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 — One interesting side effect of having UConn and Kentucky play against each other for the national title last night was that there are plenty of NBA players, both past and present, from those two schools. The Charlotte Bobcats, for instance, feature current teammates from both schools — Michael Kidd-Gilchrist won a title with Kentucky in 2012, while Kemba Walker won a championship with UConn the previous year.
So the teammates got together last night to watch the big game. And when UConn prevailed, Kidd-Gilchrist posted a photo to Instagram of himself wearing a UConn shirt and looking rather nonplussed, alongside a thrilled Walker. As MKG captioned it, “Crown Them Uconn Boyzz #respect”…
In the Southeast, Bobcats guard Walker took another step in his evolution from a shoot-first point to on-court chef. Using his ball-on-a-string dribble, Kemba carved the Pistons’ D with kick-outs to open shooters set up by a crisp two-man game with Al Jefferson. Reserve point guard Ramon Sessions recorded 10 assists of his own. (Further down on the map, John Wall weaved pinpoint passes through the Hawks in Atlanta for 12 in a win).
But the facilitator of the night goes to the Spaniard in the Midwest. Rubio got busy to the tune of 17 assists, dishing a steady diet to Kevin Love (42 points)and Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf. He controlled the pill like a wand, harrying the Pacers seemingly with ease.
By no means are these the only superb givers on the night. Rajon Rondo and Trey Burke collected 10 dimes each, James Harden one-upped them with 11 and Kendall Marshall shared in 16 buckets. Marshall has seven games this season of 14 or more assists, tying Chris Paul for the NBA lead. He’s only played 25 games.
Even Phoenix’s P.J. Tucker got in on the milestone act, tying a career high with six helpers.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — These things happen in bunches, it would seem. Seriously, we go days, weeks even, without any movement on the Horry Scale, and then it all goes crazy. Now it’s as though we can’t go a day or two without a Game-Winning Buzzer-Beater happening. And that’s not counting Damian Lillard twice flirting with entries on the Scale and missing by tenths of seconds.
Before we get too far into this, we should stop and explain: 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.
With the rules in place, today we look north of the border to lovely Toronto, Canada, where Charlotte’s Kemba Walker pulled off some last-second magic…
The Bobcats had the ball out of bounds with exactly one second remaining and the score tied at 102. The play the Bobcats drew up essentially had two players staggered a few feet away from each other, running a loop away from the ball. Al Jefferson then set a screen right around the free-throw line for Walker, who flashed across the lane and cleared space for himself by literally rubbing off Jefferson as he went past. As Walker cleared Jefferson and neared inbounds man Josh McRoberts, he drifted toward the baseline, further separating himself from defender Kyle Lowry. Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas, who switched on the play and left Jefferson for Walker, was able to get a hand up in Walker’s face, but it was too little, too late, and Walker was left with a catch-and-shoot jump shot from about 16 feet for the win. Nice shot considering the circumstances, but basically an open catch-and-shoot by NBA standards. (Also, shout-out to McRoberts for the nifty pump-fake on the inbound pass — he fakes right then passes left — which created the room to make the pass.)
Tie score, in overtime, one second left. It doesn’t get much more money than that. But it’s also worth noting that the Bobcats had been down 16 earlier in the night and managed to come back and make a game of it. Also, Bobcats coach Steve Clifford noted that Walker sinking a GWBB like that was “in his nature.” Nobody associated with the Bobcats has won much of anything in the NBA, at least since being associated with the Bobcats, but it’s worth remembering that while in college at Connecticut, Walker hit his share of big shots and was a first-team All-American as the Huskies won a national championship. So while Walker has worked to establish his place in the NBA, he has a background that would suggest that you want him taking this shot.
This is the part of these Horry Scale plays I’ve tried to focus on because there are so many varying reactions. In this case, for some reason, when Walker’s shot swishes through, all the members of the Bobcats on the court calmly turn and walk away. (McRoberts is purposefully walking in the other direction well before the shot drops, like he’s late for an appointment.) Walker does seem to get mobbed by teammates eventually, but it’s only once he’s closer to his own bench. Also, if you crank up the audio on the clip above, someone begins laughing maniacally around the 11-second mark. Not sure what that’s about but it’s a fun wrinkle.
This probably isn’t a game with any immediate or long-term championship implications. If anything, perhaps a win like this — on the road, in overtime — will give the Bobcats a bit of a spark as they try to get to .500. Still, a defended catch-and-shoot, in overtime … when you factor it all together, I’m giving this shot three Horrys.
What say you? How many Horrys would you give Kemba Walker’s game-winning buzzer-beater?
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.
The Mavericks rolled into Charlotte Saturday with a 16-game winning streak against the Bobcats. Now that streak is at zero, as Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist put the ‘Cats on their back to stop — as my mom would put it — the madness. As for the latter, he proved that two shoes might not be a necessity to finish an incredible play:
Kidd-Gilchrist, the number two pick in the 2012 Draft, isn’t ready to be discounted from the Rookie of The Year discussion just yet.
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 Charlotte Bobcats, who played three straight from Jan 12-14.
Let’s be honest – the Bobcats are among the worst teams in the NBA. We’d probably expect them to lose three straight games at any point on the schedule, whether those games were six days apart or back-to-back-to-back. Still, they went through all the trouble of showing up at the arenas at the scheduled times, so we may as well take a look at how they did.
Game 1: Hawks 111, Bobcats 81 - One might think the Bobcats would have a chance in the Hawks’ first game after losing Al Horford for the season, but one would be incorrect. Oh one — always making mistaken assumptions. -2 points
Game 2: Pistons 98, Bobcats 81 - Hey at least the Hawks game was on the road. How to explain letting the Pistons — 2-9 coming into the game — win by 17 on Charlotte’s home court? I have an explanation, but the Bobcats aren’t going to like it. -1 point
Game 3: Bobcats 112, Warriors 100 - Just when you think we’re headed for the first shutout, the Bobcats summon their strength and top the Warriors by a dozen to salvage a win. Rookie Kemba Walker justified his first professional start with a career-high 23 points, so expect to see him in the first five more often going forward. 6 points (5 for win, 1 for 10+ margin)
The Bobcats are lucky (lucky I say!) my arbitrary scoring system doesn’t penalize for double-digit losses, or any losses to the Pistons for that matter. Teams are now 8-3 in the third games of the three-for-all, and the Bobcats are in the clubhouse with 3 total points.
Up next: The L.A. Clippers and Orlando Magic both play three straight Jan 16-18.