Thanks to MLK Day, we were treated to a whole day of NBA action. Below are my thoughts and questions about what I saw, in order of appearance on my TV screen.
The Rose Factor
Besides C.J. Watson’s return to the lineup, nothing else went right for the Chicago Bulls who played without Derrick Rose due to a turf-toe injury.
Despite a respectable third quarter rally, fueled by Watson himself, the bulls never pulled within striking distance as the Grizzlies dismantled the Bulls 102-86.
I don’t think we did a good job mentally preparing for them. We should have been ready for that – Loul Deng
Difficult to watch, sub par, and lackluster are just a few ways one could describe the atrocity labeled as “offense” (and at times, defense) that these Bulls put together. If I’ve been griping away at the lack of offensive help for Rose in posts of the past, this game served to highlight my frustrations. The weight of his offensive contribution, in addition to the definitive command over chaos that Rose brings to the Bulls, was clearly evident his team’s impotent offense.
With a 40-point loss to the Bulls fresh in their mind, the Grizzlies were looking to avenge their pride. Much more telling than a bruised ego was the lack of respect this Chicago team commanded in Rose’s absence. His quiet demeanor and polite decorum aside, Rose brings a legitimate alpha-dog aura when he’s on the court. A competitive grit with results and accolades that subconsciously puts other teams on notice and makes them less likely to control the tempo of the game. As much Loul Deng fought, this was not the case yesterday. The intangibles, in addition to the STAT sheet, make the champ.
Without Rose, the face, character and gumption of this Bulls team were non-existent.
With C.J. Watson (17 points on the night) slowly making his way back, Thibodeau decided to start John Lucas III: a small guard with velocity but not much more. Lucas has been praised for his seemingly appropriate bravado perhaps out of mere surprise. Getting the ball up-court rapidly, or chucking up an “open” shot from 25 feet out gets you praise only insofar as your time is limited on the court. However, when you’re responsible for running the offense because the starting point-guard is injured, that style of play becomes detrimental and toxic. There really wasn’t much more to Lucas besides dribbling the ball up-court, running out of room, and ultimately being forced to make a pass—an innocuous basic skill that very badly plagued and perplexed Mr. Lucas against the Grizzlies.
Noah and Boozer – Where Art Thou?
Fourth quarter sightings of the $25 million starting tandem of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer are as common as Kris Humphries cheers lately.
The old adage of actions speaking louder than words is nowhere as true as it is during the 4th quarter of most Bulls games despite coach Thibodeau’s press commentary. How could it not be a referendum on their lack of production when, in crunch time, Thibs opts for he back-ups with hunger (Asik, Gibson) instead of the lackluster and insipid? What happened to the fire that Noah used to spark? Wasn’t he catalyst to so many running of the bulls episodes?
The thing is, we’re in the midst in a lot of games in a short amount of time, so you just have to go with the guys who have some energy. Carlos and Jo are a huge part of this team, and on a lot of nights, on most nights, they carry us, along with Derrick. – Tom Thibodeau
Boozer’s performance is completely disproportionate to his paycheck, which makes this scenario that much worse for fans. Short of finding a team to dupe with his contract, I don’t see much of a solution to this issue other than to ride out the storm and hope that he rectifies himself. Maybe riding him for a quarter or two is enough given Taj Gibson’s athleticism and work-ethic.
The season might be shorter, and the game schedule condensed, but what looms on the horizon, a potential match-up with the Heat for a spot in the NBA Finals, should be motivation enough for either coach or players to look for solutions. Without offensive output from Boozer, and rebounds from Noah, this season might be an underwhelming repeat of last year’s.
(Next up: Phoenix Suns @ Chicago Bulls, 7 p.m. CT)
Dwight Howard adds the L.A. Clippers to List of Possible Destinations
According to a source cited by Chris Sheridan of sheridanhoops.com, the smiling assassin has added the L.A. Clippers to his list of possible trade destinations, making a Chris Paul-Blake Griffin-Dwight Howard dynasty a possibility (but no a probability).
SheridanHoops.com learned exclusively Monday that Howard recently expanded his list of preferred future destinations, adding the Clippers to a list that already included the Nets, the Mavericks and the Lakers.
“He’s been watching them a lot. He’s intrigued by the Clippers,” said the source, who is privy to the trade talks that have taken place between all of the aforementioned teams.
The Dwight Howard trade dilemma has dumbfounded and perplexed me for quite some time. With the New Jersey Nets slowly degrading in attractiveness, the Dallas Mavericks unable to offer anything in return, and the L.A. Lakers potentially having to gut the team just to acquire Dwight, it makes no sense that Howard wouldn’t include the Chicago Bulls as a potential trade destination.
As many have argued, Chicago is the only destination that would immediately place Howard in a position to contend for championships (alongside the youngest MVP, Derrick Rose).
Put it this way: If I’m Dwight Howard, I’m thinking about titles and titles only. I don’t care about money — that’s coming, regardless. I don’t care about weather — I have to live in whatever city for only eight months a year, and I’m traveling during that entire time, anyway. I don’t care about “building my brand” and all that crap — if I don’t start winning titles soon, my brand is going to be “the center who’s much better than every other center but can’t win a title.” I care only about playing in a big city, finding a team that doesn’t have to demolish itself to acquire me, finding one All-Star teammate who can make my life a little easier (the Duncan to my Robinson), and winning titles. Not title … titles. I want to come out of this decade with more rings than anyone else. I want to be remembered alongside Shaq, Moses and Hakeem, not Robinson and Ewing.
If you’re looking at it like that, Chicago has to be the choice. – Bill Simmons
That is…until now.
With Clippers’ emergence as contenders in the West, a Dwight Howard move to city of angels properly meets all of Howard’s criteria and then some.
He would be able to play in one of the biggest markets, albeit not in purple and yellow. He would be teamed up with not one, but two bona fide All-Stars in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. He would receive major marketing opportunities, celebrity liaisons, and sun year-round. Sounds good to me!
The only concern, from my point of view, would be having to part ways with Deandre Jordan in this hypothetical trade. The kid’s developed into an exciting, athletic and lovable monster in addition to being Blake Griffin’s best friend on the team. But when you can get Dwight Howard, the best center in the league, you have to make the move.
Only time will sort out all of this speculation. If it does go through, you have to take into consideration the decades of mediocrity that Clippers fans and players have suffered through and think of this as some sort of joyous karmic justice.
Speaking of the Clippers…
They moved to 7-3 after beating the Nets 101-91.
With Chris Paul and Mo Williams sidelines with injuries, the Clippers rolled through the first three quarters behind the highlight power of Griffin, the leadership of Chauncey Billups, and the stroke of Caron Butler.
In what turned out to be the most entertaining game all day, the Clippers did not disappoint. They are quickly becoming the most entertaining team to watch—in fact, the NBA GM survey that was released today has the Clipper as the “most fun to watch” at 29.6%, second only to the Miami Heat at 33.3%.
Griffin finished with 23 points, 14 rebounds, a few highlight dunks and several bruises. Besides his ridiculous posterizing, above-the-rim dunks, Griffin shows an incredible will to hustle for loose balls, often placing himself in perilous situations. Add to that the disdain opposing teams show for his highlight style of play and you have a situation that’s abundant with injury traps. For the sake of basketball fans, I hope Blake takes care of himself a little better. I appreciate the hustle, but it would be a tragedy to lose him for a prolonged period of time because of a loose ball or a careless foul by an opposing player.
Big Ups Caron Butler: Butler deserves praise for his consistent contribution to this Clippers offense. He has consistently been the offensive support to Paul and Griffin, and I would argue that despite Chaucey’s championship pedigree, Caron Butler has been the most important addition behind Chris Paul. He consistently defends, boards and scores, often without the press adulation that others receive. The crowd at Staples, and those of us at home, appreciate it and I think he can sense that.
Big Ups Reggie Evans: Evans has quickly become one of the crowd favorites at Staples, and not just because of his funny ears. A specialist at rebounding, this workhorse off the bench has won the support of spectators and analysts alike. With every offensive rebound he pulled down to help his team maintain possession, Reggie justified and affirmed the crowd’s chants of “Re-ggie, re-ggie, re-ggie.” It’s nice to see bench players get recognition for hard work, especially when they live in the flying shadows of Blake and CP3.
What the what?: Derrick Williams. For all the lauding he’s received, Williams was hardly visible yesterday. Also, Kris Humphries a.k.a Fake Blake Griffin, was booed every time he made a play/foul. I wonder if Kim Kardashian feels good about what she’s done to this poor guy. An otherwise effective player, capable of double-double figures, has been turned into a symbol of ridicule and now suffers the backlash of the community at large against reality TV.
With yesterday’s win, the Clippers share the top spot in the Pacific Division with…guess who…the Lakers.
The Kobe System, the Missing German and Derek Fisher
I’m running out of steam here, and tonight’s games will be starting soon. I’ll keep this one short.
The Mavericks and Lakers faced off for the first time since last year’s sweep. With Kobe Bryant on four-game 40-point streak, the new look Lakers hoped to avenge the humiliation.
Lamar Odom was received with love at Staples Center, as the crowd acknowledged his contribution to the championship team.
The Black Mamba was unable to continue his scoring tear after an atrocious night of shooting. It wasn’t just him, however; both squads failed to convert enough shots. An otherwise boring game climaxed when Kobe Bryant passed up the last shot in favor of Derek Fisher.
What’s a regular occurrence repeated itself again as Derek drained the open look for the game winner.
Highlights below, and if you don’t what the Kobe System is, I’ve included a video. More on that in a different post (since it applies to him and Melo).
Word. And the foul!