ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — We’ve previously noted the work of Rob the Original, a barber in the San Antonio area who gives Spurs fans various Spurs-related haircuts. So with the Spurs adding LaMarcus Aldridge through free agency, at least one Spurs fan celebrated the addition by getting a portrait of Aldridge shaved into his hair, alongside a Spurs logo…
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the Garden
Ticket holders asked: “Why can’t we just take James Harden?”
The jerseys were hung in the lockers with care,
In hopes that one day a real team would be there;
Across town the Nets were nestled all snug in their beds,
Visions of D-Will’s 40 percent shooting torturing their heads;
And Sam Presti in his kerchief and Chris Wallace in his wrap,
Had just settled down to brush up on the salary cap.
When out on Seventh Avenue there arose such a clatter,
They sprang from their beds to see what was the matter.
Away to the window they flew in a flash,
Tore open the shutters, ready to do something rash.
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow
Seemed as far away as the Larry O’Brien Trophy to Spike
and his pals on the high-priced front row,
When what to their wondering eyes should appear,
But a stretch limousine pulled by eight tiny reindeer,
With a tall, slow driver who’d long lost his quicks, They knew in a moment he must be from the Knicks.
More rapid than a 20-second timeout his coursers they came,
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name:
“Now Gasol! Now Monroe! Now DeAndre! up above,
“On, K.D.! On LaMarcus and Butler! On Kawhi and Love!
To the top of the scoreboard! To the top of the wall!
Come with me now to save New York basketball.”
As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle mount to the sky,
Over in Brooklyn, Queen B’s land with Jay-Z, Lionel’s team was still driving him crazy.
So up to the house top the coursers they flew,
The limo filled with millions, and James Dolan, too.
And then in a twinkling, on Presti and Wallace’s roofs
Was the prancing and pawing of designer hoofs.
As they drew in their heads and were turning around,
Down the chimney came Zen Master came with a bound.
He wore a green suit of Benjamins, sewn out of cash,
Ready to recruit his own Brothers of Splash.
A bundle of promises he was ready to dangle,
At anyone not named J.R., who could grasp a triangle.
His eyes — how they twinkled! Not the face of a meanie;
Of course, the fall-back plan was still the beach with Jeanie.
His droll little scheme, turn around a team soft as a cushion,
And do it all faster than Brooklyn’s rich Russian.
He piled stacks of cash from their feet to their teeth,
And blew smoke till it encircled their heads like a wreath.
He had a wise, knowing face, hardly hint of a belly,
Not at all like Charles Barkley’s each night on the telly;
He was as haughty and sure as a blackmailer with pictures,
Even though his team’s record was down with the Sixers.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Was supposed to give the entire NBA something to dread.
He had played in the glory years with Reed, Frazier and Bradley,
Now these days in his sack just a hollow team playing badly.
He’d spoken all the right words, said he’d soon make them perk,
But without Jordan and Shaq, this might be too much like work.
And laying a finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprung to his limo, to his team gave some whistles,
Nothing he couldn’t clean up with one or two missiles.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he soared over walls of adobe:
“By this time next Christmas, I’ll even settle for old Kobe.”
Thomas Robinson was the No. 5 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and is on his third NBA team. It’s safe to say his career hasn’t gotten off to the start his draft position demands. Robinson’s 11.1 minutes per game this season is filled by 4.3 points and 3.8 rebounds.
But with LaMarcus Aldridge on the mend with nagging groin pains and Kevin Love coming to town Sunday, the Blazers needed every able body on the oak to chip in.
Enter the former Jayhawk T-Rob, who played over 33 minutes against the Wolves, a season-high, and recorded 14 points and a game-high and career-high 18 rebounds. He did it in electrifying fashion, treating the Moda Center to a brand of power not often seen from their frontcourt.
In the fourth quarter with the game very much in the balance, Robinson began hawking down notorious speed demon Corey Brewer, who got loose on the break. Few foresaw the pandemonium that would follow. If we didn’t know before, we know now that the Portland faithful has no problem going insane with the right nudge:
Last night, the Washington Wizards got over the .500 hump for the first time in four years by beating up on the Portland Trail Blazers. Early in the contest, Nicolas Batum took the liberty to pull something that I’ve never seen done before in an NBA game.
Batum didn’t pilfer the pill from any co-worker. He picked arguably the game’s best power forward and three-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge. To his defense (odd word to use here), Batum could have been protecting the rock from a lurking Trevor Ariza, who is a known ballhawk. Or he could have just wanted the ball and was enterprising enough to take it, teammate or not.
To make matters worse, he bricked the subsequent trey ball and left a host of questions in the aftermath.
Was this his way of showcasing his displeasure of being an All-Star snub? Will this be brought up in the Blazers’ film study session? Does it technically count as a pass? Was Batum inspired by Carlton Banks? Only Batum knows.
Sometimes, defending the other team is just not enough.
But why would Thomas Robinson yell “lunch meat” when LaMarcus Aldridge is in the post? Simple, according to Robinson and SB Nation blog BlazersEdge:
“Lunch meat,” Robinson explained to Blazersedge, smiling. “Whatchu do when you got some lunch meat? You eat it. Exactly! Whenever someone [is guarding Aldridge], he’s always eating. He’s L.A. Whenever somebody on him, he eat him. Lunch meat. That’s how it is.”
Fellow Blazer Myers Leonard goes on to explain:
“There’s no one that can really stop him one-on-one on the block, let alone anywhere on the court,” Leonard told Blazersedge. “L.A. is so skilled. It basically just means that L.A. is about to get a bucket. He’s eating.”
And, yes, Aldridge seems to enjoy it. But he won’t let lunch meat get to his head:
“It means the guy can’t guard me,” Aldridge sheepishly told Blazersedge. “That I’m going to score at will. It’s not that simple when I’m doing it. They say it looks that easy sometimes. It’s fine, but I’m not going to get into it, I’m not going to say it myself.”
One thing worth noting, though: Aldridge is shooting 40.2 percent from the post this season, according to Synergy Sports.
Still, Aldridge has the perfect attitude to have towards lunch meat. Enjoy it, but don’t let it consume you.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — We love local ads here at the All Ball blog, and this latest spot from Portland starring LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez is indicative of all the reasons why. First of all, the acting chops are nothing short of…well, hey, at least they’re trying. The music, strangely, is the same music as in the epic Norman/OKC Thunder commercial from two years ago. And the final shot where Aldridge and Lopez stand back-to-back and gingerly swivel toward the camera is just sublime… –
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — I can not tell a lie: It has been a season of highs and lows here at Horry Scale Central. We began the season with three Game-Winning Buzzer-Beaters within seven days, a flurry of activity to make even the most jaded NBA watcher’s head twirl. This required me to write three Horry Scale posts in succession, which turned out to be a controversial endeavor. Folks weren’t happy with my rating of the Jeff Green GWBB, which kept me up very late at night, triggering some difficult and genuine soul searching, at least as far as you know. Since then I have perhaps tried to overcorrect with some of my other ratings, a maneuver that has in no small part generated its own share of controversy, and which has caused something of an existential Horry Scale crisis.
But I digress. 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 turn our tired eyes to the lovely Pacific Northwest. Let’s check out last night’s game-winner from Monta Ellis…
Monta Ellis has made tougher shots in his career, probably even in this game. This was basically a catch-and-shoot on a curl coming around a screen, a shot Ellis has taken thousands of times in his life. And Ellis made a clean catch, swung around the screen, and had a wide open look at the basket. And yes, he drained the shot, so kudos to him. To me the most interesting thing on this play was that the Blazers did not switch defenders on the screen. In the NBA, for the most part defenders always switch on picks in the last few seconds of a game, and particularly on an inbounds play. This is not only easy for the players on the floor to remember, in a more general sense it means defenders are always running at the ball when there are only seconds to play. But as Ellis came around the series of screens, Portland’s Wesley Matthews tried to stay with him, with no real help waiting for him. (As my main man Ben Golliver reports on Blazers Edge, Portland had decided before the play to only switch guard-on-guard screens. Dallas’ other guard on the floor was Jose Calderon, who was inbounding the ball, so the Blazers all knew there would effectively be no switching.) By the time Ellis caught the pass, curled around the pick from DaJuan Blair and popped free at the top of the key, Portland’s best defensive option may have been LaMarcus Aldridge, who was flat-footed about six feet away from Ellis. Matthews made a last-second swipe at the ball from behind while trying to recover, but he couldn’t make a difference.
What you don’t see in the clip above is the clutch three-pointer Lillard made to tie the game with 1.9 seconds remaining. That play was set up by a Dallas turnover from, you guessed it, Monta Ellis. So in many ways this GWBB was about redemption for Monta. Still, once Dallas got the ball with the game tied, it seemed like it would probably be Dirk Nowitzki time, right? Even in the video above, as the Mavs line up for the play, you can hear Portland analyst Mike Rice note, “Watch [DaJuan] Blair set a pick for either Vince Carter or Dirk.” So Dallas coach Rick Carlisle using the situation to run a play for Ellis was not only in retrospect a wise choice, it was crafty, as well.
This was big on both sides. The Blazers had been riding a four-game winning streak, and had amassed eight straight wins at home. The crowd in Portland, which is always among the best in sports, was rowdy and sold out, twenty-thousand strong. The Mavs, meanwhile, after an offseason that was quieter than most expected, have been something of a mild surprise this season, bobbing along a couple of games above .500. Any road win in the NBA is a good thing, but a road win over the best team in the Conference is always a great thing.
The Mavs seemed really fired up by Ellis’ shot, surrounding him and grabbing him. Also, I’m pretty sure someone ran off the Dallas bench and hit Ellis with a large cushion at about the 19-second mark of the video. I particularly enjoyed this facet of the celebration: The cushion bash needs to become a regular part of post-shot celebrations.
I think we can all agree that the degree of difficulty wasn’t through the roof, at least just as a jump shot, in a bubble. But all the other parts of this play — Ellis’ earlier turnover, Lillard’s game-tying three moments earlier, Portland’s home win streak, Dallas’ execution on the final play — give added weight to the play. This is one of those situations where I wish we had half-Horrys to award, because I really feel like this is a 3.5 Horry Play. Should I round up or down? That’s another discussion for another day. In this case, I’m going with four Horrys, because for me the post-shot cushion bash lifts it from three to four…
That’s my take. How many Horry’s would you give the Monta Ellis game-winner?
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 …
If it seems like the Horry Scale has weighed the Blazers more than few times since we started this venture back in 2010, it’s not that far off. By our count, Portland has been on the Horry Scale — either as the Horry-er (aka the shot-maker) or as the Horry-ee (aka the victim) — three times, including once this season, entering Tuesday’s action. The Blazers’ mark in those Horry situations? They’re 2-1 … but let’s make that 3-1 after LaMarcus Aldridge went to a reliable Horry shot to sink his hometown Mavs.
If Aldridge’s game-winner last night that you see above looks an awful lot like another recent Horry shot from him, you’ve got a sharp memory. Just a little more than a year ago, Aldridge victimized the Mavs in Dallas with a fadeaway jumper at the horn over Brendan Haywood. Haywood has since moved on to Charlotte, but that didn’t stop Aldridge from victimizing another Mav (with a similar-sounding first name), Brandan Wright, with a nearly identical shot.
Of course, it takes a team effort to set the stage for a shot like Aldridge’s and the Blazers needed everyone’s effort on Tuesday to get into a spot where they could win this game. The Mavs essentially had the Blazers finished after building a 69-48 lead off O.J. Mayo‘s stepback 3-pointer with 8 minutes, 37 seconds left. By late in the fourth quarter rolled, though, we had a lead-changing frenzy.
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.
How does Aldridge’s shot Tuesday night stack up? Let’s dive in …
At times to the chagrin of Blazer fans, Aldridge has made his All-Star bones as a perimeter shooter, so it’s fitting he’d favor that shot to clinch a victory. Shot selection is key when there’s 1.5 seconds to go, so kudos to coach Terry Stotts for putting Aldridge in position to succeed. Much like his shot against the Mavs in 2012, Aldridge sets up on the low post. Unlike against Dallas, though, Aldridge knows he doesn’t have time to move out to the perimeter, catch the ball and take two dribbles to set up his shot. So he gets position on Wright, receives the ball from inbounder Wesley Matthews, turns … fades … and that’s the ballgame.
For Dallas, Mayo provides token pressure on the inbounds, Vince Carter stays at home with Nicolas Batum on the left baseline, making this a one-on-one situation for Aldridge. Darren Collison appears to try and help Wright from underneath, but he can’t get there in time.
Overall, this is an All-Star-vs.-rotation-player situation, and not surprisingly, the All-Star gets what he wants. Wright defends it pretty well, but Aldridge knows what he’s doing here.
Tie ballgame between two low-to-mid-level West teams … not a shocker, right? Wrong. As we mentioned, the Blazers were down 21 in the third and looked cooked. Portland’s bench won’t win any productivity awards this season, but without those reserves, the Blazers wouldn’t have won. Big contributions from Sasha Pavlovic and Ronnie Price in the fourth quarter kept the Blazers ahead or tied with the Mavs down the stretch. No play was perhaps bigger for that crew than Price drawing a charge on Mayo with 1.5 seconds left.
The Mavs weren’t without their own displays of clutch-itude, what with Collison banking in a wacky 3-pointer with 3:01 left and Dirk Nowitzki draining what at the time seemed to be a back-breaking 3-pointer with 11.9 seconds left to give Dallas a 104-101 lead.
Teammates Nicolas Batum (a Horry Scale inductee himself in 2011) said Aldridge was “smiling like a rookie” after hitting his shot. Aldridge, who starred at the University of Texas and Dallas-area high school Seagoville, simply turns and looks at the Mavs’ bench a little before laughing, smiling and walking up court. Matthews chest bumps him first before everyone short of ex-Blazer James “Hollywood” Robinson comes running toward him from the Blazers’ bench to celebrate.
There’s one last huddle up and then the Blazers head out to the locker room.
4 Horrys. Tough shot for most players, but pretty routine for Aldridge. This one kind of ranks up there in importance with the J.R. Smith shot against the Bobcats earlier this season in that the defense gave a standout player just the kind of shot he wanted. Overall, it should be three stars. But I give it that extra star bump for the clutch-iness of Aldridge in not just nailing the game-winner, but also the game-tying shot, too. If that’s not the sort of thing Horry used to do, I don’t know what is.