NBA training camps have convened, exhibition games are underway, and we all know what that means: The return of MUSCLEWATCH.
Before we get to the muscles, what, you may ask, is MUSCLEWATCH? Basically, it began decades ago when my friend Matt and I noticed our local paper would always report that players had gained 15 pounds of MUSCLE in the off-season. No matter the sport, it was never 12 pounds, never 16, never 9, never 18, but it always seemed to be “15 pounds of muscle.” So we began keeping an eye on the papers looking for references to the magic 15 pounds of MUSCLE. Eventually, MUSCLEWATCH became about more than just the “15 pounds of muscle” and more about guys who had either gained or lost a lot of weight. Previous winners include Thaddeus Young and Rudy Gay.
And remember, MUSCLEWATCH cannot be successful without your help. The most effective way to let us here at MUSCLEWATCH HQ know if you see any MUSCLEWATCH news is to tweet and use the hashtag #MUSCLEWATCH.
Also, for what it’s worth, we need numbers. If you’re going to be vague, that’s not MUSCLEWATCH. I’m talking to you, Bulls GM Gar Forman…
Forman on Rose: "Physically, he looks terrific." #MuscleWatch?
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — It doesn’t seem like all that long ago, but 2007 was seven years ago, and a lot of players who are in the NBA now were still in high school or college back then. That point was reiterated yesterday when former college basketball player Wesley Witherspoon celebrated Throwback Thursday by posting a pic taken in 2007 at the LeBron James Skills Academy. And while LeBron looks a bit younger then than he does today, what’s really neat is all the guys around him who will eventually make it to the NBA.
See if you can spot Kemba Walker, Greg Monroe, DeMarcus Cousins, DeMar DeRozan and Lance Stephenson…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — All summer long, we’ve seen NBA players throwing out the ceremonial first pitches at baseball games. Not just major league games, and not just from active NBA players, but from NBA-related folks (coaches, retired players) all over the place.
I’ve been collecting these videos for a few months, and now we present them, all of them, in several parts, because there’s a lot to get through.
And so, here are a bunch of NBA people throwing out the first pitch at baseball games…
CP went from Houston to Dallas this offseason, but before taking the court for the Mavericks, he took the mound for the Texas Rangers and may have thrown the best NBA pitch of the summer. (As he admits, he’s a former high school baseball player.)
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan has always been one of the most athletic players in the NBA, though he doesn’t show off his leaping ability as often as he used to during his first few years in the league. But last week, while in the Philippines, DeRozan caught an alley-oop from his Toronto teammate Kyle Lowry and finished the dunk while jumping completely over Lowry…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — NBA players traditionally use their summer break to work on parts of their game that can use improving. Last summer we saw Detroit big man Andre Drummond and Nate Robinson employ unique strategies to improve their dribbling, as both practiced dribbling through crowded airports.
Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan appears to have borrowed this tact, and in this Instagram video he tries to perfect his handle as he dribbles up and down the aisles at his local Walmart.
Welcome to Throwback Thursday here on the All Ball Blog. Each week, we’ll delve into the NBA’s photo archives and uncover a topic and some great images from way back when. Hit us up here if you have suggestions for a future TBT on All Ball.
Today’s Topic: The top Raptors of all-time
On May 22, 1994, Toronto was scheduled to enter the NBA as an expansion franchise for the 1995-96 season. It was on that day that the team’s nickname, the Raptors, was unveiled and an NBA team was fully realized. Today, we look back on the greatest players to ever suit up for the Raptors, from the early days in the “dino” jerseys to the current group this season that took home the Atlantic Division title and set a franchise record for wins.
(NOTE:Click the “caption” icon below the photo for details about each moment.)
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The NBA’s official summer leagues in Orlando and Vegas are mostly populated by either young players or players just hoping to make a regular season roster. When it comes to the NBA’s veterans, they generally skip the organized leagues in favor of making occasional appearances at games in some of the bigger leagues, like the Rucker in NYC or the Drew League in Los Angeles.
Which is exactly what happened yesterday, when Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant showed up at the Drew League to prove that summer is serious, and he got in a run in a game with several other NBA players, including Metta World Peace, DeShawn Stevenson, Baron Davis and DeMar DeRozan. (Also, rapper The Game was out there getting some run.)
Here’s a long video of highlights from the game… –
Durant apparently missed the game winner, but his best play of the day was probably this dunk where he charged down the lane for the throwdown… –
Horry moments never come solo. They come with company.
After watching Jordan Crawfordgo on the road and finish off the Trail Blazers earlier this week on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, DeMar Derozan repeated the act across country in Orlando. And like one of his predecessors (J.R. Smith), he took a liking to that left baseline corner, rising and fading over two defenders right in front of the Magic’s bench to finish off a stellar period.
D-Roz’s shot didn’t happen in a vacuum. It culminated a frenzied night for both teams, with 12 lead changes and a lot of players getting in on the action (12 players notched double figures in scoring). The Raptors had been in a string of close games (overtime in three of previous four matchups) and had no intention of carrying this game past the regulation mark.
For those that 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.
How does DeRozan’s shot Thursday night stack up? Without further ado…
DeRozan likes the mid-range area, shooting over 100 more shots there than the paint (his next favorite spot). Even still, this was a nice shot. The high jumper safely made it through the bucket only after the Compton native took a pass from Jose Calderon, a couple dribbles to his left and launched with two defenders in hot pursuit. Glen Davis was just a shade too late, allowing a sliver of daylight to a hot shooter (more on this later) at the wrong time of the game.
This was evocative of the kind of shot Kobe Bryant makes on a regular basis.
Again, this was a back-and-forth affair. With under a minute left, DeRozan put the Raptors ahead with a jumper after J.J. Redick completed a four-point play. E’Twaun Moore scored two off an offensive rebound, tying the game, setting up the final shot with the score tied at 95 with 4.3 seconds to go.
A cursory glance says “this was just two bottom-rung teams slugging it out.” Which is true (both teams are a combined 30-56). However, for DeRozan, this was significant. For a player looking to establish himself as a 2-guard to watch, closing a game out like this is a good route to take. He had only eight points going into the fourth quarter, then erupted for 14 (7-of-8, six jumpers). What happened? Well for one, Orlando went small. For a player who eats off mid-range jumpers and getting into the paint, this is a boon.
Consequently, he got hot, obviating the Raptors’ blown double-digit lead and botched defensive coverages (including the aforementioned four-point play by Redick). Thanks to his heroics, the Raptors made a step toward closing games out, which has been their Achilles’ heel this season.
For the Magic, chalk this up to another lesson for a young team still learning how to win in this league.
No jumping. No yelling. No smiling. Just a couple arms in the air and plain grit on the face of D-Roz as teammates Amir Johnson and Calderon came for the man-hugs. The dejected body languages on Redick and Jameer Nelson told the tale as much as the Raptors’ celebration.
The Raptors looked more relieved at not losing in Orlando than thrilled at ending the game in such a dramatic fashion. Coach Dwane Casey isn’t prone to histrionics. Neither is his team.
But Alan Anderson’s ball spike after the shot fell through was top notch.
*Editor’s note: Prior to DeRozan’s post-game interview, Casey did run up to give DeRozan a good smooch on the cheek. Must say, this ratchets the celebration factor up a bit. a
3 Horrys. I suppose the shot could’ve been harder, if there were three defenders on him. Only two knocks on the rating: the tie game and subdued celebration (minus the kiss from coach). I’m all for a little grit. But you sent the opposing crowd home bitter right as time expired. Live it up a little. Either way, an incredible shot to end a superb fourth quarter for DeRozan.
For the complete Bragging Rights rules and to vote for other matchups, click here. In this matchup the UConn Huskies, a top seed with 11 NBA players to choose from, take on the USC Trojans. Veal Scalabrine for everyone!
Missed the cut: Caron Butler, Mavericks (injured); Charlie Villanueva, Pistons; A.J Price, Pacers; Hilton Armstrong, Hawks; Hasheem Thabeet, Rockets; Jeff Adrien, Warriors
Team synopsis: Wow. A dynamite scoring team for the boys from Storrs. This team is sort of the anti-LSU — all guard play with only Emeka there to patrol the paint. No real headaches in trying to determine their best lineup, though I suppose one could argue a spot for Charlie V due to UConn’s lack of size. Caron Butler would be in over Ben Gordon if healthy, but he’s missed too much time this year to be eligible. How you would stop Allen and Hamilton, two of the best shooters of all-time coming off screens, is anyone’s guess. (more…)