ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — A long time ago, I was sitting courtside at a Mavericks game in Dallas, keeping my head down and doing my job. But I knew that sitting courtisde, I was always at risk for a collision — with a player, with a basketball, with a referee, whatever. And sure enough, eventually the ball finally came zooming at my head. I had a split-second to make one of two choices:
1. Try to catch the ball, with the possibility of either catching the ball or the ball banging off my hands and the crowd laughing at my poor catching skills.
2. Duck and let someone else deal with it.
I chose the second option, and the ball ended up hitting someone behind me. Still, because I was paying attention, I was able to get out of the way.
The lesson here, is that when you’re at an NBA game, if you’re sitting anywhere close to the court, it’s a good idea to always pay attention. Last night in Charlotte, where the Hornets were hosting the Sacramento Kings, a pass intended for Gerald Henderson, though he ended up letting it go — I guess he thought it was tipped — and the ball instead went directly into the face of a woman sitting behind the Charlotte bench who was checking her telephone. Here’s a wide look via GIF…
For a closer look, here’s a Vine, where it becomes clear that the people around her were pretty much no help at all. Even Noah Vonleh on the Hornets bench gives the ball a little side-eye as it flies past…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The New York Knicks were off to a franchise record-worst start. The Charlotte Hornets had lost ten in a row. But despite initial appearances, tonight didn’t do anything to remedy the situation for the Knicks.
Twenty-four hours after losing a close game at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers, tonight in Charlotte the Knicks mounted an impressive comeback to hold a one-point lead with four seconds left, only to see their win float away with a lay-up from Charlotte’s Kemba Walker.
And it’s not like the Knicks, off to a 4-17 start and losers of six consecutive coming in, were the only team struggling here. The Hornets, a team tabbed by many to compete for a Southeast Division title, came into this game riding a 10-game losing skid with a 5-15 record. But it all ended in the capable hands of Kemba Walker. (And not for the first time.)
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.
One thing I’d like to clear up: 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 … basically, everything surrounding and including the shot. So when I gave Randy Foye a 3 Horry rating, that wasn’t only a reflection of his shot, which was admittedly remarkable, as I wrote, but also the play, which was awful. Taj Gibson’s lefty layup wasn’t the toughest shot, but that inbounds play was terrific. Basically, everything matters.
Let’s get to the game-winner…
To be honest, it should have been harder. With 4 seconds left on the clock, the Hornets had the ball out of bounds along the sideline, down one. The Knicks had J.R. Smith — not noted for his defense — guarding the inbounder. And Hornets center Al Jefferson set what was basically a cursory screen on Knicks guard Pablo Prigioni, as Kemba Walker popped free to receive the pass.
And then — and this is the weird part — Walker just dribbled directly down the left side to the basket and shot a lay-up to win it. Amar’e Stoudemire tried to help out and contend against the shot, but his defense seemed more unintentional than anything.
Did Prigioni think he had help behind him? The Knicks had a foul to give, did they think someone was going to take that foul? Did Knicks coach Derek Fisher try to call a twenty-second timeout from halfcourt before the play?
There are more questions than answers. All we know is that Kemba Walker got a layup to win the game.
Both teams needed — desperately — a win tonight. And the Knicks mounted an epic comeback, losing at one point by 21, and entering the fourth quarter down 16, 85-69. But despite the comeback, on that last play the Hornets just seemed to want it more.
Like we said, it was huge for both teams, but Charlotte arguably needed this more than the Knicks. (Ten game losing streak > six game losing streak.) After adding Lance Stephenson in the offseason, the Hornets were supposed to be better than they were a year ago. Instead, they’ve struggled mightily. Someone had to lose, and tonight it was the Knicks. Again.
Walker ended up on his back under the basket, after extending himself to get the shot up and over Stoudemire. When the ball dropped through, Gerald Henderson and Marvin Williams jumped atop Walker and helped him to his feet, and Lance Stephenson arrived moments later. In the clip above, we even get one of those cool long-range crowd shots where you see the entire arena rise to their feet as one when the game-winner drops.
It was a nice play, a nice shot, and nice win for a Charlotte team that needed a win. But it was also incredibly simple, and came during a regular season game. Prigioni seemed to think he had help coming from behind, as Walker basically walked directly to the rim for the winning bucket. I don’t want to discount the skill required to get a shot off over a big man, but to be honest, the Knicks couldn’t have defended the play much more poorly.
So I’m giving Kemba Walker’s game winner 2 Horrys.
What say you? How many Horrys would you give Kemba Walker’s GWBB?
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — With the NBA season literally hours away, teams around the League are out and about in their local communities doing things to connect with fans, like the video we saw last week where the Utah Jazz hit up an area mall. In the videos below we see several members of the Charlotte Bobcats out in their community meeting fans, making them sandwiches and carrying their drugstore purchases to their car.
I like that Kemba Walker admits he has always wanted to make a sandwich at Subway, because honestly, who hasn’t looked behind the counter and, even just once, wanted to go all in on a sandwich? Also, the quick Al Jefferson chest-pound after hanging up the phone is a fantastic moment.
Missed the cut: Shane Battier, Grizzlies; Chris Duhon, Magic; Mike Dunleavy, Pacers; Gerald Henderson, Bobcats; Dahntay Jones, Pacers; Josh McRoberts, Pacers; JJ Redick, Magic; Shelden Williams, Knicks
Team synopsis: People have a tendency to think that Duke players don’t do so well in the pros, but man, look at this lineup. Big and burly, and good luck keeping Brand, Boozer, and Maggette off the offensive glass. The only thing that could pose a problem for the Dookies is a lack of a top-notch outside shooter or true distributor, but Hill and Deng are good enough. Each guy on this team can put the ball in the basket.