ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — During an important moment in last night’s San Antonio/Cleveland games, the Spurs needed to inbound the ball along the sideline. In order to try and disrupt the pass, the Cavs had seven-footer Anderson Varejao defend the passer, Kawhi Leonard. And in order to make the pass as tough as possible, Varejao was very awkwardly active. Which meant he did this…
Later, just to make sure the moment was commemorated perfectly, “Inside Stuff” host Kristen Ledlow took to Twitter to suggest someone put Varejao’s moves to music. After we discussed a few options — I knew Ledlow would initially gravitate toward Grizzlies fanJustin Timberlake — a Twitter user came up with what just may be the perfect soundtrack to Varejao’s funky moves. Thank you, internet…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — For Halloween, LeBron Jamestweeted a photo of himself as Flo from the Progressive Insurance commercials. Last night another shoe dropped, as Progressive posted a snippet of a commercial with LeBron dressed like Flo and Flo trying to convince LeBron to ditch his chalk toss in favor of a glitter toss and I’m not entirely sure what all is going on here.
One minute it seemed LeBron James was going to pull the rug out from under all those excited fans at EnergySolutions Arena, not to mention the Jazz, with some clutch play of his own. A clutch corner 3 and then three free throws inside the final 14 seconds.
But in the next minute LeBron was taking LeTumble to the floor and Hayward stepped into the hero’s role with a 23-footer as time expired to give the Jazz a roaring 102-100 win.
Since it’s still opening night in Horry World, let’s repeat the ground rules. The Horry Scale examines a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation, importance and celebration. Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, the master of avoiding last-second disaster.
Remember, the Horry Scale does not measure only a game-winning shot; the Horry Scale measures several facets of a Game-Winning Buzzer-Beater. So we’re talking about not only the shot, but also the play that creates the shot, the situation and the drama, the celebrations, the whole magilla.
It was the kind of shot Hayward probably made a zillion times in the back yard while growing up in Indianapolis and he definitely made his share in the clutch during a celebrated career at Butler. But the truth is they’ve been hard to come by in four seasons in the NBA. Last season was his first in the starring role and he struggled, shooting just 41 percent from the field. That made a lot of Jazz fans struggle to accept that four-year, $63 million contract Hayward signed last summer after getting a free-agent offer sheet from the Hornets.
But here was Hayward in all his glory, doing it against the best player in the game. He took the inbounds pass from Joe Ingles at the top of the key and moved immediately to his right when LeBron slipped to the floor after making contact with Derrick Favors. It was the opening Hayward needed, taking two dribbles and letting fly before the Cavs’ defense could recover, burying the step-back fallaway over the desperately reaching arm of Tristan Thompson.
It was a game that might have stuck in the Jazz’ craw past Thanksgiving and Christmas if they had let it slip away. Utah held a 96-90 with 1:29 left to play and was still on top 98-94 with 17.9 seconds to go. But LeBron is LeBron and, on a night when he finished with 31 points, he was just really getting warmed up. First he drilled a trey from out of the left corner. Then after Alec Burks made two free throws for a 100-97 lead, the veteran James got Favors to go for a pump fake and leaned in himself to draw three free throws. He nonchalantly made them all to tie it up at 100-all. That set the stage for Hayward and the ex-Butler Bulldog sank his teeth in to the bone. Tough spot, tough shot.
From the way the crowd reacted, the streamers fell from the ceiling and all of Hayward’s Jazz teammates went bonkers, this is what it might have been like in the 1998 NBA Finals — if Michael Jordan’s shot over Bryon Russell in Game 6 rimmed out. It was that kind of wild and crazy. Hayward himself was virtually speechless in a post-game TV interview.
The bigger the profile of the opponent, the higher the score and there’s nobody bigger in the game these days than LeBron. Even if his getting-to-know-you Cavs have now sagged to a 1-3 start and are cranking up the sirens of early season overreaction-to make-your-ears-bleed level. The Jazz, under rookie coach Quin Snyder, are a young team that needs confidence. And nobody needed a shot of adrenaline more than Hayward. This was Uma Thurman sitting bolt upright in “Pulp Fiction.”
I’m giving it four Horrys for all those reasons and also for sheer early-season fun.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The biggest story in the NBA this summer was LeBron James leaving the Miami Heat to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. And after months of build-up, the storyline finally came to a boiling point last week when the Cavs, with LeBron, played their first home game of the season. And while the result didn’t go the way they were hoping it would, cameras documented every moment of the day for this mini-movie about Cleveland’s opening night…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Halloween has come and gone, which means it’s time once again to see what some NBA players went dressed as this year. We already checked in on the Oklahoma City Thunder, but let’s check out the costumes of some other NBA players…
LeBron James went as Flo from the Progressive Insurance ads…
Carmelo Anthony was…I don’t know what this costume is…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — One of Michael Jordan‘s first iconic NBA moments came in the 1989 playoffs, when Jordan hit a jumper over Cleveland’s Craig Ehlo to give the Bulls a series win. After sinking the shot, Jordan celebrated with a vigorous fist pump…
Last night, Jordan’s Charlotte Hornets were down three toward the end of regulation, and Kemba Walker knocked in a huge three pointer to tie it and send it to overtime. And in this video from the crowd, MJ can be seen celebrating. Guess which celebration he brought back (well, a less vigorous version)?
The Cleveland Cavaliers are set to open their season tonight against the New York Knicks (8 p.m. ET, TNT) and the city’s anticipation for the official return of their native son, LeBron James, is growing by the hour. As our Steve Aschburner points out, the grand homecoming of James is about more than basketball. But if that story doesn’t convince you, perhaps this new commercial from Nike will:
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Last season during the retirement ceremony of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, the Cleveland Cavaliers showed off a nifty court projection that appeared to make the static hardwood come alive. This year a couple of other teams have run with the same idea, using a court projection system to give their floor a 3-D look.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — LeBron James made a bold choice in deciding to leave Miami for Cleveland, but he’s been less decisive about another choice that awaits: Should he bring back his pregame powder toss?
The powder toss was something LeBron regularly did just before tipoff as a member of the Cavs, and then he did it only occasionally with the Heat.
But after re-signing with Cleveland, LeBron came out and said he couldn’t wait to do it in Cleveland again, posting a video on his Instagram account of the moment.
Then, a few weeks ago, he sort of waffled on his announcement, saying he would ask his kids about it…
LeBron said he'll "probably" go back to his pregame powder toss this year but added, "I'm going to let my kids (decide).Whatever they want"
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The Cleveland Cavaliers have been spending the preseason playing games all over Ohio — they not only played a game in Cleveland, but they’ve had a game in Cincinnati, and then, last night, hosted the Bulls in Columbus.
It’s been something on a homecoming tour for LeBron James, who has logged minutes in each stop as a way to say thank you to his home state. And the fans in each city have given him an ovation at the beginning and end of each game…at least, we think it’s for him.
Check the funny video clip from last night, caught by Tas Melas from The Starters, where the crowd gives LeBron an ovation and LeBron’s teammate Mike Miller steps in to steal some applause…