Tag Archives: golden state warriors

The Short Peace: Featuring Kent Bazemore

Photograph from Lunaé Parracho via Flickr

The NBA is a league defined by constant change. Thanks to the analytics movement, aspects of the game like offensive efficiency and spacing that were only just materializing a few years ago are now a main focus of attention for teams. A successfully mutated Morey Project and a Steph Curry-led playoff run later, it’s clear that we’re now observing the NBA as a shooter’s league.

For players struggling to find roster spots, the analytics revolution has caused a substantial paradigm shift. Essentially, if you can shoot, you’ll find your way on to a roster at some point in the season. Conversely, for those who don’t possess an outside stroke… well, let’s just say they better be a specialist in another field. 3-and-D guys have stockpiled across the league and consequently, players cut from that unshakable-on-defense-but-forgettable-on-offense, Tony-Allen-esque cloth, have been driven to oblivion.

Despite all of his cheerleading capabilities, Old Dominion product Kent Bazemore still falls under the latter category. Bazemore, who was present at Summer League last year, quickly became a celebratory tale for D-League prospects when he scrapped and hustled for his way onto the Golden State Warriors’ roster after going undrafted in 2012.

Of course, Bazemore didn’t get where he is right now by some stroke of imaginary luck. In his four years at OD, he picked up an NCAA Defensive Player of the Year award, as well as two CAA DPOY’s, establishing that he could in fact dominate at one end of the floor enough to make up for his shortcomings on the other. I had a chance to sit down with Bazemore for a few minutes and he reaffirmed the idea that the NBA’s newfound emphasis on three-pointers deterred his chances of producing at the next level. “Once you’ve been in the league for a year, I understood. I looked back at my college career, I really didn’t show that I had a chance to be a pro.”

This is what he said when I asked him if he’s made improving his shot a point of emphasis:

“Absolutely, you gotta keep guys honest…if I can’t hit the three, the guy who closes out on me is gonna stay short and it’s gonna make it easier for his team to rotate. I think my biggest thing is that once I prove I can hit that three consistently, it’ll open up a lot more things. The game will be a lot easier.”

For the record, Bazemore attempted four treys on Tuesday and connected on two of them. After spending four years in college, Bazemore says a lot of his newly-acquired techniques are indebted to the shot the Warriors gave him. “Once I got my foot in the door and I was able to learn the NBA game, I just took off from there.  I’ve had an opportunity to watch Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes. So I’ll pull them to the side in practice or even during the game just to see (what happened), and have them explain (the play) so next time I’m in, I’m looking for the same thing.”

This shouldn’t be taken as a surprise when you consider the extent to which the now-sophomore prides himself on being a sponge.  ”One thing I’ve always hung my head on is being coachable you know, just listening. If it’s a rookie, you listen to them. It doesn’t matter, you can learn from everybody. If a kid comes up and tells me something I’m gonna take it with a grain of salt but I’m gonna listen,” he laughed. “That’s the easiest way to get better at this game.” Words like coachability aren’t thrown around lightly in NBA circles, and Bazemore’s desire to learn appears more comparable to an addiction than to a tiresome responsibility. This, as much as anything else, gives him a leg up on his uber-competitive peers.

The 25-year old is more than just a swab that soaks up and stores all the information that comes his way, though. Rather, he has a sort of contagious demeanour that spreads to the rest of his team. Essentially, there’s both a sense of absorption and diffusion. Bazemore doesn’t create chaos and thrive in its dissociated creativity like Kenneth Faried or Eric Bledsoe. Instead, his mark on the game is more cerebral: it can be found in carefully but tenaciously defended 21-second possessions that end in contested mid-range jumpers for his opponent as an alternative to chase-down blocks and interceptions. Of course, it’s not as if the 6’5″ swingman with a ridiculous 6’11″ wingspan is afraid of using his gangly arms to accumulate a few opportune steals, from time to time. Still, his is a more fundamentally safe brand of chaos, a kind of suppressed radiance that blossoms from his analytic, calculative nature.

“It’s just being cerebral, being in the right spot. (If) the ball is away from you, pull in. If it comes to you, inch out. If you’re the low man on the backside, tag your roll man and close out good to your shooters. It’s just things like that constantly play in your mind. You always have to be thinking, you have to always be locked down and if you’re not, man, you’re gonna pay.

“It’s just a game within a game within a game,” he added. “Sometimes you’re playing 2-on-2, sometimes 3-on-2. You just have to keep your brain turned on.”

There’s a definite sense of dissonance between the Bazemore we see on the court and the ecstatic bundle of unabridged energy we see on the bench. Bazemore’s claim to fame, aside from almost sealing a Game 1 victory for the Warriors against the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the playoffs, is his fervency for amazing bench celebrations.

On the sidelines, Bazemore is an heir apparent to Brian Scalabrine. So much so that his trademark three-point bowling strike is featured in the forthcoming NBA 2K14.

A year ago, Bazemore was here in Vegas, playing the role of a hopeful suitor for a team that needed a Jimmy Butler-esque stopper without having to go through the twists and toils of finding and paying for a first-round pick like Butler.  This time around, he’s shored up his skills on both sides of the ball and Summer League provides him with the perfect stage to hone his skills. “It’s something I look to come out and do,” he told me. “Show my playmaking skills and have control with the ball in my hands.”

The decisive qualities with which Bazemore has earned esteem with the Warriors are, first, his calculative, analytic, coachable nature — you get the sense that he isn’t anywhere close to rounding out just yet; second, a palpable energy that somehow stays true to his careful, plotting nature; and lastly, what feels like a higher level of admiration for the game than displayed by most.

It’s widely accepted that Summer League is more a haven for ill-conceived mid-range shots and risky, not-often-rewarding passes than it is a representation of NBA-level basketball. Here’s the thing, though: the rewarding aspect of Summer League lies not in the games, but in the fact that it gives players in Bazemore’s situation the chance to show that what’s bubbling under a raw, unrefined exterior has at least a fragment of translatable potential.

The blur of six games in one day, the fear of being crushed by overly aggressive players rushing into the stands, the sense that all the days are just being puréed together into one conglomerate of basketball mush… it’s all worth it. Even if you do have to witness a Bazemore-Draymond Green pick-and-roll.

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.

We’ve read this story before

Photo: Kyle Slattery | Flickr

Ed. Note: Evans Clinchy is a Bostonian and active member of the hoops blogosphere. He’s been covering the Celtics for nearly four years, with his writing appearing on CelticsBlog, NESN, and SI (among other places). You can follow him, his thoughts, and his writing on Twitter. He wrote this piece after the Spurs defeated the Warriors last night to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

Assuming you have a human heart that pumps blood and a pair of human eyes that have been anywhere near a TV screen the last week and a half, you’ve probably found yourself drawn to the Golden State Warriors. How could you not? This team is new. Refreshing. At times flat-out electrifying. A year ago, they were in the lottery, and now they’re on national TV fighting deep into the playoffs.

Everything has changed since the Warriors rose to power. Klay Thompson is now a borderline household name, Mark Jackson has supplanted Al Sharpton as America’s favorite overdramatic preacher, and Stephen Curry has emerged as one of the top [insert ridiculously hyperbolically small number here] players in the NBA. The Warriors grabbed America’s attention and refused to let go. Now the Warriors are done, and America weeps.

Well, most of America does. In a way, I find myself relieved.

Let me clarify that I come at this from a position of impartiality, more or less. I’m from Boston and have no attachment to either city involved — I’m obsessed with all 30 NBA teams, but I have no particular emotional investment with either Oakland or San Antonio. It’s not about that. A win for the Spurs, while it may be a significant blow to novelty and excitement and perhaps even overall happiness, is a win for what makes the NBA the NBA.

That’s depressing, I know. So many series like this are. When you have a young team like Golden State and a seasoned one like San Antonio going head to head for seven games, it has “fait accompli” written all over it, and that doesn’t make for good TV. There’s nothing quite like a grind-it-out Spurs win for making the casual fan change the channel.

Let them.

If you really love this league, you appreciate that the Spurs are the Spurs, and you find comfort in the fact that they do this every May. A good Spurs playoff team is like your favorite book — you can reread it every spring, and it’ll never get old, because you can’t wait to rediscover every little nuance all over again.

You love the quiet, subtle, understated leadership that Tim Duncan has symbolized for the last 15 years. You love the crafty pick-and-roll artistry that Tony Parker brings to every game, regardless of the matchup. You love that Manu Ginobili, no matter how many injuries and shooting slumps and “Is he washed up?” debates he endures, somehow keeps doing Manu Ginobili things. You love that this team somehow takes spare parts that couldn’t cut it in Cleveland or Charlotte and turns them into valuable playoff role players. You even love that Gregg Popovich is kind of a dick, because let’s be honest — he’s the best in the world at this, and he’s earned the right to be kind of a dick.

These are the things we come to expect from the Spurs every year, and to get anything different would be oddly unsettling. When I pick up that dog-eared paperback of The Sun Also Rises and reread it every year, I’m not doing it to discover the alternate ending where Jake gets the girl and everyone lives happily ever after.

Pro basketball is an exact science, and the great teams are the ones who have figured it out. Steph and Klay are the experiment, but Pop and Duncan are the control. They’re the baseline. They’re proven, and they’re not going anywhere. You want unpredictable? Fine. Go watch March Madness.

Those who eat, sleep, breathe and dream NBA don’t do it for the entertainment. We do it for the excellence. If you’re the best, you deserve to be rewarded over and over and over again. Watching a rerun is never a bad thing — in fact, repetition is what it’s all about.

That’s not true of any other sport. Quick — how many rings did Willie Mays win? Three… two… one… buzzer. Too late. No one’s obsessing over that one, though. But we know that Duncan has four, and Magic Johnson five, and Michael Jordan six, and Bill Russell eleven. Those numbers matter. In fact, you could argue they’re the only ones that stand the test of time.

That’s the real reason we watch the NBA playoffs. Rounds one and two might be about surprises and upsets and whatnot, but the deeper you get, the more you cherish the opportunity to watch greatness.

If you miss the Warriors, that’s fine. I can’t blame you. But Steph Curry and the gang will be back in October. In the meantime, let’s settle in and enjoy true May basketball.

Sanity Restoration

The NBA playoffs are like Project Mayhem for narratives. You’re not supposed to ask questions, you simply follow orders. The line of reasoning goes that if you trust the system, it will take care of you. Eventually, though, they run with reckless abandon taking out just about everything and anything that gets in the way. Buildings start to blow up and the debt record gets erased. Or something. Stretched metaphors aside, there is a certain element of playoff basketball that mirrors the final scene of Fight Club: not everyone makes it to the other side, but those who do receive a clean break. It’s 0-0 again.

For some teams, it’s a perfect situation. For others, matchup nightmares and a few unlucky strokes can spell an untimely death. The idea of hitting the restart button is tantalizing but with all things being equal, the elite generally find their way back to the top while the weak are cast away. So what better story to evoke the mania and uncertainty of a potential post-Fight Club world than the rise of an underdog?

The underdog team embodies the perfect narrative: it’s both loveable and relatable. In the sports world, the rise of 8 to 12 unlikely heroes demonstrates the overarching themes that justify a nation’s obsession with putting a ball into a basket. Triumph and its elusiveness. The notion that perseverance and hard work will be rewarded, regardless of who you are. A level playing field.

What separates the story of the underdog from other forms of sports glory is that it breeds excitement by nature. In a league that’s often more concerned with the process than the result, where the outcome feels like a forgone conclusion and the best always find a way to survive, the underdog gives us something new to talk about. There’s nothing interesting about perfection. Even deliberation on greatness has its limits. We don’t care if LeBron is 40 inches in the air and picking up speeding violations on his way to a ferocious dunk anymore. I mean, we do… but it’s more fun if he’s victimizing Jason Terry at the same time.

Why? Two reasons:

1. We want to be able to say we were there. Not for the regular and irregular fluctuations of an 82-game NBA season but for the moments that matter.

2. Short-term, amplified craziness resonates with us.

Whenever the perceived weak take down the elite, the tides turn. For whatever period of time, it feels like things are changing. The hysteria can be maddening and enlightening. Our collective state of mind becomes elevated for two and a half hours. Whether it was the buzzwords we love to hate or the much more logical conclusions that HP’s Andrew Lynch addressed earlier that skyrocketed the Warriors as this year’s underdog, they introduced us to an alternate reality or better yet, a blip in time where nothing made sense.

A few beats later, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (known to some not-unbiased parties as the best shooting backcourt in NBA history) miss two shots they’d normally make and order is restored. In some form or another, the same progressions apply to all sports matches in general but the life of the underdog is always more fragile. As if its existence is always fleeting. That’s the entire point, though.

The underdog reminds us that nothing is certain and in doing so reminds us that everything is certain. We can entertain the taste of something new and love it because it’s just that: a taste. A seismic shift, however? That’s too much. It begins to put at risk the things that we value as individuals, like the ranking of our favourite team… or the money the bank owes us, or the things we own that end up owning us (nailed it!).

In the grand scheme of things, we don’t want things to change. We’re a society that’s equally as obsessed with continuity as it is with breaking free from the same uniformity that coddles us. A team like the Warriors provides us with a perfect change of pace from our routine. We love them because we don’t fear them. They’re fun, they’re exciting, they provided a much-needed deviation from topics like the deterioration of the Eastern Conference and Kevin Durant’s Kevin Durantiness… and most importantly, their demise came at the perfect time.

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

15-Footer 4/23/13: HAIKUS FOR TUES(day)

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Miami Heat. 7:30 PM ET NBA TV. Miami leads, 1-0

LARRY SANDERS! Did

Not get Most Improved Player

No thumbs up for that

 

LeBron James will shoot

12 for 6. Not a typo.

eFG through roof.

 

Can the Bucks bounce back?

Unlikely. Heat are too good.

Will win this game easy.

 

Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks. 8 PM TNT. Knicks lead, 1-0

Jeff Green played very well

In the first half of game one

Not in the second.

 

Oh, Jason Terry

Has not had a good season

Where did his shot go?

 

JR Smith, Sixth Man!

Shot well for the last three months

Clearly deserving

 

New York will win this

With veteran leadership

And Jared will cry

 

Golden State Warriors vs. Denver Nuggets. 10;30 PM TNT. Nuggets lead, 1-0

Moment of silence

For David Lee and his leg

Terrible to see

 

How will Warriors

Make up for his production?

Andris Biedrins, duh.

 

Curry and Thompson

Will have to score more, shoot more

Barnes must score as well

 

Will Andre Miller

Have another old man game

Or will he take a nap?

 

Denver’s adjustments

Won the game. But it was close.

Seven games, pretty please?

 

A Not-so Golden State Of Faith

Mark Jackson is a man of many identities. He’s a Hall of Fame point guard, famous for his intelligence on the floor and terrific passing ability. He’s the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, a young, up and coming team that figures to be mainstays in the playoffs for some time. He’s also a pastor whose faith guides his path in life, preaching the word of God to those who listen. All of these facets of Jackson coalesce together, as Jackson uses his experiences both as a player and preacher to teach his young team. In fact, Jackson’s faith, and that of the Warriors team, is a key ingredient to their chemistry.

Since the Warriors hired him in June of 2011, the loquacious Brooklyn native and former NBA point guard hasn’t been bashful about his calling.

Jackson believes his approach still resonates with those Warriors who do not embrace Christianity. The key is to inspire with a message that is authentic and to be genuine — something Jackson painstakingly did when talking to the team about his affair seven years ago that became public knowledge through an extortion attempt.

He said he chooses to use the Bible and its teachings because he believes it applies to all aspects of life, and he’s thankful that Warriors management has supported his approach.

“It’s who I am,” Jackson said. “I’ve watched people overcome, I’ve watched people accomplish, I’ve watched people bounce back — all because of the Word. I’ve watched it work powerfully in my life. Why not use it? If I can use John Wooden’s seven steps, then why can’t I use Christ’s words?”

Playoff-bound Golden State Warriors lean on their faith

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done

On earth, as it is in Heaven.

A few weeks into my freshman year of high school, the football coach, who also happened to be my history teacher, convinced me to join the team. I wasn’t strong, nor was I particularly athletic. I was just big and chubby.  Why I relented I’m still uncertain, as, looking back, I didn’t even like playing football, and my best football-related memories from that time had little to do with the sport.

Regardless, I found myself kneeling alongside my newfound teammates, reciting the Lord’s Prayer in the damp, humid weight room just before kick-off. Or rather, they recited the prayer while I bowed my head and kept silent. The Lord’s Prayer doesn’t often find its way into many synagogues or Shabbat dinners, certainly not any my family has attended.

The prayer wasn’t offensive to me. In this context, I figured it to be tied more to tradition than religion. Further, that I was one of two Jews on the team was a microcosm of my entire grade and high school career; I was used to being in the minority.

Still, the Monday after the game, my coach pulled me aside and came just short of apologizing, saying that if I didn’t want to participate in the prayer, I didn’t have to. But what else was I going to do? Stand in the corner and wait for my teammates to finish, essentially ostracizing myself? Again, the prayer never offended me; in fact, it served well in its role to get our adrenaline going. Never participating, however, never crossed my mind. The prayer was a part of the team culture, and to not participate, or at least act like doing so, wouldn’t make me so much of a bad Christian as it would a bad teammate.

The NBA, like most professional sports leagues, is predominantly populated with Christian athletes. God, or Jesus, not mom or dad, is often the first person a player thanks for their success. It’s no surprise then, that Jackson’s faith-driven approach to coaching inspires his team. By all accounts, it has brought them closer together.

But what happens when a player of a different faith joins the Warriors? NBA rosters are anything but static, and while Jackson’s model may work for this current team, who’s to say that next season or the season after won’t bring a Jewish, or Muslim, or Buddhist, or even atheist player to the Warriors? Suddenly, sermons that once rang true with the entire team only do for some, and exercises that once promoted team unity now, however unintentionally, sew isolation.

My coach had always been a religious man, and though he never hid that part of his life, he never promoted it either. Until my sophomore and junior year, when things on the team took a turn for the bizarre. He replaced the Lord’s Prayer with a football prayer, which, oddly enough, made me more uncomfortable. Bibles bearing the logo of the Fellowship of Christian athletes littered the weight room, placed not inconspicuously in high-traffic areas. Speeches in practice, pre-game, and halftime became sermons laced with Christian allegories. In individual meetings, we were greatly encouraged to strengthen our relationship with God.

I quit the team midway through the season of my junior year. Aside from the fact that I didn’t enjoy playing, what little love I had for the game, or my team, was progressively snuffed by my coach’s suffocating faith. It wasn’t that he believed a better relationship with God was a key to a healthy life on and off the field, or that the Bible gives the same inner strength as weight lifting gives outer strength, or that sermons helped him get ready for games. Rather, it was that he pushed those beliefs on us, to the point where it became too ingrained in his football culture to ignore.

Jackson’s faith, perhaps as much as his coaching, has turned around this once downtrodden franchise. Problems arise, however, when that faith becomes so woven into the fabric of the team that having a different faith, or no faith altogether, equates to being a poor teammate.

A refusal to attend a sermon at Jackson’s church could be viewed not as a religious choice but as something that undermines the team. Abstention from team prayer could hurt morale.  The player is thus isolated from his teammates, through no choice of his own, merely as a consequence of the team’s culture. Any attempt to change that culture, however harmlessly, would be met with resentment, perhaps even hostility.

Jackson rhetorically asks why the word of God is less appropriate in basketball than those of John Wooden, and herein lies the problem.  All NBA players, regardless of religious faith, worship at the altar of Naismith. The devotion to that faith may be stronger in some players and weaker in others, but it is at least present in every one, thus making the Gospel according to Wooden applicable to all.  It is, for the intents of basketball, an all-inclusive faith.  The faith around which Jackson has fostered the culture in Golden State, however, is not.