ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Considering the last post I did was about the Pacers having a huge team meal, it seems fitting that this next post would also focus on food. Because even when you’re running and exercising as much as elite NBA athletes are, you apparently still have to watch what you eat.
I don’t think anyone would ever consider Dwight Howard out of shape — even when he was recovering from injuries, Dwight never seemed to be in anything less than prime condition. But as CBS Sports’ Ken Berger found out, Dwight wasn’t exactly putting the best fuel into his engine. When the Lakers brought in some nutritionists to work with the team, they checked out Dwight’s diet and were rather surprised…
With Howard, the intervention began where it does with most athletes (and non-athletes, for that matter) who need to change their diets. It began with sugar. It turned out that Howard was consuming the equivalent of 24 Hershey bars a day in the form of candy and soda — not to mention the additional sugar his body was making out of all the empty starches he was eating.
“We knew Dwight had a sugar-intake issue,” said Luke Shanahan, whose Masters in Fine Arts from the world-renowned Iowa Writers Workshop has served him well in his role as the program’s architect and co-pilot. “We just didn’t know how bad it was.”
It was bad. At Cate Shanahan’s request, Howard had undergone a blood screening that revealed a frighteningly pathological profile. His glucose readings were through the roof, much higher than they should have been for a ripped, 27-year-old professional athlete who used to call himself Superman.
Within weeks of starting the program, Howard said his blood-glucose levels declined 80 percent. After increasing his consumption of healthy fats and decreasing processed carbs — “No bread,” Howard said — all the blood markers that are indicative of heart health went in the right direction, too. After some initial lethargy during the detox phase, Howard said his endurance improved and his energy levels became more consistent. His body-fat percentage — hovering around 5-6 percent his entire career — dropped to 3 percent, he said.
“I would always tell [the Lakers] how bad I wanted to get back to being Superman,” Howard said. “Their response was, ‘Well, you have to sacrifice something.’ “
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — A sure sign of a team that is on the same page is when a player voluntarily buys food for his teammates. And while the Pacers were on their big road trip the last few weeks, George Hill decided to step it up and give his teammates a taste of something that reminded him of home — well, a second home. Hill, who is originally from Indianapolis, was drafted and broke into the NBA with San Antonio, where he played for three seasons before being traded home to Indy. So with the Pacers coming off their day of travel mess, Hill stepped it up and had one of his favorite San Antonio restaurants cater a grand post-practice spread for the team. Let’s eat! -
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — If you had any doubts about the relevance of the Indiana Pacers, doubt no more. They are a contender, for sure, and as they’ve established themselves as a team to be reckoned with, their stature in popular culture is rising in equal measure, from magazine covers to NBA Fan Night appearances.
Last night the Pacers hosted (and beat) the Heat on Fan Night, and in attendance was none other than Justin Timberlake, who is not only a huge NBA fan, but a minority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies. I don’t know if JT was there on a scouting mission or what, but after the game he took to the court with Paul George for a round of HORSE, as we see in the video below… -
Foot Locker has been on a roll of late with their hilarious commercials, starring everyone from James Harden and Steph Curry to, more recently, Kyrie Irving. This latest spot for Jordan Brand shows what happened when Chris Paul ostensibly went shopping at Kids Foot Locker for his son, and came away with so much gear that something had to give. In this case, that something turned out to be Blake Griffin‘s locker space… -
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — I’m not sure why someone asked the members of the Portland Trail Blazers to choose which Blazer would make the best professional wrestler, but someone asked the members of the Portland Trail Blazers to choose which Blazer would make the best professional wrestler. Lots of votes here for Robin Lopez and Meyers Leonard. Lopez actually kind of has the look down, but as a longtime wrestling aficionado, I’d say Leonard needs to come up with some sort of gimmick… -
Not when you have the kind of impact that Kobe Bryant has. Not when you’re 35 years old and you’ve been pushing your body for months to do the unthinkable. Not when you’re only in your second game back from a devastating, career-altering injury and you completely blow all of the doubters’ minds.
OK, so maybe unlike Vino, dunking doesn’t necessarily get better with age. So what if it won’t crack the ultimate countdown at the Dunk HQas one of the top dunks of the season. So what it lacked some of the bounce, flash and finish that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from Kobe ever since he stole the show as a teen at the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest. What this does show is Kobe, repaired Achilles’ tendon and all, still has the fire, competitiveness and ability to pull off the unthinkable. And to do so in such short time, it begs the question: What else will Kobe do to surprise us?
Kobe may not be shocked at all by his feat, but one person who probably didn’t see this one coming is P.J. Tucker, the defender Kobe blew by for the jam. Remember, this is still “The Mamba”. This is just what Kobe does.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Houston center Dwight Howard turned 28 years old yesterday, and as part of his birthday celebration, he was apparently ambushed by teammates armed with Silly String, as this video by Jeremy Lin shows… -
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER –Videobombing has officially become a favorite past-time for the Miami Heat. After nearly every win, while LeBronJames or whomever is chatting with Heat sideline reporter Jason Jackson, another Heat player figures out some way to mess with the interviewee. While Chris Bosh used to be the prime perpetrator, lately it’s Dwyane Wade who has has stepped up his game. Just last week we saw Wade bust out several cartwheels while LeBron was talking. This weekend he went in a more a physical direction and broke out a mop. LeBron’s reaction is great, as always. -
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — You stayed up last night to watch Kobe Bryant‘s return to action against the Sacramento Kings Toronto Raptors, didn’t you? Yeah, if you’re a basketball fan, you probably did. You don’t have to be a Laker fan to appreciate what a big deal this was. (And if you are a Laker fan, well, maybe you need to reorder your priorities.) This was the Mamba, arguably the best player of his generation, returning to action after suffering the most serious injury of his career.
And you know what? He looked pretty good. He was a little rusty, sure, and the layoff seemed to manifest most obviously in his timing, but overall it was great to see Kobe being Kobe. And to celebrate all the things that make Kobe so special, Nike released a new commercial last night (with Ice Cube on the voiceover) to remind us that Kobe is a pretty singular dude. Welcome back, Kobe. -
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — I can not tell a lie: It has been a season of highs and lows here at Horry Scale Central. We began the season with three Game-Winning Buzzer-Beaters within seven days, a flurry of activity to make even the most jaded NBA watcher’s head twirl. This required me to write three Horry Scale posts in succession, which turned out to be a controversial endeavor. Folks weren’t happy with my rating of the Jeff Green GWBB, which kept me up very late at night, triggering some difficult and genuine soul searching, at least as far as you know. Since then I have perhaps tried to overcorrect with some of my other ratings, a maneuver that has in no small part generated its own share of controversy, and which has caused something of an existential Horry Scale crisis.
But I digress. Before we get too far into this, we should stop and explain: What is the Horry Scale? For those who are new around these parts, the Horry Scale examines a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time?), importance (playoff game or garden-variety Kings-Pistons game?) and celebration (is it over the top or too chill? Just the right panache or needs more sauce?). Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, the patron saint of last-second daggers.
With the rules in place, Today we turn our tired eyes to the lovely Pacific Northwest. Let’s check out last night’s game-winner from Monta Ellis…
Monta Ellis has made tougher shots in his career, probably even in this game. This was basically a catch-and-shoot on a curl coming around a screen, a shot Ellis has taken thousands of times in his life. And Ellis made a clean catch, swung around the screen, and had a wide open look at the basket. And yes, he drained the shot, so kudos to him. To me the most interesting thing on this play was that the Blazers did not switch defenders on the screen. In the NBA, for the most part defenders always switch on picks in the last few seconds of a game, and particularly on an inbounds play. This is not only easy for the players on the floor to remember, in a more general sense it means defenders are always running at the ball when there are only seconds to play. But as Ellis came around the series of screens, Portland’s Wesley Matthews tried to stay with him, with no real help waiting for him. (As my main man Ben Golliver reports on Blazers Edge, Portland had decided before the play to only switch guard-on-guard screens. Dallas’ other guard on the floor was Jose Calderon, who was inbounding the ball, so the Blazers all knew there would effectively be no switching.) By the time Ellis caught the pass, curled around the pick from DaJuan Blair and popped free at the top of the key, Portland’s best defensive option may have been LaMarcus Aldridge, who was flat-footed about six feet away from Ellis. Matthews made a last-second swipe at the ball from behind while trying to recover, but he couldn’t make a difference.
What you don’t see in the clip above is the clutch three-pointer Lillard made to tie the game with 1.9 seconds remaining. That play was set up by a Dallas turnover from, you guessed it, Monta Ellis. So in many ways this GWBB was about redemption for Monta. Still, once Dallas got the ball with the game tied, it seemed like it would probably be Dirk Nowitzki time, right? Even in the video above, as the Mavs line up for the play, you can hear Portland analyst Mike Rice note, “Watch [DaJuan] Blair set a pick for either Vince Carter or Dirk.” So Dallas coach Rick Carlisle using the situation to run a play for Ellis was not only in retrospect a wise choice, it was crafty, as well.
This was big on both sides. The Blazers had been riding a four-game winning streak, and had amassed eight straight wins at home. The crowd in Portland, which is always among the best in sports, was rowdy and sold out, twenty-thousand strong. The Mavs, meanwhile, after an offseason that was quieter than most expected, have been something of a mild surprise this season, bobbing along a couple of games above .500. Any road win in the NBA is a good thing, but a road win over the best team in the Conference is always a great thing.
The Mavs seemed really fired up by Ellis’ shot, surrounding him and grabbing him. Also, I’m pretty sure someone ran off the Dallas bench and hit Ellis with a large cushion at about the 19-second mark of the video. I particularly enjoyed this facet of the celebration: The cushion bash needs to become a regular part of post-shot celebrations.
If nothing else, Mavs owner Mark Cuban was jacked up about it…
I think we can all agree that the degree of difficulty wasn’t through the roof, at least just as a jump shot, in a bubble. But all the other parts of this play — Ellis’ earlier turnover, Lillard’s game-tying three moments earlier, Portland’s home win streak, Dallas’ execution on the final play — give added weight to the play. This is one of those situations where I wish we had half-Horrys to award, because I really feel like this is a 3.5 Horry Play. Should I round up or down? That’s another discussion for another day. In this case, I’m going with four Horrys, because for me the post-shot cushion bash lifts it from three to four…
That’s my take. How many Horry’s would you give the Monta Ellis game-winner?