Tag Archives: Shane Battier

LION FACE/LEMON FACE 6/21/13: GAME 7

Good things come to those who wait. From October through June we collectively watched 1,314 games of NBA basketball this year. Some were good, and some were bad. Some were awful, and some were downright legendary.  All of it culminated last night in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. It’s the game that every kid in their backyard dreams of playing in growing up, and we got to witness it in all of its sweet, sweet glory last night. This is the hardest Lion Face, Lemon Face column I have ever had to write not just because it’s the last one of the year, but because if I had my pick, both teams would have won last night. The fact that there was a winner and loser, heroes and goats, lion faces and lemon faces absolutely kills me. But what has to be done has to be done, so let’s get to it.

Lion Face: LeBron James

Big time players make big time plays in big time games. In the NBA, there is no bigger game than Game 7, and in today’s NBA, there is no bigger player than LeBron James. LeBron was absolutely sensational tonight delivering a Game 7 performance that will, or at least should, put together the debate on whether or not he’s “clutch” or not. In between Games 5 and 6, parody site Sports Pickle re-ran a post that they had previously developed titled “Pocket Guide For Criticizing LeBron James in Any Situation”. It poked fun at the numerous lines that fans and media alike could use in order to create a no win scenario for LeBron that was designed to be used no matter what kind of performance he turned in during the course of a game. The second statement on that list read “If LeBron has a big 4th quarter and leads his team to victory…say ‘Big deal. It’s only the regular season. Let’s see him do it in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.’” LeBron’s line in the fourth quarter alone last night? Just your casual 9-5-2-2 line including an absolute dagger 19 footer with 27 seconds remaining to push the lead to 92-88 and finally ice the series for Miami. Mission: Accomplished. He ended the game with 37 points and 12 rebounds; the 37 points are the most points ever scored in a Game 7 Finals win tying Boston’s Tommy Heinsohn in 1957 so you can go ahead and give LeBron both a championship ring and a Tommy Point for last night’s effort.

Lemon Face: Manu Ginobili

It’s never a good sign when you get a text in the fourth quarter of Game 7 of the NBA Finals from a friend asking you what the record is for turnovers in a seven game series. While Ginobili, 22 turnovers through the seven games, didn’t come close to matching Charles Barkley’s in the 1986 Eastern Conference Semifinals v. Milwaukee (37 turnovers!), it sure felt like the ones he did make came at the most inopportune times in the ball game. Last night, he turned the ball over four times, all of them occurring in the final period of play, including a brutal attempted jump pass on the baseline with San Antonio trailing by 4 with 23 seconds remaining which once and for all finally extinguished any hope that the Spurs had of making a miracle comeback of their own.  While it would have been a fairy tale ending for Manu’s career to go out with a title, instead he is left wondering just what went wrong in his final games.

Lion Face: Kawhi Leonard

In a game featuring at least 6 future Hall of Fame inductees, it was Kawhi Leonard (and as I am contractually obligated to mention, his catcher mitt sized hands) who stole the show for San Antonio last night. Any lesser player would have crumbled after missing a critical free throw late in the potential championship winning Game 6 but the 21 year old Leonard responded with a monster 19 points and 16 rebounds in Game 7. As Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker fade into the twilight of their careers, the future in San Antonio continues to appear bright with Leonard leading the way.

Lemon Face: Chris Bosh

I know he played solid defense. I know he came up with seven rebounds including corralling Duncan’s missed tip-in that would have tied the game, but to put up a goose egg in the points column in Game 7 of the NBA Finals? That’s true Lemon Face material. God help him if Miami would have lost that game because I don’t see any possible way he would be on the Heat roster next year if San Antonio won and shut him down like that. Miami still faces a decision this offseason on whether or not to trade Bosh, but it will be excruciatingly difficult to break up a team that has reeled off two consecutive titles.

Lion Face: Shane Battier

We may never see the adage that role players tend to play great at home and are dicey on the road more than this series. After earning a couple of DNP’s in the Indiana series, Battier turned in scoring lines of 0, 3, 0, 2, 7, and 9 points through the first six games of the series. Coming into last night, he has hardly thought of as an X Factor. But fittingly, in a series that proved to be as difficult to predict from game to game as any other we’ve ever seen, Battier responded with an NBA Jam style hot hand shooting display knocking down six threes in eight attempts on his way to the biggest 18 point game of his life. For the second straight year, the Heat rode to a title in a championship clinching game thanks to one of their shooters going unconscious from beyond the arc. Last year it was Mike Miller’s 7-8 from long distance, 23 point game that proved to be the difference in Game 5 against Oklahoma City. It one of those nights where you in the first half he was going to have a Lion Face game, and he didn’t disappoint. Between his insane three point shooting and cerebral interviews, who could have guessed that a guy from the most hated college in America playing on the most hated NBA team could be, dare I say, likeable?

Lemon Face: Danny Green

For as good as Shane Battier was as a role player, Danny Green was equally as bad for San Antonio. For a stretch during the first five games, it appeared that we were headed for one of the most unlikely Finals MVPs of all time as Green was turning three point attempts seemingly into layups by breaking the record for triples in an NBA Finals just five games into the series. At this point in the series, Cavs fans and other NBA fans alike were quick to criticize the Cleveland organization wondering how they could possibly let a player like this slip through their grasp. Well, now we know. Unfortunately for Green and the Spurs, the clock struck midnight on his Cinderella story sometime between the end of Game 5 and beginning of Game 6 as he would go on to shoot a ghastly 10.5% from the field (18% from 3) over the course of Games 6 and 7 in Miami. Even despite how cringe worthy poor he was last night, he nearly changed the complexion of the game just over midway through the fourth quarter. Following a Manu Ginobili three pointer that cut Miami’s lead to 85-82 with 4:20 to go in the game, Green stole Dwyane Wade’s entry pass and launched a 3. A make would have tied the game as part of an 8-2 run in the course of 45 seconds and conceivably could have changed the complexion of the game. Alas, it was not to be as the shot missed, and the next score came a couple of possessions later from Shane Battier who knocked down a 3 and pushed the lead to six. We’ll always have Games 1-5 Danny Green. We’ll always have Games 1-5.

Lion Face: Mario Chalmers Shot

The Spurs were set to head into the fourth quarter with the lead. They would have been 12 minutes away from only having to match the Heat point for point in order to win the title. And then Mario Chalmers happened. It gave the Heat the lead and the momentum heading into what proved to be the final period of the NBA season. In a game where we got the entire Wario AND Mario Chalmers experience, this was one of the biggest shots of Chalmers’ career.

Lemon Face: Tim Duncan’s Shot

GIF via @SBNationGIF

Tim Duncan could retire right now with four championship rings, $200+ million in salary earned throughout his career, and the title of Greatest Power Forward Ever to Play the Game, but you can bet that he is going to be rehashing that missed tip shot in his nightmares for the conceivable future. With a chance to tie the game at 90 with under one minute to go in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Duncan missed both a hook shot and the subsequent tip in. Eons from now when people are browsing Wikipedia version 1239.1 on their super computers, they are going to see on the surface that this turned out to be an eight point game and, without reading a game story, not fully recognize that we were that close to having a tie game in Game 7 with each team having only a couple of possessions remaining to decide a champion.

Lion Face: NBA Fans

If someone had told you that this Finals would produce four games decided by double digits, including a 36 point blowout in one of those games, and yet it would still prove to be one of the best and most memorable Finals we have ever seen, how confused would you be? Your allowable answers are A) Very B) Really and C) Extremely. Luckily, that’s exactly what we got over the course of the past couple of weeks:  two teams that threw absolute haymakers at one another for seven straight games. For the rest of our lives, we’ll remember these Finals for Tony Parker’s incredible shot to put away Game 1, Danny Green going absolutely bananas in San Antonio, Ray Allen’s shot from the corner and Miami incredible comeback in Game 6, and LeBron James’ ultimate Game 7, but the chess match that was engineered on a game to game basis between these two teams was just as exciting. The constant adjustments needed on both ends to even get a result where no team through six games had won consecutive contests was incredible to watch. It was an honor and a privilege to watch that basketball series for seven games, and I think we all, Miami fans excluded, wish that it could have gone at least seven more.

From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of all NBA fans, thank you to the Heat, Spurs, and NBA for giving us this series. It was, as Zach Harper and Tim Bontemps described on their Eye on Basketball podcast earlier this week, the equivalent of basketball porn. And thank you all for your constant support of us here at Hardwood Paroxysm throughout the season. It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in a Panera Bread at lunch putting the finishing touches on my 15 Footer game preview for October 30, the opening night of the year. Time flies when you’re having fun, and we had a whole lot of fun here over the past eight months. Can’t wait to do it again next year.

Statistical Anomaly: Heat @ Wizards

Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Statistical Anomaly is a series where we explore all the mathematical nuances you may not have noticed watching the game the first time. Today, Kyle waxes Euclidian on the end of the Wizards home win streak at the hands of the starless Miami Heat.

Shane Battier nailed five three pointers and didn’t even bother attempting a two point field goal against the Wizards, continuing to fill his specific role even with Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwayne Wade in street clothes. He has made a two pointer in only one of his last ten games (21 made baskets, 19 of which have been three pointers). He’s always been a player who has relied on the three point shot, but never at the rate of this season. Here’s a look at the percentage of Battier’s buckets that have come behind the three point line by season for his 12 year career.

Battier

 He’s not the best player on the Heat, but he could be the most irreplaceable. Miami’s stars can cover for each other if one goes down with an injury, but the combination of defense and long range shooting from Battier is rare. Battier was a big reason why the Heat won a title last year and they will be counting on his nightly contribution (pigeonholed as it may be) in a big way.

Speaking of role players, Chris Anderson is another player who is in the perfect situation. Despite increased minutes, The Birdman failed to record a bucket in Washington. The Heat have lost only three games with Anderson in the lineup, and he has averaged 122% more baskets per 48 minutes in those games than in the 35 games Miami has won with him protecting the paint. Anderson enters every game with minimal pressure on the offensive end, allowing him to impact the game in other ways. Miami’s role players may not get the attention of their trio of Hall Of Famers, but without the strong play off of the pine, the stars would be putting up better numbers for a worse team.

Recall that last season John Wall produced one of the all time worst 3P% for a starter (7.1%). The Wizards point guard has showed more discipline, at times, this season, allowing him gain explore his potential. In April, Wall is averaging an outstanding 32.3 points in games in which he doesn’t attempt a triple (winning two of three). Unfortunately for Wizards fans, Wall wandered outside of the three point line against Miami, lowering his probable output. He is averaging 17.7 in such April games, with the Wizards yet to emerge victorious. He will not turn 23 years old until September, making his ceiling limitless if he can figure out the three point shot.

AJ Price played more than 28 minutes, nearly assuring the Wizards of a loss. Since Valentine ’s Day of 2011, AJ Price’s team has lost 16 of 17 games in which he attempts at least 10 shots, and given his career average of 0.3571 shots per minute, 28 minutes is the cut off. He isn’t a very efficient scorer (37.7% career FG%), so it follows that the more shots he takes, the less likely his team is to succeed.  Price is a nice insurance policy for Wall, but he seems to be destined for a career reserve role, as the 26 year old has been unable to prove himself as a reliable PG option. Maybe a position change would help, but with Wall and now Bradley Beal occupying both backcourt slots in Washington for the foreseeable future, it would have to happen for another team.

Drive and Dish: The League’s Best 3-and-D Guys

In today’s NBA, with players downshifting positions and with quickness, length and versatility at a premium, the “3-and-D” wing is becoming more necessity than luxury. Role players who know their place, play within the system, provide spacing on one end and muck it up on the other are incredibly valuable in a league that is becoming increasingly conscious of its spatial qualities. With that in mind, I recently set out to determine a set of criteria that would allow me to pinpoint the league’s best “3-and-D” players this season.

The criteria is inherently subjective, of course, but I felt it provided a nice guideline for what should be considered the typical “3-and-D” player. We’ll start with the offensive criteria, because figuring out which defensive metrics to use and in what combination was a little more difficult.

Games played ≥ 40

3PA/gm ≥ 3.0

3PT% ≥ 37.0%

USG ≤ 20.0

This set of criteria narrowed the list down to players who have appeared in at least two-thirds of their team’s games this season, have a sizable enough offensive role–as measured by 3PA per game–to be considered a valuable contributor, but don’t have a big enough role–as measured by USG–that they can really be considered a foundational offensive player. The 37.0% cut-off is undoubtedly arbitrary, as the rest of the criteria are, but the line had to be drawn somewhere. The league average 3PT% for “swingmen” who have averaged at least 20 minutes per game and appeared in at least 40 games so far this season is 37.4%, per HoopData, so 37.0% seemed like a reasonable cut-off point.

That set of offensive criteria yielded this list of 23 names:

3-and-D 1

A pretty solid list, even if some of the players one might consider typical “3-and-D” types were left out. JJ Redick had too high a usage rate (20.2), Kawhi Leonard (36.1%) and Matt Barnes (35.7%) narrowly missed the 3PT% cut-off, Quincy Pondexter (2.8) of the Grizzlies didn’t have enough attempts per game, etc. Again, the line had to be drawn somewhere.

This is where it got tougher, though. With no truly reliable all-in-one defensive metric available, I decided to use a combination of a three different things.

First, mySynergySports‘ points per play (PPP) rankings. The average PPP allowed for the group of 23 players was 0.89, so I set the cut-off for this metric at a nice, round 0.90. Anyone below (fewer is better in defensive PPP) that number got a check in their box; anyone above did not. 

Next was on-court defensive rating, or the amount of points per 100 possessions the player’s team allows when he is on the court.Any player’s team that allowed 2.0 points per 100 possessions fewer with that player on the court than off got a check in their box; anyone who’s team did not, did not.  

And last was on-court defensive rating as compared to the league average. If the player’s team allowed a better than league average points per 100 possessions when he was on the court, he received a check in his box; players whose team allowed a below average points per 100 possessions mark with him on the court did not. 

Only two of the 23 players checked all three of those boxes, though three more came very close. Nine players checked two of three boxes, eight checked one of three, and four checked none at all. For the purposes of this exercise, I eliminated from competition those who checked either zero boxes or one box from the running for “best 3-and-D guy.” That list: Carlos Delfino, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson, Dorell Wright, Jared Dudley, Jodie Meeks, Jose Calderon, Mike Dunleavy, Randy Foye, Ray Allen, Steve Novak and Wesley Matthews.

The final contenders:

3-and-D 2

A few surprises (Korver, Terry, Salmons, in particular), but also a bunch of names that seem to fit most people’s general idea of what a “3-and-D” player is. The league’s 1st (Oklahoma City), 2nd (Miami), 4th (Houston) and 6th (San Antonio) most efficient offenses account for six–Parsons, Green, Chalmers, Battier, Sefolosha, and Morris, who spent most of his season in Houston before being shipped to Phoenix at the trade deadline–of the 11 players on this final list. I’d bet most people could guess one of the two players who checked all three boxes on the aforementioned defensive criteria (Battier), but would be hard-pressed to figure out the other.

3-and-D 3

That’s right. Kyle Korver. Knowing what we do about Korver’s defensive capabilities, as well as those of some of the other players on this list, a few obvious concerns arise.

First, the “better than league average” mandate is biased toward players on good defensive teams. Dudley is a far better defender both on the ball and positionally than Korver, Steve Novak or Jason Terry, but he gets dinged because the Suns team he plays on is so terrible defensively, even though they are 4.2 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court than off. Meanwhile, Korver benefits from playing big minutes with Al Horford, Josh Smith and Jeff Teague.

The on/off defensive rating mandate is seemingly biased against players on good defensive teams whose teams stay good on defense whether that player is on or off the floor: Danny Green’s 98.7 on-court D-Rtg is the fourth best in the group, yet San Antonio’s defense has been so good this year that they’re actually better when he’s off the court. The same is the case for George Hill of the Pacers, who has the best on-court D-Rtg in the sample. By contrast, John Salmons’ 106.8 on-court D-Rtg is the second worst in the group, yet he checked that box because the Kings are so atrocious on defense.

Points per play isn’t exactly the best measure of individual defense, as an unknown proportion of it is dependent on the rest of the players on the floor, it is subject to the whims of Synergy’s trackers, and sometimes players take stupid shots against terrible defenders, thus lowering the PPP allowed of said terrible defender.

In the end though, Battier seems as good a choice as any to represent the elite “3-and-D” man. His contributions in those two areas were a huge part of Miami’s championship run last June, and he’s continued right on doing it throughout this season. Green, Parsons, Hill, Webster, Sefolosha… these guys all fit the bill as well, but there may not be anyone who embodies the ethos more than Battier.

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  • I really enjoyed this piece by Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo!’s Ball Don’t Lie blog about taking his family to an NBA game for the first time.
  • I got into this a little bit last night on Twitter, but I’ll say it again here: I’d vote for Anthony Davis for Rookie of the Year, today, if I had a vote. Lillard’s played nearly 1,000 more minutes, averages more points and assists per game, and is on a team that is technically in the playoff hunt, but I just think Davis has been better when he’s been on the court. His per-minute production, efficiency and defense give him an edge that Lillard’s heavier minutes load isn’t big enough to overcome, at least for me. I also don’t think–and never have thought–that  team success should be a category in individual awards voting, least of all Rookie of the Year, which is ostensibly about who the best rookie was throughout the season, not which rookie happened to have good teammates. LaMarcus Aldridge, Nic Batum and even JJ Hickson have played sizable roles in making Portland a playoff “contender,” (they’re three games back with 18 to play) and I’m not sure it’s even arguable that Lillard’s been more important than either Aldridge or Batum, not with his defensive shortcomings. Davis hasn’t been a defensive monster from day one like many–including myself–thought he would be, but he’s been solid enough, and worlds better than Lillard in that regard. He’s struggled a bit with the speed of pick-and-rolls, but his positioning has been good and he’s clearly gotten a better grasp of things as the year has gone on. He’s also managed to average a combined 3.8 steals and blocks per-36 minutes in the meantime. He draws more free throws per minute, shoots a far better percentage from the floor and has a much higher PER and even a higher offensive rating despite a lower usage rate. Lillard’s been good. Davis has been better. I think.
  • The Knicks have officially drifted into ridiculous territory with their handling of injuries. This Mike Woodson interview with Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco is just 14 minutes worth of “Yikes.” Why does this team even have a medical staff if they’re going to let players decide whether or not they play? Why do they have a medical staff if players decide whether or not they will get their knee drained, or get tests on an injured body part? Why do they have a medical staff if the minutes limits set by said staff will be blown by without regard for player safety (as happened with Amar’e Stoudemire, who played at least 30 minutes in three consecutive games, including both ends of a back-to-back before having a regular season-ending debridement procedure)? It’s not like the Knicks didn’t bring this on themselves, though. When you take a core trio whose injury history ranges from “always banged up somehow” (Carmelo Anthony) to “degenerative knee condition” (Stoudemire) and surround them with the oldest roster in league history, including more guys with injury-plagued pasts, guys are going to get hurt.

Statistical support for this story provided by NBA.com

Miami Heat Have Makers Market Cornered

Remember when the Oklahoma City Thunder “flipped the script” on the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals? Now it’s the Miami Heat turning the tables on the Thunder.

It’s all about role players stepping seamlessly into the role required to win. James Harden did exactly what OKC needed in order to down the Spurs and go to the NBA Finals. It doesn’t really matter what else you’ve done so long as you come to play when it matters most. Just ask Shane Battier.

Battier is to the Heat in these Finals what Harden was to the Thunder in the West finals, that role player filling a need when needed most.

In the Finals Battier is averaging what is for him a blistering rate of makes, almost exclusively from range, good for 14.3 points-per-game. He was paged, and answered. The last time Battier averaged that many PPG he was a rookie and the third-leading scorer on an awful Memphis Grizzlies squad.

Odds suggest Harden won’t continue to connect on only 40% of his field goals and 33% of his threes, unless he and coach Scott Brooks fail to properly adjust. And in the same vein how can Battier possibly keep on hitting 73% from the arc?

In the Finals, Miami has forced Harden to attempt roughly a quarter of his shots from 10 to 23 feet, with just 33.3 percent of his attempts coming from beyond the arc. While Harden is converting his shots at lower rates from practically every area of the court, the biggest victory for Miami’s defense has been to reallocate Harden’s attempts from his favorite zones — which, as noted, happen to be the most efficiency-rich areas of the court — to less favorable ones. In essence, they’ve replaced his shots from downtown and the free throw line with inefficient midrange jumpers.

-Neil Paine, ESPN Insider

Harden is an effective 3-point shooter and also very good near the basket. However, he has virtually no midrange game; a vast majority of his shot attempts occur at the rim or beyond the arc, not many occur in between.

-NY Times, shot chart

Most known for the corner three, Battier is hitting from Harden’s preferred spot most often in the Finals, only taking two spot-up threes from corners, making one of the pair. The majority of Battier’s 11 Finals makes have come from the wing on spot-ups, or on leak-outs to the top. Battier hasn’t missed a transition three opportunity yet, going a perfect 3-3. And he’s wide open every one of his 15 three attempts. Apparently Scott Brooks is a gambling man.

 

Via mySynergySports

Battier is currently the leader in the Finals clubhouse for three-point field goal percentage. No one since the data goes back to 1985 has ever hit 70% or better from three in the Finals on at least 15 attempts, although Isiah Thomas came awfully close.

Sure, Brooks can opt to try and chase him off of the line, but that’s at risk of leaving Miami’s three biggest threats roaming around wreaking havoc. And even if Battier does cool off last year’s 3-Point Shootout champ, James Jones, who can heat up in a hurry, will be waiting in the wings to take up any slack.

It’s not how many shots you take, it’s how many shots you make. Thus far, Miami has the makers market cornered, leaving them virtually unbeatable.

Andrew Bynum Is Not Your Role Model

Photo by trix0r from Flickr

As fans of the NBA, we observe players from the outside looking in, using a myopic fish-eye lens. We belittle individuals that we don’t know, using their style of play, spoken words, or rumored actions to justify our own insecurities. The ugly truth (in most cases) is that the public is envious of those select individuals with fame and fortune, and subconsciously hopes they will fail. Doing so strokes peoples’ egos and provides them with the satisfaction of knowing that their idols’ lives aren’t as perfect as once perceived.

To build up the NBA players (and other rich, famous individuals under public scrutiny) before they are viciously torn down, the public labels them as role models. The NBA falls under this umbrella of aggrandizing, as David Stern & Co. use 30-second ‘NBA Cares’ commercials (among other outlets) to constantly perpetuate the notion that their players are Utopian citizens.

This leads to a paradox of sorts, as some players, such as Derek Fisher or Shane Battier, deserve to be treated like exemplary individuals on paper, while others, such as Michael Beasley and Josh Howard, are clearly unworthy of such distinction. That’s not to say Beasley or Howard are immoral for their chronic use of marijuana (no pun intended), but it’s clear they’re not the people you want your children to imitate (unless, of course, you want your kids to be into that sort of thing).

If the players fulfill the public’s expectations, all is well, and they’re viewed as heroes; if the public’s expectations are unmet, the players suddenly become corrupt individuals incapable of handling the spotlight. This is a vicious circle that leads to displeasure on both parts; fans are constantly let down by the players they look up to, and players are crucified for anything they do that isn’t politically correct.

The problem stems from the fact that NBA players are put on pedestals that they shouldn’t be on in the first place. They aren’t doctors, firemen, policemen, teachers (or any other upstanding job) that serve the public and are properly trained to handle the responsibility of being a public role model (and even individuals in those professions have their own notable flaws and drawbacks). They are people trained to play basketball (and are very good at it). They get PR training as rookies and are basically forced to do charity work, but most players weren’t raised to become model citizens; it’s unnatural to them. Therefore, expectations should be lowered, not raised, unless of course a player continues to disappoint, with a particular trend. Unfortunately, Lakers’ center Andrew Bynum falls into this category.

That’s why it doesn’t surprise me when I read this:

LA Lakers center Andrew Bynum has allegedly been caught on camera parking his black BMW in not one, but two parking spots reserved for the handicapped.

The photos, provided exclusively to NBC4, were taken by an LA Parking Enforcement official at the upscale Bristol Farms Market in Playa del Rey.

NBC4 questioned Andrew Bynum, 23, about the alleged incident as he was getting into his car recently.

He slammed his car door and drove off without comment.

It appears the 7-foot-tall Laker, who makes $14 million a year, was breaking the law if he was parking in those spots. Violators who are ticketed are subject to a $353 fine.

Under the California Vehicle Code, drivers must display a disabled placard or disabled license plate to park in spaces designated for the disabled.

Bynum has not been issued either by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, NBC4 confirmed.

via NBC Los Angeles - Lakers Star Allegedly Caught Parking in Disabled Spaces

At first glance, one may conclude Andrew Bynum is the antithesis of a role model. And in fact that judgment is likely spot on. I mean, honestly, it’s not the biggest mishap in the entire world, but who has the indecency to park in not only one handicap spot, but two, without a placard? It’s just morally wrong. And after reading an L.A. Times piece from May (hat tip to Land O’ Lakers), we now know this is at least his second offense.

Through my accumulated knowledge of Bynum from around 2005 (when he was drafted by the Lakers), all accounts appear to claim that he’s a selfish, immature individual that feels a sense of entitlement, even more so than the average NBA player.  Now, I clearly don’t know him personally, meaning my analysis from afar could be completely inaccurate (supposedly he’s a very smart player who breaks down the game to a science). But as cliché as it sounds, where there’s smoke there’s fire, and there’s been a lot of smoke around Bynum recently (not in a Cheech and Chong kind of way).

Whether it’s committing several flagrant fouls with potential career-threatening ramifications, or publicly calling out his team’s brotherhood, Bynum is continuously defying authority. But not in a 1960s “the government sucks, let’s have sex and do drugs” type of way; it’s an “I don’t give a crap about anyone else” type of way.

This isn’t a personal attack on Bynum. I’m not condoning him and I’m not condemning him. Over the past few seasons, he’s been arguably my favorite player to watch on the Lakers, and I believe if healthy, he’s the league’s second best center behind Dwight Howard. So don’t take this the wrong way. I don’t think he’s a terrible person, I just think he makes questionable decisions on and off the court.

Bynum, like Beasley and Howard, is just one case of a player slowly disintegrating under the public’s eye. And if history is any indication, more players will fall susceptible to the same dangers. But who knows, maybe the players themselves aren’t to blame. Maybe it’s a lack of education, maybe it’s the environment the players were brought up in, or maybe people in general will continually mess up if you observe them close enough. Either way, some outside factor is to blame, even if we can’t place our finger on it.

Until fans and the media lower their expectations of players’ (and other entertainers) life choices, they’ll continually be disappointed. Now, don’t confuse this with me condoning the phrase “aim low” for your own personal life expectations; I’m not a pessimist. All I’m saying is don’t be so hard on athletes, they’re only human. Hold a microscope over anyone and you will find faults and blunders, you just need to look hard enough, which is what this new age of social media provides.

Certain athletes, like Bynum, give you a clear reason to doubt their virtuousness. For others, you’ll have to dig a little deeper. Either way, players will be judged for their course of action. Whether that’s right or wrong is irrelevant, it’s just how life is. I’m not adverse to judgment, as everyone has the right to their own opinion. All I’m saying is take basketball for what it is, a game. Players shouldn’t be held up to heroic standards, as they’ll continuously fail.

Lion Face/Lemon Face 03.04.2010: The Bill Walker Reclamation Project Edition

A full slate of games. 12 games of NBA scheduled and yet, we were mostly left disappointed. There were only three games that were decided by single digits and only two of those were good ones.

So while the schedule makers get a Lion Face for effort, the execution of the actual games definitely gets a Lemon Face.

Let’s turn to our judges to see if they concur:

Yep, the ruling is official. Now let’s get faced!

Lion Face: LeBron James
Check out this video of some highlights from the Cavs game against the Nets:

By the way, those were only highlights from the first half of this game. When it gets to these games between the Cavs and the dredges of the NBA like the Nets and Knicks, LeBron just seems to be messing around. And when he’s messing around, he’s giving us some of the most fun and insane highlights to go with what’s scarily becoming insanely normal stat lines for him. 26 points and 14 assists in 41 minutes for LeBron tonight. Wait, why did he play 41 minutes in a game in which the Cavs were manhandling the Nets from the get-go?

Lemon Face: Mike Brown
Act like a coach, MB, and sit your superstar when the game is in hand. Why risk the injury or put miles on the odometer with LeBron when it’s completely unnecessary? Don’t forget that you’re the coach and you get to say who is coming in and out of the game… in theory.

Lion Face: Orlando Magic Rebounding Domination
58 to 29 rebounding advantage over the Warriors? 16 offensive rebounds to the Warriors 29 TOTAL rebounds?

HULK SMASH!!!

Lemon Face: Top Rookie Point Guards
If you’re in the Top Three running for the 2010 Rookie of the Year award, you did not have a good Wednesday night. Brandon Jennings had just five points (on 2/12 shooting, 1/6 from three), six rebounds, five assists and six turnovers. But the Bucks won so that’s excusable. Stephen Curry scored nine points (on 3/12 shooting) and had seven assists to go with his five turnovers. He was also a -25 for the night in the Dubs’ blowout loss to the Magic. But worst of all definitely had to be Tyreke Evans. ‘Reke had nine points, eight rebounds and five assists to go with his one, single turnover. Doesn’t sound too bad especially considering they won, right? Wrong. He was dominated by Shane Battier all night and simply couldn’t get a shot to fall. He was 4/22 from the field, 0/4 from three and 1/3 from the free throw line. He nearly cost the Kings their sixth road victory of the year.

Lion Face: Shane Battier
Not only did Shane Battier manage to completely shut down what was thought to be a nearly unstoppable force in rookie Tyreke Evans but he also blocked seven shots in this game. His defense against Evans was flawless. He anticipated every single move that Tyreke made. Tyreke went to the spin move and Battier had already slid over. Evans tried to side step him to free up for a little runner in the key and Battier had his hands completely in the path of the ball. Wherever Tyreke went, Battier had already called ahead for reserved seating.

Lemon Face: The Kings-Rockets Game in General
On a night in which only three of the 12 games ended in a single-digit margin of victory, the Kings three-point win was clearly the worst of them all. The Kings refused to make shots and the Rockets refused to rebound and make shots. The Kings shot 32% from the field. The Rockets shot just 39% from the field while making only 22.7% from three and 61% from the charity stripe. They also allowed the Kings to grab 24 offensive rebounds, which factored into the Kings taking 23 more shots in this game than the Rockets did. In fact, the Kings attempted 100 shots total in this game, which is kind of insane. Plus there were only 31 combined points scored in the fourth quarter of this game. Ugh.

Lion Face: Rodrique Beaubois
Rodrique Beaubois is not only a ton of fun to say but it’s always the name of an invincible human being. This little French guy was the backup point guard to Jose Barea who was stepping in for Jason Kidd. And he dominated his 29 minutes on the floor with 17 points on nine shots, including 3/5 from three-point range. He also had four assists and a blocked shot. It’s hard to explain his style of play. The best I can come up with is he’s like watching one of those guys who can beat Super Mario Bros in like five minutes. Everything is too fast to keep up with and you’re just amazed at some of the jumps and speed this guy uses.

Lemon Face: James Posey Decision-Making
Ummm… Yeah… this happened on the Hornets last possession of the game when they were down two.

Lion Face: Kevin Garnett
Everyone is so quick to knock him down now that he’s a Boston Celtics, more visible than most players and a fiery guy that likes to try to get in the heads of his opponents. People seem to take joy in the fact that he’s battled injuries over the past two years, which is simply a white trash way to be a basketball fan. But if we’re going to bash him for being slow and incapable of doing the historically sick stat lines that he used to produce in ‘Sota we should at least make note of the rare nights from here on out in which KG looks extremely active and positively affects the game in being so. 12 points, five rebounds, four assists, four blocks and two steals isn’t changing the game but it was an encouraging effort from a seemingly-getting-healthier Kevin Garnett.

Lemon Face: Bobcats Starting Lineup
A way to fight for the a playoff spot is not getting just 40 points from your entire starting lineup. That’s not going to get an expansion franchise their very first playoff berth.

Lion Face: SSOM
Gian Casimiro, who currently runs Knick Blog, used to run Seven Seconds Or Mess. It was also a Knicks blog that celebrated/analyzed the Seven Seconds or Less era that Mike D’Antoni was bringing into Madison Square Garden. Well, on nights in which SSOM is clicking at the ole MSG it can be quite a beautiful thing. 128 points with four starters scoring at least 21 points is pretty damn fun. They shot 55% from the field, made 12 threes, turned the ball over just eight times and had 31 team assists. David Lee led the way with 21 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists. That’s just a fun night of basketball as long as you’re not the Detroit Pistons.

Lemon Face: OKC Thunder
You had a showdown date in Denver with a team you needed to measure yourself against. You also had a Kevin Durant versus Carmelo Anthony aspect to this game that was supposed to be fun, exhilarating and hopefully something that would end up on Hardwood Classics. Instead, you got a game in which the Nuggets completely dominated and peaked by obtaining a 40-point lead at one point. Carmelo slapped Durant around with a 30-19 scoring advantage. Nene, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen wrecked whatever excuse for a frontline the Thunder tried to throw at them. HELL! Even Anthony Carter had 12 assists off the bench. If I had to put my finger on what was the most telling stat of this game, it had to be the 26 team turnovers that resulted in 31 points for the Nuggets. That definitely didn’t help the Thunder stake a claim to the upper echelon of the Western Conference.

Lion Face: Mike Conley… wait, THAT Mike Conley? Yep, Mike Conley Had a Day
I probably shouldn’t talk about this because I’m sure Matt won’t want me to jinx it but did you see the game that Mike Conley had against a formidable backcourt combination of Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton? 21 points on 11/18 shooting, seven assists and five steals. That’s not too shabby. Especially considering that Darren Collison lit up MC Crappy Point Guard a few weeks ago, this was a nice showing by someone that owes the Grizzlies fans a few good showings in a row.

Lemon Face: Indiana Pacers sans Danny Granger
Danny Granger: 30 points, 12/22 shooting, 1 turnover
Rest of his team: 49 points, 21/54 shooting, 17 turnovers.

Guess if the Pacers pulled out an incredibly improbable win at Portland or if they were destroyed by 23 points? Go ahead; guess for me.

Lion Face: Grant Hill Will Have None of That
Travis Outlaw, you should’ve known that Grant Hill drinks Sprite.

Lion Face: Bill Walker Is Becoming Self-Aware
Via Posting and Toasting, Bill Walker is getting it done. Good to see:

Trevor Ariza Believes In Himself, And That’s Worth All Of Your Help Defense Combined!

“We’re both competitors,” Ariza said. “We don’t care who we have to guard. It’s not a discredit to anybody. It’s just that I don’t care who I play against.”

He wanted a match up with Brandon Roy Saturday night, turning down Battier’s offer to switch assignments. Unlike Wednesday against Ellis, when Battier shut down the high-scoring Warriors guard early and Ariza stopped him late, Roy scored the Blazers’ final 10 points Saturday, including a twisting drive past Ariza and around Chuck Hayes with three seconds left for the game-winner.

Ariza’s defense on Roy grew tighter with each play, with Roy hitting a turnaround jumper before his game-winning drive, forcing Ariza to face the reality of the job.

“I think I played great defense,” Ariza said, “but it was better offense.”

“You can’t be a good defender unless you want the tough guys,” Battier said. “Trevor has a lot of confidence in his abilities. I asked him if he wanted to give a different look to Roy. He said, “I got him.’ That’s all I need. You trust your teammates.”

Via Rockets’ Ariza, Battier share load of stopping stars- Chron.com

This article out of Houston is kind of funny, because it talks about how much Ariza wants to defend the best players, with Ariza talking about the challenge and all of that and then Battier being reasonable and saying that Ariza’s a better on-ball but that he’s better with man-help. And then it’s pretty clear from that excerpt that Roy torched Ariza. They’ve got James next, so I hope they don’t follow through with letting Ariza guard him. Because he’ll try real hard and then get destroyed. Of course, that’ll probably happen regardless of who’s guarding him.

Brett Pollakoff Is The Only Guy Who Could Actually Dislike The Rockets

13. Rockets (9-8) | Prev.: 11

If you aren’t into the Tracy McGrady saga (and I’m not), there isn’t a whole lot to say here that hasn’t already been said: Houston plays hard, smart, and wins more than they should considering their roster. Yawn. But hey, that Chuck Hayes sure throws a mean outlet pass! (J/K, KA) — BP

via NBA Power Rankings: Rising C’s — NBA FanHouse.

Brett and I have a running gag over at FanHouse. He thinks Shane Battier is an overrated, underwhelming, terrible-at-offense, non-factor piece of meh-ness. I consider him to be arguably the best defensive player in the league, a team leader, an interesting person, and someone that makes the league that much more awesome and who can knock down a three now and then. Much of this comes from the fact that the Rockets, without their best players, took his Lakers to seven games and embarrassed them thoroughly in-between getting embarrassed themselves to a degree that is proper, given their injuries at the time. Or, more accurately, that he recognizes that for all of Morey’s accolades, the Rockets haven’t actually done anything. They’re an okay team, but simply don’t have a lot of talent. I mean, for all the talk about the trouble they gave LA in the WCSF last year, they still, you know, LOST.

But it’s crazy to me that anyone wouldn’t be inspired by this Rockets team, at least anyone that was a basketball-junkie. We’ve all seen so many teams quit when faced with injuries and a talent gap. To play lax, to write off the season, to mail it in. The Rockets have every reason to do so. Their #1 option on offense right now is a #3 option on a mediocre team. And yet Morey has this team again capable of sneaking into the playoffs. Even being in contention with how much money they have on the shelf is insane.  But they play together, they play smart, and they work, constantly.

Kobe is the king of work ethic. You’d think his fans would have a greater appreciation for a team that reflects his attitude, even if they’re not as good as the Lakers. I mean, no one is this season. The flip side, though is that I’ve just told you that you should be inspired by professional athletes who are paid millions and millions of dollars actually working as hard as they can. When you think of it that way…

Shh! You hear that?

That’s an awkward silence.