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Date archive for: January 2012

Chauncey Billups: The Big Shot Variable

Chauncey Billups has found a home in L.A. despite initially opposing being claimed off waivers.

The standing ovation Chauncey Billups received in Denver appropriately underlined the proven capacity of a tried and true Mr. Big Shot.

Soon after, Billups proceeded to drop 32 points on his former team and hometown.

More importantly, down the stretch, it was his consistent ability to hit shot after shon, in addition to drawing coy fouls, that led to a great Clippers victory against one of the top teams in the Western Conference.

Over time, veterans develop or increase their innate basketball acumen.  While practice is a crucial and essential aspect of improving one’s game, it is inherently limited by one’s own capacity to understand the context and subtleties that extend beyond the self.  Michael Jordan, as he aged, continued his domination of opposing players by relying on IQ, instinct, and the combination of both which often led to the tiny exploits that gave him the edge over much younger competitors.

In Billups and Chris Paul we have two highly instinctual students of the game:  one on the way to solidifying an all-star career and another in the twilight of such, but still with the ability to drill a dagger into the heart of your team when it matters most.  From downtown no less.

Herein lies the ambivalence that Mr. Big Shot creates for Clippers fans.

On nights like the matchup against Denver, Chauncey’s battle-tested shot was falling.  Without so much as a second thought, Billups would line up from 22-25 feet and consistently hit.

Though he’s a point-guard by trade, his recent stint as a Clipper wouldn’t reveal it.  He looks very comfortable playing the wing and waiting for a kick-out from the bigs or a fellow guard.  The experience and veteran leadership he brings to a young team full of athleticism is an imperative prerequisite that was missing last year.

Perhaps more important than his actual shot, his tutelage on the court (coupled with that of Chris Paul’s) is helping to shape the rest of the team.  Let’s face it, how much confidence does anyone have in Vinny Del Negro?  The guy looks like a nervous wreck 95% of the time, with the remaining five being spent figuring out the optimal placement of his hands upon his waist.

Billups and Paul's contributions extend beyond on the court play. They also provide Vinny Del Negro with experienced perspectives.

Enter Billups and Paul.  I consider them more like player coaches.  The point-guard position, by nature, is one of commanding and directing.  Add to that a competitive edge, high basketball IQ, and 100+ games of playoff experience and you have yourself a teacher.

Education without discipline, however, is just information. 

The championship pedigree that Billups brings comes with winning expectations.  Lob City may be exciting, but a fleeting lob isn’t as satisfying as a championship ring, and Billups knows that.  Instilling this reality into Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan is almost as important as hitting 32 points and leading them to victory.  It is leading by example to a place beyond Sportscenter.

The flip-side of Mr. Big Shot, however, and the part that makes me nervous is also tied to his nickname.  Too often, when he’s responsible for running the point-guard position while Paul is on the bench, Billups’ offensive plays consist of dribbling up-court and jacking up a three without so much as making one pass.  Time and again we hear commentators, analysts and novice bloggers reiterate the fact that the Clippers are better off with Chris Paul running the offense.  The interpretation that is often given to this, however, is one which gives Pauls’ point-guard capabilities more credit than they deserve.  Yes, Paul is an outstanding guard—probably the best all-around point-guard in the league—but the divisive and obvious difference is caused more by Billups’ obsession with shooting than by Chris’ offensive genius.  Paul passes, drives and occasionally shoots.  Billups just shoots.

When the shot isn’t falling, this type of offense creates problems not just in the offensive scoring department, but ultimately in the rebounding department.  With Reggie Evans as the only capable rebounder, missed shots lead to less offensive possessions and more chances for the opposition.

When I originally started ripping out my hair with every three Blllups launched, I had decided to write an entire post about how ineffective and detrimental this style of play is (as I have partly outlined above).

What I realized, as I contemplated statistical backup for my argument, was the reality of the Clippers offense:  without much scoring help from the bench, the starting unit needs to score as much as possible, even if it means a lot of shots by Billups.  In each of the Clippers losses, either Billups did not play, had a bad night, or Chris Paul’s offensive contribution was limited; in all cases, the bench was unable to make up for the respective deficiency (again, with the exception of Mo Williams).

Given his contributions on and off the scoreboard, his playoff and championship experience, and his renewed affection for a team that lets him “be,” I will have to suck up my immediate reaction to his quick-trigger threes and hope for the proven best.

The Clippers will definitely need big shots come playoff time.


Blake Griffin’s Amazing Dunk Over Kendrick Perkins

In what may be one of the most remarkable dunks ever, Blake Griffin posterized/youtubed Kendrick Perkins forever.

Here it is, in case you missed it, plus a summary of the world’s reaction through twitter.

Twitter Reacts

The world at large, mesmerized and dumbfounded, will never forget Blake Griffin’s decimation of Kendrick Perkins. One of the greatest dunks of all time deserves a record of the general public’s awe.  Here’s a sample from the twitterverse.

Derrick Rose Responds to Dwight Howard’s Chicago Comments

Before Derrick Rose torched the Wizards for 35 points, he publicly flirted back with Dwight Howard’s recent comments about a possible move to Chicago.

“Me and Dwight definitely have a relationship, especially because of adidas. I know our market and the city speaks for itself, if someone was interested to come to the Chicago Bulls,” Rose said of the Magic’s All-Star center. “Dwight, he’s a great player. Who wouldn’t want to play with him, but you never know what’s going to happen.”

Rose’s reticent character has refused, in the past, to play a role in coaxing superstars to Chicago.  In the new buddy-buddy era of the NBA, Rose resolutely opposed actively engaging Lebron James and Dwyane Wade in the summer of 2010.

Today’s comment, albeit a polite response to Dwight’s, does mark a slight deviation from the norm—very much like Howard’s.  Perhaps this indirect back-and-forth winking will materialize into an actual possibility, but for the time being there are still a lot of obstacles preventing this union, the biggest one being the Magic’s reluctance to create a conference powerhouse for years to come.

Video Source:  CSN Chicago.

NBA Top 10 – January 29, 2012

10.  Brandon Bass delivers a nasty two handed dunk over the Cavs.
9.  The Miami Heat doing what they do best:  fast breaks.
8.  The “Chicago Contortionist,” Derrick Rose, with two pretty drives to the hoop.
7.  Nene throws one down against the Clippers.
6.  Ricky Rubio sets up Kevin Love.
5.  Kobe Bryant passes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time field goal leader in Lakers history.
4.  Jason Terry sends the Mavericks into overtime by hitting a last-second shot.
3.  Rudy Fernandez with the incredible, reverse tip-in.
2.  Kyrie Irving with the spins delivers against the Celtics.
1.   Lebron James leaps over John Lucas III for the oop.

Dwight Howard Discusses Move to Bulls

On the same day the Chicago Bulls visited and lost to the Miami Heat, Dwight Howard addressed a potential move to Chicago with the Tribune’s Vaughn McClure by stating the following:

“If I could play with Derrick [Rose] right now, and God wanted that to happen, it will happen.” – DH12

While Howard’s comments do not, in any way, confirm an interest in playing with Chicago, it might be the first time that he hasn’t publicly resorted to referencing his original team wish-list of New Jersey, Dallas or L.A.

These comments come a day after publicly calling out his teammates after a 93-67 loss to the New Orleans Hornets.

Said Howard of his teammates:

I look at guys and they don’t look like they want to play. I told them at halftime, ‘If you don’t want to play, just stay in the locker room, because it don’t make sense for a team who we should beat to just demolish us.’ – Dwight Howard

For many Bulls fans, despite holding the best record in the East, a Howard-Rose tandem would be a dream come true.  Today’s loss at Miami served to reinforce Chicago’s lack of a second scoring option.  Derrick Rose, as great as he is on his own, will not be able to carry the Bulls in a seven game series against the Miami Heat.

Word on the street, however, is that the Orlando Magic are considering retaining Howard’s services through at least the trade deadline, if not the entire season in a last-ditch effort to convince Howard to stay.

At the very least, these most recent quotes from Howard give Chicago a lining of hope that perhaps Superman will consider teaming up with the youngest MVP in the league for a possible dynasty run.

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