basketball and screams a simple message in all capital letters: "POWER TO THE PEOPLE."
Given the news out of New York City on Tuesday, a day that saw labor talks between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association go nowhere, the "people" in Las Vegas, the dozens of professional basketball players assembled here to train and go through organized, five-on-five scrimmages, felt fairly powerless.
The news from New York spread throughout the gym rapidly via text message and tweets shortly after the games began, and it was met with frustration, anger and nervousness from some of the players present. Others maintained appearances and downplayed the day's events, but word that no progess had been made and that there was no immediate next step in the talks definitely hit with a thud at Impact.
"It sucks," said free agent point guard Sebastian Telfair bluntly. "[I'm feeling] sadness and frustration. This is our lives, our livelihoods, this is how we make our living. Guys are not going to be able to play basketball. We all love to play basketball, we all like to compete. Everyone likes to go out there and try to play for the gold. Right now, we're not getting the opportunity to do that."
Telfair, who is 26 years old and played for the Minnesota Timberwolves last season, heard about the news via text message from his agent just minutes after stepping off the court. He said Tuesday that he badly wants to catch on with a contender next season but knows that can't happen until the proper compromises are reached. "I was hoping for something," Telfair said. "At least move and agree on some things and then the things that the NBA and the Players Association don't agree on, then we can argue about that. But I think the first step for the lockout is for us to agree on something."
The worst part is that Telfair seems to feel a bit trapped. A natural communicator and ever vocal on the court, calling defensive assignments and yelling encouragement to himself, Telfair struggled for words when asked to lay out what he can do to prepare himself in the event that the lockout leads to a work stoppage.
"There's not too many ways you can prepare yourself," Telfair said. "Either you can go take a job overseas or other than that… you sit and wait. I don't really have the other answers. Just stay in shape. Sit and wait. And when they do make an agreement, just be ready."
While he admitted that a work stoppage now seems like a "legit possibility," Telfair clearly would prefer a resolution sooner rather than later, calling the waiting game "brutal."
"We've got a lot of free agents, like myself, all that business is on hold right now," Telfair explained. "A lot of guys don't know what team they're going to be playing with or what. We need to get this thing jumping off fast."
Isaiah Thomas, a 22-year-old second round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings who has yet to sign a contract officially, couldn't agree more. Thomas admitted that the lack of progress on Tuesday, which he heard about on Twitter, is starting to make him "a little bit" nervous.
"I'm mad, angry, because it feels like I'm still in college right now," Thomas said. "I made that decision [to skip his senior season] and I got drafted but nothing has changed. I've got to just patiently wait. Keep it in God's hands and hopefully it works out. Time is ticking. I've been patiently waiting. Hopefully if the time comes, I can get an NBA paycheck and be able to play and put on an NBA uniform."
If not frustration, though, Allen, 29 and signed through next season and one more, did admit to feeling some "urgency."
"Business as usual," Jones said. "There's no need for emotion in a situation like this... Every time we have a meeting, it's a business meeting."
Business meeting or not, time is ticking and alternate plans are being made. Telfair said he is "bound to the USA" and will only go overseas as a very last resort. Thomas said he has enrolled in three classes at the University of Washington and will work out in Seattle if there's a prolonged lockout. Jones would only say that he would "evaluate" his options as the process continues. Allen, like Telfair, wants to stay stateside.
"My audible is just to stay over here," he said. "I love the American game. I been doing that for the last seven years. [The wait] ain't got boring. That's my job. I don't know who could get tired of playing, doing something they love. I love playing basketball, that's why I'm out here playing right now."
The love of the game was a common theme among all the players, but surely it's alright to love getting paid to play the game too, right?
"I don't play for the money, I play for the love," Allen declared, finally and forcefully, ice packs taped to his left knee and right ankle. "Whenever I start playing for the wrong reasons, I know that's when it's time to quit."