ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Recently we caught up with Detroit’s Andre Drummond, who was caught on camera getting his groove on. Yesterday, Charlotte’s Lance Stephenson also got funky, although Lance had an idea of what was going on…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — On Saturday, the Charlotte Hornets gave fans commemorative Lance Stephenson bobblehead dolls. Which is a fun collectible that fans can take home and enjoy as a reminder of their trip to a Hornets game. Only one problem: Lance Stephenson says the doll — which may or may not be a bobblehead or a bubblehead — does not look like him. I don’t think it’s terrible, but what do you guys think?
VIDEO: Walker’s Winner
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 — Tonight the New York Knicks travel to Charlotte to take on the Hornets, and the first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive an Al Jefferson bobblehead. Whether or not this is a good thing is still up for debate.
Obviously it’s something that fans of the Hornets will appreciate and enjoy, it’s just that the accuracy of the actual bobblehead appears to still be up for debate. Check the video below where Jannero Pargo eventually takes over and, along with Lance Stephenson, gives a thorough breakdown of the bobblehead’s breakdowns.
VIDEO: Big Al Bobble
Lance Stephenson made his return to Indianapolis on Wednesday and of course Lance Stephenson’s replacement made the biggest splash of the night. Yes, of course.
In the past, the theatrics for the Pacers, both good and bad, were left to Lance, who then bolted for the Hornets last summer for reasons that still aren’t particularly clear-cut. Meanwhile, Solomon Hill was mainly relegated to bench ornament last season, biding his time, wondering if he could ease the burden, or erase it completely, of Stephenson’s departure. For all of his nuttiness, Stephenson was a dogged player on both ends of the floor who was a valuable chip for a Pacer team that simply couldn’t get beyond LeBron James and the Heat.
Anyway … Stephenson returned to Indy to a mixed reception (booed whenever he touched the ball after a decent greeting), delivered an even performance, and then watched as his night was stolen by Solomon. We say “stolen” because up until the last few seconds, Solomon was rather tame (six points, five rebounds, 38 minutes). And then he gave himself the honor of landing on the Horry Scale, named after the great last-second shot artist Robert Horry, who helped three different teams win seven titles by coming up clutch when asked.
Keep in mind that the Horry Scale measures more than just the game-winning basket. Other factors are weighed that make the buzzer-beater truly epic, or merely run-of-the-mill. Although I think we can all agree that no buzzer-beater is routine. That said, let’s study the scale of Solomon’s biggest moment in the NBA.
DIFFICULTY: This was a fluke mixed with flair, because the play wasn’t designed for Solomon, who just happened to be in the right place at the right time, like Lorenzo Charles when NC State upset Houston. We should point out two things here: The hero was supposed to be Rodney Stuckey, who isolated on Stephenson and totally lost Lance on a step-back … only to launch an air ball. When the ball approaches the rim but doesn’t touch it, some players simply watch the flight. Others react to it. That’s what Solomon did, helped in part by his angle on the play. He was being boxed out rather effectively by Gerald Henderson and found himself under the basket, which gave him a solid vantage point. Here’s where the poetry came into play: Solomon reached, grabbed the air ball with his back to the rim, and flipped it over his head. The ball hung for a split-second on the flat part of the rim before falling through. Look, maybe he misses that shot 6 out of 10 times. This wasn’t one of them.
GAME SITUATION: The Pacers were down 18 early, but after that, the game was tight. What’s really interesting is the Pacers are really flying without a parachute in these situations. All of their proven game-saviors are either gone (Stephenson) or injured and sitting (Pauk George, David West, George Hill). Seriously, who deserves to have his number called in these situations? This is where the Pacers learn something about players who, in the past, were either on the bench or setting picks for the go-to guys mentioned above. Stuckey had moments in Detroit, but not many of them. If anything, the Pacers have been getting some good play from Donald Sloan, and yet this time they went to Stuckey and got Luck-ey. (OK, I’ll stop now.)
IMPORTANCE: This was a pick-me-upper for the Pacers, who understandably and expectedly are struggling to score points and win games without Stephenson and Paul George. Just as well, the Hornets have lost three straight and are reeling since Kemba Walker opened the season in thrilling fashion with a pair of buzzer-beaters himself (end of regulation, then OT) against the Bucks. They’ve gone 3-8 since. Can you imagine the reaction had Stephenson, and not Solomon, put himself on the Horry Scale?
CELEBRATION: The Pacers haven’t given the home crowd much reason to cheer this season, but they did beat Utah (and Butler boy Gordon Hayward) at Bankers Life and beating Stephenson in his return would’ve been worth two victories, in a sense. The building spring to life when Hill’s basket fell through, but beyond that, everyone knew it was one mediocre team beating another.
GRADE: Hill is averaging 12.6 points and 6 rebounds which is very acceptable considering the tough spot in which he was placed. He’s not going to be Stephenson and certainly not Paul George but in a pinch, he’ll do for now. He gets both hustle points and style points for not giving up on the play and also the backflip. That said, this game wasn’t particularly well-played nor did it carry any significance other than Lance. Even Hill was understated in the aftermath. “If it was like the Finals, I probably would’ve run around the building with my shirt off. But it’s a regular season game and we got another one coming up.” So we give it three Horrys, and there’s no shame in that.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — As we’ve chronicled in this space, Lance Stephenson has done some impressive work on the court the last two seasons, particularly when it comes to flopping. (See here and here, for example.) But his latest maneuver may be his best one yet.
In a game against the Warriors this weekend, Lance ran into a screen set by Harrison Barnes. And in what appears to be an attempt to draw a foul, but in actuality is a play for the ages, Lance Stephenson slapped himself in the face…
Maybe Kent Bazemore should have blown in Lance Stephenson‘s ear.
That tactic, innovated by Stephenson against LeBron James in last spring’s Eastern Conference finals, might have been enough to throw off Stephenson’s rhythm or aim when he launched his 33-foot desperation heave with time running out in the second overtime Friday night in Charlotte.
Then again, why do anything to wake or rile up the Hornets’ new shooting guard? Stephenson already had gone 0-for-7 from outside the arc in 2014-15 and generally was struggling offensively since joining Charlotte from Indiana as a prized, and surprising, free-agent acquisition in July.
In the end, all Bazemore could do, like the rest of the Atlanta Hawks, was watch in disappointment and extreme fatigue as Stephenson’s hoist banged off the glass and through the rim at the horn. The shot gave Charlotte a 122-119 victory and earned Stephenson a spot not just in the hearts of his new city’s fans but on the Horry Scale.
That’s right, with his game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB), Stephenson shook off a bad two weeks to gain acclaim on this blog’s tribute to one of the NBA’s all-time clutch shooters. Such moments, the lifeblood of NBA excitement whether they occur in June or October, are evaluated according to difficulty, game situation, importance and celebration. Then they get an overall grade, represented with 1-5 Robert Horry stars, in honor of the vagabond marksman who helped the Rockets (two), Lakers (three) and Spurs (two) capture seven titles in his years with them.
We reiterate, the Horry Scale does not measure only a game-winning shot; the Horry Scale measures several facets of a GWBB. 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, the total package
Thirty-three feet – the official distance listed in the NBA’s official gamebook afterward – ain’t easy. But there wasn’t anything outrageously athletic or instinctive required here. Stephenson passed the ball inbounds to Marvin Williams near the top of the arc, then ran to him to take the handoff. Kyle Korver, Stephenson’s man, switched off and stuck with Williams, while Bazemore – forced to scramble to the perimeter in chase of Williams after big Paul Millsap switched onto little Kemba Walker – got there a tick too late.
Stephenson, a bundle of raw skills, rose up, kicked his feet behind him and flicked his shot as if calling the bank all along. It caromed in as Bazemore’s right arm, raised to contest but too late and too far, stayed in the air as the gym erupted.
Everybody in the joint – players, coaches, referees, fans – was nearing the end of his or her 58th minute of basketball. They all were ready to go home, with only the Hawks’ traveling party resistant to the idea of it ending right there, right then. After all, they’d had their own chance to win it with 2.7 seconds left, except that Korver got called for an illegal screen as Atlanta inbounded, flipping the script in Charlotte’s favor.
Walker had missed a chance for his own GWBB at the end of the first overtime, rushing across midcourt and firing a long 3-pointer that wasn’t close. Late in the second OT, he never got the ball to the rim, firing it into Al Horford‘s arm pit in a botched move that turned out well; it was ruled a shot-clock violation, allowing first Atlanta (Korver’s bad screen) and then Charlotte again to try for heroics. Stephenson was the one who snagged some.
A key clash in the Southeast Division? That didn’t involve the 2010-2014 Miami Heat? Guess we’d better get used to it. Besides, Charlotte had dropped its last six home games against Atlanta and was eager to assert itself in the division, backing up its victory Wednesday over the Heat.
Never underestimate Stephenson’s knack for the grand gesture, the look-at-me grab of the spotlight. As soon as he hit his banked 3-pointer, Stephenson scowled, shrugged off the grabs and slaps of teammates and vaulted onto the scorer’s table. He beat on his chest and mouthed all sorts of adrenaline-fueled invective as the other Hornets hauled him back down to the court and mobbed him.
A bonus came from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s smiling mug – with gauze shoved up both nostrils. Earlier, he had gotten whacked in the nose when he ran smack into a Horford pick. He had been bloody and angry in that moment, but he was a happy Hornet chasing after Stephenson when it ended.
Stephenson needed this. The Hornets, who had gambled on the mercurial Pacers guard when he hit free agency without all that much clamor in the market, needed it too. Though he had averaged 10 rebounds and 5.6 assists to rank among the league leaders in both categories through his first five games, Stephenson was sputtering along at 6.6 points while shooting 12-of-45 to that point. He had scored in double figures, reaching 14, only once.
This time, Stephenson finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds, while logging 47:11 in his busiest work night since signing with Charlotte. Had his offensive troubles continued, NBA media surely would have revved up the what’s-wrong-with-Lance angles and perhaps plunged Stephenson into an even greater funk. So the timing of this, for getting him on track in what the Hornets intend to be a meaningful season, hardly could have been better. Give it four Horrys.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The New York Knicks lost their first game this season, 104-80, at the hands of the Chicago Bulls. Since then, however, they’ve been rolling, knocking off the Cleveland Cavaliers, and then last night squaring off against the upstart Charlotte Hornets. They played a close game against Charlotte and ultimately hung on for the win. And as the clock was winding down, as Knicks coach Derek Fisher was strolling the sideline, Charlotte’s Lance Stephenson decided to pop up for a visit.
VIDEO: Lang at Barclays
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — This summer the Charlotte Hornets went out and, building on last season’s success, signed Lance Stephenson and Marvin Williams, setting themselves up as contenders on the court. And they’re also stepping up their game in the…kitchen?
Food options at NBA games is a big deal, as you can see in the video above from Barclays Center in New York. And the Hornets may have jumped into the lead among people seeking calorie explosions with their new option, Hugo’s Boss Burger, which features 8(!!!) pounds of meat and costs $70…
The Hornets’ main competition for NBA food supremacy may come, ironically enough, from the defending champs Spurs, who late last season introduced a sandwich covered in onion rings.
Your move, Cleveland…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — All Lance Stephenson wants to do is win basketball games — he made that clear to us during the Hang Time Road Trip when he boarded the bus in Philadelphia. And in that pursuit of Ws, Lance is willing to do whatever it takes to make them happen. Does this mean that sometimes Lance goes too far? Perhaps, but wouldn’t you rather have someone try to hard than not try at all?
Last season during the playoffs Lance caught a fine for flopping, and on this play last night, Lance seems to once again exaggerate the contact just a bit, unless Kirk Hinrich has been on some kind of secret workout plan.