ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — So here’s something you don’t see every day. During last night’s Suns/Hawks game, Phoenix guard Eric Bledsoe was leading a fast break when he got slowed down by a foul from Hawks big man Pero Antic. But then, before he could even go to the free throw line, Bledsoe was ejected. As he said later in the Arizona Republic, “I said something else that was inappropriate,” said Bledsoe, who had nine points, five assists and five turnovers in 26 minutes. We were struggling. I don’t know what it was. We just got a little frustrated. We just weren’t in it. We’ve been struggling since the break. Trades just happen.”
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Everything that is old becomes new again. We are always looking to the past for inspiration, and why not? Some of the best ideas are things that were popular once, and then discarded in the name of progress.
Today the Phoenix Suns debuted a new alternate uniform that takes cues from some Suns uniforms from the past. As Suns.com explains…
That iconic western font is emblazoned on the front of the new jersey in black lettering, outlined in the bold orange that has become synonymous with the Suns over the decades. The lettering is nearly identical to that used in one of the first iterations of the team’s jersey from 1973-1992.
One of the players who wore that font across his chest was Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek. His current point guard, Eric Bledsoe, is proud to be able to carry on the tradition that started so many years ago.
“It’s throwback,” Bledsoe said with a smile. “Everybody nowadays likes that throwback fashion.”
The font isn’t the only thing helping connects the past and the present. The sunburst on the bottom of the shorts harkens back to the original design worn by the likes of Dick Van Arsdale, Connie Hawkins and Paul Westphal. Don’t worry, though, these shorts are much longer than their predecessors. The entire look is tied together with the modern-day numbers on the chest and back, and the “S” mark that was introduced last season on the sleeves.
The color scheme pays homage to the history behind the name of the city we call home. Like the bird of Greek origin, the city rose from the ruins of a former civilization into a thriving metropolis earning it the name Phoenix.
To see more, check the video above. The Suns will debut these uniforms tomorrow night against the Oklahoma City Thunder on TNT.
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 — Now that the NBA is back, that means fun stuff like crossovers are back as well. Earlier in the week we saw Kobe catch a crossover, but that has nothing on what happened last night to Clippers point guard Jared Cunningham. Phoenix guard Eric Bledsoe hit Cunningham with a crossover, and while Cunningham stuck with him through the cross, Bledsoe then slammed on the brakes, and not only lost Cunningham, he sent him right on out of bounds. Later!
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey pulled off quite the trick during last night’s Pelicans/Suns game. Thanks to the hands of Eric Bledsoe and the dome of ref Bennie Adams, Withey pulled off the ol’ pass to himself. Impressive.
He should have shot the ball immediately just to see if he could get an assist to himself (you can see the full play here) …
Missed the cut: Gilbert Arenas, Magic; Jerryd Bayless, Raptors; Mike Bibby, Heat; Jordan Hill, Rockets; Mustafa Shakur, Wizards; Luke Walton, Lakers
Team synopsis: Leave Agent Zero on the bench? Am I crazy? Maybe. But this competition wants the players currently playing the best, not who has the best resume. Arenas just isn’t playing at the same level anymore, and both Budinger and Frye are having better seasons. This is a dangerous Arizona team, with a lot of players who can fill up the stat sheet in a number of ways.
One of my favorite kinds of buzzer-beaters: the unexpected-decoy GWBB.
Don’t get me wrong. Derek Fisher is no stranger to big shots in clutch situations (San Antonio*, cough cough**).
* Don’t forget who was on that Spurs roster. Big Shot Bob of course.
**Watching that video again, have I completely forgotten Hedo Turkoglu’s tenure on the Spurs? I could have sworn he went straight from the Kings to the Magic. That portion of his career has been totally lost to the recesses of my brain.
Still, when a team has Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, and some other guard known for last-second heroics, you assume the defense is going to focus on them. It takes a strong coach to consider that defensive initiative and take what is given. Obviously Phil Jackson fits comfortably in that category.
I wonder if Jackson is to the point where says to himself, “Self, this is a regular-season game against the Clippers. Why not gamble a little?”***
*** This theory will really gain steam when Derrick Caracter hits a game-winner.
Matt Barnes tosses it into Fisher almost immediately after ball-faking the lob to Gasol — if Kobe was the next option, Fisher couldn’t have been far behind — and Fisher heads towards the rim without hesitation. You figure in most situations, the Clippers are just happy not to have the ball in Bryant’s hands, and they’ll take their chances with Fisher. Well, chance taken, and ballgame over. Lakers beat Clippers, and the world makes sense for at least another night.
But what did Robert Horry think?
Once again, the Horry scale examines a shot in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time), importance (playoff game or garden-variety Clippers-Nets game), and celebration, and give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys.
Difficulty: Moderate. The closer you get to the basket the higher percentage shot you can get, and Fisher creates a nice amount of separation from Eric Bledsoe here for his running layup. Still, he has to get the shot over the outstretched arm of the leaping, 6-foot-11 DeAndre Jordan, which with this kind of time left shows pretty impressive touch by Fisher.
Game Situation: L.A. down a point after Jordan’s dunk with 3.1 seconds left. Do-or-die time for the Lakers.
Importance: Honestly, I don’t know. The Lakers-Clippers rivalry is so one-sided, I feel like this loss means more to the Clippers than the win does to the Lakers. Sorry Blake Griffin, this is what you have inherited. See what you can do to turn things around.
Celebration: This is supposed to be a Clippers home game, but listen to the crowd react. The only other road games where the Lakers get this much support are in Atlanta. Ouch babe.
3.5 Horrys. A very nice shot, but it’s a Lakers-Clippers game — it can’t come as that much of a surprise. The Lakers are like a bully holding a smaller kid at arm’s length, then letting go quickly and watching the kid fall over in the mud. Pretty nice work though, Derek.
What do you think?
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The season has only just begun, but the rookie hazing is already in midseason form. Here are Clippers rookies Willie Warren and Eric Bledsoe on their way into Staples Center last night before the Clippers-Blazers opener, looking either like a lounge-act version of Boys II Men or Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne.
At least Warren and Bledsoe were able to smile about it — it could have been worse.
They could have been teammate and fellow rookie Al-Farouq Aminu(right), who looks about as miserable as one would expect to be in a get-up like that. I mean, look at his glasses (zing!).
Fortunately, their wardrobes will forever be forgotten thanks to their rookie classmate (technically speaking, since last night was his NBA debut) Blake Griffin.