Author Archives: Zach Harper

You All Lost Your Minds. Let Me Help You Find Them

In this society, we always want something new. We want something better than the last, and we want to be up on it before everybody else gets a whiff of it, and joins the trend.

I’m guilty of it myself. I’ve probably bought a new laptop four times in the four years I’ve been writing about the NBA. Why would that ever be necessary? Is a new laptop going to make me a better writer? Is it going to give me better ideas to present my thoughts on the NBA? No, of course it won’t. But I still like to have the most up-to-date technology I can at my fingertips, literally.

I don’t know why I like this new technology and I don’t know why I crave it. To be honest, my last MacBook Pro was probably better than this one. It was perfect to type on and it had a great layout that I was very comfortable using. But I got greedy. I saw the opportunity to grab one with more updated specs and seized it. I wanted to be ahead of the technological curve.

This is kind of what we have going on in the world of point guard debates. For some godforsaken reason, we now have to debate every point guard matchup and figure out who is going to be the best one. We need to know which guy is a Hall of Fame player after two years in the league and which one would be best to build an entire franchise and marketing campaign around. With the rules being so favorable to the diminutive generals (not a shot at Avery Johnson) and forcing us to crave more complete players than just some Trent Dilfer type of floor leader who will uninspiringly make you wish you could find one damn YouTube-worthy highlight from each game (ABSOLUTELY a shot at Avery Johnson), it makes sense to want to have the latest and greatest point guard on your team.

With the emergence of Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose last season, the influx of insanely talented rookie point guards and the dominating nature of Deron Williams, we all seemed to forget about Chris Paul. A big part of this was due to injuries. He hurt his knee and it kept him out of almost half the games. Then Darren Collison became a fantasy basketball sensation, which caused everybody to lose their collective bowels and start wondering if the Hornets even needed Chris Paul. Deron Williams exploded at the end of the regular season, threw up some absurd performances in the playoffs and all of a sudden experts and pundits are proclaiming him to be hands down the best point guard in the NBA.

ARE YOU PEOPLE OUT OF YOUR F***ING MINDS?!?

This is CHRIS PAUL!

CHRIS F’ING PAUL!

How did this happen? How did we move on so quickly to the latest fad when the best product on the market is still kicking ass and handing out career years to his teammates?

All he did was injure his knee. He didn’t Greg Oden his knee. He didn’t Shaun Livingston his knee. He didn’t have Big Baby fall into it like an inebriated seal and Joe Theisman his knee. He tore the meniscus in his knee and you all decided to write his obituary and send him off on some slab of glacier to the cold Icelandic waters?

Do you know what he was doing during this time period when Darren Collison had you foolishly drooling and Deron Williams had you worshipping false point guard prophets? He was sitting there, absorbing all of this coverage. He was watching you be dismissive. Hell, he was probably relishing being passed over, just waiting for the day in which he could come back and shove his damn leadership and assists in your face.

This is Chris Paul. He’s kind of an a-hole. That’s not to say he’s a mean guy or a bad guy by any means. But put him on the court and he’s going to want to rip your heart out Temple of Doom style. He’s going to fight Mike Tyson over which one of Lennox Lewis’ kids he can eat first. This guy is competitive beyond any rational sense of what is okay and what isn’t. I would be terrified of him in a fight because with his competitive nature, he’s probably incapable of stopping until he knows the job is finished.

And you left him there stewing. Just waiting to attack. He was like Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode 1 when he’s taking on Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon at the end. There’s the scene in which they get separated by some laser-infused, Kool-Aid partition. While Obi-Wan is trying to catch up to help out a meditating Qui-Gon, Darth Maul is just pacing back and forth, like a pit bull ready to make the 6’o’clock news after raiding an elementary school.

Throughout this entire time, people have just been kind enough to throw Chris Paul back into the conversation without any real proclamation that he’s returned to his throne of best point guard in the league. Everyone has been looking for the new guy to be the best. Instead, you should have been preparing for the biblical apocalypse that he’s going to hand down on the court this year. He’s healthy now and he’s almost completely in shape too. He has his teammates trying, filling in their roles and actually trying to play defense.

I saw David West show on a screen the other day on defense and it felt like I just saw Haley’s Comet come chill out in my living room.

THIS is the affect Chris Paul returning in a healthy manner has had for the New Orleans Hornets. Maybe he wants to eventually be traded so he can have a real chance at a ring. Maybe he’ll see the effort from this team, fall in love with their tenacity and willingness to do what it takes to rack up wins and decide N’Awlins is the place for him in his next contract. None of that really matters right now.

What matters is people took this man for granted, even though he’s only 25 years old. We got lazy and we got caught up in the latest and hopefully greatest, instead of hoarding bottled water, batteries and Simpsons Uno so we don’t get bored to death in the bunker we should have been building to prepare for his return to the court.

You know who wasn’t prepared? James Jones.

Chris Paul killed James Jones with that crossover. He’s dead now. It doesn’t matter there was a charge called inexplicably after he killed James Jones. All that matters is that James’ will and testament get doled out properly.

Chris Paul is back. He’s the best point guard in the world and everybody needs to be ready to admit it. It’s not a fluke really that the Hornets are 6-0. It’s because Chris Paul is no longer hobbled with a knee injury.

After Chris Paul dismantled the Miami Heat with a 19-assist performance, LeBron James declared on Twitter that this nonsense needs to end.

Ultimately, it’s okay to be impressed with what Rajon Rondo is doing. It’s okay to want Derrick Rose to realize his potential or hope Russell Westbrook develops a jumper or wish Deron Williams would stop going to Supercuts to get his hair did.

The new fads are fun. You can grab a laser disc player. You get to play with your Furby. Go to town on your pogs. Just remember to not lose sight of who the best is right now.

Chris Paul is back. He never really left. And he’s going to make you rue the day that you doubted he was still the best at what he does.

SUCK IT WE WANT PAGE VIEWS: Miami Heat Trounce Orlando Magic

Well.

That went well.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts, meat and potatoes, Riggs and Murtaugh of this game, we need to look at something really weird from this contest. In looking at the box score from HoopData (which gives you a nice breakdown of shot locations if you didn’t already know even though we’ve been pumping this site for a year now), you’ll notice something really strange.

Knowing that Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis were guarding Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and knowing that Joel Anthony was guarding Dwight Howard, how many shots at the rim would you expect for this game? For a little perspective, the Heat averaged 22.5 attempts at the rim in their first two games and the Orlando Magic attempted 21 shots at the rim in their blowout win over Washington on Thursday night. So knowing all of that, how many total attempts at the rim would you guess?

That’s right. The two teams combined for just 17 shots at the rim in this game. Miami had just 10 attempts at the rim. Orlando had seven. Seven!!! I was dumbfounded to find that in the box score this morning. I knew there were a lot of long jumpers taken in this game. Tom Haberstroh breaks it down wonderfully at the Heat Index. It’s astounding to me that these two teams who have a reputation for attacking the rim so ferociously already would settle for lower percentage shots all game long (cue LeBron critics shouting about his shot selection).

But that’s not really the whole story of this game. The Miami Heat is a second half team. Even though they played well in the first half offensively, they have now shown in three straight games that they come out of halftime with a defensive intensity that not many teams will be able to match. The Boston Celtics had enough of a cushion to withstand it in the first game. The Philadelphia 76ers were simply overmatched in the second game. And the Orlando Magic wilted in this third game.

The first half was disjointed but pretty good. Dwight Howard showed off a weird array of jumpers and running hooks that he efficiently showed in the preseason. LeBron James was settling for long 2-point shots instead of ferociously trying to tear the rim down whenever he could (which is a trend when he plays against Dwight). Either team will settle for that happening all game long because that’s what you want them to take. But for the most part both teams exchanged blows in the first 24 minutes of this game.

Then the second half happened and the Miami Heat clamped down on the Magic. Their perimeter defense is scary good. Think about the fact they’ve only been playing together for three games and it looks this good in the key stretches of games. What’s it going to look like in February? May? June? I know their interior is perceived as weak but it’s not really about having a Dwight Howard or Andrew Bogut in the middle for them. They don’t need it because the rest of the defense appears to be so good. Granted, they lucked out on a lot of missed 3s by the Magic (4/24). It doesn’t change the fact that the Magic scored just 25 points in the second half while shooting 19% from the field and 12.5% from 3-point range.

The perimeter defense just swarms the entire time and they end up running the shot clock down for the other team because of it. They did this in the second half against Orlando. The double teams were fast and aggressive. The rotations were even faster and helped them recover incredibly fast. The defense won’t be like this every night. Sometimes it will be worse. But sometimes it might also be better when they get more continuity with each other. This was an impressive win (maybe not a statement making win) any way you look at it.

Let’s Talk About Role Players

Zyndrunas Ilgauskas was fantastic in this game. He didn’t dominate Dwight Howard or hit a bunch of key jumpers. He just did his job of being big and getting in the way of the things going on inside. 8 points on 10 shots looks bad and frankly, it is. But he had five offensive rebounds in the game and neutralized Orlando inside when he was on the court.

In three games so far this year, Eddie House and James Jones have combined to hit 16 of their 30 3-point attempts. Imagine this constant outside attack when Mike Miller comes back to the team and gets into a rhythm. What do you do? How do you guard them? Does it really matter they don’t have an All-Star caliber center?

Udonis Haslem has 22 rebounds against the Celtics and Magic this season. Granted, one of those games ended up being a loss but he’s going to be as important as any role player on this team. He’s always been willing to sacrifice his personal adulation for hard work and everything that will benefit the team. We need to get him onto a serious 6th Man of the Year award watch.

Oh, Before I Forget … This Happened

Why LeBron James is going all Kristen Stewart on us, I don’t really know. I’m not quite sure if this is a tribute to True Blood, Twilight, or if he just wants to turn the term “fangbanger” into one of his signature dunks. Regardless, this just seems dangerous and irresponsible. You’re just asking to impale your own lip or get caught in Dwyane Wade’s cheek when you do one of those super cool flying hip checks to celebrate a big shot.

SUCK IT WE WANT PAGE VIEWS: Miami Heat Take Liberty From 76ers

The Heat are a .500 team! The Heat are a .500 team!

This is incredible.

The Miami Heat were done as of about 2 quarters into this game. They were struggling against the lowly but athletically stupendous Philadelphia 76ers. Keep in mind they were up eight points at halftime.

The problem with this Heat team is they’re still getting used to each other. Yes, that’s an easy excuse to make but it doesn’t make it wrong. You can tell in the way they’re running the offense. Defensively, I don’t believe it to be an excuse because that’s just a matter of awareness and effort. But offensively, there is a certain timing and understanding amongst all the players (outside of Haslem, Wade and Arroyo who play well off of knowing each other’s games) that is lacking.

Does that mean when they get this timing and understanding down they’ll run through the entire league and manage to win three championships in two seasons, cure cancer, defeat the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and put out a folk album that makes The Beatles’ White Album look like a Ricky Martin interpretive dance cover band’s mixtape?

No, not necessarily.

It just means we won’t see them be so careless with the ball and have LeBron James turning the ball over enough times to make Darren Collison blush. Or maybe they will still turn the ball over from trying to do too much. Look at the Celtics. They have great chemistry together and still turn the ball over an obscene amount of times.

The things I noticed about this Heat team is when the defense is clicking, they’re pretty special to watch. In the second half of the loss to the Celtics, they locked down defensively and made enough runs to make this game extremely interesting. In the third quarter of the win against the 76ers, the clamps were applied and the Sixers had nothing they could do about it. Some of that had to do with a young point guard like Jrue Holiday still feeling his away around a good perimeter defensive unit.

In the ultimately decisive third quarter, Philly had more turnovers (six) than made baskets (four). Elton Brand scored three of those buckets and two of them were inside. The rest of the Sixers offense got chased all around the perimeter and forced into poor decisions.

Hey, let’s talk about the role players for a minute.

James Jones can fill in for Mike Miller. Maybe you don’t want him to do that when it’s playoff time and you need a better playmaker in case the defense chases him off that 3-point shot. But as of right now, James Jones can get hot and will always have open spaces to shoot. He knocked down six 3-pointers in this game and was sort of ridiculously hot all game. When the Sixers made a couple of runs, he answered with 3s, especially in the second quarter.

Carlos Arroyo isn’t really that good but he had a nice steady hand in this game. He’s going to get abused by the Rondos of the world but so do most point guards. Put him against a young guy like Holiday and the talent discrepancy is diminished because of a little veteran savvy.

Udonis Haslem should not guard athletic 3s posing as terrifyingly athletic 4s. Thaddeus Young abused Haslem every time he had to guard him. Young was simply too quick for Udonis and blew by him whenever he wanted. In the later rounds of the playoffs, you’ll see more and more matchups with Haslem guarding more traditional 4s but if you can stretch out the offense a bit (I’m looking at you, Orlando) then you might be able to expose that part of Halsem’s game.

Key Stat of the Game

Dwyane Wade had 12 shot attempts at the rim. 12 is not an absurd number by any means but it was a lot better than what we saw against the Celtics when he had seven attempts and the majority of them were not all that aggressive and composed. It’s probably easier when you don’t have the Celtics help line to contend with and Wade took full advantage of Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand being the stopgaps.

SUCK IT WE WANT PAGE VIEWS: Heat Lose Opener To Celtics 88-80

Panic. Shock. Awe. Failure. Need to go 72-9 now.

The Miami Heat lost a game – their first game. It was an eight-point dismantling that was actually a three-point game with 50 seconds left.

It’s pretty much a lost cause. Well, okay. It’s not a lost cause. But it’s an embarrassing loss that shows the utter stupidity and ridiculousness of The Decision.

Well, okay. It’s not quite that dramatic. But they only scored 30 points in their first 24 minutes of the season. That was pretty bad.

The Miami Heat are down to 0-1 on the season after being smothered by some Celtics defense before getting it together a little bit only to prove none of them are winners and they simply can’t do it on their own or as a collective unit at the end of games or something.

I don’t really know what you take from this game other than the Celtics defense looks freaking good.

Did the Miami Heat have opening night jitters? Nine points in the first quarter and just 30 points at halftime thanks to some 26.8% shooting from the field certainly say so. At the same time, you have to attribute the Celtics defensive cohesiveness for turning the Heat into a jump shooting team. The Miami Heat had just 28 points in the paint. That’s 14 baskets in the paint and considering they only made 27 shots in the game, it shows just how little the Heat were able to do on the perimeter.

The Miami heat took 50 jumpers (out of 74 total field goal attempts) in this game and made just 13 of them. The Celtics took just 33 jumpers (out of 69 total field goal attempts). For the most part, the Celtics were attacking inside and finding ways to get guys open shots. Rajon Rondo played the role of willing playmaker while dissecting the Heat defense as if it was were a fetal pig in biology class (had to do that once in high school. It was weird). The Heat had Carlos Arroyo and Eddie House run the point whenever LeBron wasn’t dribbling around the perimeter.

It doesn’t mean the Heat are a flawed team by any means. One game (especially the first game together) doesn’t kill this experiment or prove the naysayers to be correct. It’s just as easy to say this team can’t play together as it is to proclaim they simply need more than three preseason minutes together to get any sense of cohesion.

As bad as the first half looked for the Miami Heat, they sort of pulled it together in the second half and had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter if they could make one stop. Instead, they gave up a huge 3-pointer to Ray Allen with 49 seconds left in the game. The Heat erased a second half deficit like many Celtics opponents did last season. But when it counted, they continued to give up wide-open looks from 3-point range that the Celtics knocked down in a clutch manner.

Overall, there wasn’t a huge advantage for either team in most aspects of the game. Rondo had more assists (17) than the entire Miami team (15) and the Celtics dominated the points in the paint. And that might have been the only difference between an eight-point loss in Boston and pulling out a win in their first real game together. The Celtics had a negligible advantage on the boards, were worse in turnovers and free throw shooting, and allowed the Heat to stay relatively in the game with a lot of turnovers in the first half.

The problem was the Celtics brought a championship level defense to the party and the Heat’s second best player in this game ended up being a tie between Udonis Haslem and Eddie House.

Let that marinate until Game 2 for Miami.

Post Game Tweets!

@KingJames – “Rome wasn’t built in a Day! Work in progress. On to the next one”

@Dwadeofficial – “Not a great 1 but its 1 of 82..felt good 2 finally play a game this season. Now ill work on my rhythm and chemistry with the guys..”

@chrisbosh – “The wait is finally over. Opening night is finally here and I’m more than ready!”

Okay, that last tweet from Bosh before the game. I guess he wasn’t in the mood to tweet.

Lopez Brothers Are All Relative

I’d like to be honest about something: the idea of identical twins freaks me out.

I know they’re a lot more common than I realize and I understand the science behind the process of making identical twins. However, there is just something about the actual visual and conceptual existence of identical twins that really scares me and leaves me feeling unsettled.

My deep-seeded consternation with identical twins may be pretty easy for me to go back and track. The Shining terrified me and it wasn’t because of anything but those creepy twin girls kicking it in the hallway with matching clothes. I didn’t mind the blood flooding the hotel walkways, the creepiness of Shelly Duval or Jack being a dull boy. It was the twins road-blocking the Redrum kid when he was just trying to big wheel his way through the Overlook Hotel.

Fast-forward many years and identical twins still give me the willies. And even as entertaining as Brook and Robin Lopez are on their own and especially in each other’s presence, I still can’t shake the uneasy feeling I get from two people whom look and act alike. The different lengths of hair don’t settle me either. Sure, you can tell them apart and their games are completely different with one being an offensive force and the other a defensive specialist. But the idea that they possibly have some level of ESP between each other and will always sort of be the same really bothers me.

However, thanks to Alby Einstein and the science community I may just be able to coexist in a world with the Lopez twins and their mutually exclusive identity. According to this Eryn Brown report from the LA Times, the theory of relativity is being proved true with “lasers” and the results are showing relativity can be scaled down to even smaller degrees:

Among the oft-repeated predictions of Albert Einstein’s famous theory of relativity is that if a twin travels through the cosmos on a high-speed rocket, when he returns to Earth he will be noticeably younger than the twin who stayed home.

Now physicists have demonstrated that the same is true even if the traveling twin is merely driving in a car about 20 mph. But in that case, when the twin gets home from the grocery store, he is only a tiny fraction of a nanosecond younger, according to a report in Friday’s edition of the journal Science.

Now, I’m no science major. In fact, I struggled in science. But to me this sounds like the more a person travels and the faster a person travels while the other stays more still, the younger this “moving” person will become in relation to the stationary person. Perhaps this isn’t the most sophisticated way of explaining part of the theory of relativity – and yes, I would expect Albert Einstein is furious with me right now – but that’s essentially what this study was saying.

If this theory is true, and I believe science is telling me that it is, then the theory of relativity will help my uneasiness with the Lopez twins. Even though Brook and Robin have different hair, different uniforms and probably different versions of Thor that they enjoy, they’re still so identical that it creeps me out. It gives me some solace to know that Brook is an offensive force while Robin is the answer to many of the Suns’ prayers for a defensive presence in the middle. I’m fascinated at the idea that the two of them excelled at very different parts of the game that probably heightened their skills even more.

Brook probably became such a good offensive player because he had to score against Robin who was so good at defending. Or was it the other way around? Did Robin become such a good defender because he had to figure out how to stop Brook from dominating him in the driveway? There is something very chicken or the egg about this.

Regardless of how or why their particular set of skills got honed, the differences between Brook and Robin are going to increase over time with the current organizational philosophies of their respective teams.

The Phoenix Suns have been near the top of NBA pace over the last several years. Even with coaching changes and personnel being switched out like faulty spark plugs, they remain amongst the fastest teams in the league. This past season, they were fourth in the NBA in pace at 95.3 possessions per game. The New Jersey Nets on the other hand were quite slow with 91.4 possessions per game (good for 24th in the league). And with Avery Johnson taking over as they begin their transition from meadowlands to Brooklyn, they probably won’t get any faster out there. During his three full seasons coaching the Dallas Mavericks, Avery kept his teams at the 27th, 28th and 24th fastest paces in the league.

This means that over time Robin Lopez has found his way into an identical twin NBA fountain of youth. Robin will always be moving at a much faster pace assuming his situation and Brook’s situations remain fairly constant. Stick with the run’n’gun style of the modified SSOL and Robin should enjoy the benefits of a stylistic anti-aging cream. On the flip side of that, Brook and his franchise’s refusal to get out and stretch their legs a bit will probably age at a quicker pace.

However, there might be something to level the playing field for Brook – his franchise’s location. While the speed of the game for both of these teams seems to favor the bang for Robin’s buck throughout his career (compared to Brook’s), the location of these players may even things up.

The reverse is often said to be true for a twin who spends time high on a mountaintop; general relativity predicts that time passes more quickly at greater altitudes because objects don’t feel Earth’s gravity quite as strongly. But the physicists found that a twin who lives just about a foot above sea level will age ever-so-slightly faster than a twin living at sea level.

The city of Phoenix, Arizona sits roughly at an elevation of 1,117 feet. The city of Newark, New Jersey resides around 30 feet above sea level. So while Robin can run around and stay younger all he wants, Brook’s ability to ball close to the level of the ocean CAN have an affect on how he ages in relation to his twin. While this sounds like Brook can turn to his brother’s Benjamin Button style of play with a “take that!” in reality the elevation factor may not be enough to truly matter. According to the paper, “the second hand of a clock positioned about two-thirds of a mile above an identical clock near Earth’s surface will speed up only enough to tick out three extra seconds over the course of a million years.”

As good as Brook Lopez is he probably won’t play for a million years. Considering Kevin Willis was a big man modern marvel by playing into nearly his mid-40s, that’s asking a lot to think Brook could 7-figures in terms of the length of his career.

In the end, the Suns’ ability to let Robin play at a high pace definitely makes the duration of his career seem to be worth it more than the location of Brook’s home floor does for his longevity.

And while you’re probably wondering why you just read through this entire article and learned virtually nothing, we did learn a few key things:

1. I know next to nothing about science.
2. Sometimes, it’s good to stretch your legs a bit and delve into a subject you don’t understand.
3. Identical twins really freak me out.
4. NBA media day is today and that means training camp begins tomorrow.

Welcome back, NBA season!

Brandon Roy In “Despicable Me”

Once upon a time, music videos were things people actually looked forward to. For those of you under the age of 25, this probably sounds like a “When I was your age, movies were only a nickel and they put music on compact discs that you’d play in your Walkman. They held no more than 18 songs!” kind of talk. But there was seriously a time in which MTV, VH1 and BET were showing music videos that people wanted to see.

They enjoyed the music and the spectacle of how it was being presented. Directors of music videos were almost as well-known as the artists themselves and you could often find a certain level of cinematic flair in each one. Now, we’re relegated to the latest subtle masquerade of our own Josie and the Pussycats moment as we get bombarded with questionable music, celebrity cameos to distract us from the questionable music and a lot of good looking people to make us think this wasn’t a complete waste of three minutes. Everything has moved to VH1 and MTV showing crappy reality show after crappy reality show and whatever the hell BET does (when Bruce Bruce stopped appearing on BET, I hit the eject button).

In today’s world of music videos, celebrity cameos might be the most interesting part of the whole extravaganza. Primarily in the Hip Hop community, we often see professional athletes filling these appearances. Sometimes, it’s as simple as the bewilderment of seeing Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. getting ready to race luxury vehicles in the middle of a Jay-Z video. Other times, we get to see DeJuan Blair auto-tuning his way through a tribute to a friend of his that has passed away like the following video (H/T – Project Spurs):

I think we can all agree that these cameos are nothing negative in any way.

But when Brandon Roy ends up in a music video made by old friends of his and that music video is seemingly promoting the non-medicinal usage of marijuana, that seems like something that would probably raise some eyebrows. Check out the video first and foremost:

What’s weird about this is you literally see Brandon Roy for no more than 10-12 seconds in the video and that’s if you count all of the times in which he’s barely viewable in the background. I noticed Jamal Crawford in this video a lot more than I did Roy. I couldn’t even tell you what the lyrics said in the video because when I watched it, I was trying to find where Brandon Roy was so prominently involved and I kept thinking either Cali or Cavalli (I don’t know which one is which, although I’m sure there is a bitchin’ MySpace page that could sort it out for me) was actually O.J. Mayo. I didn’t even notice there was weed in the video because I kept wondering if Mike Conley was going to stroll on into the shot.

Nevertheless, Brandon felt the need to get out ahead of the story – or at worst, take a leisurely jog with it side-by-side – to make sure he stayed with his history of being a stand-up type of role model for his fans and kids everywhere. Brandon admits that he didn’t go about this experience the proper way and does so without making excuses. He takes full responsibility for not finding out what he was becoming a part of during this process of helping out some old friends. And even though it seems completely unnecessary for him to do so because he’s not really ALL THAT big in the video, he still made sure to disassociate himself from the video.

Isn’t this why we love guys like Brandon Roy? He’s just a good guy. He screwed up (sort-of but not really) in getting involved with this video and instead of doing the typical pro athlete thing of making excuses and trying to save face, he came out on his own to make sure he owned up to what he did and explain why it was wrong. This is what we want from the stars of the NBA. In a time in which the headliners are out just trying to make headlines no matter what it does to their image (Let’s face it, LeBron — you’ve basically become the Paris Hilton of the NBA), seeing a guy act in this respect because it’s just the right thing to do is pretty damn refreshing.

Personally, when I watched the video for the first time I didn’t think much of it. I definitely didn’t think Roy was committing career suicide or letting down the fans of the Blazers. I was more concerned with trying to figure what this guy was all about:

However, it’s good to know we can trust Brandon Roy to be a positive influence despite extremely minor hiccups here and there.

Don’t beat yourself up about this, Brandon.

Incomplete Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Elite

Some things don’t necessarily have to add up for reality to make sense.

Take the Step Up movie franchise for instance.

I bet when you read that sentence you went to IMDB and searched for “Step Up” just to make sure there wasn’t an entirely different movie than the first one that popped into your head. And the first one that popped into your head was the dance movie starring the inexplicable Channing Tatum. Amazingly, THAT’S the movie franchise I’m talking about.

The third installment of this epic dance club trilogy opens up today in movie theaters nation wide and it was filmed entirely in 3D. That’s right. They made a dance movie in 3D. What’s even more incredible than the fact that this 3D dance movie was passed through every single step of the movie making process is the success of the movie franchise.

According to IMDB, the first and second Step Up movies were budgeted for a combined $35 million (estimated) and together they grossed over $120 million in the US alone. While I’m sure the movies themselves are plenty entertaining and they have die hard fans who would be quick to take you to task for not giving these beacons of entertainment a chance, it doesn’t make it any less surprising that the franchise without any big names (the three Channing Tatum fans are going to be furious with me) could be set to drop a third in-theater release.

And that’s where you sort of have to take a leap of faith with the movies. Even though it doesn’t make much quantifiable sense, maybe they’re just that good. Sometimes you can’t explain phenomena such as this and that’s where I’ll disagree with a brilliant basketball mind by saying Carmelo Anthony is one of the NBA’s elite.

Fellow HP brother and basketball genius Tom Haberstroh wrote a very good breakdown (ESPN Insider) of Carmelo Anthony, explaining why he shouldn’t be amongst the elite in the game. Tom makes a very compelling argument with statistical evidence that is nearly impossible to refute. But this is the time in which traditional basketball thinking and the world of advanced stats slam into each other like a couple of evenly matched sumo wrestlers.

“In the end, Anthony’s game demonstrates why it’s important to strip away the biases that color our perceptions of elite players. In Anthony’s case, the excessive shot volume, his team’s stat-padding tempo and the lack of a true 3-point game makes his 28.2 ppg seem far less impressive than his sparkling reputation would suggest.

If anything, it’s time we moved on from per-game statistics to evaluate our players. Millions of dollars are wasted every year basing player value on the archaic statistics that teams used half a century ago. And someone will surely overpay Anthony and offer him a max contract — just look at the deals Joe Johnson and Rudy Gay got.”

After explaining many reasons of why Carmelo Anthony falls short due to his seemingly one-dimensional game and why his offense might be more smoke and mirrors than fire and whatever the opposite or more tangible version of mirrors is, Tom throws down the advanced versus basic stats gauntlet. People who claim that Tom is just a “stat geek that needs to actually watch the games” clearly don’t understand what he’s saying or the reason he’s saying it. The evidence is correct.

But can it also be false? Outside of scoring, Carmelo doesn’t do anything at an elite level. He’s a marginal rebounder at best, a suspect defender and a guy that doesn’t create for his teammates nearly as much as he probably could and should. He throws out good but not outstanding PER numbers every season. His shooting numbers are good but not special. And yet at the same time, I can’t help but think he is a legitimate elite player in the NBA.

If you ask me (and I’m assuming you are in an indirect way if you read through nearly 300 words about Step Up before you got to the point of this post), the way Carmelo Anthony scores is what makes him elite. I don’t disagree with Tom’s points about the pace and shooting numbers making his gaudy points per game numbers look better than they actually are. But with the way he performs in the fourth quarter it’s hard for me to ignore just how good he is.

Over the past three seasons, Carmelo Anthony has been one of the better clutch scorers in the NBA. Yes, his shooting numbers have been up and down in terms of the percentage he’s made in these situations but he still puts up more points than just about anybody when it counts (thanks, 82games.com):

- In the 2007-08 season, Carmelo Anthony ranked just 20th (36.3) in the NBA in points per 48 clutch minutes while shooting 42% from the field, 12.5% from three and 81% from the free throw line. But he got to the free throw line in these situations better than all but 14 players in the NBA at 17.6 free throw attempts per 48 clutch minutes.

- In the 2008-09 season, Carmelo Anthony was sort of unstoppable when it counted the most. Only Kobe Bryant and LeBron James scored a higher volume of clutch points with Carmelo finishing third in the league with 54.4 points per 48 clutch minutes. He shot absurd percentages of 56.5% from the field, 58.3% from three and 82% from the free throw line. He also got to the free throw line more than anybody with 24 attempts per 48 clutch minutes.

- This past season, Carmelo fell back down to Earth in terms of clutch shooting percentages. He made just 42.7% from the field, 14.3% from three and improved his free throw shooting to 87%. But he still finished fourth in the league in clutch points per 48 with 47.0 and second in clutch free throw attempts per 48 with 21.7 per.

While the percentages fluctuate quite a bit from year to year and the 08-09 efficiency from three-point range seems to be a complete anomaly, the fact that he scores when his team needs it the most can’t be overlooked just because he’s “not elite” during other parts of the game. Carmelo is an elite crunch time scorer and he’s been the best player on one of the best teams in the league over the past three years. He’s put his Nuggets in the conversation for one of the challengers to the mighty Lakers in each of the past three seasons in an impossibly tough Western Conference.

What’s funny to me is that nobody would question Kevin Durant being an elite player in the NBA right now. And when you look at the numbers of what he did compared to what Carmelo Anthony did, there isn’t a HUGE difference in the final output.

(Click chart to enlarge)

(Click chart to enlarge)

Aside from a PER, offensive rating and win shares, the numbers are pretty even all across the board. Durant’s TS% is also much higher than Carmelo’s but considering Durant just put together a historic season at the free throw line, I don’t think you can really use that against Anthony all that much. Win shares and offensive rating are fairly damning but I still don’t believe that it disproves Carmelo being an elite player in this league.

Look to the fourth quarter of the last three seasons and you’ll see that Anthony has been far superior to Durant in clutch scoring. Yes, Durant is still so young and doing all of this at the equivalent of being a NBA toddler but it doesn’t change the fact that Carmelo bests him in a very important area despite taking a backseat to the current popular opinion of who is better between the two.

And for the first time in a long time, the primitive argument of “watch the games” may hold a ladle of water for this discussion. There’s no doubt when you watch a close Nuggets game in the fourth quarter that Carmelo Anthony is an elite player. He cuts through defenses by hitting face-up jumpers, pull-up jumpers and even gets into the paint to create some contact before creating some scoring. He’s not perfect by any means in these situations but he’s still one of the best there is in the NBA.

Maybe Carmelo Anthony isn’t in the elite class of LeBron, Kobe, Wade and Durant. Okay, he’s definitely not in their class. But he can still be an elite player in this league in the same way that Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Deron Williams are for their respective teams. They impact games in ways that other players in the NBA simply can’t consistently do.

Step Up is an important part of the current movie industry in the same way Carmelo Anthony is an elite player in this league. Just because you look at the entire body of work and come away unimpressed doesn’t mean that the box office numbers are irrelevant.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to defend myself to Channing Tatum’s family fans.

LeBron James’ One-Hour Free Agency Spectacular: A Glimpse To Tomorrow Land

30 years from now, this will be absolute commonplace.

Free Agency decisions will have major motion pictures as a platform for announcement and you’ll be able to vote for which team the player signs with a dedicated button on your Blackberry Explosion. We’ll be able to look back to this week as the first step to the entertainment of sports becoming the business and enterprise that we always knew was fueling said entertainment. It will take the American Idol model that has infiltrated bestowing the honors of All-Star selections, All-Star MVP selection, NBA Dunk Champions and even single votes for MVP and windmill it into our 4D televisions.

LeBron James has gone from making a free agency decision that will move him one step closer to blazing his own trail to championship glory and turned it into a charitable LeBronathon Variety Show. And honestly, I don’t know that you could expect anything else.

Bill Simmons and a reader from LeBron’s home state predicted this in November. “The LeBrachelor” – as Bill Simmons deemed it – is now scheduled to be aired Thursday night at 9 p.m. EST time and should be a ratings bonanza. This is sure to set the critics reeling and the message boards erupting with vitriol. However, was it really something none of us should have expected?

The business of sharing information and breaking news has changed dramatically in the last decade. We no longer wait for the morning paper. We have blogs breaking stories, major media outlets confirming them and all the while everybody already new the stories because a reporter had leaked the same information on Twitter. The next natural progression of this was going to be TV shows dedicated to spilling the beans while either lining the pockets of the athletes and entities involved or unnecessarily setting the stage for a charitable donation that could have easily been made in an anonymous setting or some type of ribbon cutting ceremony.

“ESPN was in talks with James a couple of months ago about filming his planned free agency ‘tour’,” Cleveland Plain Dealer beat reporter Brian Windhorst stated on Twitter after the one-hour special announcement. “But talks ended after Celtics loss.”

So this is what we’ve come to as a society?

LeBron James gets his own primetime show to announce a decision of where he wants to make his next $100 million. He’s going to milk this for all it’s worth. And you know what? We’re going to lap it up because it means something if you care about the game of basketball. Basketball personnel building is no longer considered to be a sacred thing. It used to be respected as a behind-the-doors type of masquerade in which only the most cunning pioneers of the front office truly knew what was going on.

And now?

They’re making freaking movies about it. The front office no longer has any say in how the information is concealed. Agents would occasionally play their hand in the local newspapers and force the front office guys to call their bluff. Now, the agents really don’t have much say in regards to what their clients do with their side of the meetings. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are treating the proceedings as a film school project. Their lackies are Tweeting for them as everyone else paces nervously back-and-forth, hoping for their once revered bargaining mystique amongst doesn’t get exposed for petty gerrymandering and job insecurities.

The media no longer has any of the power. Instead of beating national and fellow beat writers to the news, they’re trying to get to it before the players involved announce it. Posses and camps and that one cousin with the lazy eye who needed to work for his night club loan are shaping how the information, business model and player image is being distributed. Agents have no power. Reporters have no true leads. And front offices are left wondering if the research firm they hired put together a good enough presentation and if the Photoshop’d photo of the free agent in their jersey was sharp enough.

I don’t think it mutually exclusive to the LeBrons, Wades, and Stoudemires of the world. Soon, even guys like Matt Barnes and Steve Novak are going to be teasing us with which team they’re about to sign on with through cryptic messages that can only be decoded if Nic Cage and his horrible wig can steal Millard Fillmore’s property deed and cover it in vinegar before sundown.

Many of you are going to be pissed and upset at the idea of LeBron holding his own national signing day on ESPN as he prepares to enter his eighth season in the NBA. You’re going to complain about hype, ratings and advertising dollars. I’d advise against that.

Instead, relish this moment and just sit back and enjoy it. This is the start of a new era in breaking news – a new form of journalism in which players hold every bit of power and leave the rest of us waiting with great anticipation.

And when Ira Newble comes out on a tricycle, juggling contracts and the number across the screen asks you to make a donation call, be sure to pick up the phone. LeBron will be waiting for your credit card information so he can tell you he’s not signing with your favorite team.

Orlando Summer League Rookie Report: July 5th, 2010

You know what the beautiful thing about Summer League is? It’s a rebirth back into basketball. Some might argue that the NBA Draft is the dawn of a new day in the NBA world but I don’t think this truly starts until the first tip off of Summer League.

Summer League is special. You know why it’s special? Because guys are fighting for a dream. Yes, that sounds really cliché but it’s true. The NBA is an exclusive club and there isn’t any amount of money you can bribe your way in with or enough rounds in Pacman Jones’ clip to get your way past the velvet rope.

There’s only one way to get into the club. Beat the guy in front of you in the most selfish and selfless way the game will allow. The balance you have to teeter with is unbelievably awkward. You have to show that you’re physically capable of imposing your will so viciously on the man guarding you that people want to pay you money to do so because you’ve also shown you make the guys in the same uniforms as you better in the process.

When Summer League starts, everybody is fighting for something. The NBA Draft is all luck and decision-making that has little to do with the pursuit of a title next season. It’s not until the hardwood squeaks from rubber soles as guys get paid a pittance to show why they belong in the club that this journey begins. It’s the first step towards the quest for the NBA title. It’s the first fight of the season.

And it’s the first step for a lot of rookies and never-heard-of-befores trying to find their place in the league to help themselves, their families and their future organizations get to a dream built upon a common goal – winning a competition.

With that, we’re going to explore those rookies and never-heard-of-befores after each day to give you an update on what they’ve been doing with their summers.

Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz:
25 mins, 8 pts, 5 rebs, 2 asts, 2 stls, 2 tos, 1 blk, 3 PFs, 2/2 FG, 4/4 FT +4

Gordon Hayward didn’t have a great debut but I loved the way he played and what it showed about him. He didn’t force a single thing in this game. He was active defensively and other than a bad beat on the baseline against Derrick Brown (resulted in a dunk), he really didn’t look overmatched. The impressive thing was his poise throughout the game, despite the fact that he wasn’t putting up a lot of points. Most rookies would try to force the issue and prove they belong. He was just confident in making the right play whenever he had to. He even passed up a potential game-tying shot to get Sundiata Gaines a chance at winning the game.

Paul George, Indiana Pacers:
25 mins, 12 pts, 4 rebs, 1 stl, 3 tos, 6 PFs, 2/7 FG, 1/5 3FG, 7/7 FT, +7

I have to say that for the most part I didn’t like what I saw from Paul George. Early on in the game, he couldn’t dribble well to save his life. He looked uncomfortable dealing with pressure and got very sloppy with the ball. As the game wore on, he hijacked a ton of possessions by dribbling way too much and forcing jumpers that weren’t really there. His redeeming quality for the game was his ability to make free throws but other than that, he was a ball-stopper for much of this game. I don’t doubt that he has the ability to be a nice player in this game but his mentality has to become more team oriented and less about proving he can score.

Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers:
29 mins, 21 pts, 4 rebs, 3 asts, 1 blk, 2 tos, 2 PFs, 8/10 FG, 5/8 FT, +5

Lance Stephenson was by far the most impressive rookie of the day. The Pacers tried him out at point guard for a lot of this game and he responded by abusing the smaller defenders he faced and racking up 21 points in the process. There wasn’t much wasted motion with Stephenson in the game. He used the pick-and-roll to get past the first tier of defense before slicing through the lane. He had the step-back jumper working in an utterly impressive way and found a way to impact nearly every second he was on the floor. I’m curious to see if Lance can have the same impact against bigger guards that he can’t bully but from what he showed today, he’s a combo guard with a ton of versatility at Jim O’Brien’s disposal.

Daniel Orton, Orlando Magic:
13 mins, 3 pts, 3 rebs, 4 tos, 2 blks, 5 PFs, 1/8 FG, 1/4 FT, -7

He was easily the worst rookie of the day. He proved that jumping into the draft and securing a first round contract was maybe the smartest thing he could ever do with his life. He sold high on his hype and now will be guaranteed at least four years in the NBA. He fumbled passes, had slow post moves with no purpose and played pretty mediocre defense. He even got in a fight with Josh McRoberts and was ejected. All of this took place in just 13 minutes of action.

Stanley Robinson, Orlando Magic:
19 mins, 4 pts, 7 rebs, 2 asts, 1 to, 2 PFs, 1/4 FG, 2/2 FT, -11

There wasn’t much to get out of Stanley’s performance Monday except for the fact that he too didn’t try to prove he belonged by forcing up terrible shots and trying to be something he’s not. Robinson didn’t have a great game but he had a very controlled game. He hit the boards well and defended the wing. It’s this kind of decision-making and calm in his game that could earn him some extra minutes this season.

Luke Harangody, Boston Celtics:
27 mins, 23 pts, 4 rebs, 1 blk, 1 to, 5 PFs, 9/13 FG, 4/6 3FG, 1/2 FT, -5

Harangody can’t do much on the court but if you leave him open for a jumper he’s going to bury it. Harangody scored from all over the halfcourt while attempting to be a big body inside. The Thunder dominated the Celtics in the paint during the second half but a lot of that had to do with the perimeter breaking down defensively and putting the Boston big men in a lose-lose situation. Luke’s stroke from outside looks very funky and might even remind some people of the way Omri shoots. But it fell on Monday and allowed him to shed some early labels of being Brian Scalabrine 2.0.

Damion James, New Jersey Nets:
27 mins, 11 pts, 5 rebs, 1 stl, 2 tos, 7 PFs, 4/10 FG, 0/1 3FG, 3/4 FT, -11

Jones was not shy about putting up shots and actually had a very good overall game. His offense was okay but he hit the glass hard and was very active defensively. On a team like this in which Terrence Williams is going to initiate a lot of the offense for himself first, Jones has to be active away from the ball and find lanes to cut through. He moved well on Monday but will likely need to work on that chemistry a little bit more with Williams, who is a very willing passer.

Derrick Favors, New Jersey Nets:
24 mins, 8 pts, 9 rebs, 2 asts, 2 blks, 4 tos, 7 PFs, 2/8 FG, 4/7 FT, -5

First half of his Summer League career wasn’t exactly a how-to on making your presence felt early. Favors struggled with his movements inside, worked out the rim with his shots and had questionable footwork at best. He got away with a lot of pushing for rebounding position instead of working smarter with his body. However, he showed a nice defense presence for much of the second half, threw down a nice dunk while diving to the basket and owned the boards. He grabbed a couple of key offensive rebounds, which led to points. Favors has to work on fighting for good position early in possessions and being more aggressive as the pick man on pick-and-rolls. But his size and athleticism are definitely on display and he should put together a couple nice games.

Evan Turner, Philadelphia 76ers:
27 mins, 12 pts, 8 rebs, 4 asts, 2 stls, 2 tos, 6 PFs, 2/5 FG, 8/8 FT, +15

Turner also struggled in his summer time debut. He had the unenviable task of being guarded by Terrence Williams who proved he can use his teammates beautifully in defending a scorer/playmaker. Turner isn’t quite quick enough right now to blow past players with an explosive first step so he has to rely on finding angles when he drives. It reminds me a lot of a young Paul Pierce. Eventually he’ll find those angles and get into the paint to cause a little trouble. His jumper looked pretty horrible but we can try to make an excuse and chalk it up to nerves. He did rebound the ball extremely well for a guard and found a way to make a few plays.

Other Notable Things

- James Augustine: Dude wants a job. You know how I can tell? Because he straight outworked everybody on the floor. He was going against a pretty formidable frontline too. Okay, Pape Sow isn’t good at all but Alexis Ajinca is big and Derrick Brown can hover like Marty McFly in the year 2015. But Augustine just continued to bully his way through and put up a lot of points. He finished with 20 points on 9/10 shooting.

- Sundiata Gaines missed a game-winning three? I know it was weird for all of us. We’re used to him ruling the big moment. However, he did have a chance to hit another buzzer-beat from the right side of the floor and just missed the three. Could have been his calling card. Now, he’s a choker and will never be a winner and count the rings.

- Derrick Brown/Gerald Henderson combo: This should be outlawed for Summer League. These guys are clearly too advanced to be here. Derrick Brown was spectacular attacking the basket and playing defense on opposing wing players. He did awkwardly miss a dunk and then try to blame one of the ball boys for it but overall it was a good game. Gerald Henderson was just a smooth scorer. There’s not a player in this summer time exhibition who can guard him. They both had 20 points.

- Sherron Collins: There’s a reason this guy wasn’t drafted and it was on display. He’s not quicker than your lower-tiered NBA point guard. And he’s smaller than just about everybody he’s going to face. If being slower and smaller than NBA players were the criteria for making the league, we’d all be in it, instead of reading the words I’m putting on this computer screen.

- Alexis Ajinca: I saw this guy last year and thought he’d be lucky to ever pick up a basketball again. He was arguably one of the worst players I’d ever seen. A year later, he has a decent jumper, long limbs that help any move toward the basket and he played completely within himself for the most part. He finished with eight points, four boards, three blocks and six fouls. He’s still a project but no longer horrendous.

- Magnum Rolle: He scored 13 points in 18 minutes and showed to be capable of role-playing quite well. Definitely a guy to keep an eye on this week.

- Richard Hendrix: I swear if this guy was two inches taller, he’d be starting in the NBA. He made a lot of positive things happen on the floor and ended up with a +13 in 23 minutes.

- Jeff Adrien: When Rick Kamla wasn’t busy grunting over Adrien’s body, Jeff Adrien was busy bumping guys out of the lane like a human game of Sorry. He notched 13 points and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes. He’s too strong for these kids.

- Donnel Taylor: He’s completely capable of putting up points in a flurry. I fully expect him to drop 25 or more in a game very soon. And it has to be soon too because he’s only here this week.

- Patrick Ewing, Jr: Please stop shooting.

- Oliver Lafayette: He did most of his damage in the first half but ended up with 15 points and five assists. He killed the Thunder until they realized half of their roster is from the actual regular season roster and decided to dominate.

- Ryan Thompson: Jason Thompson’s brother scored 13 points on three shots. He was 9/9 from the line.

- Thunder free throws: 35/43 from the floor. God I love Summer League.

- BJ “Byron” Mullens: His stat line looks great with 24 points on 12 shots, 15 trips to the line and seven rebounds. But I’m afraid of his defensive rating when he actually plays in the regular season consistently because he’s way too slow to guard anybody or rotate properly.

- Serge Ibaka scare: He banged knees with Semih Erden and crumpled to the floor. He had to be helped off the floor and it looked bad for a few minutes. Luckily, he walked it off on the sideline and appears to be just fine.

- Eric Maynor: Within two years, he’s going to be the best backup point guard in the NBA and it won’t be close.

- Brian Zoubek: Some were outraged that this guy didn’t get drafted despite the fact that he’s not very good and can’t move with NBA bodies. I know he’s a great rebounder but he’s still not very good. He grabbed three rebounds in 13 minutes. Not bad but not “this guy HAS to be in the NBA” either.

- Terrence Williams: Put. On. A. Show.

- Trent Plaisted: He’s 6’11” and didn’t grab a single rebound in 24 minutes, despite the fact that he played inside. That’s hard to do.

- Marreese Speights: This guy is destined to get paid from a contract year and then never contribute once after that. He was 1/11.

- Jrue Holiday: Stop playing the rest of the summer. You proved you’re above this. 23 points, eight assists, 8/13 shooting.

- Jodie Meeks: Please try to score more. I love watching you with the ball. 18 points like it was nothing.

- Cedric Simmons: Believe it or not, Cedric Simmons was really good in this game. He had a couple of active dunks. Eight points and four boards in nearly 16 minutes of work.

Okay, that’s enough for now. The rest of these probably won’t be nearly as long. I’m just excited to have some basketball back.