ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Steve Ballmer has only been the owner of the Clippers for a few months, but he’s already made quite a splash with some of his courtside reactions. Last night things went to a whole new level.
For last night’s Clippers/Lakers game, Ballmer sat in his courtside seat next to pop singer Fergie. In between the first and second quarters, someone handed Fergie a microphone for a quick performance of her new single “L.A. Love.” This made Ballmer pretty happy.
Fergie is sitting courtside with Steve Ballmer and Gillian Zucker and was inspired to sing after the first quarter. pic.twitter.com/xbd3HrMDrW
In the history of lucky basketball bounces, none can touch Don Nelson‘s late shot in Game 7 of the 1969 Finals, helping the Celtics secure their 11th title. The ball hit back rim, went straight up and then dropped through the basket and into the hearts of the Lakers.
That happened at the Forum, which is now closed. But roughly 25 minutes from that site (or 30, depending on L.A. freeway traffic), Blake Griffin had a similar brush with lucky fate when he put the final touch on a 121-120 overtime Clippers win over the Suns in what could be the No. 1 thriller of the NBA season thus far.
The contest was what you’d expect from a pair of high-scoring teams that love to play freestyle, free-wheeling basketball. The guard-heavy Suns thrive in the open floor and the Clippers, blessed with point guard Chris Paul, favor the fast break as well. The contest was back-and-forth all night, and five extra minutes were tacked on after regulation. As a fan at Staples Center, could you ask for anything more?
Well, yes. A Clippers victory. Which was in doubt until Griffin took an inbounds pass from Paul with the Clippers down a pair and the clock ticking.
But we’ll get to the winning sequence in a minute. First, about Griffin. He had a monster night with 45 points, two shy of his career high. If these teams meet in the playoffs, the Suns might want to watch video of this game (minus the last few seconds) and figure how to keep Griffin from getting to the line (he made 15 of 17 free throws) and how to keep a body on him.
OK, on to the details.
After taking the inbounds pass from Paul, Griffin faked a pass back to Paul, then faced the basket, took a step-back and let it fly from the right elbow beyond the arc. The ball bounced off the rim, then the top of the glass, then fell in. He had to do all of that in 2.6 seconds, which he managed to pull off without a hitch. But not without a few bounces. Hey, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
Blake was only in position to take that shot partly because Jamal Crawford was ejected for the first time in his career in the fourth quarter after arguing a foul call. Normally, Griffin would not get the ball to launch a 3-pointer; he’d attempted only nine all season prior to the shot. Also, the game went into overtime because Paul had his game-winning attempt blocked by Eric Bledsoe (27 points, 16 assists, 11 rebounds) at the fourth-quarter buzzer. Also, the Clippers had the ball because the Suns committed a shot-clock violation. Finally, with a foul to give, the Suns grabbed Griffin just before his game-winner. But instead of shooting while getting fouled, Griffin passed off. He could’ve put himself at the free-throw line with a chance to tie instead of the Clippers being forced to inbound the ball. But it turned out okay for him.
The Clippers stumbled out of the gate to start the season, drawing the ire of coach Doc Rivers and perhaps having owner Steve Ballmer wonder what in the heck he was getting for his $2 billion. But all is well now. The Clippers have won eight straight and are clearly on the rise. Teams in the West have no choice but to see the vortex from L.A. heading their way (hint: It’s not the Lakers). It was the second straight loss for the Suns, whose only real issue is they don’t play in the East.
After the swish, er bounce, Griffin took off sprinting down the floor, followed quickly by Paul. As you might also might have expected, Staples was in bedlam. Speaking of Staples, Rivers said he wants the building to be a home-court advantage like it has been (or rather, was) for the Lakers. If the Clippers intend on playing like this, Rivers won’t have any reason to worry about the crowd or the noise level.
Look, we realize Griffin got a little lucky. OK, a lot lucky. Still, the shot was the cherry on top of a tremendous performance for him, so we give it three Horrys.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Doc Rivers has spent most of his adult life around the NBA, either as a player, announcer or, currently, as a coach in Orlando, Boston and Los Angeles. So it would stand to reason that during those decades, Rivers has probably accumulated some pretty cool stuff. And thanks to this photo from CNN’s Rachel Nichols, who visited Rivers’ home for an interview, his home office is jammed with a ton of awesome memorabilia…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — In terms of popular culture impact, guests on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” last week had their work cut out for them trying to make more noise thanKanye West. So when DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul paid a visit last week, they might not have received as much attention as Yeezy, but they had an entertaining visit and talked about everything from leather jogging pants to “Scandal” to getting calls from new Clips coach Doc Rivers.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — It’s not enough to just be a rookie in the NBA, fighting for a job and playing time in a new league, while trying to get settled in a new city. No, being an NBA Rookie also usually involves some good-natured hazing: you’re in charge of carrying all the basketballs to practice on the road, or making sure the vets have coffee and doughnuts at shootaround. The Clippers, however, have flipped the script a bit, and they put rookie Reggie Bullock to work…memorizing a poem?
Apparently so, via a directive from new Clips coach Doc Rivers, who tasked Bullock with memorizing a poem that seems to be about a boat going out where the breakers are, or something like that. (Anyone know what this poem is?) Bullock seems to do a fair job, considering he only had a night to get it down… -
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Well, hello there. My name is Lang Whitaker, and up until this point, I’ve been something of an interloper around these parts the last few years, popping in irregularly to speak on the NBA on podcasts or in video clips. But now I’m here to stay. So we better get used to each other.
A little about me? I was born in Atlanta. I went to elementary, middle and high school in Atlanta. I went to college at UGA. I worked in Atlanta for a while after that. I moved to New York City in the fall of 2000, and I’ve lived here in NYC ever since. I root hard for the Atlanta Hawks, the Atlanta Braves, the Georgia Bulldogs, Manchester United and the Atlanta Falcons.
For the last 13 years, I worked for SLAM magazine. From about 2001-09, I wrote five days a week on SLAMonline.com for a column called “The Links.” I also wrote about a hundred features on various NBA players. In 2011, I left my full-time gig at SLAM and started doing other stuff alongside limited SLAM duties. I wrote a book. I wrote for newspapers and magazines and web sites. I took a few deep breaths.
And now I’m here. I’ll be writing here on the All Ball Blog every day. Once a week I’ll be podcasting with Sekou Smith and Rick Fox. I chat with folks on TNT Overtime during some of the TNT games. And from time to time you might even see my mug pop up on NBA TV.
For now, I’ve got to get settled in here. So while I figure out how to check my email on my phone, here are some other things you might want to know about me: I like to cook. I like to eat. I like to put soy sauce and sriracha on just about everything. My favorite restaurants include, but are not limited to: Red Rooster Harlem, Ma Peche, and Waffle House (any location). I have been married for nine years. I have a dog named Starbury. I have a son who is four months old, whose main objective in life right now is to make sure I don’t sleep more than a few hours at a time. I love sneakers and sportswear. I like to play golf. I like to watch TV and movies. If I had to pick a character on “Duck Dynasty” that I would most like to hang out with, it would be Uncle Si.
My favorite director is Wes Anderson. I think a billion dollar idea might be disposable tissues that clean your eyeglasses without leaving any streaks. I believe in the sovereignty of the SEC. I enjoy playing video games so much that I have to try and avoid playing them. I’m going to start working out again pretty soon, I swear. My favorite writers include, but are not limited to, Truman Capote, John Irving, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nick Hornby, David Sedaris and Mike Sager. I read the New Yorker cover-to-cover every week. I feel like anyone who serves unsweetened iced tea has some nerve. I believe that OutKast is the greatest hip-hop group of all-time, and I also believe that Big Boi is perpetually underrated. Branford is my favorite Marsalis. Tyrion is my favorite Lannister. Khloe is my favorite Kardashian. Finally, I believe that above all else, basketball is a game, and it should be fun to follow.
The last point is the most relevant to who I am, and to this blog. I love this game, and this blog will hopefully reflect that and celebrate that, every day. I’m sure I’ll reveal more about myself (and learn more about myself) as we go along here, and I’d like to learn more about you guys, too. If you have thoughts, ideas, links, whatever, leave a comment down below, or email me using the link up top in the header, or tweet via the link up above.
And just so I don’t leave you with nothing to chew on, here’s my favorite NBA-related YouTube video of all-time. This video explains my NBA fandom in many ways, from celebration of the game itself to the blind, ultimately misguided optimism. I’m old enough that I remember when this song was released, and I remain hopeful that one of these days the Atlanta Hawks will recycle this both as a marketing slogan and a theme song.
Gotta hand it to the guys over at The Basketball Jones — as usual, they’ve come up with another gem of an NBA video we thought was lost forever. As someone who remembers watching NBC’s “Inside Stuff” during its heyday of the early 1990s, the videos below have provided a 15-minute time-waste/nostalgia trip that you can’t miss if you were a fan of the Ahmad Rashad-and Willow Bay-hosted show from back in the day.
We won’t belabor the point; just click below and enjoy the goodness and funny from the likes of Doc Rivers, Muggsy Bogues, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and countless other 1990s icons.