Just messing around, getting triple doubles
Sunday to Monday Thoughts on Basketball #5
Holiest of holies, we’ve somehow made it through another NBA regular season. What started way way way back in 2013 with Derrick Rose’s return and tank talk galore is here, two days away from the regular season’s ending. The NCAA Tournament is behind us (Congrats UCONN), the Masters is done (won by a man named Bubba), and baseball is in the earliest stages of its own annual marathon. The sports stage is set for the two-month long drama of the NBA Playoffs to commence uninterrupted … unless of course you consider the NFL draft or ESPN’s obsession with all things NFL (we see you and your bomb threats, Aldon Smith – because it was a headline on ESPN.com). But that’s another gripe for another day, today is for reflection:
- Rest in Peace, Lou Hudson. The 6’5” shooting guard from North Carolina joined the never ending pickup game in the sky on April 11th. There’s no way this space or this weekly format is enough to cover the career of one of the great two guards the NBA has seen. Over a peak that lasted seven seasons, Hudson, a long-time Atlanta Hawk, averaged 25ppg in 465 games and was named to six straight All-Star games. Were he a player in today’s game, he’d likely be a better shooting, less handle-savvy version of Brandon Roy with a shoe contract and legions of fans. Learning the history of this great game allows us to better understand, through context, the ability of our players today. More history, less mock drafts, please.
- On the same day we lost “Sweet” Lou, Joakim Noah put up an oddball stat line that had me seeking out the wise data repository of Basketball-Reference’s Player Index. The line in question: 6 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists. I asked the simple, yet sophisticated tool who else had the well-rounded game to touch the ball enough to pick up 10+ assists, but fail to score more than six points. Not surprisingly were Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Darrell Walker. The name that stood out was Charles Oakley. On December 27th, 1986, while playing for the Bulls, Oakley grabbed 13 rebounds and dished 15 assists while scoring three points in a 105-93 victory over the visiting Pacers. Oakley’s better-known and better looking teammate, Michael Jordan, scored 44 on 20-29 shooting so it’s no wonder Oakley the Enforcer only took two FGAs. A very brief perusal through across the interwebs reveals a Chicago Tribune write up of the game by one Bob Sakamoto where we learn that Jordan was fighting off the flu and still hung 44 on Indiana (the Original Flu Game). Sakamoto describes MJ as “drawn-looking” and refers to him as “The Franchise.” With Jordan hogging all the ink, all we learn of Oakley’s contribution is that he threw a “perfect feed” to Jordan on a backdoor dunk and had “several rebounds and outlet passes.” Thus we learn that even on historical nights where power forwards set career highs, that MJ stories are still the best.
- Splits: How about that Russell Westbrook? After a Russell-Interrupted season of niggling injuries, Westbrook has been reborn in April where he’s sporting a 38.8% usage rate and putting up 27ppg in just 31 minutes/night. Of course it’s a teeny tiny five-game sample size, but if you’re OKC, this is the trending you want to see, that you need to see. OKC is 3-2 in April, but let’s be real road losses to Indiana and Phoenix aren’t cause for concern.
- While Chaos reigns in Brian Shaw’s Denver (wherefore art thou George Karl, Masai Ujiri, JaVale McGee? [um, never mind that last one]), Randy Foye, aka the other Villanova guard, has found in April friendly rims and abundant opportunity. After spending October thru March hovering around 40% from three, Foye’s caught April fire shooting nearly 49% from deep with scoring season-highs 19.5ppg, 4.8rpg, and 6.8apg. I don’t know much about Denver except that they have too many guards and too many injuries and that apparently Randy Foye at $3mill/year is a steal.
- I wrote about Brandon Jennings over at The Diss, but once you’ve got a man down, it’s best to keep on kicking. Out of players who have qualified for FG% leaders, here’s how Jennings ranks over the past few seasons:
- 2013-14: 125th out of 125
- 2012-13: 122nd out of 123
- 2011-12: 94th out of 113
- 2010-11: 118th out of 119
- 2009-10: 119th out of 119
- In news that may or may not be related, Pistons GM Joe Dumars is out. Dumars acquired Jennings before the season started and the move, along with his Josh Smith signing, has not yielded success…any success.
- I’m a grown man, but still I like to play imaginary games like “What if UCONN would’ve had Andre Drummond and Kentucky Anthony Davis?” Fantasies aside, Davis is on the shelf for the remainder of the year and after two pro seasons he’s missed 33 games and appeared in less than 80% of possible contests. I love you, Anthony, but I want you to get well. Drummond can’t shoot free throws to save his life (career 40% from the line – this is a liability!), but can rebound well enough to save us all. He leads the league in offensive and total rebound percentage and is just the 30th player since 1971 to grab at least 22% of all possible rebounds. Of course he’s also the youngest player to accomplish this feat. For Dumars’s ability to hit homeruns with draft picks like Greg Monroe and Drummond, his bad signings (the aforementioned Jennings and Smith, and Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva) were the stuff of desperation or stupidity or a toxic combination of the two.
- The Race for 8th in the East was supposed to be all about the Knicks. Phil Jackson, Melo, JR Smith, Mike Woodson’s goatee, the Mecca. But the Knicks failed miserably to hold up their end of the bargain and meanwhile, the Hawks of Atlanta, a team I’ve unfairly ignored and neglected, clinched the final playoff spot and have done so with a 5-2 April and an unexpected commitment to defense. Their five April victories have included wins in Indiana and Brooklyn and a home win over Miami. Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap are playing their best ball of the season and while everyone knows how hard I hate on these Pacers, it’s worth noting that Atlanta split the season series with Indiana and center Pero Antic has owned Roy Hibbert in two games:
- Memphis is a full game ahead of the Suns in the playoff race and guess who’s visiting Phoenix tonight? If you can pick up on blatant clues, then you guessed the Grizzlies who are 3-0 against the Suns this year. But none of those previous games have had the pressure of tonight’s game. Tell your friends and family you’re busy, clothes the curtains, get a bowl of something you like to consume and a beverage to wash it down and cross your fingers that we get the competitive game we’re all hoping for.
- Not much happened yesterday except the Pacers grinding out a home win against OKC, Lance Stephenson triple doubling and Steph Curry going for 47 in an OT loss to Portland.