ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — It’s not entirely clear what’s happening here, other than President Obama, several members of the Washington Wizards, and a bunch of kids are involved in some sort of shooting contest on a court at the White House. As the video starts, a bunch of people take shots and President Obama sinks his jumper. And then Obama goes over to Paul Pierce and makes sure he knows about it.
The 24-year-old guard from Raleigh, N.C. continues to elevate his game, entering the second week of the New Year leading the NBA in assists. He has not only usurped reigning dimes champion Chris Paul, but he has eclipsed his previous high average set last year at 8.8 per game.
Wall is posting 10.3 helpers a night, finding teammates through getting deep in the paint, waiting until the last second to unload to Marcin Gortat or Nene or Kris Humphries on a cut. If that’s not there, then he can dart his eyes toward the wings, where Paul Pierce, Bradley Beal and Rasual Butler are usually waiting with a clear look at the rim.
Elite athleticism and speed gives him the ability to maneuver in traffic and adjust to contact. Steadily improving court vision allows him to find the open man. His 6-foot-4 frame can absorb more punishment than most. Add his studious approach to the game and we have a guy poised to rank among the best of a Golden Age of NBA point guards for a good minute.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Here’s an ingenious video where two Wizards at different stages in life try and identify baby food flavors. Otto Porter is a second-year player and still a bachelor, while Paul Pierce is in his late-30s and, according to Wikipedia, is a married father of three. So clearly, Pierce has an advantage here. Respect to Porter, though, for casting a wide net with his final answer: “Vegetables.” I mean, technically he’s right.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Halloween has come and gone, which means it’s time once again to see what some NBA players went dressed as this year. We already checked in on the Oklahoma City Thunder, but let’s check out the costumes of some other NBA players…
LeBron James went as Flo from the Progressive Insurance ads…
Carmelo Anthony was…I don’t know what this costume is…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — During last night’s Knicks/Nets game, cameras caught several members of the Nets looking as though…well…let’s just say something appears to smell bad. Shake your head, Joe Johnson…
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 — And the hits just keep on coming. It feels like it was just yesterday that I wrote about this flurry of game-winning buzzer-beaters (GWBBs) that we’ve seen of late. (That’s because it was just yesterday that I wrote about this flurry of game-winning buzzer-beaters (GWBBs) that we’ve seen of late.) The news never stops, you guys.
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, tonight we look to the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, where Evan Turner doesn’t care how many Horry Scale entries it takes to get a win for the Sixers…
In terms of the shot itself, it goes down in the game log as “Turner Driving Layup Shot.” But in actuality it was so much more. Evan Turner is actually the player who inbounded the ball on this play. Sixers C Spencer Hawes released away from the basket and caught the lob pass, at which point Turner took off on a sprint. He ran to Hawes for a dribble hand-off and basically used Hawes as a pivot point, U-turning back in toward the rim. At this point the Nets had two guys on Turner — Brook Lopez and Shaun Livingston. Turner adroitly gives a little hesitation and then fires down to the left block for a layup. Just as Turner leaves his feet, Paul Pierce slides in and takes the contact from Turner. Is this a charge? Is it a block? We’ll leave that for Joe Borgia, because in this case it’s officially neither: No call is made. Turner releases the ball with about 1.4 seconds remaining. The ball then bounces around the rim, kissing the iron three different times as the clock expires, before finally dropping through for the 121-120 Sixers win. It wasn’t a long shot, but there were many things that broke Philly’s way on the play.
Not only was the game in overtime, but Pierce had hit a three-pointer a few seconds earlier to put Brooklyn ahead 120-119. With six seconds left to play in overtime, the Sixers had to inbound the ball under their own basket. Inbounding the ball under the basket is always tough — the backboard itself limits several passing angles that would be available from any other spot on the court. The play the Sixers came up with, which we broke down above, was pretty great — the Nets obviously didn’t expect Hawes to be the target on the play, and once Hawes had the ball, the Sixers used a sneaky backscreen to free Turner. Also worth noting is that the Sixers had lost seven straight games coming into this one and are about to leave on a six-game road trip to the West Coast. So not only did they need the win, but losing their eighth straight in an overtime game would have made things even more difficult to stomach.
I counted nine members of the Sixers who get involved in the initial celebration, mobbing Turner. That’s seventy-five percent of the night’s active roster, an important threshold to hit for our grading purposes. I feel like the celebration was also a bit subdued because whenever there’s a GWBB where the shot is released so close to the buzzer, there’s always that moment of indecision where you’re not sure whether or not the shot will actually count until the referees review the replay. In this case it was rather obvious, but it’s not official until it’s official.
I’m trying to go more with my gut on these, after I had to admit I underscored Jeff Green‘s season-opening shot. So for this shot, with the creative inbounds play, the contact on the shot, the dramatic bounces on the rim, the game being in overtime and the Sixers ending the seven-game L streak, I’m going with Four Horrys.
What say you? How many Horrys would you give Evan Turner’s game-winning buzzer-beater?
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…)