ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — There was only one NBA game last night, but the lack of action doesn’t mean there wasn’t any All Ball worthy action. Milwaukee’s Jared Dudley, for instance, got open in the corner and took a shot that somehow went the exact wrong direction from where he was aiming. It was obviously a mistake, but my guess is that it won’t stop this from being a Shaqtin’ moment…
In the two seasons we’ve had the Horry Scale up and running, we’ve never encountered a game-winning buzzer-beater quite like the one we saw in Houston last night.
As a refersher, here’s the rules on what makes an Horry Scale shot:
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.
All well and good, the rules above, but they don’t quite address how to handle James Harden‘s shot last night, which ended up being good … only because the Suns’ Jermaine O’Neal reached up and goal-tended it at the last second. Technically, Harden gets credit for the 3-pointer and the game-winning shot, but it’s definitely one of the more odd Horry Scale entries we’ve ever encountered.
We’ll attempt to break this puppy down and give it a fair shake on the Scale, but be warned … this isn’t your usual ending to a Horry Scale, so the rating might not be what you think it is.
How does Harden’s finish Tuesday night stack up? Without further ado…
Not exactly a tough shot for Harden. Fellow backcourt-mate Jeremy Lin inbounds the ball to Harden with 9.1 seconds left and he dribbles the clock down to 1.9 seconds before hoisting a 3-pointer over a decent contest by second-year forward P.J. Tucker. The Suns play this shot pretty well, as Tucker gives Harden space early on and closes out on the shot while teammate Jared Dudley leaves his man to provide an additional hand in Harden’s face. The jumper caroms high off the back iron and looks like a brick. But then, Jermaine O’Neal — a 16-year veteran and former six-time All-Star — goes up to get the ball on its second bounce. The only problem? The ball hit the rim when it fell and O’Neal swats if off there, constituting a goaltending call and a win for Houston.
To expound on why O’Neal went up and batted the ball away, The Arizona Republic‘s Paul Coro caught up with the Suns big man after the game, who explained his actions thusly:
Suns center Jermaine O’Neal has played in the NBA for 17 seasons and never has seen a team lose like how his team did Wednesday night.
…After a Suns timeout, O’Neal was blocked by Omer Asik inside and Scola missed a scoop shot to set up Harden for the buzzer 3. It hit back rim and then the front rim before O’Neal hit it after the buzzer.
“Jermaine O’Neal touched it while it was in the cylinder,” official David Jones said. “The ball was on the rim and in the cylinder. He doesn’t go up through the net.”
O’Neal said he thought the ball had come off the rim and he was trying to prevent a Rockets tip-in. Coach Lindsay Hunter said he will need to re-examine the rule after the explanation he received.
“But there were a lot of other calls that were quite questionable leading up to that,” O’Neal said. “So I guess you put that with the rest of them. Especially in the fourth (quarter), there were some calls that I’m not quite sure about.”
Can’t say that makes what O’Neal did any clearer. When does preventing a tip-in require goaltending a shot? Isn’t that the same (or worse) than allowing a tip-in in this situation?
Greg Smith rebounded Luis Scola‘s missed jumper with 16.9 seconds left — a shot that would have given Phoenix a 100-98 lead — and calls timeout to set up the Rockets’ play. The score is tied at 98 when the wild sequence between Harden and O’Neal happens.
Heading into Tuesday night, the Suns had already tied the 1987-88 squad for the second-most losses in the single season in team history. Another defeat would move this current iteration of the Suns into sole possession of the second-worst season in team history. You can almost hear Suns fans cheering over that one. But a loss keeps Phoenix in the running with Orlando and Charlotte for a good chance to land the No. 1 pick in the 2013 Draft, which is perhaps what the Suns need more now than victories.
The Rockets had a chance to lock up their first playoff berth in four seasons on Saturday in Denver, but got waxed by the Nuggets. A return to the Toyota Center, where Houston was 27-11 entering last night, and a win over Phoenix would realize Houston’s playoff dream. While Houston is the No. 7 seed in the West, it remains a game behind Golden State for No. 6 and a chance to avoid either the Thunder or Spurs in the first round. In short, a win is something Houston needed for more than one reason.
After the officials review the play, the Rockets get to celebrate, but there isn’t much video proof of it. There are a couple of great Getty Images of Houston celebrating with Harden once his shot is ruled good, but the whole review of the last shot kind of sucks the fun out of any happy time.
1 Horry. The last time we had a 1-star shot on the Horry Scale? It was back on March 27, 2011, when Jameer Nelson hit a pretty boring game-winner against the Nuggets in Orlando. Much like that shot, Harden’s was a mediocre-at-best shot that had just as good of a chance of rimming out (had O’Neal not helped out unintentionally) as it had of going in. Still, the Rockets will take the win (and the playoff berth) that comes with the game-winner no matter how it happened.
As everyone knows by now, the compressed NBA schedule will force every team to play three games in three nights at least one this season (42 times in total). With only 66 games to stake a claim to a playoff spot or seed, how teams perform during these killer slates could have a large impact on how their seasons turn out.
With that in mind, we’re going to keep track of each of the 42 three-plays to see which teams take advantage and which teams fall apart. Up next, the Phoenix Suns, who played three straight from Mar. 14-16.
The Phoenix Suns’ season can pretty easily be summed up by their two entries in the three for all challenge. In their first foray back in February, Phoenix went winless, part of a four-game skid that saw the team fall a season-worst seven games under .500 after a loss to the Lakers on Feb. 17.
That game must have shook something loose in the desert, because ever since the Suns have been scorching, winning 10 of 13 games and moving all the way back to .500 on the season at the culmination of their second threeplay:
Game 1: Suns 120, Jazz 111 – Part of the reason for the Suns’ success has been the production the team has been getting from up and down the roster. To wit: Channing Frye dropped a season-high 26 points (with nine rebounds), Marcin Gortat had 25, and Jared Dudley had 21 in the win over the Jazz. 1 point
Game 2: Suns 91, Clippers 87 - Home win over the Jazz? Not bad, but nothing special. Road win over the Clippers? Now that’s a nice win, despite how weird it makes me feel to write that sentence. Oh, and did I mention they did it without Grant Hill and Steve Nash, who picked up DNP-OMs (Did Not Play – Old Men)? Seriously. Sebastian Telfair started this game. Crazy season indeed. 4 points (3 for win, 1 for road)
Game 3: Suns 109, Pistons 101 - I give Bassy credit for holding down the fort while Nash took the night off against LAC, and the rest paid off for Steve as he dished out 17 dimes, tied for a season high, against Detroit. Back to what I was saying earlier about contributions from everywhere? Robin Lopez had 14 points off the bench in this one, and Michael Redd had 11. If I so much as get a hangnail from now on, I’m going to Phoenix to have the Suns’ medical staff take a look at it. 5 points
It’s not so long ago that everyone was proclaiming this a lost season in Phoenix, and up until Thursday’s trade deadline many were holding out hope that the #FreeSteveNash movement would mercifully spring Canada’s finest from his Arizona prison.
Instead, the Suns join the Heat, Bulls, and Thunder (owners of the league’s three best records) as the only teams to go undefeated in the three play, and in doing so moved into 9th place in the Western Conference playoff chase, just two games behind the Nuggets, who just traded for JaVale McGee, so good luck with that. 10 points for the Suns, and total redemption for their first effort a month ago. This could be a playoff team after all.
Up next: The Clippers take their second crack at the triumvirate, playing three straight Mar. 20-22.
Can’t blame Marcin Gortat for knowing how to play with one of the premier pick-and-roll guards in NBA history. Unfortunately, Jared Dudley would have to wait another possession to finish a Steve Nash assist…while Gortat’s nose apparently wanted in on the action.
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In between ruling the asphalts and hardwood, Durant is making appearances around the country at various summer basketball camps. He was in Chicago earlier this week. Today, he was at his basketball camp in Oklahoma City, talking to reporters about the state of the NBA.
Seems obvious as to why right? I mean, he is Kevin Durant. But there’s another practical reason. He is OKC’s union representative. Being abreast of the minutiae of bargaining agreements and traveling to as many as four cities in a week schooling (physically and pedagogically) on the rudiments of basketball pretty much confirms what we know about Durant: that he’s pretty much a freak of nature.
But even nature has its hiccups.
Like most of us, he’s hopeful that an agreement can be made. Also like most of us, he “lost track of time” and didn’t realize the Collective Bargaining Agreement was set to expire tomorrow.
One one hand, he’s the team’s union face. In times of crisis, he is the face that mans the fort in the meetings. To let him completely off the hook would be coddling. However, there is a reason why only four All-Stars and names such as Jordan Farmar, Jared Dudley and James Jones (no offense to the latter three) represent their teams. Stars generally don’t have the time , desire, patience or incentive to lend toward the intricacies of an “billionaires vs. millionaires” caucus.
Even though it’s odd that KD would forget something this important, this scenario is refreshing in the sense that a horde of players exist to play ball and not worry about the rest. And really, isn’t unmitigated focus (enthusiasm?) for basketball what we want to see from professional athletes?
If you want, this is probably a perfect time bust out a “didn’t he have it written on a stone tablet in his backpack” joke. No? Cool.
The Horry scale got a nice break during All-Star Weekend, but now it’s back to business courtesy of Channing Frye and the Phoenix Suns. After the Pacers’ Danny Granger missed his own chance to join the ranks at the end of regulation, Frye made the most of his opportunity in overtime to give the Suns a 110-108 win in Indy.
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.
How did Channing do? Let’s dip our toes:
The shot was from deep, but Frye is an excellent marksman from outside so that’s no big thing. Credit to Channing for the headfake on Brandon Rush to create the room he needed to get the shot off, and also credit to Jared Dudley for setting a screen on Frye’s man to free the big man for the look.
A tie game, so a miss would have meant nothing more than a second overtime period.
We are deep into the second half of the season, and with both the Suns and Pacers fighting for a spot in the postseason (the Pacers fell back into a tie for 8th in the East with the loss, while the Suns moved within 1.5 games of Memphis for 8th in the West), neither of these teams can afford to lose.
The Suns congregate by the scorer’s table to mob Frye after the make. And though the video above doesn’t show it, Frye gets a to give Steve Nash a celebratory piggy-back ride. That’s gotta count for something.
2.5 Horrys. Don’t get me wrong, it was a sweet finish by Frye, but that’s a shot he can hit pretty regularly and it was a tie game. I give it an extra half star for the fact that both teams are chasing playoff berths.
Today is Monday, which means it’s time for another fabulous edition of Extend, Trade or Cut. Speaking of Mondays (excellent segue Micah), last Monday was the final day for teams to offer contract extensions to players from the 2007 Draft class, or risk said players becoming restricted free agents when the season ends. Not many players ended up with that security this year, in part due to labor negotiations and in part due to lack of talent/production. Of the 30 players drafted in the first round, only Kevin Durant (duh), Al Horford, Mike Conley (surprise!), Joakim Noah, and Jared Dudley signed on the line which is dotted to secure their playing futures for the next several years.
So what of the players left in the cold, forced to play for their (future) pay this season? Today we examine three players in that current situation: Houston’s Aaron Brooks, OKC’s Jeff Green, and Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey.
Just to refresh you on the rules, picture yourself as the GM of a mythical NBA franchise, and pretend that you have to choose between three players. One player you can extend with a new contract, one player you have to trade for some mythical asset(s), and one player you must cut from your roster for eternity (it’s a harsh world). You may choose each option only once.
Let’s examine the evidence:
Aaron Brooks – The Rockets’ speedy point guard is perhaps a victim of circumstance rather than undeserving of a long-term deal; Houston made a decision across the board not to extend anyone without a new CBA. In more certain times, I’d say it’s pretty likely Brooks would have a deal. Brooks was the Most Improved Player in the league last year, starting all 82 games for the Rockets and averaging 19.2 ppg. He’s a scoring point more than a distributor though, and at his size he’s not much of a defensive presence.
Jeff Green – People are ALL over the map about this guy. Some see him as a crucial component to the Thunder’s future, a Scottie Pippen jack-of-all-trades to Durant’s Jordan. Others think he’s overhyped, and point to the fact that OKC’s plus/minus is consistently worse with him on the floor than off it.
Rodney Stuckey – Stuckey started fast out of the gate in his career, looking at times like a future star in his first couple seasons with the Pistons. But he too is a bit of a tweener – is he a point? Is he a shooting guard? Lately, he appears to have fallen into Pistons’ coach John Kuester‘s doghouse, getting benched for most of the second half in a game against the Hawks last week. How much of that is just the dysfunction of playing with a seemingly rudderless franchise right now?
All right, the pins are set. Knock ‘em down with your vote below:
UPDATE: Aaron Brooks is apparently out 4-6 weeks with an ankle injury – I can’t tell you what to do, so if you want that to factor into your hypothetical decision feel free, but I’d say you can pretend for the sake of argument that he’s a picture of health.
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Jared Dudley is one of the more colorful personalities to hit the NBA in the last few years, and while he is still a youngin’, he’s clearly preparing for LAB (life after basketball). Witness the start of his own self-proclaimed media network JMZ (a part of the larger conglomerate JSPN). Last night Dudley interviewed two of the stars of the Suns’ victory over the Jazz, Hakim Warrick (who posterized Paul Millsap) and Steve Nash. Roll it!
Am I the only person who thinks the Suns would be the most fun NBA team to hang out with on a nightly basis?
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There are many things that are probably pretty awesome about being a professional athlete. One of those things is definitely getting to be in a video game. If that’s not a “Look ma, I made it!” kind of moment, I don’t know what is. And even though it’s probably an honor just to be included, it’s still pretty hilarious when the video game makers differ in their assessment of a player’s abilities than the player himself.
Enter the Nuggets’ J.R. Smith.
Unhappy with his rating, especially in comparison to some of his peers, Smith voiced his frustration the way the kids do nowadays, over Twitter:
Smith goes on to call out Jared Dudley and Mike Miller as two players with perhaps undeservedly higher ratings than his, which to be honest, he’s probably right about.
Whenever this subject comes up (as it inevitably does when the game comes out each year), I can’t help but think of my favorite Madden commercial ever, where Packers’ WR Robert Brooks is shown playing as himself in the game and getting tackled from behind by a 49er, to which he responds, “Come on man – that don’t show my breakaway speed!”*
*I have scoured the internet and cannot find a link to this commercial – what gives Youtube?
The Suns’ Jared Dudley is one of the most personable players in the NBA, and even though he’s only been in the league a short while he’s already made his presence felt from a media standpoint, appearing on podcasts, accumulating nearly 50,000 followers on Twitter, and providing great quotes for the journalists who cover his games.
Though Dudley is only 25 years old, it appears he’s already hard at work on his post-basketball career, putting the NBA TV/TNT crews on notice that he’s coming after their jobs some day.
Not bad, JD. He seems pretty comfortable with a mic in his hand, but if he wants to come after Sager, he’s going to have to step it up in the wardrobe department.