There are old faces leaving, old faces doing what they do and a new era of basketball in a place where youâ€™ve needed a new era just about every season.
Weâ€™ve got huge dunks and game-winners from the eight-game schedule. There are plenty of faces to go around for everybody, whether theyâ€™re good lion-type of faces or squinty, little bitter putrid faces because of horrible, horrible failure.
Either way, Iâ€™d like you to see the PSA from Ben Affleck and Matt Damon right now:
In case you didn’t catch what that PSA was about, it basically gave the message that NBA fans, especially those sitting courtside, should never feel compelled to interfere with a live ball. Joe Calderon was clearly going to save the ball late in the fourth quarter when a fan jumped up and knocked it away. I don’t really know what the motivation was behind it. Maybe he was just being like David Puddy and “supporting the team.” I don’t know.
Maybe he thought it was a bumble bee that painted itself to look like Snooki. I’m not quite sure there either. All I know is he knocked the ball away from Joe and the result was Lakers ball. There has to be some sort of rule or violation there that the league hasn’t made available to us. There just has to be.
Lion Face: The Los Angeles Clippers
Did they get their teeth kicked in by the Magic? Absolutely. Did they fight and show some pride in themselves as men or professionals? Not at all. So how do they get a lion face for last night? Theyâ€™re no longer under the control, guidance or construction of Mike Dunleavy. Mike D will no longer be in the front office a month after deciding to step down from his post as the head coach of the team. So next season, with a good amount of cap room, the odds-on favorite for the Rookie of the Year in Blake Griffin and plenty of roster flexibility, theyâ€™ll be able to have their pick of available GMs and coaches to help shape and lead this team to challenge the Lakers for the King of Los Angeles. Will they be able to pull it off? History says they wonâ€™t â€“ not with Donald Sterling still owning the team. But the dark cloud of Dunleavy is no longer hanging over this franchise. Thatâ€™s a start.
Lemon Face: Andre Iguodala
Iggy must have needed a night off. Itâ€™s the only way to explain how Brandon Rush completely outplays him for an entire game. Iguodala should be able to at worst shut down his man even if his offense is way off. When Andre plays 30 minutes, five points and eight shots should be more of a one-quarter output. It shouldnâ€™t be an entire game. And if that does happen, five rebounds and four assists should be much higher because then at least youâ€™ll know he was going all out. Instead, Kareem Rushâ€™s next of kin has a field day at the expense of the Philly defense on the perimeter. Then again if Andre Iguodala is the best player on your team, thereâ€™s probably a reason youâ€™re 23-40.
Lion Face: Dwight Howard
I donâ€™t care about the scoring or the blocked shots or the rebounding tonight. We know heâ€™s pretty much always going to be well above average in those aspects of the game on any given night. Did you see Dwight Howard on the break? Check that. Did you see Dwight Howard LEADING the break? After a Brandon Bass blocked shot, Dwight got the ball, motored up the floor past the defense, sucked the defender in at the basket and casually whipped a left-handed pass across his body, past the defender and into Brandon Bassâ€™ hands for a dunk. Take a look:
You know what it reminded me of? No, not Rony Seikaly. The Diesel. Young Diesel. I donâ€™t like comparing the two because theyâ€™re completely different players. Shaq was a power figure when he was finding his way in the league. Dwight Howard is all about soaring above the opposition. But regardless, it reminded me of plays like this early on in the Orlando days when Shaq was running the whole show.
By the way, where did that fadeaway jumper go? That was promising. Would have loved to see more of that in his career. Imagine his career with that weapon in the full-time arsenal? Weâ€™re talking 35,000 points. Easy.
Lemon Face: Miami Heat bench
Do you know how many points the Miami Heat bench scored in 82 minutes of play? 12. Thatâ€™s it. It was a dozen points in 82 minutes of bench play for the Heat. Thatâ€™s freaking anemic. Udonis Haslem had eight points and 11 rebounds and Mario Chalmers found a way to drop a couple of baskets. Thatâ€™s it. Maybe when Spoelstra is watching film with his team and trying to figure out how they scored just 78 points, he can look to the bench and tell them to facepalm themselves for the next three hours.
Lion Face: Raymond Felton
Raymond Felton occasionally shows up out of nowhere and simply leads his team to a victory. It happened Tuesday against the Heat. He finished with 15 points and 11 assists. He made a couple of threes. But most of all, he showed a complete control to the pace and structure of the game. He helped ugly it up a little bit because against a team like the Heat, thatâ€™s what you should do. They donâ€™t have bangers. They donâ€™t have guys that really deal with sloppy play. Felton on the other hand probably prefers that type of game. It suits him well. He can pick and choose when to drive and when to pull up. The result is usually a good scoring opportunity. He made smart decisions down the stretch and scored some big points.
Lemon Face: Miami Heat ball movement
By the way, Raymond Felton had 11 assists, in case you missed it a couple of sentences ago. Whatâ€™s significant about that in relation to the Heatâ€™s ball movement? Felton nearly matched the Heatâ€™s ENTIRE team assist total just by himself. The Heat had 12 team assists. 12! Thatâ€™s it! Derrick Rose and Deron Williams both had more than that on their own. How about setting up your teammates and not trying to suck so much at sharing the ball?
Lion Face: Gerald Wallace
When youâ€™re offense is in the toilet and you canâ€™t get any kind of flow or momentum going, what are you going to do to respond? If you are Gerald Wallace, youâ€™re going to bust your knots trying to grab every single loose ball there is. Struggling with eight points on 3/11 shooting? Not a big deal. He went out and grabbed 17 rebounds to make sure he was contributing to this team as much as humanly possible. Itâ€™s like Vince Vaughnâ€™s character says in The Break Up when heâ€™s explaining how his Madden team was so much better than the other guyâ€™s: work ethic. Itâ€™s all about work ethic.
Lemon Face: 60% of the Wizards Starting Lineup Lion Face: The Utah Jazz
Al Thornton and Andray Blatche werenâ€™t great but they were definitely active and tried to do whatever they could to keep this game within striking distance. The other three guys in the Wizardsâ€™ starting lineup? Ya, not so much. In a game the Wiz lost by eight, Randy Foye (two points), Mike Miller (seven points) and JaVale McGee (four points) combined for 13 points on 6/20 shooting. Foye was bad once again. Mike Miller tried to be an all-around player but forgot about putting the ball in the actual basket. And JaVale McGee? Well, nobody really knows what he does from a game-to-game basis. Theyâ€™re just glad he hasnâ€™t figured out a way to not be so tall.
Lemon Face: The Bulls Defense
You just canâ€™t give up 40 points in the fourth quarter and expect to be respected. You canâ€™t give up 132 points on your home floor and be respected. I really want this Chicago Bulls team to make the playoffs because what we saw from Derrick Rose in the first round last year was so special, I would like to arrange for that to happen again this year. I think it would be a great treat for us. When Derrick Rose is a saloon door at the top of the defense and Brad Miller is your last line of defense, I guess you canâ€™t expect much. The Jazz had an offensive rating of 134.7. Thatâ€™s a lot of hooch.
Lion Face: Andrew Bogut
Forget about the fact that his team beat a healthy Boston team at home and legitimized themselves as real a playoff team as Pinocchio is a boy. Andrew Bogut took one of the best defensive centers in the league and destroyed him. Heâ€™s the perfect counter offensively to what Perkins likes to do. Perkins capitalizes on his opponents trying to do too much. He gets the uncomfortable and causes them to miss shots. But with Bogut heâ€™s far too patient to fall into that trap. Instead, he takes his time, absorbs the contact and uses his wide array of skills to convert. Should he be on the second All-Defensive team? Definitely. Should he be All-NBA Second Team this year? Heâ€™s in the conversation for sure. And when he leads his team to the playoffs, I canâ€™t imagine that the current second best center in the NBA wonâ€™t be recognized for it.
By the way, I love the fact that Big Baby just rolled away in shame after Bogut lowered the Boomshakalaka.
Lemon Face: Celtics Offensive Execution
Kendrick Perkins was one of the featured offense weapons for the Celtics in the first half. Hereâ€™s the problem with that: heâ€™s not very good offensively. Oh sure, he can occasionally pull a half-hook out of an orifice but overall, he shouldnâ€™t be attempting much more than dunk attempts. He certainly shouldnâ€™t be attempting nine shots in a game against one of the best defensive centers in the league when Ray Allen attempts only three shots TOTAL for the game and finishes three points. It seems like youâ€™re doing the whole coaching thing wrong if that ends up being your way to beat a very good defensive squad.
Lion Face: Rajon Rondo Tip-Dunk
In a night of failure for the Celtics nearly all the way around, they did have this nice athletic follow by Rajon Rondo:
Lemon Face: Glen Davis-Brandon Jennings
Do I think Glen Davis made a play on the ball when he was whistled for a flagrant foul? Not really. I think he started to and then when he realized he couldnâ€™t do it, he decided to attempt to absorb Brandon Jennings. Do I think Jennings acted like a moron and tried to instigate the moment even more by standing over him like he was trying to provide some shade under the bright lights? Completely. Did it make any sense for Big Baby to then attempt to put his head through Jenningsâ€™ belly button before everyone realized this was turning into one of the most awkward altercations in NBA history? I donâ€™t think so. Perhaps, they should both take a cold shower.
Lion Face: Marcus Camby/Nicolas Batum
Theyâ€™re long. Theyâ€™re athletic. Theyâ€™re a great defensive duo. Batum did a great job of slowing down the perimeter scoring of the Kings. He bottled up Tyreke Evans as much as you can bottle up Tyreke Evans without being Shane Battier. He helped turn Evans into a jump shooter for stretches, which eliminates 98% of the threat â€˜Reke poses for the basketball world. He was able to do that because Marcus Camby always had his back. Camby was turning away shots like a hot girl at a bar not trying to go home with anybody. He totaled five blocks in the game and probably changed half a dozen more shots in the process. If the Blazers can do anything in the playoffs, itâ€™s because these two are the defensive Sonny and Cher. You decide which one is which.
Lemon Face: Kings Frontcourt (Carl Landry Excluded)
This following paragraph does not include Carl Landry in its criticism of the Kings frontcourt. Spencer, DontÃ© and JT, I love the effort you guys have put forth in the last couple of weeks. You clearly get that the Kings need defense, rebounding and a constant stream of effort flooding the interior of this defense. Hereâ€™s the problem: youâ€™ve got to figure out how to score. Donâ€™t just dump that responsibility on the new guy. Portland has a good frontcourt but itâ€™s not so good that you should be getting dominated like that. At some point, effort wonâ€™t be enough and youâ€™ve got to produce some tangible results with that effort. Please take this under advisement and act on it so I donâ€™t have to make a funny video at your expense. Am I right, Spenny?
Lion Face: Tyreke Evans
Tyreke had a nice night of 18 points, six rebounds and six assists. It wasnâ€™t overly special and he actually needed 19 shots against the defensive duo of Martell Webster and Nicolas Batum to produce that scoring. But thatâ€™s not really important. The numbers are just adding to a total that Sactown Royalty is keeping track of with their â€œâ€™Reke-o-Meter.â€ What is the Reke-o-Meter? Itâ€™s a running countdown of the amount of points, rebounds and assists Evans needs the rest of the season in order to average the hallowed 20-5-5 for his rookie season. After tonightâ€™s game, the Reke-o-Meter shows Tyreke needs 342 points, 98 rebounds and 64 assists the rest of the season. Not bad for the third youngest player in the NBA.
Lion Face: Hakim Warrick
Ronnie Price, I can appreciate the fact that you are in the upper one-percent of athletic ability in the world. But donâ€™t jump with Hakim Warrick. It just gets you in the highlight as Hak activates his go-go gadget arms.
Lemon Face: Torontoâ€™s Late Game Shot Selection
In a close game, you probably want to maximize your scoring opportunities by being aggressive and trying to get as close to the basket as you can in order to get a good shot off. But not if youâ€™re the Raptors. No, the Raptors decided to try to homerun after homerun as seven of their final 12 possessions ended in a three-point attempt. They could have easily run a pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop with Chris Bosh. Instead, they set their feet 23 steps away from the basket and let it rain.
Thatâ€™s probably how you end up scoring just nine points on those final 12 possessions of the game and get your heart ripped out by Kobe Bryant. At least this wonâ€™t affect your playoff seedingâ€¦ never mind.
Lion Face: Deron Williams
Dear Mr. Rose, Deron Williams cordially invites you to come get some.
Please accept this invitation on behalf of ALL of the Utah Jazz team members. Thank you.
Okay, I know Williams probably got away with an offensive foul but itâ€™s still fun to see plays like this.
Lemon Face: Hedo Turkoglu
Hedo, welcome back to the lineup after recovering from your injury. You had a terrible night and had a very key turnover late in the game. Maybe you should sit out a couple more games until youâ€™re ready to contribute to this team like someone who can play.
Lemon Face: Pau Gasol
Itâ€™s not that Pau Gasol played poorly by any means. 17 points and nine rebounds can make a lovely evening for any power forward. Itâ€™s just that latelty, heâ€™s been showing up soft in big moments. Perhaps he was supposed to shed that soft label during the NBA Finals when he put up nice numbers, gave great tough effort and won an NBA title. But I canâ€™t shake that feeling that heâ€™s still not comfortable doing the little things in crunch time that you need him to do. Be confident with the ball. Secure the rebound. Box the F out. Challenge the shot in a way that doesnâ€™t allow a sea of opponents to wash in behind you and flood the offensive boards. Pau has shown to be much better. Maybe we can just chalk this up to him being in the same funk the Lakers were in.
Lion Face: Kobe Bryant or Something
He did what he does.
What are you doing on that play, Andrea Bargnani? You need to go set a trap in an area thatâ€¦ wellâ€¦ you knowâ€¦ TRAPS Kobe from going anywhere. Instead, you meander over from Pau Gasol with a hesitant gait like youâ€™re still trying to get acclimated to your surroundings. Kobe claimed that he was expecting the double team early and if it came when he thought it was going to come, he would have had cutters to pass to. He wasnâ€™t passing that damn ball. Not even close. You should have sprinted from Pau Gasol at the top of the key to Kobe, cut off his move back to the middle and allowed Antoine Wright to cut off his move baseline. Instead, you left Antoine Wright on an island like the pilot of Lost and Kobe made you pay. Even if he passes to Pau Gasol there, SO WHAT?!?