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5-2-13-jeff-hornacek-ap

Coach-of-the-year award wide, wide open

When it comes to voting for the 2013-14 NBA Coach of the Year, I wish those ‘fortunate’ enough to be asked to fill out a ballot all the very best of luck.

Always a hotly contested award, this season has an even deeper field of worthy recipients, for which I personally struggle to nominate the one eventual winner.

Though there remain roughly 20 games left to play for each team in the regular season, it’s already evident that a number of coaches will be deserving of the accolade.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich has done a remarkable job of managing his roster through injures and advanced age, and once again has the Spurs positioned as one of the best teams in the West.

Image Courtesy of BallerBall.com

Image Courtesy of BallerBall.com

Pop’s use of his bench has once again been brilliant, and the Spurs propensity to move and share the ball is a credit to their coach. They’ll once again make the playoffs, and it would be a brave man that writes off their chances of making the Finals for the second year in a row.

At the beginning of the season, I struggled to see how the Phoenix Suns would win double figure games. They promptly achieved that feat in the opening month of the season. Egg meet face.

Ex-Suns guard Jeff Hornacek has done a wonderful job with the team, who compete every night, and despite lacking the elite-level talent of other teams, play with energy and hustle.

Though any young team should play with enthusiasm, the most surprising aspect of the Suns’ season is their intelligence. The team plays smart basketball, and full praise for that must go to their coach.

Chicago Bulls Tom Thibodeau has become a victim of his own success. It’s now simply a given that his teams will be outstanding defensively, hustle their butts off, and do their best of overcome their offensive limitations via solid teamwork. And do so in every single game.

Never mind the fact the Bulls are once again without their most talented player and only true creator, Derrick Rose. Never mind the fact that Chicago are currently third in the Eastern Conference. Never mind the fact that they are still beating the league’s best teams despite all evidence suggesting they shouldn’t be.

Image Courtesy of NBA.com

Image Courtesy of NBA.com

‘Thibs’ deserves way more recognition than he gets. The Bulls aren’t just staying afloat and competitive; they actually remain an upper echelon team. It’s an amazing achievement, which could see Thibs take home his second Coach of the Year award.

Not much was expected of the Dallas Mavericks at the start of the year, but via a resurgent Dirk Nowitzki, the surprisingly steady play of Monta Ellis, and the tactical brilliance of Rick Carlisle, the Mavs are right in the thick of the playoff hunt in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

The Mavs execute extremely well, and though the players receive the ultimate kudos, Carlisle is the mastermind behind it all.

Erik Spoelstra is criminally underrated as a coach. I can only assume he doesn’t receive the respect he deserves because people believe that any coach should have success with the stars on Miami’s roster. While there is unquestionably some truth to that sentiment, ‘success’ is subjective until you actually win the title, something Spoelstra has now done twice.

It also shouldn’t be forgotten that handling egos is a difficult but vital aspect of NBA coaching, for talent alone doesn’t guarantee championships.

Image Courtesy of ESPN.com

Image Courtesy of ESPN.com

Yet even beyond the excellent man-management skills, Spoelstra has shown himself to be a great tactician. It was Spoelstra who implemented the offence which capitilises on LeBron James’ unique skill set. It was ‘Spo’ who refuses to give players traditional positions, but rather relies on a system that has constant movement and flexibility.

Miami’s smothering defense – particularly their half court press – is further proof that the Heat are a well coached side, of which Spolestra is the chief architect.

Scotty Brooks deserves credit for keeping the Oklahoma City Thunder at the top of the Western Conference standings, despite the fact he has been without the services of his second best player, Russell Westbrook, for large chunks of the season.

Brooks has made some subtle changes to OKC’s offense, however one feels that Kevin Durant will receive much of the kudos for keeping the Thunder rolling – rather than their coach – with KD’s sublime season probably having the averse effect of robbing Brooks of some votes.

Image Courtesy of BallerBall.com

Image Courtesy of BallerBall.com

That’s six coaches I’ve already named as potential recipients of the Coach of the Year award, yet it is far from an exhaustive list.

I could very easily be talked into Portland’s Terry Stotts, Indiana’s Frank Vogel, Los Angles’ Doc Rivers and Houston’s Kevin McHale being legitimate candidates as well.

Even the Charlotte Bobcats’ Steve Clifford has done a fantastic job reconfiguring the team around the offensive skills of Al Jefferson, and may be lucky enough to have the odd ballot with his name on it, yet I doubt he’ll actually take home the hardware.

Likewise, would anyone be really upset if Dwayne Casey’s effort in Toronto was recognised? The Warriors’ Mark Jackson? The Grizzlies’ David Joerger?

It’s a large field, and to those tasked with naming the NBA Coach of the Year, I don’t envy your job one little bit.



Image courtesy of www.nba.si.com

Allen Iverson – The Highs and Lows

Image courtesy of www.nba.si.com

Image courtesy of http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/nba/

“We’re talking about practice. I mean listen, we’re sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we’re talking about practice. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last but we’re talking about practice man.”

Even the most casual of NBA fans would be familiar with the quote above. Allen Iverson was a man who created headlines. In his 14 years in the NBA, the diminutive point guard certainly lived large on and off the court. His brash attitude and ‘street look’ were often the focal point of the mainstream media and despite being one of the greatest to ever play the game he suffered from such scrutiny, whether fairly or not.

Whatever off-court issues Iverson had, and he had a few, the way he played the game was mesmerizingly beautiful. As a six foot, 165 pound guard, he was always up against it, every time he stepped foot on the court, but he never backed down and his talent shone through over the years. He was honoured by the Philadelphia 76ers yesterday, with the franchise retiring his jersey to the rafters.

Iverson’s NBA career began back in 1996 when he was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers with the number one pick. He would go on to win Rookie of the Year honours that season whilst putting up 23.5 points, 7.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game but the 76ers finished with an abysmal 22-60 record.

Iverson’s numbers in his rookie season were impressive but the team’s horrible record caused some to blame Iverson for his score first attitude. In John N. Smallwood’s book entitled Allen Iverson: Fear No One Iverson was quick to point out the lack of support from a team of role players with little ability to score.

“You saw the team we had last year, who was going to score? I’d throw a pass; somebody would miss, the next time I’d say I’d rather do it myself. That’s not the right way. You have to go to the guy again. People said I was trying to win Rookie of the Year, but I was trying to win games.”

This kind of criticism was to follow Iverson throughout his whole career. Being a shoot first point guard was a fairly new thing in the late ‘90’s, unlike today, where the league has so many scoring point guards so it was Iverson who really paved the way for guys like Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose but it was also Iverson who would have to take on the critics too.

Iverson would endure a second season with a team that struggled and failed to make the playoffs and the question marks over Iverson’s ability to be a team player and guide his team to the playoffs continued.

Thankfully, the following season, the 76ers reached the post season and whilst the criticism didn’t completely disappear, it wasn’t as loud as it had been previously.

The 76ers would reach the playoffs for the next four seasons, led by the play of Iverson and along the way he would pick up a league MVP in 2001, as well as numerous All NBA first team selections, All Star appearances, including two All Star MVP awards as well as his much vaunted scoring titles.

The 2000-01 season will forever be remembered in NBA folklore as A.I’s year. He was named MVP, putting up 31.1 points, 4.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game and took a rag tag bunch of players all the way to the NBA Finals. Iverson exploded for 48 points in the first game of the series, including an amazing crossover, step back jumper over a falling Tyronn Lue, the ensuing images of Iverson stepping over Lue’s fallen body will be forever ingrained in hoops fans minds. The Sixers took the first game of the series against a Laker team stacked with stars that were on a 19 game winning streak and were supposed to just turn up to win the title. Iverson explained via ESPN.com what drove him when interviewed after the historic victory.

“I’m glad nobody bet their life on it because they’d be dead now. Everyone says we can’t do it, and that drives us.”

The game was indicative of what Iverson was all about, an underdog who always came to fight. The fight however was one that was unwinnable. The star studded Lakers, led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant would win the next four games and take out the championship.

Iverson would never again experience finals basketball. He would toil away in Philadelphia with mixed results, a few playoff appearances and a few disappointing seasons before he was traded away to the Denver Nuggets.

He would see his scoring output decline whilst playing for the Nuggets but they were to have some successes, even making the western conference finals in 2009 but once again it was the Lakers who stood in his way.

He would endure a few seasons of trades and clashed with management and coaching staff on both the Nuggets and Memphis teams before finally ending up back where it all began in Philly, but it wasn’t to last long.

The NBA career of Allen Iverson ended in 2010, he was seen as too demanding and troubled for any franchise to risk signing him and he went overseas to continue playing. His marriage fell apart and he’d spent most of his career earnings, he had reported alcohol and gambling problems and it all looked very bleak for the once mighty Iverson.

He has since retired from playing all forms of the game and it was yesterday that his jersey was retired to the rafters at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia and there was an outpouring of respect and gratitude from many players, coaches and fans for what was an incredible, albeit controversial career.

Allen Iverson did it all his own way and whilst he made many mistakes along the way he will be remembered as one of the greats of the game. Perhaps he summed it up best himself after the ceremony.

“It feels good, but some part of my heart hurts because I know its over.”

His playing days are over, but they will never be forgotten.



James-Durant

Finally, a legitimate NBA MVP debate – @RyanOak

After a number of seasons of forced and artificial debate over which NBA star is the Most Valuable Player, the 2013/14 season has finally provided us with a race worthy of heated discussion.

In recent times, LeBron James has had a mortgage on the prestigious award. Over the past five seasons, ‘The King’ has taken home the trophy four times, and rightfully so.

During that span, the lone time LeBron didn’t win was in 2010/11, when Derrick Rose was named the league’s best player. Rose had a fine season, yet it’s debatable whether he should have even been the runner-up, let alone the winner.

However, it was a ‘nice’ story to have the classy Rose named MVP, while conversely the same could not be said if LeBron took home the silverware that year.

It was LeBron’s first season in Miami after unceremoniously dumping his previous team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, via the now infamous The Decision television special on ESPN. As such, LeBron was public enemy No.1, and the voting journalists appeared unable – or unwilling – to see past that.

Conspiracy theorists may claim that it was a calculated move by the journalists, as the snubbing of LeBron helped grow the narrative of LeBron’s newfound villainy and the drama surrounding it. Drama which, in turn, sold papers and increased hits on sites.

However, whatever you believe, LeBron simply couldn’t be denied his greatness the two following seasons, with his sublime play resulting in two historically brilliant statistical campaigns, two championships and two MVP trophies.

Though some pundits made a half-hearted case for Kevin Durant in that time, it never carried any serious weight, for LeBron was simply better in every way you could conceivably measure.

This was especially true last year when LeBron was just one vote shy of becoming the first unanimous MVP in history.

Of 121 journalists, 120 placed LeBron number one on their ballot. Somewhat comically, in hindsight, the lone other vote didn’t even go to the eventual runner-up Durant.
Instead, some idiot – Gary Washburn to be precise – voted for Carmelo Anthony. That decision still defies belief, but I digress.

This season is a different story.

Though LeBron has once again been outstanding, he has slipped ever so slightly, while players like Paul George and LaMarcus Aldridge are playing outstanding ball and have their respective teams racking up the wins.

Yet it’s perennial bridesmaid Kevin Durant who has taken his game to another level, and threatens LeBron’s stranglehold on the MVP plaudits.

Missing fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook through injury for the majority of the season, Durant has put his Oklahoma City Thunder teammates on his back and carried them to the second best record in the league.

Durant is leading the league in scoring – nothing new, as he’s already achieved this feat three times in his young career – by a full four points per game over Melo, and is shooting with his usual eye-popping percentages.

He’s also improved his playmaking and defence, while his rebounding has remained extremely impressive for a small forward with a slight frame.

Perhaps most remarkable, Durant leads the league in PER (Player Efficiency Rating), a category that LeBron has finished first in for the past six seasons.

Yet it’s Durant’s leadership and intensity that have really stood out this season.

He’s now willing to get in the face of teammates when required, or talk trash to opponents. Furthermore, he rarely lets the game drift away from him without attempting to ‘take charge’ of the game situation.

Though the improvement has come somewhat through necessity, courtesy of Westbrook’s absence, one cannot deny that it’s definitely helped Durant’s game, and his team.

So much so that should he maintain his play, he very well may steal LeBron’s MVP trophy.

LeBron’s fans will rightly point out that the season is only halfway over. ‘The King’ has plenty of time to defend his throne, and he’s realistically only slightly behind Durant on the imaginary MVP ladder.

The second half of the season may see an intense race to the finish line, and ensure that we have a legitimate MVP debate on our hands.

(This content was originally published on The Roar at www.theroar.com.au)



Nikola-Mirotic-APB

Chicago’s European Saviour?

Nikola-Mirotic-APB

There’s been a fair amount of doom and gloom for fans of Windy City basketball. The Chicago Bulls start to the 2013/14 season has been one to forget. The early rust from Derrick Rose was something many people were prepared to look past but things went from bad to worse when the Bulls lost him for another season due to his right knee injury. 

Since the loss of Rose speculation has been rife amongst Bulls and hoops fans alike. We all love to play GM and many of us have been quick to talk about the best way to move forward for the Bulls. Luol Deng has been the focus of many a trade rumour and the talk still continues regarding the best way to make the team a title contender again.

I’ve certainly spoken at length via social media with regard to my thoughts on the matter and many people have agreed and many have disagreed but the one thing I’m certain of is that there is one player who could possibly have a much bigger impact on the Bulls title aspirations in the future than any current NBA player, and that one player is Nikola Mirotic.

Mirotic was drafted by the Chicago Bulls with the 23rd pick in the 2011 draft but due to his contractual obligations to European powerhouse Real Madrid he was always a player that wouldn’t become a part of the Bulls team for years to come.

That time is almost upon us. There is plenty of talk that the 6’10 power forward will likely join the Chicago Bulls next season.

There are some hurdles to navigate, firstly the Bulls would have to pay Real Madrid the remaining three million dollars owed on his contract and then they would need to make it worthwhile for him to play in the NBA in a financial sense. The time for Nikola Mirotic to step up is most definitely now and with the current level at with which he is playing in the Euroleague, the world’s second best basketball competition behind the NBA, it could be a huge boost to a Bulls team in search of answers.

Mirotic, through seven Euroleague games this season is averaging 15.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.3 spg and is shooting the lights out at 63.9% for two point field goals and 70% for threes whilst playing only 23.1 minutes per game. He is averaging very similar numbers in 22.3 minutes per game in his eight games in the Spanish league also. He has recently been named the Euroleague MVP for the month of October and is looking every bit like he is ready for the NBA.

Mirotic’s ability to stretch the floor as a power forward is something that many NBA teams are searching for in today’s game. His ability to shoot the three at a great percentage will really open up the lane for his team mates and improve a Chicago offense which is in a serious mess with the current squad. He is an adept defender, has the size with which to match up with the NBA’s current power forwards, is a great passer for a big man and can create his own shot off the dribble.

Should Rose come back and be a semblance of the player he once was he will undoubtedly benefit from the presence of Mirotic’s versatile game and floor stretching ability.

The comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki and Danilo Gallinari have been abundant and whilst the Nowitzki one might be a stretch the current form of Mirotic says otherwise. He was named the 2010/11 and 2012/13 Euroleague Rising Star and looks likely to win the award again this season if he continues his impressive play. The award is one that players such as Nowitzki and Toni Kukoc have both won but is one that hasn’t been given to the same player twice until Mirotic’s second award last season.

The jury is still out on Nikola Mirotic’s place in the NBA and he may not be the answer to the Bulls problems but don’t be surprised if he makes the move to the NBA and is a bona-fide star. He has the size, skills and his last few years of experience in Europe have undoubtedly been a great learning curve for his basketball career. I can’t wait to see what he is capable of as I’m sure most Bulls fans also do.



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Why The NBA Is Now A Small Man’s Game

The NBA is now a small man’s game.

In the 90s, the NBA was known as a big man’s league. With superstars like Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson and Alonzo Mourning roaming the paint, the prevailing thought was that if you didn’t have a dominant – or at the very least, a capable – centre on your roster, then you were going to struggle to compete with the league’s elite teams.

Either that, or you needed Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

Not only was there a number of great players at the ‘C’ position, but the second and third tier of centres in that era were also very good players. Rik Smits, Brad Daugherty, Dikembe Mutombo, Vlade Divac, Arvydas Sabonis, etc, were no slouches.

In fact, if any of those players were playing today, they would probably be ranked in the top 2 or 3 centres in the game, rather than being placed much further down the pecking order, like they found themselves in the 90s.

Such a sentiment highlights a not-so-subtle shift in the NBA in recent times. Though there remain a number of very good low post players in the league, the position with the most superstar depth at present is actually point guard.

While in the 90s many believed that you simply couldn’t do without an elite centre, that narrative has now changed to having a high caliber point guard on your roster.

Which suggests that the NBA is now a small man’s game.

Actually, that line – and the heading – is a little misleading. It’s not that the NBA has suddenly shifted to being a league for midgets, but rather that there is a feeling that you need a playmaker to be truly successful in the modern NBA.

In essence, the belief is that you need a point guard if you want to win, because it seems like every NBA team has a good-to-great one calling the shots at present.

Photo Credit: www.kaskus.co.id

Photo Credit: www.kaskus.co.id

At the elite level, there is Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo.

On the second tier, there’s John Wall, Mike Conley, Damian Lillard, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday, Eric Bledisloe and Ricky Rubio.

Behind those players, there is a solid cast including Jeff Teague, Jose Calderon, Andre Miller, Kemba Walker, Jarrett Jack, Brandon Jennings, Jeremy Lin, Raymond Felton, Steve Blake and Jameer Nelson.

You also have this season’s rookies with amazing potential, Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo.

That’s 27 quality point guards, and I haven’t even considered primary ball-handlers like LeBron James, Andre Iguodala and James Harden, who aren’t listed at ‘PG’, but very much play that role for their teams.

Another player absent from the list is two-time league MVP Steve Nash. Considering how quickly he has succumbed to Father Time, there’s a good reason he has his own paragraph: he still deserves a mention, but he’s no longer anywhere near elite, and there have even been whispers he may retire at any moment due to his injuries.

With so many quality floor generals, NBA General Managers now treat the ‘1’ position the same way they did the centre spot in the 90s. In other words, their thought process is “I gotta get me a point guard!”

The NBA has always been a copycat league. As soon as a team has some success with something slightly different, everyone jumps on the bandwagon.

Such trends have included: getting a center, needing 3 All-Stars, going small, going big, pressing, Twin Towers, building around one high volume scorer, tanking, going ten deep, implementing run & gun offenses, stretch 4s, building through the draft, hiring a college coach, playing zone, corner threes, recruiting international players, rough and physical defense, and the list goes on.

Photo Credit: www.projectspurs.com

Photo Credit: www.projectspurs.com

And so we come to point guards, somewhat the 2013 phenomenon.

Though the desire to have an elite level point guard is born out of the depth at the position at the moment, it’s always made sense to have a good NBA quarterback.

Good point guards handle the ball, display leadership ability, control the flow of the game, get all their teammates involved, play the role of ‘coach on the floor’, initiate the offense, break down the D if the offense falls apart, get easy buckets, push the fast break, and generally run the team.

Without all those qualities, most teams today – and throughout history – would struggle to win basketball games.

Though many will disagree, I personally think the point guard is the most important position in basketball. Of course, I would say that as an ex-point guard myself.

Yet regardless of your own opinions on which position in basketball is the most vital, one cannot deny that it is currently the era of the great point guard in the NBA, and it’s making for some highly enjoyable play.

This content was first published on The Roar at www.theroar.com.au



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Old Scores, New Glories

So last week I wrote over 6000 words for NBA Nation Australia’s Weekly Hoop Scoop piece and while it wasn’t a problem to do, it was very time consuming. With that in mind, I’ve decided to change up the weekly recap to a more streamlined one. There will be a highs and lows for each day as well as some highlights but gone is the recap of every single game. Hey, I need more time to drink beer you know!

This week has been an extremely hard one for Bulls fans, me included. Unless you have been living under a rock or have just come out of a coma then you know Derrick Rose has injured his other knee and its put a bit of a dampener on things for fans of Chi town basketball. I wrote a few words immediately following the injury if you’re interested in them, here’s a link – http://nbanationaustralia.com/2013/11/23/so-now-we-wait/

Anyway, what’s done is done regarding the former MVP and it’s time to move on, so welcome back to the week that was in the NBA for NBA Nation Australia, or as I’m calling it, Old Scores, New Glories.

Monday 18th November

The Highs

There were three games on the schedule to start the week with the best performance coming from the Los Angeles Lakers Jordan Hill, career highs in points and rebounds and a win over the Detroit Pistons. Hill had 24 points on 11 of 16 from the field and 17 rebounds. Talk about a much improved player so far this year!

Rudy Gay has been having a year to forget so far but was actually very good for the Raptors in their loss to Portland. He had 30 points on 12 of 27 from the field, which for him is a very high percentage this year, he also grabbed 10 boards and hit the shot to take the game into overtime.

Nic Batum continues to impress this season as he had 24 points including 5 of 8 from downtown in that same game for Portland.

Zach Randolph was huge for Memphis in their win over the Sacramento Kings. He scored 22 points on 9 of 12 shooting from the field, including 9 in the fourth period, and grabbed 10 boards.

The Lows

Robin Lopez contributed very little for Portland in their win over the Kings. He played 24 minutes, shot 1 of 2 from the field for his 6 points and grabbed 5 boards before he fouled out of the game. His plus minus was -7, which was the worst on the Trail Blazers roster for the game.

The Detroit Pistons bench, minus the efforts of Rodney Stuckey who had 16 points, could only manage a paltry 4 points for the entire game.

Highlights

Tuesday 19th November

The Highs

Kevin Durant had 38 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s win over the Denver Nuggets. His partner in crime, Russell Westbrook added 30 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists proving that OKC have one of the best one-two punches in the league.

#MontaHaveItAll. I’m sure we’re all well aware of the player Monta Ellis once was but are we all aware of the player he’s becoming? Ellis is becoming an efficient shooting, defensively adept and a real team player in Dallas and he was great for the Mavs in their win over Philadelphia. He had 24 points on 7 of 14 from the field, 10 assists and 4 rebounds.

Z Bo done it again on Tuesday with his 26 points on 10 of 16 from the field, 15 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in the Grizzlies big win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Lows

The Bulls Bobcats game. Not one for the faint of heart or casual viewer. Both teams shot the ball at less than 37% in a total snooze fest of a game. Kemba Walker shot 3 of 14 for his 8 points in the contest and Derrick Rose 4 of 13 for his 12 points.

The Brooklyn Nets continue to be a major disappointment. Paul Pierce shot 2 of 12, Joe Johnson 4 of 12 and the team shot 36.5% for the game. Going nowhere fast!

Wilson Chandler’s 3 for 12 from the field, 8 points in Denver’s loss to OKC wasn’t particularly pretty.

Highlights

Wednesday 20th November 

The Highs

DeMarcus Cousins is looking like he may have gotten a handle on his erratic behaviour, not to mention his inconsistent play. He was sensational for the Kings in their win over the Phoenix Suns. He had 27 points on 9 of 18 from the field, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks.

The Washington Wizards pulled off an upset win over the Minnesota Timberwolves and it was John Wall who led the way with 14 points, 5 rebounds and he tied his career high with 16 dimes. Kevin Love was good for Minnesota in the loss as he put up 25 points and grabbed 11 boards.

Terrence Jones was great for Houston in their big win over the Boston Celtics. He scored 24 points on an amazing 10 of 12 from the field. He added 9 rebounds and 2 blocks in the 109-85 win.

The Lows

The Boston Celtics lost by 24 points to the Houston Rockets, shot the ball at 32.3% from the field and 35% from downtown and just thoroughly embarrassed themselves. Avery Bradley was 5 for 22 from the field in the game and had a shocking plus minus of -36.

The Atlanta Hawks starting five were out scored by their bench in the loss to the Miami Heat 46-42. The Hawks never really looked like a chance of downing the defending champions as they went down 104-88.

Ben McLemore shot 5 of 13 from the field in the Kings win over the Suns. 38.5% from the field for the game with no assists. Hes also shooting 37.6% on the year and averaging only 0.8 assists per game. Inefficient and not much vision.

Highlights

Thursday 21st November

The Highs

Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki are proving to be quite the combination. They combined for 72 points in Dallas’ 123-120 win over Houston. Ellis had 37 points on 13 of 18 from the field with 8 dimes whilst Dirk had 35 points on 13 of 20 from the field and 7 boards.

Paul George’s MVP caliber season continues as he put up 35 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in the Pacers dramatic overtime win over the New York Knicks. He shot the ball at 12 for 26 from the field and had 5 steals to boot.

Anthony Davis has been nothing short of a revelation this season and his fine form was once again on display as the Pelicans downed Utah 105-98. Davis had 22 points on 9 of 12 from the field, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 8 blocks.

Dwight Howard showed off some of his low post moves in Houston’s loss to Dallas. He was a perfect 8 for 8 from the field at one point before finishing with 33 points on 12 of 16 from the field and 9 of 13 from the free throw line with 11 rebounds.

The Lows

Paul Pierce had just 12 points on 3 of 11 shooting in the Nets loss to Charlotte. He is now averaging 37.8% from the field for the season. Could be time to farewell the NBA if this keeps up.

The Cleveland Cavaliers starting line-up. Whilst Kyrie Irving scored 28 points, the other four starters only managed to score 7 points in the game. If they have any hopes of making the playoffs they will need this to improve out of sight.

The Orlando Magic bench was poor in their loss to the Miami Heat. They only managed 14 points for the game, despite four of them playing 15 minutes or more.

Another poor shooting night for Rudy Gay, 6 for 16 from the field. Becoming all too familiar really.

The Utah Jazz. Do I need to say anymore?

Highlights

Friday 22nd November

The Highs

Only two games played today, the Denver Nuggets beat the Chicago Bulls and were led by the play of Jordan Hamilton who had 17 points on 6 of 12 from the field and 6 rebounds.

The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Los Angeles Clippers 105-91. Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 28 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists while shooting 10 of 19 from the field.

The Lows

Luol Deng managed to grab 13 boards in the Bulls loss to Denver but he struggled to score, shooting just 3 of 18 from the field. A game to forget for Deng.

JJ Reddick shot 3 for 11 from the field for his 8 points in the Clippers loss to OKC.

Highlights

Saturday 23rd November

The Highs

Pau Gasol had 24 points on 11 of 19 shooting as the Los Angeles Lakers took out the victory against the Golden State Warriors. Gasol also added 10 rebounds and 3 assists in the win. Vintage Pau.

Caron Butler dropped 38 points including 4 of 8 from long range in the Bucks loss to the 76ers.

Spencer Hawes is having an unbelievable season so far and he was big for Philly in their win over Milwaukee. He scored 25 points, including the game tying three to take the game into overtime, 12 rebounds and 2 assists.

Kevin Love played just 28 minutes in Minnesota’s win over Brooklyn but he was big in those minutes. he had 17 points on 5 of 11 from the field and 16 boards.

The Portland Trail Blazers. They won their ninth straight with a victory over the Chicago Bulls.

The Lows

Derrick Rose, Andre Iguodala and Marc Gasol all left their games with serious injuries and all three of them are listed as out indefinitely for their teams. The Rose injury was especially bad considering he was only eleven games into his return from a torn ACL.

There were some other ordinary performances throughout the league but the real low was the injuries to the three big name players. A sad day in the NBA.

Highlights

Sunday 24th November

The Highs

The Portland Trail Blazers won their tenth straight with a win over the Golden State Warriors and it was LaMarcus Aldridge who led the way with 30 points and 21 rebounds.

Roy Hibbert’s 27 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocks ensured the Pacers would continue on their winning ways.

John Wall had 31 points on 10 of 18 from the field and 7 assists as the Wizards downed the hapless Knicks.

Leading candidate for Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams scored 29 points in the 76ers loss to Indiana. He shot 11 for 21 from the field and added 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 7 steals.

DeMarcus Cousins had 23 points, 19 rebounds and 7 assists in Sacramento’s loss to the Clippers.

The Lows

The Sacramento Kings only had three players score in double figures in their loss to the Clippers.

The New York Knicks. Yes they really are 3-9 this season.

JJ Barea shot 1 of 10 from the field and had only 1 assist in 18 minutes of court time in Minnesota’s loss to Houston.

The Milwaukee Bucks dropped to 2-10 for the season with a loss to the Bobcats. They shot a paltry 35.3% in the game and only one player scored more than 10 points in the loss.

Highlights



Image courtesy of @iropp on Twitter.

So, Now We Wait

Image courtesy of @iropp on Twitter.

Image courtesy of @iropp on Twitter.

Derrick Rose left the court with an apparent knee injury in today’s 98-95 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland. The injury was to his right knee (his left knee is the surgically repaired one) and although the prognosis isn’t known until an MRI is performed tomorrow, the injury, which was a non contact one, looked to be serious. 

They say writing and creativity is cathartic, hence my reason for these words. It’s not always fun being a sports fan, you have the highs and the lows but ultimately, like anything you love, you endure. I remember the feeling I had when Derrick Rose went down in that playoff game with the ACL tear and it wasn’t a good feeling but it was better than how I currently feel.

Sure, there’s still a reason to be optimistic, the injury he received today has not been confirmed as anything serious, yet I feel as though it’s somehow worse being on the back of the first one.

Having to come back from a second serious knee injury would undoubtedly see Rose return a different player. We haven’t really had the chance to see exactly how he’s come back from the first knee injury, being only 11 games into the season, yet here we are discussing the possibility of another one.

The first and most unfortunate thing that comes to mind so soon after the loss to Portland and the departure of Rose with the injury, is the long list of blown out knees that have derailed many an NBA players career. Portland themselves have had a few of their own guys have these issues, Brandon Roy and Greg Oden come to mind.

The worst part about this though, for me, is that we have seen what Derrick Rose is capable of, the Rookie of the Year award, the MVP, the big time explosive games that he’s played in in the past and should we never get to see Rose perform like that again it would be more than sad for many a Bulls fan and many fans of the game in general.

Rose will have an MRI tomorrow in Los Angeles and there will be thousands of people, if not millions that are praying the result of that will be a positive one, myself included. In the mean time we wait, ponder and hope. Welcome to the world of being an avid sports fan. I guess tomorrows another day but just how bright it is depends.

 

 

 

 



p4

Weekly Hoop Scoop #2

So last week’s edition of the weekly hoop scoop was M.I.A due to some much deserved, OK, maybe just needed, holiday time for myself and now that I’m back in the realm of weekly drudgery, a few kilos heavier and with an even bigger drinking habit than before I left, I felt it was time to get back to informing our loyal readers with all that’s been happening in the world of the NBA.

There’s been a veritable plethora of action as per usual this week so welcome back to the Weekly Hoop Scoop at NBA Nation Australia.

Monday November 11th

San Antonio Spurs 120 – New York Knicks 89.

The New York Knicks horror start continued when they were blown out by last year’s NBA finalists the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs were led by the stellar three point shooting of Danny Green and by the ever improving Kawhi Leonard. Green had 24 points and went 6 of 9 from the behind the arc and Leonard added 18 points on 7 of 10 shooting.

The Knicks shooting was abysmal, 37.8% from the field and 27.3% from three point range. Carmelo Anthony had 18 points and 8 rebounds but it was nowhere near enough to keep the Knicks in the game. The pressure mounts for Coach Mike Woodson.

Oklahoma City Thunder 106 – Washington Wizards 105.

OKC and the Wizards fought out a memorable clash in Oklahoma City. The Thunder got the win in overtime thanks to superstar Kevin Durant’s 33 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists, including a game tying 3 point shot in regular time and the go ahead free throws to win in overtime. The game was a fierce battle which included a heated exchange between Russell Westbrook and Nene which ended with both players being ejected. Westbrook might want to hit the weight room or try pushing someone more akin to his own size next time, I don’t think Nene moved at all!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6qeaMpYRvM

Bradley Beal was superb for the visiting Wizards scoring a career high 34 points, which included 6 of 8 shooting from behind the arc. John Wall had a particularly frustrating night shooting just 3 of 13 from the field.

Phoenix Suns 101 – New Orleans Pelicans 94.

Markieff Morris and Eric Bledsoe continued their scintillating, early season form as the Phoenix Suns brought up win number five for the season over the New Orleans Pelicans. Morris had 23 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks on 9 of 12 shooting and Bledsoe had 24 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds as he continues to flourish in his new role out of the shadow of Chris Paul.

The Pelicans were led by the play of big man Jason Smith as he scored 22 points and grabbed 8 boards. They dropped to a 3-4 record after the loss.

Minnesota Timberwolves 113 – Los Angeles Lakers 90.

The ‘Dwightmare’ may be over but the nightmare continues for the Lakers. They lost to Minnesota after having won the last 22 times against the Timberwolves. Minnesota were led by the maestro, Ricky Rubio. Rubio registered a triple double with 12 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds on 5 of 9 shooting and had a +/- of +27 for the game. Kevin Love added 25 points and Kevin Martin, who looks to have found a suitable home in Minnesota added 27.

The Lakers are a mess; they shot 38% from the field and 55.6% from the line, were out rebounded and only had three players with double figure points and not one player score more than 19 for the game. Next seasons draft is shaping up as a very important one for this proud franchise.

Tuesday November 12th

Chicago Bulls 96 – Cleveland Cavaliers 81.

The Chicago Bulls started the season with very high expectations and so far, its safe to say they have been way below them. They may have got the win against their Central Division rivals today but it came at the cost of an injury to Derrick Rose.

The Bulls were led by the one player who has been phenomenal for them so far this season, Carlos Boozer. Boozer is probably the most unheralded of the Bulls starting five but has produced so far this season when others have not. He had 17 points on 7 of 11 shooting, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in the victory.

The game was billed as a matchup between two of the NBA’s best point guards, Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving, two stars who hadn’t played each other in a game before but neither point guard played well in the contest.

Derrick Rose left the game with a strained hamstring as his horror start to the season continues.

Atlanta Hawks 103 – Charlotte Bobcats 94.

The Atlanta Hawks got the win on the road against the Bobcats thanks to the play of big man Al Horford and some great fourth quarter shooting from Cartier Martin. Horford had 24 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists and shot 9 of 15 from the field whilst Martin added 16 points including three triples in the final term to help the Hawks secure the win.

The Bobcats dropped to a 3-4 record and a 2-2 home record with the loss. Josh McRoberts led them with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists.

Indiana Pacers 95 – Memphis Grizzlies 79.

The hottest team in the NBA right now continued to sizzle with a win over the Memphis Grizzlies to take them to a league best 8-0 start for the season. Lance Stephenson registered his first career triple double with 13 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists and Paul George added 23 points on 9 of 16 shooting with a +/- of +24 for the game.

The Pacers are the first team since 2000 to start 8-0 and the 18th in NBA history to achieve the feat.

The Grizzlies Marc Gasol top scored for the visiting team with 15 points as the Grizz drop to 3-4 for the season.

San Antonio Spurs 109 – Philadelphia 76ers 85.

Danny Green continues to shine, he drained 5 of 7 threes as the San Antonio Spurs made light work of the 76ers. Green top scored for San Antonio with 18 points and added 7 rebounds and 3 assists.

Sixers rookie Michael Carter-Williams fell back to earth as he shot 2 of 11 for the game and Evan Turner top scored for Philly with 20 points on just 9 of 21 shooting.

San Antonio led for the entire game apart from a brief period where they were down by one point but they were quick to regain the lead and take a fairly easy victory.

Boston Celtics 120 – Orlando Magic 105.

The Boston Celtics had a fairly convincing win against the Orlando Magic at the The Garden in Boston. Avery Bradley top scored for the Celtics with 24 points on 10 of 15 from the field and Jordan Crawford had 16 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds. Boston shot a phenomenal 60% from the field for the game and 41.7% from three point range and only turned the ball over 13 times in the win.

The Magic’s Nikola Vucevic had 15 points and 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals in the loss as the Magic’s record dropped to 3-5 for the season.

Houston Rockets 110 – Toronto Raptors 104.

The Houston Rockets took out a thriller at the Toyota Center in Houston as they defeated the Toronto Raptors in double overtime. James Harden missed a shot to win the game in regulation which sent the game into overtime where it was Rudy Gay who had the final shot for Toronto to send it to double OT, where James Harden took over to close it out for the Rockets.

The Rockets were led by the trio of Jeremy Lin, Dwight Howard and James Harden. Lin had 31 points on 10 of 17 from the field, Howard had 18 points and 24 rebounds and Harden had 26 points and 10 dimes in the game.

The Raptors shot the ball poorly at 33.3% for the game and Rudy Gay, whilst he had 29 points went 11 for 37 from the field.

Denver Nuggets 100 – Utah Jazz 81.

The hapless Utah Jazz are still winless this season as they fell to the Denver Nuggets at home. They have now started the season 0-8 and things are looking decidedly glum in Utah. The Nuggets were led by Ty Lawson’s 17 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds. J.J Hickson had a huge dunk over Marvin Williams which pretty much sums up just how much every team is abusing the Jazz so far this season.

Utah shot 40.3% from the field and an abysmal 17.6% from behind the arc, were out rebounded 52-35 and the question still remains as to when they will get their maiden win this season.

Portland Trail Blazers 109 – Detroit Pistons 103.

Portland registered its third straight victory with a win over the Pistons at home. Their three point shooting continues to impress as they went 11 for 23 from behind the arc. Last year’s Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard had 25 points including 5 of 8 from three, 5 rebounds and 4 assists for the game.

Detroit’s ball control was excellent throughout the game as they only turned the ball over 8 times but struggled with their shooting, 46.2% from the field and 21.4% from three point territory. Brandon Jennings top scored with 28 points and Andre Drummond added 16 points and 16 rebounds.

Los Angeles Clippers 109 –Minnesota Timberwolves 107.

The Los Angeles Clippers won a tight one at Staples against the Minnesota Timberwolves in a game where two of the games best power forwards, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love went at it. Griffin had 25 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists for the game whilst Kevin Love had 23 points including 4 of 8 from long range, 19 rebounds and 7 assists but missed a tip in to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Jamal Crawford added 18 points on 7 of 11 shooting for the Clippers whose record improves to 5-3 as the Timberwolves record drops to the same mark, 5-3.

Wednesday November 13th

Miami Heat 118 – Milwaukee Bucks 95.

The Bucks were never in the contest against the Heat as LeBron James dropped 33 points on 13 of 21 shooting, including 4 of 7 from long range.

The Bucks defensive efforts were all but in vain as Miami shot 58.2% from the field, 52.2% from behind the arc, turned the ball over only 13 times, in fact the box score really doesn’t do the Bucks any favours, the only major statistical category they bettered Miami in was steals, 10-9.

A rout if there ever was one.

Dallas Mavericks 105 – Washington Wizards.

Dirk Nowitzki passed Jerry West on the NBA’s All Time Scoring list as the Dallas Mavericks beat the Washington Wizards courtesy of a big second quarter where they outscored the Wizards 28-15.

Nowitzki had 19 points which took him to 16th in career scoring in the NBA, surpassing Jerry West’s 25,192 points. He also had 8 rebounds and 2 assists in the contest.

The Wizards Trevor Ariza had a game high 27 points on 10 of 17 shooting including five treys.

Golden State Warriors 113 – Detroit Pistons 95.

The Golden State Warriors got the jump out of the gate, basically winning the game in the first quarter thanks to a 35-16 start. Steph Curry led the Warriors with 25 points on 7 of 10 shooting with 8 assists and 2 rebounds. Jermaine O’Neal turned back the clock with his performance, scoring 17 points on 7 of 8 shooting with 6 rebounds.

Golden State shot 60% from the field, 50% from three point range, were +9 in rebounds, +12 in assists but turned the ball over 23 times.

Detroit shot just 16.7% from three point range, 3 for 18 for the game.

Los Angeles Lakers 116 – New Orleans Pelicans 95.

Jordan Hill had a night to remember for the Lakers as he posted 21 points on 7 of 12 shooting, 11 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals as the Lakers got a big win over the visiting New Orleans Pelicans.

The Lakers were very efficient in the win; shooting 55.7% from the field, 55% from behind the arc and 81% from the charity stripe.

The game will be best remembered for Xavier Henry’s huge dunk over rookie big man Jeff Withey. Henry completely posterised Withey as he attempted to take the charge under the basket. Check it out here – http://nbanationaustralia.com/2013/11/13/put-it-on-a-poster-lakers-xavier-henrys-gigantic-slam-video/

Jrue Holiday continued his shooting woes for the new season going 2 for 11 in the loss.

Thursday November 14th

Orlando Magic 94 – Milwaukee Bucks 91.

The Orlando Magic rallied back after a slow start to get a victory over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks. The Magic were led by Aaron Afflalo who scored 36 points on 11 of 15 shooting with an amazing 8 treys. He also had 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals in the huge performance.

The Bucks had the better of things early on and took the lead into the break but the Magic came home strong and took the win in a close fought affair.

O.J Mayo top scored for the Bucks with 25 points and Khris Middleton added 19 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals.

Philadelphia 76ers 123 – Houston Rockets 117.

A bruised left foot was the catalyst for keeping both James Harden and Michael Carter-Williams out of the game and the loss of Harden proved to be too much for the Rockets as they went down to the surprisingly good Philadelphia team.

Tony Wroten, in his first career start, registered a triple double for Philly with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists whilst James Anderson added a career high 36 points on 12 of 16 shooting.

The Rockets Jeremy Lin scored 34 points and dished out 12 assists but it wasn’t to be enough to beat the underdog 76ers.

Charlotte Bobcats 89 – Boston Celtics 83.

The Charlotte Bobcats biggest off season signing Al Jefferson led them to a victory over the Boston Celtics at The Garden in Boston. Jefferson scored 22 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had 3 assists and 2 blocks in the victory.

The expectation of both teams at the commencement of the season was quite low and whilst they have both exceeded expectations so far this game wasn’t one for the casual fan. Both teams shot the ball poorly, below 40% as the low score line suggests.

Jordan Crawford and Jeff Green were the only Celtics to score more than 10 points in the game.

Toronto Raptors 103 – Memphis Grizzlies 87.

The Memphis Grizzlies disappointing start to their 2013/14 NBA campaign continues as they lost to the Toronto Raptors at home in Memphis. The Raptors ball control, (13 turnovers) and defense, they kept the Grizzlies to 42.7% shooting, were the main reasons behind the surprise win for Toronto.

Rudy Gay led the charge with 23 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists but his shooting woes continue as he shot 5 of 18 from the field and his field goal percentage sits at 36.5% for the season so far.

The Grizzlies won the battle in the paint by outscoring Toronto 36-24 but their 17 turnovers and overall shooting percentage cost them the game.

Minnesota Timberwolves 124 – Cleveland Cavaliers 95.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are beginning to look like the real deal this season. Led by the stellar play of stars Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio they completely blew out the Cleveland Cavaliers to take their record to 6-3 this season.

All five of their starters scored in double figures for the game with Kevin Love leading the way with his 33 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists whilst Corey Brewer added 27 points and Ricky Rubio had 16 assists.

The Cavaliers, a team that many people were banking on having a big season, have started poorly and drop to 3-6 for the season. Kyrie Irving led them with 20 points in the loss.

New York Knicks 95 – Atlanta Hawks 91.

The New York Knicks won for the fifth straight time against the Hawks with Carmelo Anthony and Andrea Bargnani leading the way. Anthony, playing in the power forward position for the first time this season scored 25 points and Bargnani continued his surprising recent form by adding 20 points and 11 rebounds on 8 of 15 shooting.

The Hawks were led by Jeff Teague with 25 points but lost their first game at home for the season and drop to 4-4 for the year.

San Antonio 92 – Washington Wizards 79.

The Spurs have always been a team that doesn’t garner too much mainstream media attention in the regular season and this continues to be the same as they racked up their eighth win of the season against the Washington Wizards.

San Antonio had it all their own way as they led the contest from start to finish and never looked in any serious trouble. Their brand of team basketball was reflected in the box scores as they had six players score in double figures.

8-1 on the season and 4-0 at home, you know this team will be as dangerous as ever come the post season.

The Wizards however are a team that’s struggling to find their rhythm and they drop to 2-6 for the year.

Denver Nuggets 111 – Los Angeles Lakers 99.

Kenneth Faried may have been the target of many a trade rumour recently but he hasn’t let it affect his game. He scored 23 points on 8 of 13 shooting and grabbed 13 boards to lead the Denver Nuggets to a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Nuggets led the game from start to finish and despite having the inferior record to the Lakers, they had things mostly their own way. Timofey Mosgov had 23 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks in the win.

Jordan Hill continues to impress for a Laker team that’s in fairly unfamiliar territory as they struggle to keep close to .500 this year.

Utah Jazz 111 – New Orleans Pelicans 105.

It was bound to happen eventually. The Utah Jazz registered their first win of the season in their ninth attempt with a victory over the Pelicans.

Gordon Hayward has been putting up some huge numbers but to no avail as the Jazz have been on the losing end of things until now. Hayward scored 27 points and dished out 10 dimes in the win and his season averages stand at 20.3 ppg, 6 rpg and 5 apg.

The Pelicans Anthony Davis continued his break out season with 29 points and 15 rebounds but the Pelicans drop to 3-6 for the season.

Portland Trail Blazers 90 – Phoenix Suns 89.

A late layup basket by Damian Lillard sealed a close fought win for the Portland Trail Blazers over the Phoenix Suns at the Moda Center in Portland.

The Blazers were led by the play of big man Robin Lopez who had 13 points and 15 rebounds in the win. Thomas Robinson top scored for Portland off the bench with 15 points as he attempts to find his way in what has been a fairly underwhelming NBA career to date.

The Suns Eric Bledsoe was their best on court, scoring 23 points with 6 assists and 3 rebounds.

Sacramento Kings 107 – Brooklyn Nets 86.

The Brooklyn Nets, the super-rich, fully stacked, albeit long in tooth team with a payroll bigger than most countries GDP have endured a more than disappointing start to this season and the disappointment continued with a blowout loss to the Sacramento Kings.

The Kings were led by the play of Marcus Thornton with 24 points and Greivis Vasquez with 17 points and 12 assists.

Brooklyn shot the ball woefully at 37.8% from the field and 23.1% from behind the arc. They fall to 2-5 for the season and a certain Russian billionaire is undoubtedly fuming at his lack of return on his big investment so far this year.

Los Angeles Clippers 111 – Oklahoma City Thunder 103.

The Clippers got the win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in a controversial game where both Matt Barnes and Serge Ibaka were ejected.

The ejections came after a scuffle that occurred in the dying seconds of the second quarter. Ibaka became tangled up with Blake Griffin, a player with which he has some history with, and pushed him off before Matt Barnes took offense at Ibaka and shoved him. The ensuing scuffle, or lack of, caused the ejection of both players.

The Clippers would go on to win the game led by Griffin’s 22 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists. Chris Paul had 16 assists in the game and he continues to lead the league in dimes.

Kevin Durant had 33 points, 6 rebounds and 10 assists in the loss between two of the western conference’s better teams.

Friday November 15th

Houston Rockets 109 – New York Knicks 106.

Carmelo Anthony dropped 45 points and grabbed 10 boards, Andrea Bargnani bested Dwight Howard and kept him to just 7 points on 1 of 5 shooting but it wasn’t enough to see the New York Knicks get the win at Madison Square Garden.

The Rockets won a hard fought battle thanks in most part to the play of James Harden, who scored 36 points and added 9 boards for the Rockets.

Howard was disappointing in a matchup which for all intents and purposes looked to be one that favoured him. He did well on the glass grabbing 15 rebounds but will need to have more of an impact offensively should the Rockets look to be a serious contender come playoff time.

The Knicks fell to 3-5 for the season and the pressure of playing in New York City just never goes away, especially when they’re losing more than they’re winning.

Golden State Warriors 116 – Oklahoma City Thunder 115.

The Oklahoma City Thunder lost their second game in two days with a close loss to the Warriors on the road in Oakland.

Golden State were led by the stellar play of sharp shooter Klay Thompson who scored 27 points on 10 of 15 shooting including 6 three pointers. His partner in crime Steph Curry added 4 threes of his own and 22 points.

The Warriors ball control was excellent as they only turned the ball over 7 times in the contest and shot the lights out from long range hitting 60.9% of three pointers.

OKC were led by Russell Westbrook’s 31 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists.

Saturday November 16th

Chicago Bulls 96 – Toronto Raptors 80.

The Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose sat out this one due to a strained hamstring and the Bulls looked none the worse for it as they completely dominated the Toronto Raptors on the road. All five of the Bulls starters scored in double figures for the game as they kept the Raptors to 35.4% shooting.

Luol Deng led the Bulls with 19 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists and an impressive +/- of +24.

DeMar DeRozan dropped 37 points and Rudy Gay added 20 points but the other ten players to see court time for the Raptors could only manage a combined 23 points, a truly forgettable game for Toronto fans.

Indiana Pacers 104 – Milwaukee Bucks 77.

The difference in class was more than apparent in this game between the undefeated Pacers and the 2-5 Bucks.

The Pacers made easy work of Milwaukee and were led by the play of big man Roy Hibbert who scored 24 points, grabbed 10 boards and blocked a phenomenal 8 shots on the game. Hibbert is now averaging 4.78 blocks per game and whilst its early days that number would be good enough for fourth all time for a single season in NBA history.

Paul George added 22 points for the Pacers in the win but it was the defensive efforts for Indiana which kept the Bucks to 34.1% shooting that led them to such a blowout win.

Atlanta Hawks 113 – Philadelphia 76ers 103.

Jeff Teague scored a career high 33 points to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 113 -103 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Teague shot 10 of 16, grabbed 4 rebounds and dished out 10 assists in the win. DeMarre Carroll added 21 points and Al Horford 20.

Evan Turner continued his great season by top scoring for the 76ers with 27 but it wasn’t enough as Philly drops to 5-5 for the season.

Portland Trail Blazers 109 – Boston Celtics 96.

The Portland Trail Blazers won their fifth straight game when they defeated the Boston Celtics at The Garden in Boston. They take their season record to a surprising 7-2.

LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers with 27 points and 12 boards. Nicolas Batum added 18 points including four treys and Mo Williams had 18 on 8 of 13 shooting.

The Celtics Jared Sullinger had 26 points in the loss on 11 of 18 shooting but the Celtics were badly beaten on the glass being out rebounded 47-34.

Charlotte Bobcats 86 – Cleveland Cavaliers 80.

The Bobcats, led by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist defeated the Cavaliers on the road to take their season record to 5-4. Kidd-Gilchrist had 16 points and 8 rebounds in the win which was the Cavaliers the first home loss this season.

Charlotte had five players score in double figures in the game.

Cleveland who were led by Kyrie Irving, 18 points and 10 assists, drop to a disappointing 3-7 for the year.

Miami Heat 110 – Dallas Mavericks 104.

LeBron James scored a season high 39 points as the Heat won a hard fought battle over the Dallas Mavericks in Miami. James shot 14 of 18, grabbed 6 rebounds and dished out 4 dimes in the win.

Both teams shot over 50% in what was a very entertaining clash. Dallas suffered with their ball control as they turned it over 24 times in the game.

Dirk Nowitzki had 28 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists in the loss and Monta Ellis added 20 points.

Denver Nuggets 117 – Minnesota Timberwolves 113.

Expectations for the Nuggets weren’t exactly sky high this season for most pundits, but they continue to play hard and sit at 4-4 after a good win against the Minnesota Timberwolves at home in the Pepsi Center.

Kenneth Faried led the way with 16 points and 10 rebounds and Wilson Chandler in his second game back scored 19 points including 3 of 4 from long range.

Kevin Love’s big numbers were once again on display as he put up 28 points on 10 of 20 shooting with 10 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks but the Timberwolves drop to 6-4.

Brooklyn Nets 100 – Phoenix Suns 98.

Joe Johnson was responsible for Brooklyn escaping with a last second win over the Phoenix Suns. Johnson hit a floater with 30 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime and then with the clock winding down in the overtime period he hit a buzzer beater to win the game for the Nets.

Despite hitting two very important shots Johnson didn’t have the best of games shooting just 6 of 19 for the game. Big man Brook Lopez was Brooklyn’s best with 27 points and 7 rebounds.

The Suns who were led by Goran Dragic’s 19 points drop to 5-4 on the season while the Nets improve to 3-5.

San Antonio Spurs 91 – Utah Jazz 82.

The Utah Jazz started their game against the Spurs with a 29-16 run in the first quarter but the Spurs were good enough to weather the storm and when it really counted they made their move, outscoring the Jazz 31-15 in the fourth.

Tony Parker led the Spurs with 22 points and 6 assists as they improved to 9-1 on the season.

The Jazz drop to 1-9 for the season and it seems the lottery is their final destination this season. Derrick Favors scored 20 points and grabbed 18 boards in the loss but the Jazz shot a woeful 38.5% from the field.

Memphis Grizzlies 89 – Los Angeles Lakers 86.

The Grizzlies and the Lakers were two teams desperate for a win coming in to this one but it was Memphis who took out the win in a tight one in Los Angeles.

Zach Randolph led the Grizzlies with 28 points including 14 in the final term. Marc Gasol added 18 points for Memphis in the win but it was the play of Z Bo that will be remembered as the catalyst for the victory.

Jodie Meeks played well for L.A with 25 points on 10 of 16 shooting with 5 threes.

The Lakers drop to 4-7 for the season as their fans start to talk lottery and Memphis improve to 4-5.

Detroit Pistons 97 – Sacramento Kings 90.

The Sacramento Kings fans set a world record for arena decibel levels during the game but on the court things weren’t so loud for the Kings. They went down to the visiting Detroit Pistons in a close one.

Josh Smith was outstanding for Detroit and fantasy owners would have been more than impressed with his numbers. He put up 21 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals and 4 blocks in the win. The Pistons improved their record to 3-5 whilst the Kings drop to 2-6.

DeMarcus Cousins played well for Sacramento in the loss scoring 26 points and grabbing 13 boards.

Sunday November 17th

Chicago Bulls 110 – Indiana Pacers 94.

The Chicago Bulls haven’t had the start that many expected but a big win over the undefeated Indiana Pacers should go a long way towards building some much needed confidence for the Bulls and their star point guard Derrick Rose, who also looked very good in the win.

Rose scored 20 points on 7 of 16 shooting including 6 of 11 from behind the arc. He also managed to not the turn the ball over once in the game, something with which he has had a lot of trouble with so far this season.

Luol Deng looked like the All Star he is by adding 23 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals and kept Pacers star Paul George to 12 points on 3 of 14 shooting.

The Pacers drop their first game of the season and sit at 9-1 while the Bulls improve to 5-3 with the big win.

Miami Heat 97 – Charlotte Bobcats 81.

The Miami Heat made light work of the Bobcats in Charlotte as LeBron James scored 30 points on 13 of 18 shooting with 7 assists and 4 rebounds. James is shooting the lights out this season as his 62.2% from the field for the season attests to and it was more of the same in Charlotte for ‘The King’.

New addition to the Heat squad, Michael Beasley, played some good minutes in the game and added 15 points on 7 of 14 shooting.

Kemba Walker was the Bobcats best in the loss with 22 points including three treys.

Dallas Mavericks 108 – Orlando Magic 100.

The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Orlando Magic in Orlando in what was an entertaining game between the two teams. Both teams shot the ball at better than 50% but it was the Mavericks experience that shone through in the end.

Monta Ellis led the Mavericks with 19 points on 8 of 18 shooting with 8 assists and Dirk Nowitzki added 18 points of his own including four threes.

The Magic’s Aaron Afflalo scored 25 points in the loss which saw the Magic drop to 4-6 while Dallas improved to 6-4 for the season.

Cleveland Cavaliers 103 – Washington Wizards 96.

The Cleveland Cavaliers won a thrilling contest in Washington as two of the NBA’s best point guards battled it out.

The Cavaliers Kyrie Irving had the better of things with his 41 points in the overtime win while Wizards point guard John Wall, who looked phenomenal early on, scored just 9 points on 3 of 13 shooting but had 12 assists in the game.

Aussie Matthew Dellavedova played 31 minutes in the game including most of the overtime period and while he only put up 2 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists his contribution to the game went beyond the box score and will no doubt give him confidence in the fact that Mike Brown gave him such an opportunity.

Atlanta Hawks 110 – New York Knicks 90.

The Knicks lost their fifth straight home game to the Atlanta Hawks, who are playing some seriously good team ball, took out the win.

The Hawks had eight of their ten players score in double figures in the win and they shot an impressive 56.4% from the field against what can only be described as a hapless Knicks team who played little to no defense.

Paul Millsap had 14 point and 13 boards in the win.

The Knicks drop to 3-6 and 1-5 at home with the loss and the pressure of playing in NYC just keeps rising.

Houston Rockets 122 – Denver Nuggets 111.

The Nuggets played ‘Hack a Howard’ and for once the big man made a team pay by hitting most of his free throws. Howard scored 25 points in the win and shot 17 of 24 from behind the stripe. All five of Houston’s starters scored in double figures and the team shot the ball well at 50.6% from the field.

The Nuggets Ty Lawson had a spectacular game albeit in a losing team as he scored 28 points on 11 of 19 shooting and dished out a huge 17 assists.

Houston improved to 7-4 on the season while the Nuggets drop to 4-5.

Minnesota Timberwolves 106 – Boston Celtics 88.

It was always going to be a tough ask for the visiting Boston Celtics to get a win in Minnesota and it played out exactly that way. Minnesota are proving to be a tough ask for most teams this season. Kevin Love led them to victory with his 23 points and 12 rebounds while Nikola Pekovic added 20 points and 12 rebounds of his own.

The Celtics Avery Bradley top scored with 27 on 12 of 23 shooting but it wasn’t enough as there were only three players who scored in double figures in the game for Boston.

Boston drop to 4-7 while Minnesota improved to 7-4.

New Orleans Pelicans 135 – Philadelphia 76ers 98.

New Orleans completely blew the 76ers away thanks to a huge game for Ryan Anderson in his return to play. Anderson scored 26 points off the bench and shot 6 of 10 from downtown. Anthony Davis scored 13 points, grabbed 9 rebounds and blocked 8 shots in the win and continues to keep fantasy owners very happy this season.

The Pelicans had seven players score in double digits and shot an unheard of 60.5% from the field and 46.4% from three point range.

The 76ers conversely shot 42.1% from the field and drop to 5-6 on the season with a loss they would be best to forget quick smart.

Oklahoma City Thunder 92 – Milwaukee Bucks 79.

Russell Westbrook’s comeback continues to be a success as he led the Thunder to a win over the Bucks in Milwaukee.

Westbrook scored 26 points on 10 of 20 shooting, Kevin Durant added 24 of his own and Serge Ibaka added 15 points and a huge 20 boards in the win.

The Bucks poor shooting, 34.9% from the field, was the catalyst for another disappointing loss for them and they drop to 2-7 on the season. They’re looking more and more like a lottery team with each game that passes.

Golden State Warriors 102 – Utah Jazz 88.

The Utah Jazz are becoming seriously embarrassing. They lost their tenth game of the season when the Golden State Warriors blew them away 102-88 in Oakland.

The Warriors were led by Klay Thompson’s 25 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists. Thompson shot 9 of 14 and 5 of 8 from three point range and is having a breakout season currently averaging 20.9 points per game on 55.2% shooting.

The Jazz were no match for the Warriors and it showed. It’s a long road to the NBA draft for Jazz fans this year.

Los Angeles Clippers 110 – Brooklyn Nets 103.

The Brooklyn Nets were without big name players Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez and Paul Pierce so the odds were well and truly stacked against them against a red hot Clippers team.

The Clippers were led by Blake Griffin who had 30 points and 12 boards for the game. The Clippers had to rally late in the game to ensure they got the victory and despite the loss the Nets played well, all things considered.

Brooklyn drop to 3-6 and the Clippers improve to a 7-3 record for the season.

Keep an eye out next Monday for another edition of the Weekly Hoop Scoop and don’t forget, Pierre is watching you….

Thanks to http://believethehypenba.com/ for the picture.

Thanks to http://believethehypenba.com/ for the picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



p4

Weekly Hoop Scoop

It’s finally here! After months of whinging and whining about a lack of basketball, hoops junkies everywhere are getting their proverbial fix this week and what a start to the NBA season we’ve had so far.

I’d been thinking about doing a weekly recap of NBA news for quite some time now and between work, mortgage, kids and a slight compulsion to drinking too much I never really started it, but there’s no time like the present. So every Monday morning, when you’re hopelessly bereft of hope, dragging your ass to another week of blissful employment or if you’re not gainfully employed, then when you crawl out of bed at 11am hungover, you can expect a rundown of some of the highlights and low lights of the week that was in the NBA.

So with the formalities done, here’s a recap of the NBA’s first week or in this case, half week of action.

Wednesday October 30th.

The season began with the reigning champion Miami Heat receiving their rings before facing their Eastern Conference rivals the Chicago Bulls.

Bulls fans had been foaming at the mouth for months for this game and despite a good start for Chicago, the Bulls once again struggled to score points at times and ultimately went down to the Heat 107-95 but more than anything the game marked the official return for former MVP Derrick Rose. Rose didn’t exactly light things up as he shot 4 for 15 with five turnovers but the good news is he looks as explosive as ever.

The Lakers made the Clippers pay for the mere suggestion that they will cover up their banners at Staples Center with a 116-103 victory over their crosstown rivals and some fans decided, based on that one game, that the Clippers aren’t a contender anymore, talk about premature!

Paul George dropped 24 as the Pacers made light work of the hapless Orlando Magic 97-87. Did someone say Wiggins?

Thursday October 31st

Day two of the NBA was huge with fourteen games played. Highlights included the 76ers beginning their quest to go 82-0 by beating the Miami Heat 114-110. Rookie Michael Carter-Williams had one of the greatest debuts in NBA history as he put up 22 points, 7 rebounds, 12 assists and 9, yes 9 steals!

Durant dropped 42 in a 101-98 win over the Jazz, Kevin Love had 31 points and 17 boards as the Wolves beat the Magic 120-115, DeMarcus Cousins showed why he got that huge contract by scoring 30 points and grabbing 14 rebounds as the Kings eeked out a 90-88 win over the Nuggets.

The Lakers came crashing back down to earth as they copped a 31 point thrashing against the Golden State Warriors, going down 125-94. Klay Thompson was sensational as he shot 15 of 19 including 5 of 7 from long range.

Dwight Howard grabbed 26 boards in Houston’s 96-83 win over the Bobcats, The Cavs got an upset 98-94 win over the stacked Brooklyn Nets team, The Raptors beat the Celtics 93-87, more Wiggins, Detroit got an easy win over the Wizards 113-102 with Piston big man Greg Monroe scoring 24 and grabbing 16 rebounds.

The Pacers beat the Pelicans 95-90 and Paul George continues to take his game to new levels, he had 32 points. Monta Ellis made his debut in Dallas and in some kind of bizarre reversal of form he was super-efficient shooting 11 of 17 and racked up 8 dimes in a 118-109 win over the Atlanta Hawks. The Spurs got the win over Memphis 101-94 with their usual unselfish play, six players with double figure points and despite 32 from Damian Lillard, Portland went down to the Suns 104-91.

For me though, the highlight of the day was the coming out party for Pierre the pelican. The New Orleans mascot looks like he could be the lead character in a Stephen King novel. I’m thinking something like “It” but with a Pelican who delivers fast food before killing his victims/customers. Social media went into a frenzy after Pierre was unveiled by the Pelicans Twitter account with all sorts of photoshops occurring featuring the pelican. Now I’m pretty partial to Benny the Bull but Pierre is the new kid in town!

Here’s a few of my favourite Pierre photoshops.

Pierre

Then there’s the pièce de résistance

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Friday November 1st

After such an action packed Thursday, the NBA schedule for Friday featured just two games, the Bulls vs Knicks and the Clippers vs Warriors.

The Bulls Knicks game was the first game Derrick Rose had played at the United Centre since his injury and the Bulls faithful were excited by the prospect of seeing him play again. Rose continued to struggle much like the game against Miami but he did hit the game winner as the Bulls won 82-81.

The real highlight of the day however, was Chris Paul’s amazing stat line of 42 points, 15 assists and 6 steals as the Clippers bounced back after their loss to the Lakers, with an emphatic 126-115 win over a tough Golden State team. The game had plenty of feeling about it as seen here when DeAndre Jordan and Andrew Bogut got into a heated discussion on what would have undoubtedly been about politics or religion. I’ll let you decide.

Saturday November 2nd.

Saturday’s eight games provided some memorable upsets and plenty of highlights.

The Thunder were beaten fairly comprehensively by Minnesota with Love and Rubio running riot. Love had 24 points on 7 of 12 shooting with 12 boards, Rubio added 14 points, 10 assists and 5 steals as the Wolves got the big 100-81 win.

The Bobcats got a win over the Cavs 90-84 with Kemba Walker top scoring with 23 points including a late three to seal the deal.

The Orlando Magic registered their first win of the season against the New Orleans Pelicans, 110-90, thanks in part to a 30 point game from Aaron Afflalo. Rookie Victor Oladipo looked good at times in the game and showed just why many have him pegged as a future star. The Pelicans start the season 0-2 for the first time since 2004-05.

The Philadelphia 76ers improved to 2-0 for the season with a 109-102 win over the Washington Wizards and despite a big start from John Wall who hit his first seven shots of the game only to go 3 for 12 afterwards, the Sixers came away with the victory. They were led by Thad Young who scored 29 points on 14 of 20 shooting and grabbed 8 boards. It seems Philly aren’t here for the tanking.

The Atlanta Hawks beat the Toronto Raptors 102-95 thanks to some solid play from big man Al Horford, 22 points, 9 of 14 shooting and 16 rebounds. DeMar DeRozan was good for Toronto in the loss scoring 31 points and Rudy Gay had a particularly tough day at the office shooting just 6 of 23.

The Milwaukee Bucks had an impressive comeback to beat the Boston Celtics 105-98. Boston had a 22 point lead at one point but the Bucks, led by the play of big man Zaza Pachulia, who top scored with 20 points, clawed back and took the win. The Bucks bench combined for an impressive 66 points.

The Rockets are a love/hate thing for me, I love Harden but hate Dwight Howard. Harden was phenomenal for the Rockets with his 34 points on 11 of 17 shooting in their 113-105 win over the Mavericks in Houston. Dwight was all over the glass with 16 boards but still shoots free throws like an eight year old child, 5 of 12 for the game.

Memphis had a very quiet off season, no major roster changes and their start to the season hasn’t been given much coverage from the bigger NBA authorities like ESPN but they continue to play solid basketball. They managed a 111-108 win over the Detroit Pistons in overtime at the Fed Ex Forum in Memphis. Mike Conley led all scorers with 22 points on 7 of 12 shooting and Josh Smith was all over the box score for Detroit despite the loss with 19 points, 8 boards, 5 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks but shot poorly at 7 for 23 from the field.

The Brooklyn Nets handed the Miami Heat a narrow 101-100 loss and its the first time the Heat have lost two in a row since January. One of LeBron’s greatest adversaries and new Brooklyn Net, Paul Pierce, wound the clock back with his performance scoring 19 points on 5 of 10 shooting, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and one big blocked shot on LeBron.

James scored 26 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in the loss.

The Portland Trailblazers made easy work of the Denver Nuggets 113-98 at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Nicholas Batum had the hot hand in the first half scoring all of his 21 points before the break. He shot of 8 of 14 from the field and nailed 5 threes in his rampaging first half. LaMarcus Aldridge top scored with 25. Only two Nuggets players scored more than 11 points for the game.

A late three pointer from Phoenix Suns point guard Eric Bledsoe gave them an 87-84 win over the Utah Jazz at the U.S Airways Centre in Phoenix. In a game where neither team shot the ball well, (below 38%) Miles Plumlee managed to score 13 points on 6 of 11 shooting with 13 rebounds. Enes Kanter top scored for Utah with 20 points.

Chris Paul continued his hot form for the Clippers as they beat the Sacramento Kings on the road 110-101. Paul scored 26 points and added 10 assists. Blake Griffin scored 20 grabbed 17 rebounds and dished out 6 assists in the win. Yes there were alley oops but no I wont call it that name. Isaiah Thomas was spectacular for the home team in the loss, scoring 29 points on 9 of 13 shooting from the field, his dribble penetration getting him to the line often where he went 8 for 10.

The Laker banners were visible for their clash with San Antonio Spurs at the Staples Center but even a Tim Duncan-less Spurs were too much for the Lakers. Tony Parker led the charge for San Antonio scoring 24 points and dishing out 6 dimes. Only three players scored in double figures for the Lakers in the loss. We shall soon see who the true Laker fans are.

Sunday November 3rd.

Sunday started off with the Philadelphia 76ers hosting the Chicago Bulls and it was to be another upset victory for Philadelphia. They won the game 107-104 and were once again led by first week rookie sensation Michael Carter-Williams. MCW or the hyphen as I’ve heard him called this week scored 26 points, had 10 assists and showed that he will be a tough ask to defend for so many point guards in the league because of his length. Derrick Rose struggled for the third straight gme and Carlos Boozer was Chicago’s best with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Amnesty who?

The Indiana Pacers were too much for the Cleveland Cavaliers winning 89-74. The Pacers Lance Stephenson top scored for them with 22 points and Paul George was Paul George, great again, with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Cleveland really struggled shooting the ball at 34.9% from the field. You can credit the Pacers D for that statistic.

The New Orleans Pelicans won their first game of the season beating the still disastrously bad Charlotte Bobcats 105-84. Fantasy owners of Anthony Davis were celebrating as his name was splashed all across the box scores. He had 25 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 steals and 6 blocks. I don’t know what’s more scary, the fact that Davis will only get better or that the Bobcats only had two players score double figures in the game.

Dallas looked impressive in their 111-99 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. Shawn Marion played like it was 2005 again, scoring 21 points and grabbing 14 rebounds but it was Dirk Nowitzki who impressed most with his 24 points on 7 of 16 shooting with 3 three pointers. The Grizzlies had eight players score 7 or less points and their bench didn’t contribute much at all in the game.

The Toronto Raptors managed to score a valuable road win over the Milwaukee Bucks 97-90. The Raptors didn’t shoot the ball particularly well but they did manage to out rebound the Bucks 60-38, Rudy Gay was a major factor in this as he grabbed 15 boards to go along with 18 points. The Bucks O.J Mayo played well in the loss scoring 16 points, grabbing 6 rebounds and 8 assists.

The Utah Jazz really took it to the Houston Rockets in the first half of today’s 104-93 loss but the Rockets class shone through in the end. Houston only used eight players in the win. Parsons Harden and Lin all scored more than 20 points whilst Howard added 15. The Rockets take their record to 3-0 and are looking like the real deal.

The Portland Trailblazers were too good for the San Antonio Spurs winning 115-105. Nicholas Batum had a triple double with 11 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists whilst Damian Lillard scored 25 with 7 rebounds and 7 assists in the win. Portland shot the lights out at 55.6% from the field, 40% from behind the arc and 89.5% from the line for the game. Entertaining!

The final game of the day was a victory for the Golden State Warriors over the Sacramento Kings 98-87. The Kings gave the Warriors little trouble all throughout the game. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson scored 22 and 27 respectively and Aussie big man Andrew Bogut got under DeMarcus Cousins’ skin at times and Cousins finished with a paltry 8 points. After the game he refused to speak with the media following. Not sure how many times we need to talk about giving him more time to mature. The time is now for DMC as hes more than talented enough to dominate this league but let’s himself and teammates down all too often.

So with the first week of the NBA done and dusted, I feel as if I’ve begun to feed the addiction once again and look forward to another week of the greatest sporting league in the world. Enjoy your Monday. 



SSHOF9612

Sam Smith Interview

Image Source - www.sports.yahoo.com

Sam Smith covers the Chicago Bulls for http://www.nba.com/bulls/ and is a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. He’s spent the last three decades covering the Bulls for the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Bulls own website. He is the author of the bestselling book The Jordan Rules and one of the most well respected writers to ever cover the NBA.

I spoke with Sam on the phone for NBA Nation Australia and he had lots to say on all manner of things, including the Bulls past and present, Jordan, Pippen, Rose, his influences and his thoughts on modern media. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed speaking to Sam himself.

You started covering the Bulls full time in 1987, what were your first impressions of the team up close, prior to all the success they were to have?

Well I had been around the team since the early ’80’s, 83 I think, writing feature stories and filling in at times, basically since the arrival of Jordan. He was always viewed as such a terrific talent with an imperfect team, it was a team with a lot of turnover and uncertainty, a great player amidst a confused situation and so the question was going to be whether it could ever turn into a team and whether Jordan’s greatness and ability would be able to adapt to being a part of the team rather than feeling, cause he always felt, that they just weren’t good enough and he had to do so much.

The other part of the process was for him to accept and trust that his team mates would be good enough and they could help through times when he wasn’t at his best or the defense had concentrated on him so much to limit what he could do, so it was really an interesting and entertaining time of growth and uncertainty.

 

In your first few years of covering the Bulls they lost to the Pistons in the playoffs, did you feel as though they were destined to always fall at that final hurdle despite all the talent they had or did you think that elusive title would eventually come?

I didn’t know if they would get the title, I didn’t think they were that far away. The Pistons were beating them but I felt they were more talented, I thought the Pistons were just a better team and they were more physical and they tended to intimidate a lot of players on the Bulls. I felt that the Bulls players had to get past that and learn to stand up in these kinds of games and then they could beat them. I just didn’t know if they could though, Pippen was a young player, tended to get very intimidated, Grant at times as well and early on they didn’t really have a centre to match up until they got Bill Cartwright and then it was a matter of working him into the team. I did feel they were good enough because you would see them win a lot these games, they’d beat Boston or they’d beat the Lakers, they beat good teams and they played great games it’s just whether they could win the series.

 

The 1990-91 season was the biggest in the Bulls history at the time but it was also huge in your own career. You wrote the controversial book The Jordan Rules, how did the players react after the book was released? Was there any animosity and did it alter your relationship with the players negatively at all?

No there really wasn’t much at all, in fact the media was really angrier with me than the players were. The players had all 

the_jordan_rules

The Jordan Rules was on the New York Times bestsellers list for three months.

participated in the book, not that they were co-authors or anything but they knew what I was doing and they actually encouraged me to write the book because they had had difficulties playing with Jordan. Jordan was very critical of them and a lot of them didn’t feel they had the ability to address him and there were a number of players that had come to me over the years before that and said “you know Michael did this and Michael did that, you know you should write that” and I said “well I’ll quote you in saying that” and they were like ”no you can’t do that”. When the book came out, Jordan wasn’t happy about it, not so much because of what it said, I’m not sure he ever read the book but the media sort of piled on and he viewed it as an attack on him and it wasn’t. I didn’t write it that way and I think if anyone reads it now, they’ll see that it’s not. 

The other players greeted it well, the first time I went in the locker room after the book came out, I went over to Jordan and said if he had any issues with me, I’d be happy to address them and he had nothing to say and then BJ Armstrong kind of greeted me warmly, started talking to me as did Bill Cartwright, John Paxson and a couple of others, they were all fine, they never had any resentment and in fact when the book came out a lot media members were angry or jealous or whatever the case may be and they were writing that it would destroy the team and the day the book was released the Bulls went on the longest winning streak in franchise history so that kind of diminished a lot of that.

 

You knew Phil Jackson prior to him becoming Bulls Coach did having that relationship help or hinder you when covering the team?

It helped me quite a bit. I knew Phil a little bit from his days coaching in the CBA and when he came to the Bulls as Assistant Coach I got to know him well and he really did a lot towards helping me learn about basketball. We travelled in those days on commercial airlines, the team didn’t have its own charter or have its own plane and I would often try to sit next to Phil on the plane or spend time with him on the road. He wasn’t really close with Head Coach Doug Collins as he was hired by management, so he really didn’t have a lot of friends on the coaching staff and I’d question him a lot, asking him why coaches did what they did in certain situations and learned a lot about his philosophies. So when he became Head Coach, I had a good relationship with him, we would talk all the time and he would explain to me why he was doing what he was doing, so really it was my primary education about basketball spending time with Phil.

 

You were there for Michael Jordan’s three first games, rookie game, return from baseball and final stint with Washington and his last three games. Does any one of these particular games stand out in your memory and why?

Well obviously the last one in 1998, you know when he made the shot against Utah, that was probably what many people consider that to be his most dramatic game. He steals the ball from Karl Malone on one end as Utah’s about to send it to a seventh game, drove down the other end basically calls the shot like Babe Ruth, you know Babe Ruth’s famous called home run shot, whether it’s true or not, you know it was very similar, he took the ball, lined up his shot and posed with it, a game winner; it wasn’t to tie the game it was to win it, on the road. So there’s that one.

Washington, there was a lot of build in the sense that this would be the last time we see Michael Jordan play basketball, he still threatened to come back but we were all pretty sure he wasn’t going to. That was going to be the last time anybody ever saw Michael Jordan play in a competitive basketball game so it was more of a sentimental kind of situation.

In ‘93 none of us knew he was leaving, it was a surprise, obviously when he decided at the end of the summer, after his father died and everything that he wasn’t going to play and so none of us really looked at that as a last game with Paxson hitting the shot in ‘93.

When he came back in ‘95 there was tremendous anticipation, he had been away from the game so long but he hadn’t had a chance to practice all that much with the team which meant it wasn’t exactly Jordan at the highest level.

I’d probably have to say that ’98 game was the most amazing because many people consider that one of the greatest moments.

 

Do you have a favourite Michael Jordan moment?

I really don’t and I’ve been asked that, it’s sort of like your kids, not that I have that many but it’s hard to choose among your favourites when you love so many of them. I saw virtually every one of his great games, scoring 69 points, but what’s probably the most dramatic for me was the shot against the Cavs in ’89 over Craig Ehlo. The Bulls were on the verge at that time of either going somewhere or not, and Cleveland was being viewed as the team of the future. Magic Johnson that season declared that the great competitor coming out of the east was going to be Cleveland, he never mentioned Chicago. Cleveland finished ten games ahead of the Bulls that year and they looked set up as the team of the 90’s, if they were going to be the team of the 90’s Michael Jordan wasn’t going to have that great of a career and who knows what would have been if he’d have stayed with the Bulls, he would have no doubt been growing very uncomfortable about a lack of success. Being able to beat that team in that game with that shot, that’s probably my favourite that I remember.

 

Do you think Scottie Pippen has been under rated as a player since he will always be regarded as Michael’s sidekick of sorts or conversely do you think MJ made him a better player?

jordanpippen_090910

I think Jordan made him a better player, I don’t believe that without Jordan, Scottie would have become the player he did. Michael took an interest in him and Scottie was a player who needed the pressure off him because he wasn’t a great shooter, he wasn’t the kind of player who could create offense on his own, if he’d gone to a bad team I don’t know what sort of career he would have had.

He was probably, I wouldn’t say the greatest, but one of the greatest role playing stars of all time because he wasn’t a big scorer but I think he was one of the best, if not the best perimeter defender of all time and was one of the best, if not the best passing forward of all time, maybe not as good as Bird but very good. He could do a lot of support things, he just didn’t do the main thing and he had one season where he sort of verged on it when Jordan left but then again his personality led himself to emotional outbursts and that following season he began to melt down again.

I really think, even though he did a lot for Jordan and the Bulls, I think Jordan did more for his career in that he is considered a top 50 player. I don’t say he wasn’t a great player, he was a great player but I don’t believe he would have become the great player he is considered to be without playing with Michael Jordan and Michael Jordan being the player he was, that he could take the pressure off Pippen so Pippen wouldn’t have to be a scorer, he could have bad scoring games and nobody would notice.

 

It’s always difficult to compare eras but what’s your thoughts on today’s NBA compared with the 1980’s and 1990’s era. Is the game more or less exciting and would you say the talent level has improved?

Well I think the ‘80’s may have been the greatest era. In part because the talent was less watered down, expansion always waters down talent when you divide up the stars. Nowadays if you have a team with two stars, like Miami, you’re practically a dynasty, the Bulls did in the 90’s as well but that era in the 80’s when you have the great Boston teams, you have the great L.A teams, where you have three and four hall of fame level players on each team going at each other and then teams that you even forget about like Atlanta with Dominique Wilkins those sorts of guys they had. You had an era of really tremendous depth of talent that you had to get by so many teams and Miami hasn’t had to get by so many teams in recent years to win their titles.

While players in this era have tremendous talent, LeBron James may be more talented than anybody who played in that era, but I think in that era they were much greater teams and there were not as many weak teams as there are now. I don’t take anything away from anybody who wins in any era as that’s a difficult thing to do but probably the 80’s was the greatest era in the league because, not only the players coming in, but also the talent they took in from the ABA in the late 70’s, where you had Julius Erving and all those guys coming into the league and you had the young, great talent of Bird and Magic and there’s still guys like Kareem around. There was just a pretty amazing array of high level talent around.

I actually consider the level almost like the late 50’s, early 60’s when the black players finally got to come into the NBA, Bill Russell and all the Celtics, Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson and only nine or ten teams, you have so much great talent on so few teams even though it still wasn’t fully integrated. That was the first real great wave of talent and the 80’s was really the next great wave of talent.

 

Getting to the current Bulls team, what are your thoughts on the upcoming season, do the Bulls have a good chance of taking the title this season and your thoughts on Derrick Rose’s return so far?

I think the Bulls are going to be very good, I think they have a chance to win a title but I have a chance to win the lottery, there’s is a little better but I probably won’t. They could because Derrick Rose is back, they’re good enough to win but I wouldn’t consider them a favourite and I wouldn’t say that they will win but I think now that they can win.

Derrick-Rose-Return-2012-chicago-bulls

I did believe, the season that Rose got hurt in the playoffs, I believe that was their best team and they would have won that season if Rose hadn’t got hurt. They had strength at centre with Omer Asik, they were really big, where that’s Miami’s fatal flaw, size, and now the Bulls are not nearly as big at centre. They still have Noah but he’s been hurt periodically since then. I think that was their best chance and even though people won’t give them much credit because Rose got hurt, I thought that was the year they were clearly better than Miami and would have beaten Miami.

Rose has come back at a remarkable level, I don’t think anybody ever has come back from that injury to play like this, partially because there’s basically never been a point guard who’s played like Rose has played with speed and explosiveness at that level and then to come back from that surgery and play like he has, we’ve seen him in six games so far but he’s been looking every bit like he did 18 months ago when he got hurt and that’s amazing.

When you have a player like that on your team, that gives you a chance automatically, plus they have two other All Stars who were picked by the coaches in Noah and Deng, so they have other high level players and they’ve added Jimmy Butler who looks like a legitimate starting shooting guard, they won 62 games two years ago with Keith Bogans playing 82 games at shooting guard. So they’ve upgraded their starting line-up and may be the best defensive team in the league and so all those factors give them a really good chance and everybody says well if they’re healthy but that’s the same with anybody. If LeBron James gets hurt Miami’s not going to win, if Paul George gets hurt Indiana’s not going to win, if Kevin Durant gets hurt and so on.

They’re definitely in the mix this year and definitely have a chance because of Derrick Rose’s comeback and the way he’s playing thus far and its only preseason and they haven’t played back to back games yet but Rose has been looking extraordinary, as good as any player in the league. You could make a case that he’s back to being a contender for the MVP award again.

This is a team who went to the second round last season, won 45 games, probably could have won 50 if Noah and Gibson hadn’t missed the last month of the season and you add an MVP talent to that level of team, with stability, because they’ve basically had the same core they’ve had, and one thing that’s overlooked is some of the injuries but those four players, Rose, Noah, Deng and Boozer playing together are 50-9, they’ve only played together 59 games in three seasons, since the summer of 2010 but when they’ve played together they have won more than 80% of their games.

So with them being back together and all of them in a good situation and motivated and hungry, they’re definitely in position to give Miami a strong challenge.

 

What would you consider your greatest achievement as a sports writer, would it be the bestselling book, the Naismith Hall of Fame 2012 Curt Gowdy media award for print media or the years spent covering the Bulls for Tribune?

Well I’m very proud of the hall of fame award, I think that’s an award for what I believe is for longevity and that’s sort of what I’m most proud

Sam Smith receiving his Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

Sam Smith receiving his Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

of. The fact that I’ve been able to work for such a long time and have an enthusiasm for the game, I still love watching the game, I still love working and I’m very lucky and feel very fortunate to be in this situation and to still be able to write and write about the game and work with the people in the game. I’m proud of that award for what it recognises, because that’s what I’m most pleased about, to have longevity in the business and to be able to work in sports and basketball for more than three decades now.

The highlight is the ongoing journey and it’s been a great journey and very few people get to have that, I’m really proud of that.

 

What are your thoughts on the current shift in sports writing to more online coverage compared to print media?

I don’t want to sound too much like the grumpy old man but I’m really disappointed in what’s become of journalism, sports and otherwise in this era as I still believe in depth and reporting. Where I work I’ve had a lot of latitude in working for the Bulls website, that’s why I left the newspaper business because the newspaper business, other than a few exceptions like the New York Times, doesn’t have the interest or whatever the case might be for depth.

I think that’s why The Jordan Rules was a popular book, people want to know what’s going on behind the scenes and even though there’s more information available now I think it continues to lead to a dumbing down of society, that people primarily get their news from little bursts of information, whether its Twitter or Facebook or whatever other social media vehicles are available and we spend a lot less time because it’s not available, newspapers are not making it available, magazines are basically out of business, and I’ve always been a practitioner of the belief in long form, wanting to know not only what happened but why it happened and what it meant. You can only determine that by not only being there but spending the time with the people who did what they did.

It’s one thing to watch a game, people talk about momentum etc but there’s a way in which that play has been run, the exact play that occurred, the strategy on defense, what have they tried to do, who have they tried to stop and those little elements are important as that’s what leads to the final result. I think reporting in sports has just gotten terrible and not because of the writers, the writers are still very talented but the editors and organisations are focusing on quantity of internet hits or however they’re counting economics in their business, and its gone away from depth and content to more instant information, very little of which can have any depth or substance because it’s so instantaneous.

The information business has gotten way, way worse and I know that people always say that when they get older that their time was better and I don’t believe that the past is always better, I believe that now is better with more technology and opportunities available, it’s just in my business, the journalism business, the book publishing business, those businesses have come across bad economic times as a result of change. I rarely read any newspapers anymore, I spend more time reading books, I read the New York Times but it’s become very difficult to get depth of information, which I try to do and I’m able to, and I credit the Bulls for realising that and I’m able to do that on the Bulls website and write in depth. People say well you work for a team and you’re probably limited but I do have a lot of freedom and ability to get into depth about what the team’s been doing.

Everybody has an opinion these days, there’s too much opinion as opposed to reporting. It seems like there are one per cent of the writers doing reporting and the other 99% are commenting on what’s been reported.

 

As far as writing is concerned be it sports or not, who would you say has influenced you and who are your favourite writers?

The late David Halberstam, he influenced me most into writing The Jordan Rules, he was a great writer in politics and history and he wrote a lot of sports books too. He did a sort of diary kind of book on the Portland Trailblazers in the late 70’s, he happened to show up a year after Bill Walton got hurt so it wasn’t as successful, commercially successful, as my book but it was better than my book. That influenced me about a book in the sense that I always felt that if I ever could write a book, that I would want to write a book like that, because that told you that he was always writing about being able to do what I said earlier, tell me why things happen and about the people who were making things happen, why they were doing what they were doing and what the stories were behind the curtain, so that was very influential for me.

I had editors who were influential, my first newspaper editor Ernie Williams, he helped me with The Jordan Rules, I was an investigative reporter when I started in journalism and I wrote some damaging stuff, a lot of civil government scandal type stuff, getting people in trouble. He made a point to me which was very hard to do initially, that when I wrote a story about someone that was very critical, the first thing I had to do on publication was go there and see them, he said you always have to stand behind your work. If your work is honest then you have nothing to apologise about so there’s no reason you can’t do that. I did that with Jordan the first day after the publication.

I don’t have a great respect for a lot of reporters who write stories, sort of gossip stories, hit and run stories and never show up to talk to the people or be around the people again. I always wanted to think I was more proud, like with The Jordan Rules, I was never leaving, I wrote that book and I came back to cover the team. I always stayed around the team so anybody who sort of looked at that should have understood that I couldn’t be in a position of fabricating anything because I was going to be there, so he taught me that, Ernie Williams. You always have to stand behind your work and its sort of something I’ve worked and lived by that whenever I wrote about somebody and it was a tough story I went to see them right afterwards. If they had any problem I was there so that was very influential to me early on.

Then where I grew up in New York City, the sportswriters from local newspapers, be it Leonard Koppett, Dick Young or Milton Gross. I was an avid reader; there were seven daily newspapers when I grew up. I delivered papers, I delivered the World Telegram, I delivered The Daily News and The Daily Mirror, Pete Hamill was a writer there, Jimmy Breslin, all those guys were an influence on me, not that I ever thought I would be a writer because that was to me, like being a professional athlete, I just never imagined I could be in a job like that. I wasn’t a particularly great student so it was sort of a fantasy world.

I’d read about these writers who were travelling with the team and I remember the year Roger Maris hit 61 home runs and the writers were not particularly fond of him, they preferred Micky Mantle, I remember all those issues.

So those writers and then Bob Ryan in basketball and those that came before me were writers who got behind the news, about how the game worked, who the players really were, those were some of the writers that I followed and that I admired.

 

With the season about to start what are you most looking forward to this NBA season?

I don’t know if I may be normal or abnormal but I love every NBA season, even when the Bulls were bad. Every season is a mystery and a journey and each seasons a story. It’s much like a novel in that it sort of starts out with these characters, we learn about the characters as we go along and then we find out about certain characters who are going to stand out above the others and they’re all racing to a conclusion.

So it’s always like the first page of a novel when every season starts and this season has a lot of storylines we’ve discussed with Derrick Rose coming back but also Miami going for the three-peat, which I saw twice with the Bulls, and how difficult that third season was. Some of the old players from Boston going to Brooklyn and what that will be, then several teams in the Western Conference, Dwight Howard going to Houston and Doc Rivers going over to the Clippers, Clippers surpassing the Lakers in that area in L.A .

I also think a number of players will be traded, Omer Asik, maybe Rudy Gay, some top players on the move and the potential free agency at the end of the season with Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, even though I don’t think they’ll move but those will be issues.

Then there’s the rookies, the very high level rookie class potentially coming into the NBA with Wiggins from Canada, considered such a high level player and a couple of other kids at Kentucky, Chicago and Duke. I think there’s a lot of teams like Boston and Philadelphia kind of blowing off the season, Utah as well, trying to get that high pick and that next star who could make a difference and sort of the next LeBron James, the guy to change the landscape of your team.

I think it’s a great season, potentially, coming up because there’s more teams this year that can win the title than any time in the last ten or fifteen years. I think there are eight to ten teams that you can make a case for winning the title this year.

Thanks for reading and if you’re interested in keeping up with Sam’s work this season, you can read Sam’s blog and check out his podcast at http://blogs.bulls.com/