Welcome to Throwback Thursday here on the All Ball Blog. Each week, we’ll delve into the NBA’s photo archives and uncover a topic and some great images from way back when. Hit us up here if you have suggestions for a future TBT on All Ball.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — One of the most iconic moments from the early part of LeBron James‘ NBA career came each game just before tip-off, when he would walk to the scorer’s table, fill his hands with talcum powder and heave it into the air. It was a move pioneered by Michael Jordan and Kevin Garnett, who would clap talcum at the scorer’s table.
Yet LeBron added height to the practice and dedicated himself early on, and it has become something of a signature move for him. He stopped doing it in 2011, and then brought it back in 2013, though he didn’t resume it with regularity.
But over the weekend, LeBron posted a clip from NBA 2K and wrote, “I swear I can’t wait for this moment again!! #TheLand #PowderFillsTheRoom #StriveForGreatness”
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Last night in Brooklyn, the Raptors beat the Nets to tie their first round series at two wins apiece. After the game, Toronto’s “global ambassador,” Drake, took to Instagram to post a message for Brooklyn big man Kevin Garnett. As Drake wrote in the caption, “Mad…or nah? See you back at the crib”
Also, remember the post last week about Drake using a lint roller during the game in Toronto? Drake had a funny sense of humor about it…
Even though Kevin Garnett couldn’t be in uniform as the Nets hit the floor of TD Garden tonight, it doesn’t mean his presence wasn’t felt. Thanks to the truculence of Kelly Olynyk, Shaun Livingston found out how much of his teammate’s ghost still resides in Boston.
Livingston’s chagrin was palpable, but the fans paid praise to a familiar sight:
One of the most anticipated homecomings of the season took place last night when the Boston Celtics hosted the Brooklyn Nets. It marked the first game ex-Celtics Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce played at TD Garden since being traded to Brooklyn last summer.
Both players have deep emotional ties to the franchise, with Pierce being drafted by the team in 1999 and playing 15 seasons there, helping the Celtics go from Eastern Conference afterthought to a title-winner (2008) and perennial contender. A big key to those contending days came via of the addition of Garnett in the summer of 2007. KG won Defensive Player of the Year honors in his first season with Boston (2007-08) and was arguably — with Pierce — the heart of those contending Celtics clubs.
Any time you have Kris Humphries and Rick Mahorn in the same sentence, you know something special happened.
They couldn’t be more different, in perception and on-court presence. I mean, could you imagine this happening to the former Pistons and Sixers bruiser?
But that may not be completely fair. Humphries gives decent effort and has a knack for the timely defensive play or two. He didn’t disappoint Sunday night against his old team in Brooklyn. While the electricity pivoted around the return of Hall of Famers to-be Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, Humphries had his own bit of motivation and dipped into his old-school bag of tricks to make Mahorn proud:
Instead of being the post warrior, he was the post magician. It’s a brilliant maneuver and has a 100 percent success rate. How isn’t this move pulled off more? Perhaps because subterfuge in battle is most effective when used seldomly? I’m not sure, but it needs more application. The look on Andray Blatche’s face while looking at a fired-up Humphries from his keister afterward was priceless.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — It’s late at night, I’ve got one full day of vacation staring me in the face, and before I drift off to bed, I’m thinking about the last few things I’d like to accomplish (a long nap tomorrow, not doing chores, etc.) before heading back to the blizzard in NYC. And then Joe Johnson does it again. The Brooklyn Nets needed a win in the worst way, and who better to turn to than Joe Cool?
I know we usually air these posts out a bit, but this one is going to be a bit more to the point, because, you know, vacation. But before we get too far into this, we should stop and explain why we’re here: 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 other thing before we move on: I’ve received a few emails from Blazers fans and Thunder fans wondering why I had not done Horry Scale posts for their teams when Lillard and Westbrook have hit game-winners. My reasoning is sound: Those guys have hit game-winners, yes, but they both left tenths of a second on the clock. And as we all know from reading the rules above, we are looking for shots with 0.0 remaining on the clock.
Which leads us to Joe Johnson…
The toughest part of Joe’s game winner was having the 6-10ish Serge Ibaka guarding him. But the rest of the shot was the same kind of shot Joe’s been knocking down his entire pro career. He inbounded the ball to Kevin Garnett, who handed it back to Joe, and then you can see all the other Nets clear out of the way and just let Joe do his thing. I’ve often said that if Joe Johnson were in a one-on-one contest against any other NBA player, I think he’d fare pretty well, because he’s terrific at using his dribble and his size to nearly always get his shot off. And this instance was no exception.
More like season situation. The Nets have famously been something of a mess this season, and the recent season-ending injury to Brook Lopez led to many thinking it was time to put the final fork in the Nets (if we hadn’t already). So to say they needed a win not just on this night but to give life to their season is no understatement. And I’m pretty sure nobody thought that win would come on the road, against the mighty Oklahoma City Thunder.
Rowdy. Even moreso than on Johnson’s previous game-winner this season. Of course, even though this isn’t an overtime finish, the Nets probably have more at stake now than they did a few weeks back. They’ve been knocked down, but they got up again.
We’ve had a run of 4 Horry scores of late, and I think it’s time to break that streak. While the shot over the bigger defender was impressive, it was a basic jumper in a one-on-one setting. So I’m giving this three Horrys…
What say you? How many Horrys does Joe Johnson’s GWBB deserve?
BROOKLYN – Earlier this week, I spent an evening shadowing Nathaniel Butler from NBA Photos as he photographed the Trail Blazers-Nets game in Brooklyn. During the game, Butler gave me a camera and let me shoot the action. What follows are some of the images I took that night, with my thoughts and comments below each picture. These pictures have not been cropped or color-corrected or anything else. This is what I shot … for better, or for, probably mostly, worse.
As the Blazers took the floor to warm up directly in front of me, Nic Batum started hoisting 15-footers from the right wing. I picked up my camera, zoomed in a bit, half-pushed the button down to make sure the image was focused, and then fired off the shot. What I didn’t account for was that Batum would jump when he shot, so my photo chopped off his arms and the ball.
Once the game started, sure enough the Nets ran a play to get Kevin Garnett a shot at the top of the key. I saw the play developing and as soon as KG caught the ball and squared up, I took this picture. Unfortunately, as you may notice, I managed to capture all of the players out of focus. But the basket support and the fans in the front rows are crystal clear. Also, terrific job by me to cut off the shot clock. (more…)
(Editor’s Note: While we cover the NBA as obsessively as we can around here, there are still numerous ancillary parts of the game experience that we want to uncover and explore. Being involved with the NBA can mean everything from serving up exotic foods to firing shirts into the crowd. We will delve into these angles of the NBA as part of a new regular (and perhaps a bit irregular) All Ball series, NBA Behind The Scenes.)
BROOKLYN – It was 3:30 on Monday afternoon in Brooklyn, four hours before the Brooklyn Nets would play host to the Portland Trail Blazers. The interior hallways of the Barclays Center were mostly deserted, save for a few food service employees firing up ovens and custodial staff giving the place a final shine before thousands of fans arrived. Out on the arena floor, a rec league championship game was taking place.
Sitting in a folding chair just below one of the baskets was a man in a black polo shirt and jeans, working at a determined pace. He wasn’t tall, wasn’t short, and his blond hair made determining his age require more than a glance. He tore black gaffers tape into strips and secured loose wires that were splayed all over the place — to the basket support, from the basket support, along the cement arena floor, on the edge of the court. Three large hard plastic containers were open on the floor around him, all neatly packed with lenses, cameras, tripods and various other equipment. A hand truck was just behind, waiting to be loaded up and rolled away.
The man’s assistant turned up, carrying several camera batteries, which were checked and rechecked, and some were swapped out for more potent options. Words like “reflectors” and “overheads” were used casually between the two men in conversation. A ladder was propped up under a backboard, and a multi-thousand dollar camera was affixed to the glass and carefully aimed out toward the paint.
I had come to Brooklyn to meet up with Nathaniel S. Butler, who is a photographer for NBA Photos, and has been chronicling the NBA in pictures for about two decades now. You may not know Nat Butler’s name, but if you’re an NBA fan, you almost definitely know his work. Like perhaps this image …
The game winning buzzer beaters are coming fast and furious now. So yeah, we’re on the third Horry Scale entry of the last seven days, as last night Joe Johnson and the Brooklyn Nets went to Phoenix, and their game drifted into overtime before JJ managed to end it with a dagger. NBA players obviously can not resist the allure of making Horry Scale appearances.
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, let’s check out last night’s game-winner.
I’ve long held that Joe Johnson is one of the most underrated offensive players in the NBA. I watched nearly every Hawks game he played, and saw him night after night carry the load offensively. It wasn’t always pretty, it wasn’t always the most efficient offense, but it was more often than not effective. Johnson can score in so many ways, and that versatility was on display last night. Joe’s GWBB was a runner in the paint with two defenders coming after him. Joe put a slight hesitation dribble on PJ Tucker and watched him soar past, then went up and lofted the ball high over Channing Frye for the bucket, just in time. On first glance it wasn’t particularly spectacular, but the more I watch it the more impressive it becomes — going the length of the court in four seconds, being patient enough to let Tucker take himself out of the play, and then getting the shot off cleanly over a seven-footer before the clock trickled out of time.
So here we are, game tied at 98 in overtime, 8 seconds remaining on the clock and about 2 on the shot clock, and Frye misses a three from the wing. Johnson ends up with the rebound, and the rest is history. You often hear coaches debate whether or not to use a timeout in those circumstances. Do you stop the game to set up a play, but also potentially allow the defense to get set? Or do you take advantage of the chaos and let them play? Another potential subplot for the Nets is, Who takes the final shot in a close game? All of these issues were avoided by Coach Kidd by just letting the game play out in the moment. (Worth noting: Deron Williams had sprained his ankle earlier and was out, so perhaps that played into Kidd’s decision as well.)
The Nets have been struggling this season, starting off 2-5, one loss away from the basement in the Eastern Conference, and not looking anything like the contending team most experts projected them to be. Conversely, the Suns have been surprisingly good, beginning 5-3 and making people wonder if talk of tanking was premature. It’s still early in the season, but a W for the Nets could help them start to turn things around. As Johnson said after the game, “It was big. There could be a domino effect.” The Nets better hope so: They play the Clippers in Los Angeles tonight.
The jubilation was there, if a bit muted until Kevin Garnett arrived and shook up the huddle a bit. To be fair, Joe Johnson has never been accused of being demonstrative. (Also, check out Tucker in the background on his knees, head to the court, literally floored by the loss.) “I couldn’t even celebrate, I was so tired,” Johnson told the New YorkPost. (He logged almost 45 minutes between regulation and overtime.) “But I was just ready to get out of there. [My teammates] are trying to celebrate and I’m ready to go… I’m like, ‘Let’s go into the locker room and shower and let’s get out of here. … We’ve got a tough game tomorrow.’”
Sneaky difficult shot, pretty important game for the Nets, a team excited to get the win. There have been tougher and more important game winners, for sure, but I feel like this a GWBB that will overlooked by some. Anyway, for the reasons outlined above, I’m giving this one three Horrys.
That’s my take. How many Horry’s would you give Joe Johnson’s game-winner?