Tag Archives: joe johnson

Human Dynamite Stick Goes Ka-Plooey

I was always fascinated with dynamite as a kid.

It wasn’t in the “I played with a magnifying death ray burning ants on the sidewalk, hope to find a friend with an illegal firework so I can play Russian roulette with my hand” sort of fascinated with dynamite way. It was totally legit. Whenever the coyote was chasing the roadrunner and had a trap set with some good ‘ole ACME TNT, I waited for the explosion and the colored stars to go pulsating through the screen without really caring about the end result.

What can I say? Explosions easily amused me as a child (and probably still am).

Well, when the Human Dynamite Stick, Josh Smith, threw down the TNT plunger with the walk-off tip dunk against the Orlando Magic Wednesday night, it had roughly the same affect on me. I didn’t necessarily care about the carnage it may have caused or left behind.

Take a look at it.

The shot goes up from Joe Johnson. Dwight Howard was left in No Man’s Land defensively as he can’t really get over to challenge the shot but also has to provide the threat of a hovering missile defense system in order to deter Joe from waltzing into the lane. This leaves the rebounding job up to Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis who are averaging 7.4 rebounds per game between them. Considering one of those guys is a Keith Closs blowout away from being seven feet tall that seems kind of like a paltry number.

This is the point in the cartoon in which you realize the dynamite isn’t working with the coyote. Even though it appears to be complying throughout the entire process, it’s going to end up exploding in the face of the coyote when it’s least expected.

Josh Smith had been hanging around the perimeter on this final play. He wanted the ball. He was just sitting out there, praying for a kick-out pass that would be entrusted to him to save the day. The pass never came. As internet sensation and two-time TrueHoop Network blogger, Sebastian Pruiti, pointed out, “he calls for the ball at the three-point line and doesn’t get it… last year he pouts and doesn’t go for the board.”

Josh Smith is out at the three-point line and normally would just sulk his way into overtime. It appears the dynamite is working with the coyote. But the dynamite doesn’t work the way you have always expected it to. Instead, the Human Dynamite Stick goes flying into the paint unabated. He rises up into the air (pulls the detonating plunger up into the air), catches the ball on his wrist and brings down the hammer (thrusts the plunger downward to ignite the explosion) as the buzzer sounds.

The result is pulsating stars filling your television screen. Ka-plooey.

Normally, I’d smile at the screen, wait for the credits to roll and move onto the next show. But this time I’m interested in the carnage and aftermath.

The Atlanta Hawks don’t matchup well with the Orlando Magic. In the past three seasons (including this current one), the Hawks are just 4-8 against the Magic. They can’t seem to handle Dwight Howard on the inside or the jump-shooting goodness on the outside. The styles don’t mesh.

But eventually, all that can change with one big catalyst. It’s funny how one buzzer-beating tip dunk can erase an entire mentality of being owned by another team. You forget that you don’t match up well with them. You forget that you struggled profusely on offense and could only manage 84 points in the first 47:59 of this game. It doesn’t matter. The dynamite exploded and the Orlando Magic have to wear it.

Now the Hawks are feeling good about themselves and the Magic are dealing with defeat. Might I add that they’re dealing poorly with the loss?

According to Brian Schmitz from the Orlando Sentinel, Rashard Lewis and Matt Barnes are not happy with coach Stan Van Gundy:

Lewis privately muttered something about Van Gundy’s offense on a night he was 2-of-9 for six points. Matt Barnes was seething at the coach, too.

Van Gundy took out defensive specialist Barnes for a long stretch in the fourth period, trying to get the Magic back in the game with shooters, and Barnes took it as a personal affront.

“He obviously doesn’t trust me down the stretch,” Barnes huffed.

I find it hilarious that the 6’10” forward with the $18 million price tag is blaming the coach for not getting him enough shots when a clearly missed box out of the second most dynamic athlete on the court is the reason the Hawks walked away with the home win. Throw a body on Josh Smith and keep him from getting to that board and you leave Flip Murray Mario West (I’ve had Flip on the brain lately) trying a desperation tip with Jameer Nelson all over him. Seems like a lot more of a low percentage shot than Josh Smith converting an unmolested tip dunk.

If Lewis boxes out Smith, the carom goes harmlessly off to the side and the players get ready for the overtime period. In this period, Matt Barnes gets a chance to make a difference and Rashard Lewis probably gets four or five more shot attempts to botch to satisfy his ego. The Magic go into their normal wing-clipping mode against the Hawks, pull out the tough road victory and head home with a season sweep of Atlanta.

Instead, Lewis got lazy, the rebound got crammed home and the Hawks now have a little swagger against Orlando that was previously nonexistent. Orlando now has to face internal issues that are being immaturely aired out in the media.

You can thank the uncooperative Human Dynamite Stick for that.

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Big Ol’ Honkin’ Boston-Atlanta Post

Prior to Friday’s Hawks-Celtics game, Boston center Kendrick Perkins said his team “put a hit out” on Hawks guard Jamal Crawford, who had burned the Celtics for 18, 18, and 17 points off the bench in winning the teams’ first three meetings.

Instead it was Crawford who did all the hitting — in the paint, off the backboard, beyond the 3-point line, and even from halfcourt. He scored 18 of his 28 points in the first half to turn a nine-point deficit into a 12-point halftime lead, and the Hawks coasted the rest of the way to a 100-91 win — one that was unusually chippy for a regular season game but par for the course for a Hawks-Celtics tilt.

via Boston ‘hit’ plan perks up Crawford – TrueHoop Blog – ESPN.

No, there will not be a ‘Big Ol’ Honkin’ LA-Boston Post’ when LA creams them tomorrow.That’s of no surprise, and I doubt it will be competitive.

But this one’s relevant for a few reasons, so let’s take a look.

Hmm… you know, we started with schadenfreude yesterday. We should go the other way. Okay, let’s talk Haw…

Oh, hello there, Mr. Schadenfreude!

Hi there, Matt! I’m here to remind you to always take joy in the misery of others before moving on to positive takeaways!

Thanks, Mr. Schadenfreude! I’ll be sure to do just that. Bye, Mr. Schadenfreude!

So let’s begin with Mr. Perkins.

There’s being confident that you’re the best team. And there’s confidence that you’re the best player. And then there’s confidence that you’re the ONLY good team with the ONLY good players, which is what the Celtics fall into. The attitude wasn’t one of respect, it was “we can’t get beat by that scrub again.” And they paid for it.  And even if it was respect, you’ve got to keep your mouth shut to the media. You’ve lost three games to a team that’s on pace for a top four seed. You can’t just run your mouth. They’ve already done enough to earn some respect.

For the players in the Celtics’ locker room, “It means that they lost,’’ said Doc Rivers. “They lost to the Atlanta Hawks. I don’t think it means much more than that. Nobody wants to get swept, but I don’t think you get to go to the second round when you sweep a team in the regular season. That I know of. You get to go to the next game.’’

via Hawks sweep floor with Celtics – The Boston Globe.

But that’s not Boston. They won the title, even though they struggled through the first and second rounds, so therefore anything else that happens is invalid. Look at how they responded to Orlando, with the poodle comment. Now Orlando’s 2-1. At some point you need to recognize that you’re in trouble.

I still firmly believe that if the Celtics were to specifically gameplan and say, “we’re going to shutdown Crawford” they could. They’re great at gameplanning specific players. But they didn’t. They thought they could just outclass them, like they thought they could do to Orlando.

What’s worse is that this is endemic. There is a genuine lack of athleticism on the Celtics right now. It’s Rajon Rondo and a bunch of guys who are good at basketball but not athletic guys who are good at basketball. Which means when the Hawks buckle down and focus for long stretches, the Celtics look winded. Pierce was on fire last night, and still knocked down a big three, but he still looked flat-footed and winded.

Picking Up the Pace: The Hawks averaged a convincing 17.25 fast break points per game against the Celtics this season, while the Celtics lugged behind with asthma-filled lungs, posting just 12.75 fast break points per game. Slow and steady did not win this race. Usain Bolt would be proud.

via Breaking Down The Sweep – CelticsBlog.

There is, naturally, a refusal among the Celtics faithful to put this on age. If they do, well, that’s a wrap, kids. And they know that. Injury was the excuse, but now KG”s back. But I do think one injury still severely hampers this team. Marquis Daniels. Quis was capable of helping out with the Celtics’ weaknesses and would have also helped prevent something that’s killing them right now. Rasheed Wallace shooting.

******************

Now for the Hawks, I feel like they’re going too far in the other direction. This win means a lot. No lie. It’s a big deal, proof that this team can say “If we face Boston in Round 2, we have a great shot at the ECF, and then who knows?” That’s a monumental shift.

But let’s not go licking our go-go boots just yet, okay? You It’s better to just represent “They’re a great team, we’re proud of this win, now we’ve got to keep it up.” Resting on laurels will also get you killed. And beating Orlando tonight or Cleveland at some point would also be advised, since right now, you’re hoping for a near-impossible matchup set.

  • # The fourth quarter wasn’t much better outside of Joe Johnson suddenly remembering he was playing the Celtics and, thus, should start making every fall-away he could create for himself.
  • 55 points on 38 shots and 12 free throw attempts for Johnson and Crawford. Considering the opposing post defenders, Horford and Smith got a suitable number of touches. A fine offensive performance from concept down to execution.

via Hoopinion.

I’d like to give Bret a big ol’ handshake today. He ALMOST said something completely nice about a Joe Johnson ball-domination offense. I made this argument earlier in the season, and then wondered if I was wrong when the Hawks were struggling with him doing it more. So last night’s play wasn’t a validator, but it still fuels the debate: Joe Johnson’s ability to turn bad possessions into points is a good thing.

The Hawks offense ground to a halt early in the fourth. I mean, we’re talking “nothing doin'” territory. Josh Smith tried to be aggressive, but the Celtics were doing that weird “double-body” thing where they form a concave wall and manage to not foul (apparently), so he couldn’t get anything to fall. And then Johnson decided “You know what? That’s it.” And went all “08 playoffs” on ‘em. And then Crawford came in and finished the job. And that’s just too much measured firepower for the Celtics to overcome after working that hard. There are going to be times when they’ll need Johnson to take games over. As good as Josh Smith has become in all phases, as good as the Hawks are as units at both ends of the floor, they need someone to create his own shot and kill the other team’s soul. And he drove a big ol’ dagger into Paul Pierce’s heart last night.

Maybe this is nothing, and there’s no continental shift happening. But Atlanta’s consistently winning with a core of guys who have played together for several years and who perform at both ends of the floor.

And the Celtics? Well, while the team won’t because of its unwavering confidence in itself based off the jewelry it won 19 months ago, the fanbase is rapidly approaching full-blown meltdown.

A Flight In The Sun

Last winter, I was driving through yet another Midwest snowstorm, on the phone with Graydon, and I asked him this: “If there was one NBA team that you absolutely would NOT want to face in an NCAA-tournament type game, who would it be?” His answer was immediately the same as mine. Orlando. A team that when it’s hot is lightning hot, anchored by a dominant big, with athletic forwards all over the floor. If they were to get hot, put it together, they would be dangerous enough to pillage defensive help systems and create chaos if everything went just right.

You know the rest.

Now, I’m faced with a mental quandary. Am I imagining the same thing with the Hawks, simply because I like the idea of a repeating pattern?

They were creamed by the Magic, absolutely blown into oblivion. The Cavs beat them on back to back nights. And yet, here they are, playing a higher brand of basketball than they ever have with this core, sweeping the mighty Celtics, sitting at 24-13, and armed with so many weapons that if they were to click… Oh, and have I mentioned they’re only four games back of the top seed in the East?

I think there’s still a gap there, but they’ve got two months to figure it out before the final month of the regular season, which features another game with LA and two more versus Cleveland. They could fall apart as they looked to be doing for the past week before the Celtics games, or hit another gear.Nothing would surprise me. But I do believe that too often we focus on imperfect but great things and ignore that which is new. We did it with Cleveland before LeBron took over Detroit. We did it with Orlando before they took Game 3 in Orlando. And we could be doing it with Atlanta.

Crawford makes the offense a whole new level of terrifying. In years past, if Joe Johnson was having a bad night, you were fine. If he was just having an average night, you could live with it. But now there’s Crawford. If everyone else is clicking and Johnson’s struggling, odds are Crawford will fill in the gap. If Johnson is having a good night and the offense is still lumbering, Crawford kick-fires it. And apparently he’s got a particularly bad taste in his mouth for the Celtics, since he’s pretty much single handedly shown their asses the door the last three times they’ve played. Crawford has spent so much time wackadoo systems that he’s learned an uncanny knack for slipping into the crevices of broken plays or transition jacknifed breaks, somehow always being in a hesitant passer’s line of site with his feet squarely beyond the arc. Having a guy that can make broken possessions into three point buckets? Huge.

As I wrote on Twitter, Joe Johnson only has one of these games like he had last night every 50 or so games. But when he does, it’s like the Archangel hath come for the reckoning. There’s just nothing you can do. There are lots of great players in this league, many of them with better overall,consistent games than Johnson. But Johnson does possess that NOVA gear that only a handful have. He can go to the next evolutionary step and if he gets there, even if it’s just for five or six minutes, he can bury you, break your back, and leave you with nothing but that frustrated sigh. Eddie House knows it. Ray Allen knows it. And Marquis Daniels may be learning it soon.

But then, the Hawks are still flawed, deeply. Most games Johnson doesn’t even approach that level, even though he constantly shoots like he’s trying to reach it. Crawford struggles defending. Mo Evans gets too much floor time for as lost as he sees sometimes. You can rattle Josh Smith. Al Horford gives in to his emotions. The list goes on. So the Hawks are likely not going to make it past the second round, almost definitely not winning the East, and definitely not winning the title.

But imagine if they did. You’re talking about a global shift in our thought processes. Mike Woodson with a ring. And all of a sudden you’re looking at what would likely be a re-signing Joe Johnson, a terrific group of role players, and, oh yeah, Josh Smith and Al Horford are still incredibly young. It would be terrifying and cruel.

But for now, let’s simply allow this to be known. The Celtics want no part of Atlanta in the playoffs. All that running, all that jumping, all that speed and athleticism isn’t just a means to create points, it grabs Boston by the neck and shows it in front of a mirror how old it is. The Hawks are young, fast, and powerful.

They’re a warrior clan, and for now, they seem to have invented warfare for themselves.

Joe Johnson And The Systemic Eval Crashers

And I very much get that nearly every shot by Joe Johnson is forced. Forced does not mean bad. When you methodically drive at that slow a pace, you are rarely not going to have a contested shot. Nique remarks “that was a tough shot” after every Joe shot beecause they literally are tough makes. It is a testament to how good he is.

I am all for Joe taking a one on one forced shot. Anytime he drives for a layup, floater, or close jump shot and no one doubles, Joe should have free reign to take that shot. The problem comes when Joe forces the attempt against three defenders, four defenders, every defender. Those are bad shots especially as the players around him have become more capable of scoring efficiently.

via Mike Woodson thinks there can only be one kind of Joe Johnson, so back off – Peachtree Hoops.

Joe Johnson is a great example of the point where stats and “reality” come crashing into one another and who the hell knows where we stand.

Let’s take Kobe Bryant, since he’s a big name and just mentioning him raises my SEO (TIGER WOODS AFFAIR KANYE WEST LADY GAGA ZOMBIELAND 2 AVATAR LEBRON JAMES TACOS while we’re at it).  Before we get started, go here and here for a post that I want every single Laker fan that dismisses PER because Kobe’s not a top five player by that metric (last year, this year he is) to read before they start throwing out “leadership,” “toughness,” and “being a winner” at me like they’re concepts I’ve never heard before. I was in the Dime Chat the other night and that was the guy’s entire argument. “Kobe’s not a top five player by that rating, therefore it’s useless.”

That’s like saying because someone who is clearly intelligent but had an ACT math score that was low, the ACT is useless. There are millions of ways to measure intelligence, from street smarts to IQ tests to standardized tests like the ACT. The ACT doesn’t even test your intelligence level. It’s got nothing to do with the other. It’s simply a metric that can be used to evaluate how you did in high school. And how you did in high school can be used to evaluate how smart you are, but it’s not the end all be all. There are many smart people that did well in high school and many smart people that did not do well in high school. There are many great players who are not top five in PER, and there are many poor players whose PERs are actually pretty good. There’s some noise in the metric.

SSR’s analysis isn’t that PER is correct, noooo. The author, like any good Kobe fan, can’t think that a metric that doesn’t evaluate Kobe well is perfect. It would be illogical to think that Kobe Bryant is the best player in the league and that an overall player evaluation rating is perfect that doesn’t consider him the best. He does at least understand the metric. Player Efficiency Rating.

Sadly, in terms of finding loopholes and problems with Kobe’s valuation in PER, assists and defense pretty much sums it up.  Any other weaknesses in Kobe’s formula are a result of him not being the most efficient scorer in the world.  The truth of that matter is what it is.  Kobe does have the lowest shooting percentage of the players mentioned in this piece.  Since PER is, at its core, a measure of efficiency, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Kobe doesn’t quite measure up.

Whether you equate efficiency with greatness or value is an entirely different conversation.

See? Everyone wins there. PER is still a valuable evaluation tool, but it fails to accurately accommodate for the things Kobe does so well (along with all the other problems like DEFENSE and team-oriented system problems like Triangle assists, and DEFENSE, and rewarding volume shooters and DEFENSE). It’s not perfect, but when you look at it how SSR did, it makes sense that Kobe’s not up there. If you ask me who the most efficient player in the league is, Kobe’s not going to be in my top five. That’s not his role.

Just like it is with Joe Johnson. For all of the value that modern statistics and those of those of us who support such analysis place in efficiency, it’s not the  only route to the cookie jar, so to speak. There is an element in play where inefficient, volume scoring can help your team be more efficient. I’m going to get back to Joe, but let’s take one more detour.

The Houston Rockets are an incredibly smart, incredibly efficient team with heavy empirical emphasis on decision making. They’re currently ranked 13th in offensive efficiency despite injuries yada yada yada. Trevor Ariza is their third highest player in adjusted plus/minus. Ariza takes a gazillion bad shots. I watch it, and it’s like everything I thought about Ariza despite his little flash and dazzle for eight games in the playoffs has come true. His PER is 13.98.  As of Monday, HoopData.com has the PER average for all players at 14.24. If you use a Hollinger-like qualifier of 5 min per game (Hollinger uses 6.09 mpg), it’s 13.73. He’s barely above the league average. Ariza is 8th in TS% on the Rockets. But he’s second in attempts per game.  Bryant is fourth in TS%, 1st in attempts, as a comparison.

So is this simply a matter of one guy gunning on a team and his team being able to survive? I mean, clearly with Bryant it’s not. And with the Rockets, while I would certainly like Ariza to ease up on the trigger, to a large degree he can’t. Because someone has to absorb those possessions. You can make great passes all day long, and you can work hard to get to the rim, and you can do all the things that smart, efficient, effective teams do, but you’re still going to need someone willing to shoot to provide volume scoring. And Kobe is the absolute best at this. His game has improved to where he’s awesome at everything. Please don’t misunderstand this as me trying to isolate his talents, Lakers fans. I’m just saying this, like a couple other things, is something he does better than anyone.  He takes up possessions and creates volume scoring.And in that pursuit, you’re going to end up with a lot of contested shots, to bring us back to the PeachTree Hoops article.

Kobe’s number one on his team in Usage. By about a mile. Ariza is sixth, but he also doesn’t do much else besides shoot, and among heavy minute players, he’s third. Joe Johnson is first in usage on the Hawks. And these are players that really do tend to be the difference maker in games (well, not so much Ariza, but he’s mostly being paid to be what TMac’s supposed to be, and sucking at it). I’m a big believer in the idea that getting back to what Krolik talked about, high efficiency shots are at the rim and three pointers and low efficiency shots are mid-range jump shots. But if you have guys who can knock that down consistently, they’re going to break that defensive effort. After all, if you play terrific defense, and force the other team in to a low percentage shot time after time, and he hits it time after time, then what’s happened? You’ve taken the high percentage route and ended up with a low percentage result. But these players are guys who can tip that balance. And when so many basketball games are won in a handful of possessions (how many three to four possession games do you see?), it’s that ability to create volume scoring which not only increases your chance of winning, but will open up things for your offense and force the other team to adjust and so on and so on.

Johnson’s in a weird position because so often the Hawks offense will stall out and he just goes into gunner mode. And he’ s not just launching three pointers or PUJs, he’s driving, trying to draw fouls, trying to create. But he’s not elite at it, like Kobe is, like so few players are. But yet what he does is valuable to the Hawks. Nay, it’s necessary. In the realm of things that aren’t the best you can do, but that you have to do, you have to put the best person you can in that position. Superstars are guys that can take those low-percentage opportunities and capitalize on them at a high percentage.

Or maybe I’m just daft and Johnson and Ariza jack it up too much and Kobe just shoots the brains out of anything. That’s possible too.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Mike Woodson’s Getting It Gleefully

I have not liked Mike Woodson the whole time he has been coach. Through five years, I have only begrudgingly given him props for not screwing up. Even now, he is the last main cog for me to give my trust to. Still, with that baggage of disdain still dragging behind me, I read quotes like this one and cannot help but feel that weird feeling in the pit of your stomach I believe most people call “respect.”

via Quotes, links, and thoughts bursting with unknown feelings. – Peachtree Hoops.

This year for Mike Woodson so far is like seeing your cousin who dropped out of high school get a really good job and get his or her life back on track. You doubted them the entire way and you feel like kind of a jerk, but you’re also really happy because he/she had a lot of bad things happen to them.

Atlanta fans, something to consider.

Three years ago, every Boston Celtics fan would tell you that Doc Rivers was one of the worst coaches in the league, the biggest problem they had an a gigantic bum. Now they will lay down in the street for him.

Also, two years ago, Mike Brown was considered an absolutely wretched coach and last year was coach of the year (start the countdown to him getting fired).

The gap between the two is not that wide, and Mike Woodson has had less to work with than either of them, in a bad ownership situation with constant talk of him being fired. There’s lots about Woodson’s job I don’t think has been great. But the way he’s handled it has been downright inspiring. He’s like the anti-Don Nelson.

Lion Face/Lemon Face 11.19.09

You know, if only there were a video clip that explains this concept…HIT IT, MATT AND BEN!

Lion Face: He Eats Apples, Red Delicious, And They Must Be Nutritious, Because He Never Misses, He’s Dirkalicious

The old is new is old is new again.

Old Man Nowitzki is an MVP candidate. Mark it. They’re not made in November, but he’s done enough to go ahead and etch his name on the list. 41 and 12 for the big man, and no need for assists, since the possession ended with him. 15 of 29, nabbing 41 with only one three. That’s bezerk, given his range. Moreover, his play down the stretch wasn’t just nailing shots in his wheelhouse. The tip to put them up two at the end of regulation was heady. The and-one drives he nabbed late were just gritty work that you don’t expect from him but he looked confident in nailing. He’s got the electrifying thing going where he touches the ball and the whole building, the concession guys and the announcers hold their breath. Brilliant work, tonight, and he was the reason the Mavs won that game. Catch the Nowitzki Experience, coming to your town soon.

Lemon Face: The Cleveland Cavaliers Basketball Organization

Man, where to start. Mo Williams, reverting back to, um, Mo Williams at 2 of 13 for 6 points? J.J. Hickson plummeting back to earth with 6 points? How about Lebron? Surely his 34 and 9 is enough to warrant him another excuse from lemon face discipline! Not so fast, my leige. How about 6 turnovers, 4 fouls, and getting blocked once? Oh, no, we’re not done. How about complaining about the officiating after getting your ass handed to you? Seriously, did dominating a tired Hawks team in the 2nd round last year just make him think he’s supposed to win all the time, and if he doesn’t he gets to act like John Cusack at a media session? But more than James is this. This was not a rivalry. It wasn’t. The Wizards hated the Cavs and the Cavs ignored the Wizards and that’s hot it was. But somehow, someway, Cleveland has managed to lower itself to Washington’s level, and now, folks? After a creaming like this? It’s a rivalry. And even though the Cavs have owned them historically and have matchup advantages all over, rivalries are a weird thing. And they have a strange way of biting you in the ass when you least expect it. Like, oh, say, tonight.

Lion Face: Antawn Jamison

31, 10, and a win over their rival ain’t a bad way to welcome them back to the game. Now if the Wizards can just, you know, keep this momentum and keep playing like this instead of doing what they did the last time they won a big game (opening night) and wandering around in their own poo. Maybe Jamison really is the heart and soul of that team, and he just needed a role player like Zero around to support him. Maybe that’s the secret of the Wiz. Id (Butler, Ego (Jamison) and Super-Ego (Arenas) all together at last. Enhance. Clickety clickety. Enhance.

Lemon Face: The Toney Douglas Experiment

So much for the youngster coming in and making an impact. Gets the start and rolls out 12 minutes, 4 points, and 2 fouls before being banished once more. I’d blame D’Antoni for not playing him more, but you have to get the feeling the word’s come down that AI is incoming and while they weren’t going to scrap the plan an hour before gametime, Douglas was going to have to woo. No woo.

Lion Face: Al Harrington

Hey, I’m an Al guy, and I know his limitations and problems and all the reasons to hate him. But 26 on 13 shots (!) in 30 minutes is Lion Facey, especially when it results in a rare win for them thar Knickerbockers. He’s only good for about three of those a year, but when he’s good, he’s great, in a, you know, Al Harrington way. <3 U, Al.

Lemon Face: Anyone that elected to watch Philly versus Charlotte.

I’m all for mediocre basketball. I am. There were no winners there. May God have mercy on your soul.

Lion Face: Joe Johnson, I mean, Josh Smith, I mean, Al Horford, I mean, oh, hell. THE ATLANTA HAWKS AGAIN.

You know how you’d see Johnson go Nova, and say “Man, if they could just get someone, anyone else producing for him, they’d be pretty good.”?And then you’d see Smith do something incredible and say “Man, if only he could play consistently with a modicum of intelligence and have some artillery support, they’d be pretty great!”? It’s all coming together. Johnson wasn’t having one of his “pull it out of his backside” nights like against Portland the other night. This was work. Pump faking, range shooting, defender slipping, screen using work. And Smith? Hold on, you might want to sit down. You ready? Josh Smith…

used the low post. I know. I’m not ready for this world either. I don’t care that he was up against Beasley and Shavlik Randolph. It’s the fact that it actually occurred to him. Strike up the banjo, billy ray! We got ourselves a hoedown!

Lemon Face: The Portland 4th Quarter

I don’t know what happened, since I was watching the main game, so I’ll let Blazers fans fill me in. Not paying attention? Just went cold? Lost your damn fool minds? Letting Detroit put up 31 to your 17 and letting them make a game of it is just dangerous. That’s Ben Gordon over there. Watch yourselves. This is a minor lemon face, because you did hold them to 12 points in the third, but still! Finish, people, finish! Step and turn and one and two and JAZZ HANDS! FINISH!

Lion Face: Marc Gasol, AKA the best player on the Grizzlies

Gasol finished with 16, 8, 6 with 1 steal and 2 blocks in the elusive win over the Clippers, which makes this game like the slow hyena that can’t control its vocal chords chasing down the elk that feasts on McDonalds leftovers. Except that would be in Africa, so leftovers are unlikely. Hmm. Fine then, this is like me managing to get through that analogy successfully. Regardless, Gasol only needed 8 shots tonight, and he’s the one Grizzlie player that works the whole game through. Imagine what he’d be lke on a real team with real coaching. Don’t worry though, at least the Grizzlies know what they have with him enough not to draft a center with their #2 pick.

Lemon Face: Indiana

You lost to a team that is excited and hopeful about AI coming in. Time to re-evaluate that hot streak, there, buckos.

It’s Always The Quiet Ones

Whenever the subject turns to the embarrassment of riches that will hit the market in July, names like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudemire are tossed around frequently. Rarely is Johnson’s name included on those lists.

It should be. Johnson’s accomplishments are impressive. He has averaged at least 20 points per game in each of the last four seasons and is averaging 21 points through eight games this year. He led a young Hawks team to its first playoff appearance in nine years in 2007-08 and helped Atlanta advance to the conference semifinals last season.

“He’s a very, very good basketball player,” said Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni, who coached Johnson for 1½ seasons in Phoenix.

via Hawks’ Joe Johnson an NBA free-agent prize few are mentioning – Chris Mannix – SI.com.

As blank-canvas as all the free agents are in the interest of not risking tampering, lowering their value, or causing trouble, even among that group, I feel like Johnson’s harder to read than others. For instance, if the Knicks can’t put together a squad to entice LeBron, he’s not going, because he wants to win AND be a global-icon (or perhaps the former is the only gateway he sees for the latter). With Wade, you can tell that winning is the most important element to him. He had too much of the sweet nectar early on and now is fiending for it. But Johnson, you can’t really tell. He wanted to stay in Phoenix, but he wanted to be the man, but he’s not really outspoken, but he seems to constantly be unhappy with the win totals…

I look at Johnson and see the possibility of a younger Ray Allen type scenario. Could you not see Johnson shocking everyone and taking less money to go somewhere and be a part of something amazing? Then on the other hand, he’s really close to his Arkansas roots and doesn’t seem to want to go far from the South. Seriously, more than anyone, Johnson’s the X-Factor in 2010.

Lion Face/Lemon Face 11.16.09: So about the weekend…

Sorry for no update over the weekend, but Brandon Jennings, you know, the Pterodactyl with wings of fire, put me into a coma that I was unable to recover from until just this morning.

With that…

LION FACE: Brandon Jennings

His crossover pull-up three while the offense is resetting is his worst shot. Most of his other shots are pretty admissible. He tends to rocket around perimeter picks in transition and attack the basket because, well, no one’s there. And if you have the baseline and no one’s defending, why wouldn’t you attack? … Okay, let’s say you’re not Steve Blake/Kirk Hinrich/Derek Fisher/Jose Calderon. You see an opening, you go for it, right? The one-hand runner in the lane? His spacing’s good enough to excuse the fact that he’s got defenders closing. He’s not pulling the Ben Gordon “Wait for them to close, THEN take the runner!” approach. He’s measuring the fact that he’s got the space to get the shot off, and he’s taking it. But that pull-up three is pretty unforgivable. I mean, there’s just now way that can be an efficient shot for hi… 85% eFG from three.  It’s not going to keep falling. That’s definitely true. But until it does stop falling, I can’t blame the kid for shooting it. Especially the way he’s shooting it. I’ve seen guys shoot those in the “Watch me make this, biotch!” way. Jennings isn’t shooting that. The release is almost straight forward, like a catapult. He’s leaning out, to the point where he’s almost saying “Go on. Block me. I dare ya. I double dare ya. I got propositioned by a Serbian goat herder in Europe, you think your 33-year-old veteran ass scares me? Block me.”

One of my favorite things to watch is when a team embraces a rookie. And you can tell this Bucks team, at least right now, is very much in the “Holy Crap, we’ve got something here” mode. Maybe that’ll change when Redd gets back or when Jennings is shooting 30% when he hits the wall. But right now it’s fun to watch. I like the veterans supporting a rookie versus dismissing him. Beyond that, there’s something to be said for where the Bucks are at with this kid. They’ve gotten to an altitude where they can see something. Jennings as a superstar. A superstar in Milwaukee. His play through the very, very young season is the stuff that inspires dreams of a franchise becoming relevant. Look no future than BrewHoop, home of what I consider to be some of the best, yet bleakest fans in the NBA. You can talk about Boston fans being negative after years of other-sport trauma, or Chicago and its continual hangover from the MJ-parade, but Bucks fans are like the elves in Harry Potter. It’s like they almost don’t believe they’re worthy of being considered as valuable. They’re just the Bucks. But Jennings can change all that, if this isn’t a mirage.

The line between boom and bust is thin, just like the line between good shot and bad shot is dependent on if the guy makes it.

Lemon Face: The Los Angeles Lakers

…You know what? They’re without Pau Gasol, Kobe’s banged up, they’re still integrating Artest, and it’s November. I’ll give ‘em a pass. Lemon Face for the effort and lack of focus, but it’s a “too much lime in the gin and tonic” not “biting into the lemon” face.

Lion Face: Atlanta

Oh, Atlanta. I wish you’d do this in April and not November. Atlanta’s fourth in efficiency differential right now. They’ve simply got too much firepower. In years past, the objective was to isolate Joe Johnson, limit Bibby, frustrate Josh Smith, and you’d pretty much have them solved. Except now, with Crawford, they’re able to get buckets when those things aren’t working, and that’s before you’ve got the extra possessions the Hawks are creating right now. An interesting note: Crawford was brought in to spell Johnson, to take away the ability of the defense to relax when Joe needs a rest. But in the Boston game, the Hawks were +19 when Johnson and Crawford were on the floor at the same time. If you have two guys like Smith and Horford who are such great rebounders and you’re not drawing fouls on them, the Hawks can put in Bibby-Johnson-Crawford and just overwhelm you with scoring. It’s like having archers attack the gates while the cavalry is at the gates with a battering ram. You can’t address both attacks at once.  They’ll get figured out and go back to struggling here in a month or so, but for right now, it’s kind of awesome that the Hawks are winning big games against quality opponents and strutting.

Lemon Face:  Boston Celtics

CelticsHub did a breakdown of the Celtics’ issues with pace and discovered something startling. The Celtics are losing games when they control the tempo and winning games when the opponent controls. Could mean nothing, but that’s still pretty weird. The issues I’m seeing are mainly with perimeter defense. The Celtics have been incredibly successful the last few years in packing the lane and forcing you into long-range shots. Essentially, no dunks allowed. But it’s almost as if the perimeter defense is so committed to that that they’re willing to let perimeter shots be taken with no defensive deterrent. In their last four games, one convincing win, two losses, and a stinker win against the lowly God-hated Nets, the Celtics have been terrible at three poitn defense, excluding the Utah cruise. Utah shot 0% from the arc, which is a whole Lemon Face in and of itself. In the Nets, Hawks, and Pacers games? You’re looking at 46%, 27% (not bad), and 50% to the Pacers. You can cut off dribble penetration all you want, but in this league, you do have to run off three point shooters. You’d think the Celtics would have learned that last year from, oh, I don’t know, the Orlando series.

Lion Face: Rudy Fernandez

10 points doesn’t sound like a great game from Rudy, but throw in 7 rebounds and his team-second-best 60% eFG in their win over Charlotte and that’s a deceptively good game. It’s too bad that the Trailblazers are so committed to stockpiling and then burying great talent, because Portland’s bench would be a more fun team to watch than Memphis at this point.

Lemon Face: God’s vendetta against the New Jersey Nets

Seriously. I get getting Wade’d. It happens to everyone. But to get Wade’d after battling back and being 0-10? What have they done, oh, Lord? Why have you forsaken them so?

Lion Face: The Will Bynum Show featuring the Detroit Pistons

I haven’t given the Pistons love, and to be honest, it’s going to be hard with Ben Gordon still holding possessions hostage. He knows what to do with them, but watching his ISO play just irks me. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that the Pistons are banged up, outmanned, and still winning games, or being right there in every game. They lost a tough one to the Mavericks last night essentially because Gordon couldn’t get squared up on a the high pick and pull-up that he’s hit about a bajillion times in his career, but before that had been winning impressively. Bynum has been fantastic, and they may feature the best backcourt in the NBA outside of Boston.

Lemon Face: Toronto’s Defense

This team could be so good. And it just doesn’t work hard enough. There are some teams that are simply without guys capable of quality defense. And there are some teams who aren’t coached to play defense at all (Warriors). And then there’s the Raptors, who are incessantly frustrating because the just won’t try hard enough to do what they need to. They could be a top five team in the East, and maybe they’ll get there. But right now, there’s no one on this team who has put it all together defensively, and that includes Chris Bosh.