Tag Archives: Denver Nuggets

Hi! How was your summer? Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets were one of the most entertaining teams last season, and before Danilo Gallinari’s untimely and unfortunate injury, a dark horse contender for the NBA title. Early exit aside, the Nuggets seemed well-positioned for the future, with reigning Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri, reigning Coach of the Year George Karl, and a roster sporting a great blend of talent, youth, utility and veteran savvy.

Then came the offseason.

Exit Ujiri, Karl and Iguodala stage left, enter Tim Connelly, Brian Shaw and a host of role players stage right.

Teams usually enter the rebuilding phase after one too many seasons of mediocrity, or when their core of stars become too old to carry the team to a title. Rarely, if ever, does a team press the big red detonation button after one of the best seasons in franchise history. And while the Nuggets didn’t wholly blow up the team, they may have actually become worse by not doing so.

To replace Karl, the Nuggets hired the highly-sought-after Brian Shaw, formerly a disciple of Phil Jackson. However, despite his upbringing in the coaching world, Shaw claimed he wouldn’t install the triangle offense in Denver. Supposedly, Shaw will maintain the same principles as Karl, emphasizing an aggressive defense and an always moving, always running offense. But can that system be as successful with Iguodala gone and Gallinari absent for the first few months of the season? Ty Lawson was the key to pushing the pace, but the abilities of both Gallinari and Iguodala to successfully play and guard multiple positions were what made the Nuggets such a nightmare in terms of match-ups.

It will also be interesting to see how Shaw uses his younger players, a main point of friction between Karl and the ownership. In his introductory press conference, Shaw said developing young talent was an area of emphasis, which means JaVale McGee, Evan Fournier, Jordan Hamilton and maybe even Quincy Miller will see increased minutes this season.

In an effort to address last season’s achilles heel — shooting — the Nuggets signed Randy Foye, who shot 41% from beyond the arc last season and Nate Robinson, who was so hot in the playoffs he would have made the Human Torch look like Iceman. However, the additions of Robinson and Foye don’t balance the scale, they just weigh them in the opposite direction. Ty Lawson, despite his tremendous season, was exposed on defense in the playoffs when Steph Curry opted to just shoot over the much-smaller Lawson. Robinson obviously doesn’t fix those height issues, and Foye is no staunch defender himself, and certainly worse than Corey Brewer, now with Minnesota.

The worse and most puzzling signing of the Nuggets’ offseason can be found up front. Even though Denver already featured a front court of Darrell Arthur, JaVale McGee and even Danilo Gallinari, who can shift to the four in small ball situations, theyfigured one more wouldn’t hurt and added JJ Hickson. Last season, Hickson played with the Portland Trail Blazers, and while he did average nearly 16 points and 13 rebounds per 36 minutes, the team overall was better on both ends of the floor when he was on the bench.With Hickson on the court, Portland scored 105.2 points per 100 possessions while opponents scored 110.2. With Hickson off the court, Portland’s offensive rating rose to 106.8, and their defensive rating sank to 108.5, per basketball-reference.com. It’s not that Hickson is absolutely horrible — though, he’s not good, either — but a line up featuring him and McGee down low will be a calamity on defense, and an unholy sight on offense.

The signing of Hickson is even more baffling when considered with the Kosta Koufos trade. Koufos was Denver’s best interior defender last year, and was a plus/minus monster. Yet, in a draft night trade, the Nuggets sent Koufos to the Memphis Grizzlies for Darrell Arthur. Though Arthur is more talented offensively than Koufos, he’s worse defensively and injury-prone. Regardless, with Arthur on board, the last thing the Nuggets needed was an undersized forward/center whose expected value as a defensive stopper is as high as Andre Drummond’s as a free-throw shooter.

This brings to light the biggest issue with Denver’s offseason: the complete eradication of their former identity, and their lack of a new one in its place. Iguodala may not have been the team’s best player, but he was their most important player, nearly single-handedly elevating that defense to new heights. Karl, meanwhile, though not without his faults, was the ideal coach for the roster, implementing a system that took advantage of his player’s strengths and weaknesses (In fact, Karl’s ingenious machinations were apparently too successful, as the NBA Board of Governors this summer approved a rule change stating a team will lose possession if its player leaves the floor and doesn’t immediately return. Karl often had players such as McGee and Koufos stand out of bounds on offense, thereby creating more space and stretching out the defense). Ujiri was the architect of this hodge-podge roster, patiently building it in accordance with his vision. Losing Karl and Iguodala meant a loss of identity, while the loss of Ujiri meant a loss of vision and direction.

Connelly, Denver’s new Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, came from the New Orleans Pelicans, and was regarded as a swiftly-rising young executive. While it’s far too early to judge Connelly’s ability to build a team, his first offseason, aside from his coaching hire, didn’t exactly inspire confidence. Hiring Shaw was a good move in a vacuum, but the assets at Shaw’s disposal aren’t enough to make this team more than low playoff seed.  Of course it takes time to find an identity, but a direction should have been set the moment Connelly arrived in Denver. From the moves he’s made so far, it seems as if he’s still trying to read the map.

 Photo by Fried Toast via Flickr

 

 

Quincy Miller Looks to Prove Himself Again

Photo: AdamBowie/Flickr

In 2010, the Denver Nuggets’ Quincy Miller was seen in a very different light. Coming out of high school he was ranked among other top prospects in his class, such as Anthony Davis, and had begun to receive Kevin Durant comparisons before he received his high school diploma. Despite tearing his ACL during his senior year, Miller was heavily recruited by many top schools but ultimately chose to join Perry Jones III at Baylor University. With Miller in the fold the Bears drew national attention as a team to watch and expectations were raised for everyone. Then, after just one season at Baylor, Miller elected to turn pro by entering the 2012 NBA Draft.

Once expected to be a top-10 pick, Miller fell into the second round. There were concerns over his injury history being just one year removed and over his size. Evidently Miller’s productive season at Baylor post-injury was not enough to convince NBA teams that he was still capable of becoming the player he once was and he was now going to have to prove himself yet again.

“The D-League helped me a lot. I went down there and showed a lot of people what I could do. It was going well with my team even though we were losing, and I think I played pretty consistent,” said Miller following the Nuggets’ 93-81 summer league loss to the Chicago Bulls on Monday night.

Playing for the Iowa Energy gave Miller the chance to earn those crucial developmental minutes that a young player like himself needs. For a team like last year’s Nuggets that was full of playoff aspirations it would have been very unlikely they could have given Miller the 24 minutes per game he saw with the Energy. Sure enough, Miller played well enough to earn a call up in December after putting up 11.3 points per game and 6.8 rebounds to go with 1.4 blocks per game, although his efficiency never reached that of his Baylor days.

According to Miller the biggest benefit he saw from his time with the Energy was that it helped ease the transition from college to the pros by allowing him to adjust to the speed and physicality of the professional game at a steady pace. Although Miller still struggled during his first six games with the Nuggets, his seventh and final game before returning to Iowa was encouraging. In that final NBA appearance he shot 2-3 from the field with a rebound and no fouls or turnovers in four minutes. While that statline may still have been unspectacular, Miller returned to the Energy on a high note.

While Miller would love to remain with Denver next season, he views the D-League as an excellent proving ground for his abilities and only looks to continue improving. “As long as I’m getting minutes and getting better,” Miller added before admitting, “I want to spend more time with the Nuggets next year, though.”

Like the other top prospects in his class Miller understands the amount of hard work that goes into being a successful NBA player. Some enter the league and shine right away, while others have to cut their teeth on other levels to reach that point. As we’ve seen from Miller before, having rehabbed from a torn ACL as a 17-year old to becoming a productive college player, he’s not afraid to do what it takes to get there. Miller noted the widening fan interest across the league but also an improved ability to develop promising young talents like himself. While being an everyday player in the NBA remains his ultimate goal, Miller is willing to do whatever it takes and go wherever he has to go reach it.

Death By Narrative

There’s a chasm in the NBA between the conventional and the unconventional. Beyond the analytics revolution, the pleas for efficiency and the constant fight against using championships as an implication of greatness lies an even deeper, more salient clash: a discourse on the fundamental ways that basketball should be played that, until recently, were never truly questioned.

On one end of this spectrum is a team like the Houston Rockets, one that disregarded the antiquated mid-range jumper altogether, shot more three-pointers than any team in the league and ran the floor at every opportunity. And if there’s a gap between the two movements, former Denver Nuggets’ head coach George Karl may have become the first victim of the abyss.

Karl’s Nuggets, not all that different from the Rockets aside from their deficiency from beyond the arc, were a prototype for traditionalist hatred. They played small too often, their preferred form of garnering offense was capitalizing on live-ball turnovers and, perhaps the most tantalizing of the three, they didn’t have a go-to guy in crunchtime.

Naturally, Denver finished the season with the third seed in the West, accumulating a 15-game winning streak and the best home record in the league on the way. How’d they do it? Well, the exciting, savvy and versatile lineups that Karl formulated equipped the Nuggets with the highest percentage of points in the paint and fast break points in the league per NBA.com’s Stats tool, one of the best offensive attacks and right on cue, one of the best crunchtime offenses in the NBA.

Still, the dictated wisdom of the past suggested that regardless of their regular season success, the Nuggets’ philosophy was burdened with cracks that would lead to an inevitable playoff loss. So when the Nuggets looked defeated against the Warriors in the first round, the walls started to cave in on the 2013 Coach of the Year. The Nuggets were deemed an experiment — one that was defined and conducted by Karl — so once they lost, the experiment was surmised as a failure and as such, so was the conductor.

Here’s what really happened, though — and why the “experiment” may have been effective all along. Streaky shooting and the orchestrated heroics of Stephen Curry aside, the Warriors defeated the Nuggets by beating them at their own game. They went from scoring just 13.8 percent of their points off of turnovers in the regular season to 17.6 percent — a rate that would have had them in the top 10. David Lee went down and Golden State discovered a diamond in the rough: the beauty of playing small ball with Harrison Barnes at the power forward. Oh, and it didn’t help that Danilo Gallinari — the Nuggets’ second-leading scorer with a net efficiency rating of 7.2 points per 100 possessions and resident ScreenBuster (trademarked by Jordan White) — tore his ACL six games before the playoffs started.

Look at it this way. In a large sense, the NBA is slowly moving towards more dynamic crunchtime sets and away from the dreaded isolation-at-the-top-of-the-key plays. Yet no team stymied the opposing defense with more misdirection and screening in the closing minutes than the Nuggets. In the last five minutes of action with either team within five points, the Nuggets were top-3 in field goal percentage and fourth in offensive efficiency. The teams that preceded them? The Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers and the Oklahoma City Thunder, otherwise known as the teams that had LeBron James, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant to helm their late game attacks.

The Nuggets, as we all know, didn’t have one of those guys. In response, Karl tried to compose the next best thing and he managed to do it. He said, “Hey, let’s stop mimicking what the other guys do. We don’t have what they have but we do have something special here. Let’s try and do this the best way we know how.”  For NBA modernists, he was a step forward for the league. In the real world though, the results still take precedence over the process and Karl was punished for being ahead of the curve.

The scapegoating of Karl was an illogical crutch but it was an inevitable aftermath in a sports world that has no mercy for the failure to live up to expectations, even when situations changes and expectations are due for reevaluation. Moreover, criticism amplifies when the object of one’s contempt is working against the preserved mode of thinking. In reality, the Nuggets succeeded because Karl refused to give into the ever-present narratives lined up against his team.

All Stats per NBA.com’s Stats tool.

Masai Ujiri Leaves Denver, Joins Toronto

Executive of the Year is usually one of the more easily dismissed members of the postseason prizes. Perhaps because the moves made by an executive, unlike those of a player or coach, are harder to judge within the context of a single season; perhaps because executives are simply less interesting than those who actually play out the games. Regardless, it is unlikely that you remember who won it more than a year or two back, and unlikely that you will ever need to know.

It is rare, however, for a newly minted Executive of the Year to leave his post, which is exactly what Masai Ujiri did on Friday, accepting a 5 year, $15 million offer to become general manager of the Toronto Raptors over re-upping his deal in Denver. And it’s a move that could lead to big changes for both franchises in potentially direction-altering offseasons.

The move is disconcerting for the Nuggets. Losing a young GM who has already swung some pretty successful deals and has drafted well is bad enough; losing the steward of your ship mid-voyage is another. While this Denver team did very well during the regular season, winning 57 games before the Warriors scorched them to the ground, they hardly seemed like a finished product, only mid-way through a process that traced back to Ujiri in every way.

There are only three players on Denver’s roster who are over 26 years of age. Two of them, Andre Iguodala (29) and Corey Brewer (27), are free agents. Losing any one of them would leave a huge hole at the wing, mostly defensively. Then again, Iguodala is an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career, two years after being picked to the all-star team, one year after playing for the US gold medal team. Brewer just played the best basketball of his career, playoffs notwithstanding. Both could demand hefty sums, which does not bode well for a franchise that just let their GM go rather than pay him.

The rest of the roster is stocked with young talent on mostly flexible deals. From JaVale McGee’s 3 years, $34 million and Wilson Chandler’s 3 years, $21 million, and through the rookie deals of Jordan Hamilton and Evan Fournier, the Nuggets have more valuable assets than playing time. Part of this is the aftermath of the Carmelo Anthony deal, but ever since that happened, the Nuggets have been committed to simultaneously running an ensemble cast and lurking in the shadows for opportunities. Be it flipping away Nene right after signing him to an extension, jumping into the Dwight Howard trade to acquire Iggy, or snatching Kenneth Faried as a 22nd pick, Ujiri had done well with such opportunities. A different GM might not be as comfortable tinkering with a cadre of toys, and in an effort to move towards a more conventional roster build, could hurt the value of said pieces.

Not that the new Denver GM must be a hard-headed, my-way-or-the-highway hire. It’s very possible that Denver promotes a member of the current staff to head honcho position, and that the organization as a whole stays the course. Ujiri himself was somewhat of an unknown when he got the GM position, after all. But it adds a level of uncertainty to a team that didn’t need it, coming off a stinging playoff upset, amid the aforementioned upcoming roster decisions and criticism of its long time coach.

As for the Raptors, it would be interesting to see how swiftly and aggressively, if at all, Ujiri reneges on some of Bryan Colangelo’s latest moves. Is Andrea Bargnani a dead man walking? (Presumably, as this was believed to be the case when Colangelo was still in office.) Will Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan still be considered cornerstones, despite games that somewhat contradict new-age analytical NBA beliefs attached to massive deals? Is Dwane Casey still in favor? What will be of Kyle Lowry, entering the final year of his contract, after the first season that saw his game regress since his Memphis days? The roster isn’t bereft of talent post-Colangelo, but it is expensive and flawed, and Ujiri will have his work cut out for him.

The good news are that Ujiri did well to cover for Denver’s flaws under a much tighter budget. The phrase “luxury tax”, a taboo in Denver, will be much easier to throw out as a necessary evil towards improving the team, and Ujiri’s creativity in working the trade lines could be even more impressive once those handcuffs are removed. Of course, management could work as a limiting factor as well, with a group that is believed to be locked-in on a playoff appearance at all costs – the type of endeavor that often sells out future success in the name of a year or two of first round exists.

If nothing else, Raptor fans can rest assured that they will no longer be making moves for the wrong reasons. Ujiri isn’t the type of GM to trade for a player in the name of “star power” or “a little credibility around the league”. He’s shown a knack for signing guys to long-term extensions and immediately swapping them for a better deal, a good omen for any concerns about DeRozan’s long term viability or what happens if a Lowry extension goes awry, and a sharp contrast from Colangelo, who for years held on to Bargnani for no apparent reason other than Bargs being “his guy”.

While it’s a shame the Nuggets felt the need to pinch pennies, a potentially exciting Raptors roster just got a man who could very well mold it into something tangible. This may or may not turn out to be one of those behind-the-scene moves that alter two different franchises, but at the very least, the prospects are intriguing.

Opportunity Thy Name Is Birdman

Chris Andersen got a shot. Despite the legal trouble that preceded this season, despite the lack of general interest, someone gave him a chance. He signed a minimum deal with a playoff team, working his way into a rotation, injecting athleticism, enthusiasm and flamboyance into a front line that needed him. His strong form carried into the playoffs, where he has made a ridiculous percentage of his carefully managed shots, blocked everything in sight, and made the Conference Finals behind a star small forward.

This is the story of Birdman and the 2012-13 Heat, a contender made even more contendery off an opportunistic waiver wire pickup. But if the story sounds strikingly familiar, it may be because we have seen it before.

Coming off a 2 year drug suspension and a poor, uneventful 5 game post-reinstatement stint with the Hornets, Andersen was something of scorched ground in the summer of 2008. He nonetheless returned to the team that kickstarted his NBA career as the Carmelo Anthony/Allen Iverson (soon-to-be-Chauncey-Billups) Nuggets signed him to a minimum deal, and excelled in his role off the bench for the best team the Nuggets have fielded in the George Karl era. The parallels to this year were striking – people couldn’t understand where this guy had come from, how the Nuggets are getting him for the minimum, how big his impact was on a huge run. He even knocked a Conference Finals game out of the park.

Of course, said performance was parlayed into a 5 year deal that was either too long, too expensive, or just too optimistic. As the makeup of the Nuggets changed for completely different reasons, JaVale McGee took away his shot blocking, hyperathletic, questionable-sanity big man spot. That and an odd, charge-less investigation eventually led to him being amnestied. He was then given a 10 day contract from the Heat during their annual big man tryout tour; they have lost 4 times in the 52 games since.

The natural reaction when a contender finds a cheap contributor lying around is one of inevitability, a feeble acknowledgement of the rich-getting-richer proposition that has no solution and fuels all aspects of life. The 2009 Lakers stumbling into Trevor Ariza in a Brian Cook salary dump, or the 2008 Celtics giving the P.J. Brown resuscitation project one last go, or whatever it was that came into Peja Stojakovic for the 2011 Mavs.

Andersen’s situation was different. He was not buried in the rough, nor off-the-radar. Rather, he was a known quantity who was not worth the trouble. 34 years old, an unknown legal situation, world-renowned oddball, he was largely absent from the Nuggets last season, seemingly by the organization’s own choice. He’s just ostentatious enough to create controversy, and just slightly too anonymous to compensate for it by winning a press conference. Not signing Chris Andersen was a pretty easy move to explain; at least, it was, until he got his sliver and burst through it. Again.

Game 1 against the Pacers was a perfect extension of that. Not even a Birdman Optimization Engine could come up with a better Chris Andersen game. 16 points on 7 of 7 shooting is pretty much inherently perfect, but the nature of those shots were well-fitting of a Chris Andersen stencil. A dunk off a LeBron drive, a layup trailing Wade in transition – much like in January, whenever Miami glanced his way, Birdman was conveniently available.

NBA stars are memorable by sheer existence, but role players tend to only be as memorable as they were prevalent on national television, whether via market or success. The Birdman moniker and the colorful skin would have entrenched him in our minds anyway, but there is still something comforting about the idea that the two seasons that gave us the most Playoff Chris Andersen were born from off-court situations that fit perfectly with his on court persona of opportunism.

That may be why his 2009-2012 seasons with Denver retroactively feel like down years, even though his numbers were pretty much the same as they were before the 5 year deal (though they did take a dip in 2009-2010). You can’t have Birdman on an actual contract getting actual chunks of your salary cap, just like you can’t have him anchor your defense or be an active part of an offensive play – sooner rather than later, you end up focusing on everything that he can’t do. The smarter, funner thing to do is to watch everything else that goes on and be pleasantly surprised when he produces on the minimum or flies in for a dunk, and grin as he leaves with a flap of the wings.

LION FACE/LEMON FACE 5/3/13: WHY DID THAT SERIES HAVE TO END?

Night 13 of the 2013 NBA Playoffs is officially in the books. We had one series that people can’t wait to end and one series that people wish was a best of 15. We had Lion Faces; we had Lemon Faces. Let’s get to them.

Lion Face: The Nets starting lineup

Consistency can be a beautiful thing in a starting lineup over the course of a game, and the Nets had plenty of it last night. Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, and Joe Johnson all scored 17 points while Gerald Wallace dropped in 15. While Reggie Evans only managed 2 points, he pulled down 15 rebounds. With their powers combined, the starting five helped Brooklyn to force a Game 7 in this series as they head back to New York.

Lemon Face: The Bulls health

Derrick Rose remaining on the bench despite being cleared to play limited the chances of the Bulls to make any sort of playoff run as it is, but additional injuries to Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich coupled with Luol Deng and Nate Robinson suffering flu like symptoms is just overkill of a cruel joke by the basketball gods. Deng was a late scratch, but Robinson and Noah gutted their way through 42 and 43 minutes respectively. The Warriors may have played the late game, but there were warriors in the early contest as well. While the Heat would still be overwhelming favorites in the East, it’s a shame that we never got to see Chicago at full strength this year since they could have at least made Miami work for it.

Lion Face: Nate Robinson (yes, again)

We might need to start renaming Lion Face to Nate Robinson Face if this keeps up. Robinson played through the flu and scored 18 points for the Bulls, but it was this move that he pulled on Kris Humphries that secured him a Lion Face:

GIF via @cjzero

Looks like Kris Humphries would like to have that highlight annulled/was left at the altar/[insert your own awful Kardashian joke in this space].

Lemon Face: Fans that bought tickets to the Rihanna concert at Barclays

Apparently the Nets win last night forced Rihanna to postpone her concert in Brooklyn on Saturday night to Tuesday which has left fans none too pleased. Rembert Browne of Grantland retweeted some of the folks affected by this change, and it also serves as a reminder to never read Twitter in times like this or Internet comments at any time.

Lion Face: Kosta Koufos

Sadly, I am no longer able to claim that I have made as many three pointers in the NBA as Kosta Koufos after last night. Demonstrating no regard for the shot clock in the middle of the first quarter, Koufos dribble the ball outside the arc, looked up at the shot clock on the opposing basket, and chucked up a triple that found nothing but the bottom of the net giving him his first three in his seven year career. As the saying goes, a blind squirrel finds an acorn every once in a while.

GIF via SBNation

Lemon Face: The Nuggets on the road

With the loss last night, the Nuggets fell to 1-13 in their past 14 playoff games on the road. Not that it is by any means easy to win a playoff road game, but Denver is approaching unchartered territory here. Their inability to win on the road forces them to be perfect at home if they have any chance of winning the series as a higher seed with home court advantage, and it basically seals their fate if they enter the series as the lower seeded team. Atlanta and Houston frequently get branded as the epitome of “Treadmill of Mediocrity” teams, but the Nuggets are doing their best to usurp that title. This is now the ninth time in the past ten seasons that Denver has made the playoffs and failed to advance past the first round.

Lion Face: Steph Curry’s Second Half

Image via NBA.com

Image via NBA.com

5-8 from the field, 4-6 from beyond the arc, 16 points, and the added benefit of energizing the raucous Oracle crowd. Curry’s performance in the 3rd quarter (4-6 FG, 14 points) helped the Warriors pull ahead and they never looked back in moving on to the second round for the first time since the 2007 “We Believe” team. It’s a good thing Curry stepped up in the second half because…

Lemon Face: Steph Curry’s First Half

Image via NBA.com

Image via NBA.com

1-6 from the field, 0-2 from beyond the arc, 6 points. Oof. Curry’s been sensational in this series, but he cannot afford to have too many halves like this if the Warriors want to have any chance of upsetting San Antonio. Roaracle can only do so much to impact the outcome of the game, but at the end of the day, as always, it’s going to come down to the players on the floor.

Statistical support for this story provided by NBA.com

Lion Face/Lemon Face 5/1/13: LET’S GET PHYSICAL, PHYSICAL

Lion Face

Denver Nuggets vs Golden State Warriors

All of it. Just all of it. This series has been tremendously entertaining, from Steph Curry going supernova, Andrew Bogut’s revival, #PlayoffPierre, Roaracle, Ty Lawson being spectacular, and so much more. The first round of this year’s playoffs hasn’t had much excitement or drama, but this series has been the exceptional exception.

Lemon Face

Vinny Del Negro’s suit game

Ew

Look, Vinny, just because we make fun of you for looking like you belong on the set of Miami Vice doesn’t mean you have to dress like it. I mean, look at those shoulders. Yeesh.

Lion Face

Chris Paul vs Marc Gasol


nbaSLAPwacky

Not so much for the play, but for this GIF. I could watch it all day. Chris Paul looks like the little brother who lost his toy to his big brother, Marc. “You butthead! Give it back give it back giveitback giveitback giveitback! I HATE YOU!”

(GIF courtesy of SBNation)

Lemon Face

Andrew Bynum gets down in Madrid

I can’t even begin to comprehend how frustrating this video of Bynum, fresh off a season in which he didn’t play a single game due to chronic knee issues, is to Sixers fans. So I asked my good friend Tom Sunnergren of Hoop76 to help me out. Take it away, Tom!

Andrew Bynum, apparently, has been struck with a variety of knee injury that allows him to participate in every conceivable athletic activity but basketball. This is remarkable. While a terrible blow for his basketball career (and the emotional balance of people who care about the Philadelphia 76ers), Bynum’s malfunction could mark a seminal moment in sports science—the key that unlocks the previously unknown and unknowable, flinging open whole new vistas of knowledge and inquiry. In studying what’s absent in Bynum, we might learn, finally, what really makes a good basketball player.

What is it that separates Jordan from the rest? Or allows LeBron to be LeBron? By considering Andrew Bynum’s knees—and learning what essential thing they, and he, are missing—we might finally understand what separates the greatest players in the NBA from petulant children with stupid haircuts who can’t play a goddamned minute of NBA basketball for a franchise that mortgaged its present and future to get them but can fucking flamenco dance what the fuck. In this way, Andrew Bynum isn’t just a washout, a buffoon, a deadbeat, or a botched abortion of an offseason acquisition, but something more. A hero, maybe. Fuck.

(Video via Facebook)

Lemon Face

Blake Griffin’s ankle

Say what you will about Blake Griffin. Say he’s a flopper, a whiner, a bad defensive player, whatever. Blake Griffin, at full strength, is still damn fun to watch, and his ankle injury that took him out of last night’s action, and potentially for game 6, is a bummer.

15-Footer, 4/30/13: HAIKUS FOR TUES(day)

Golden State Warriors vs Denver Nuggets 8 PM TNT

Steph Curry Stephen

Curry Steph Curry Stephen

Curry Steph Curry

 

He is en fuego

Karl sticks Miller

On him. Big mistake

 

Denver returns home

Down three games to one. Will Dubs

Deliver knockout?

 

Memphis Grizzlies vs Los Angeles Clippers 10:30 PM TNT

 

Marc Gasol getting

More aggressive on offense

Is good for Memphis

 

CP3 being

The Point God is good for Clips

And for us at home

 

What’s not good for us?

Blake Griffin’s incessant need to dribble between the legs then pull up for a mid-range jumper that will inevitably clang off the rim. YOU’RE SHOOTING 33% from MID-RANGE AND 51% AT THE RIM. GO STRONG TO THE HOLE BLAKE.

I broke haiku rules.

 

Statistic support

For story provided by

NBA.com

Lion Face Lemon Face 4/23/2013: Shooters Gon’ Shoot

Welcome to Lion Face Lemon Face, where we recap last night’s NBA action Ben and Matty style. In case you didn’t already know, Lion Face equals good and Lemon Face equals bad. At least that’s how I think this whole thing works.

Lion Face: Dwyane Wade’s monster put-back dunk

Wade may be 31 years old, a reluctant defender in transition for stretches during the playoffs and spending the majority of his time raising his eyebrows at Brandon Jennings but give the man his due: He hasn’t lost it yet, whatever “it” is.

Lemon Face: Norris Cole’s missed dunk

Norris Cole, on the other hand, is 24 years old. Here’s a general rule of thumb: if your name isn’t Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade or Blake Griffin and your running the floor beside LeBron James, the only thing that should be on your mind is “how do I get this flying death machine freight train superhuman machine basketball player the ball?”

Lion Face: Presented without comment, a real Lion Face.

lebronprimal

Lemon Face: Brandon Jennings

There’s nothing wrong with making sweeping declarations. In fact, I encourage them. They give me funny things to tweet about. The problem here is that Jennings is all shot and no substance. Here’s his shooting chart from last night:

jennings shooting

A whole lot of red and nothing in-between. Daryl Morey is only mildly impressed. Lucky for Jennings, the Bucks can technically still win this series in six games. That is, if LeBron James spontaneously combusts and Dwyane Wade is too emotionally shattered to continue playing. Even then, Chris Bosh and a healthy mix of shooters could get the Heat over the proverbial hump.

Lion Face: JR Smith

Your 6th Man of the Year, folks…

jrbomb

Lemon Face: The Celtics’ offense

I’m not really sure what happened here. All I know is that Knicks-Celtics felt a lot more like a first round series in the Eastern Conference than I thought it would. Here’s the Celtics’ shot chart from the second half:

celtics shot chart

That shouldn’t be allowed in the NBA. This looks like if a fifth grade version of me went on Microsoft Paint and decided that red was my favourite colour and that all basketball courts should be red because I said so! What’s worse is that the Celtics went the final nine minutes of the game without getting a single basket. Part of the issue was that the C’s just couldn’t capitalize on their open shots — especially the open threes Paul Pierce produced from the post — but I have to give kudos to the Knicks’ defense. They were absolutely suffocating. “Signing Kenyon Martin in the middle of the season sure made a difference for the Knicks” is close to number one on my list of things I never thought I’d say in 2013.

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 2.13.04 AM

 

Lion Face: The Knicks’ third quarter

This is the only scoreboard you need from the third quarter: Carmelo Anthony – 13, Boston Celtics – 11. I guess it’s an improvement from Boston’s fourth quarter performance in Game 1 when they were held to just eight points. One thing’s certain: it won’t matter that the Celtics are in the TD Garden for the next two games if they continue to score less than 13 points for multiple quarters.

Lion Face: America’s team. I think. Probably not.

Last night, the Golden State Warriors became the first team to score over 130 points in a playoff game since the Celtics eviscerated the Lakers in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals. Jarrett Jack, Stephen Curry, Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson combined for 101 points on 63 shots. In completely unrelated news, Golden State’s small ball is awesome. Here’s the Warriors’ shot chart:

warriors shot chart

Notice the way that this one contrasts with Boston’s shot chart from the second half? Yeah, that’s an inherently good thing. Oh, and here’s an incoming super overreaction: The Warriors are kind of perfectly set up to be this year’s “they just went on a crazy shooting run and knocked off a few teams that they really shouldn’t have knocked off” team.

Lion Face: Harrison Barnes’ Reverse Slam, proceeding celebration

BarnesReverseWarriorsBench

Lemon Face: Denver’s defense

Here’s the thing about the Warrior’s small line up, which might end up being the ultimate “diamond in the rough” non-acquisition this Spring: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack are all capable and willing shooters. Per NBA.com, the trio shot 43.5 percent from 16-24 feet over the course of the regular season, miles ahead of the league average. The Nuggets, on the other hand, aren’t employed with big men that are adept at closing out on shooters off the pick and roll. As a result, they allow the league’s second worst opponent field goal percentage from that range. Unless George Karl is an even better coach than I think he is (likely), Denver’s going to be in a bit of a pickle.

All statistical support for this story provided by NBA.com