ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — So here’s a quick story: A few years ago I wrote a story for GQabout the Dream Team. While I was reporting the story, I wanted to speak to as many Dream Teamers as I could, obviously, so I basically left messages with my cell phone number for everyone. Some calls were returned, but more were not. So I kept digging and calling and trying.
One weekday morning at 7:00 A.M., my cell phone rang, waking me from a deep sleep. I rolled over and checked the screen, and didn’t recognize the number, but I answered anyway. It was Karl Malone. While I appreciated him returning my call, even if it was at 7:00 A.M., I asked if I could call him back in five minutes, after I had a chance to grab my recorder and my notes (and my clothes). The Mailman said sure, but cautioned me to be quick about it because he was about to go out hunting. I rolled out of bed, got my stuff together and went into my office. I sat down and called the number he’d called me on, and after one ring a fax machine answered. As the machine screamed and whirred into my ear, in the background I heard NBA legend Karl Malone yelling over it: “Lang…hold on…I just…hang on a minute…” Eventually he got the fax stopped and we had a great conversation. (And we were later able to joke about his early-morning calls.)
Anyway, point being, Karl Malone may be one of the greatest NBA players of all-time, but that doesn’t mean he has to be great with technology. If there were any doubt, during last night’s Hawks/Jazz game, my main man Andre Aldridge caught up with the Mailman and found that he’s still using a flip phone in 2014…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — I grew up in Atlanta during the ’90s, a time that coincided with the run of Dikembe Mutombo as an Atlanta Hawk. Mutombo never really developed a dominant offensive post game, he was terrific on defense. He got dunked on from time to time, yes, but that was because he tried to block any shot that came near the rim. And when he did get his hands on a shot attempt, Mutombo generally turned that shot around pretty quickly. And then came the crowning glory: The Finger Wag.
It was such a prevalent maneuver that my friends and I started using it in traffic to express our displeasure with other drivers. It was cheeky, but ultimately non-threatening. Also, it was awesome.
Even though Mutombo retired a few seasons ago, the finger wag remains relevant. Just yesterday, for instance we got two displays of the Mutombo finger wag. First Amar’e Stoudemiredelivered one after blocking Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson…
And then we saw one from the stands, as Joakim Noah‘s dad, Yannick, dropped one following a block from Joakim that caused a Miami 24-second violation…
Mutombo may be gone. The finger wag will never die.
When Mike Millerdrained a treyball without a left shoe during a Miami run in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals, it was a moment that earned an ESPY nod and will be remembered for a long time. Yeah, it was a big shot during a classic Finals game, but the visual was more remarkable by its rarity. If you asked every player that suited up for an NBA game if he hit a deep ball bereft of a shoe during a game, I’d wager that less than two percent would say yes.
Count the Hawks’ Mike Scott among the initiated. Against the Warriors on Friday, he slips right out his left shoe while setting a pick. Call a timeout or foul immediately on defense, right? Nope. Play on!
After playing a possession on D, still unable to slip his shoe back on, he slides back down the court. Coming off another screen and his man David Lee miles away, he found himself WIDE OPEN on the pass from Jeff Teague. You can guess what happened next:
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Just as important as any great dunk is the celebration that follows. And we aren’t only talking about the way the dunker himself lets the world know he threw down, but the way his teammates get into the act and celebrate. To that end, let’s take a look at a couple of recent bench celebrations and see which bench celebrated best.
1. Detroit Pistons A few days ago the Pistons hosted the Atlanta Hawks, and Pistons big man Andre Drummond got a steal and a dunk on Elton Brand. It wasn’t a dunk on as much as it was a dunk around as Brand tried to deliver a foul. Still, Brand went reeling, making it look worse than it probably was. Either way, as it was down the stretch in a close game, the Pistons bench turned in a celebration for the ages.
And how about that Pistons bench? Coaches and players alike went wild, although it’s always hard to top Pistons assistant coach Rasheed Wallace…
2. Golden State Warriors
Last night against the same Pistons team, Golden State’s Klay Thompson dunked on Kyle Singler. Singler’s legs got tangled or went numb or something, and following the dunk Singler did a stiff-legged stumble into the photographers along the baseline.
It’s a bit tougher to see the bench celebration on this one, but even without Kent Bazemore there to lead the way, the Warriors bench knows how to be explosive after a big play. Watch this GIF of the play and see how the bench shows out. (There’s also the great juxtoposition of the bench getting up as Singler goes down.)
So what say you? Which bench had the better reaction?
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Two years ago, I was having breakfast one morning in Atlanta with Jamal Crawford, who was playing for the Hawks at the time. While we were talking about his career, he casually mentioned that he’d had a different head coach every season of his NBA career. I’d never realized this, and it sounded too amazing to be true. But when I pressed him for details, he ran them all down, one by one. A few months after we spoke, he signed with the Clippers and played a season for a new coach, Vinny Del Negro. Then last summer the Clips went a different way and hired Doc Rivers, meaning Crawford again had a new coach.
During yesterday’s Clips/Thunder game on ABC, Lisa Salters asked Crawford if he could name all the coaches he’s had through the years even in the middle of a game. As Jamal said, he thrives under pressure…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — There are certain things you have to hear when you’re at an NBA game — announcements from the home team to the crowd about basic services and rules. But that doesn’t mean they have to be boring. The Atlanta Hawks already kicked up their pre-game announcements a few months back by setting them to the tune of Robin Thicke‘s “Blurred Lines.” Their latest video covers similar ground, but is set to Miley Cyrus‘s “Wrecking Ball,” replete with a lip-synching cameo from legendary Hawk Dominique Wilkins, as well as a pixellated Harry the Hawk swinging on a wrecking ball.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Last night’s Wizards/Spurs game in Washington D.C. was a terrific battle, a game that went into double overtime before the Spurs were finally able to outlast the Wiz, 125-118. And just when you’ve think you’ve seen everything at an NBA game, something else wacky happens. As the first half was drawing to a close, a bird not only got loose in the Verizon Center arena, it decided to hang out on the top of the backboard.
Pretty chill bird, there, and they managed to get the flappy bird to fly away without much of a delay. But what it reminded me of was an incident during the 2009 playoffs. During Game 2 of the Hawks/Heat series played in Atlanta, the Hawks’ live mascot, a hawk named Spirit, got loose in Philips Arena. Spirit perched on the backboard cam and then the apex predator went up into the stands and hung out on a railing among Hawks fans. Luckily, nobody was hurt in either Atlanta or D.C.
If you ask me, these situations are really for the birds. -
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Andray Blatche may be a center for the Brooklyn Nets, but he frequently moonlights as a ballhandler for the Nets after grabbing a rebound. As such, Blatche has previously shown that mastering the Eurostep move popularized by players like Manu Ginobili is important to him. A few months ago, Blatche tried it out on some unsuspecting shoppers in Manhattan. Today, with the Nets in England to play against the Hawks tomorrow, Blatche gave his Eurostep an authentic European workout…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — As the NBA has worked to expand its global reach, more and more games have been played in locations around the world. Next week the NBA returns to England, as the Hawks and Nets will play a regular season game in London’s O2 Arena. To get into the international spirit of things, the Hawks recorded a video where several players try to speak with an English accent. The key word there is “try”…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — AHHH. Of course, it happened again. After I lamented Joe Johnson rudely intruding on my vacation with his Game Winning Buzzer Beater last night, of course Andre Iguodala had to get in on this as well. You want a vacation? Suck it up, buddy! Sorry Mom and Dad!
Like I said last night, I know we usually air these posts out a bit, but this one is going to be a bit more to the point, because, you know, vacation. But before we get too far into this, we should stop and explain why we’re here: 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.
And so here we are, with Andre Iguodala tearing me away from movie night with the family to write another Horry Scale post. (BTW, thanks Dre!) Let’s do this…
It was just six weeks ago that Andre Iguodala hit a GWBB to beat the Thunder. This time Andre was the inbounds man instead of setting the pick. He got the ball in to Stephen Curry, and the Hawks immediately doubled Curry. In the circumstance, this seemed like the right thing to do, because, you know, it’s Steph Curry and draining crazy threes is the kind of thing Curry does. Curry made the smart play and hit the open Iguodala, and Dre spun around and, completely unguarded, drained the long three for the win. Jeff Teague made a late charge at him, but it was too little (literally), too late. Simple, smart basketball by the Warriors. And if the Hawks were going to double someone, they should probably have had someone ready to rotate to the shooter quicker than they did.
I grew up a Hawks fan, so I’m used to seeing the Hawks blow close games at the buzzer. That said, with Al Horford injured and out for the season, this is the type of game the Hawks probably aren’t supposed to even be close in, much less have a chance at winning. The Warriors were down 8 heading into the fourth, but they mounted an epic comeback to not only get into the game but to win it with that long last second three. Nice road win for Golden State, tough home loss for the ATLiens.
The Warriors managed to piece together my favorite type of celebration, where they exit the floor as they’re cheering on the shot. Also, Dre appeared to shout out someone in the crowd as he sprinted to the opposite end of the court. (Maybe Harry the Hawk? Spirit the Hawk?) Klay Thompson was gesturing for everyone to get on their feet, even as all the Warriors cleared the floor. Also worth noting, someone in an orange shirt sprinted off the Warriors bench and narrowly missed delivering a shivering chest bump to Iguodala. I’m guessing that was Kent Bazemore, because that seems like a really Kent Bazemore thing to do.
Clutch shot. Not an easy shot, because a three-pointer with the clock ticking down isn’t easy. But then, it was an open shot, and it was the kind of shot Andre Iguodala loves to take, even with the pressure on him. So for those reasons and more, I’m giving this shot Three Horrys…
What say you? How many Horrys does Andre Iguodala’s shot deserve?