The playoff race is all the way heated up and ready for our frying pans to be filled with trivial thoughts and genius suggestions about How to Fix the Playoffs! – egad. The NCAA Championship will be decided tonight and no doubt, one half of Kentucky’s dynastic/dynamic/dy-Nasty duo of Harrison twins will once again reign three-point fire from deep behind the kiddie pool depth of the NCAA’s three point line and save the day for the legionnaires from Lexington … unless Shabazz Napier and his mysterious NBA prospects have something to do or say about it. Viva la amateurism! … particularly when they’re generating gaggles of money for head coaches and University ADs, Presidents, and stretch Cadillacs full of other greedy capitalists making money of the one-percenter talent of college football and basketball.
How could I start anywhere other than the Pacers of Indiana? As Wu-Tang likes to remind us, “The saga continues.” The latest debacle took place in the Indianapolis arena formerly known as Conseco Fieldhouse. It was a night when the playoff-indifferent Atlanta Hawks came to town to face this floundering Pacers group that had won two of their previous eight games. And? And? Frank Vogel’s team scored 23 points in the first half. Twenty-three! This wasn’t some odd homage to the great Michael Jordan, it was offensive putridity as the team made a whopping seven of 35 shots and overpaid center and Lord of the Rule of Verticality, aka Roy Hibbert, was benched for fatigue: “He looks to me to be worn down” said Coach Frank Vogel. With four games remaining, the Pacers still have ample opportunity to rediscover whatever was lost over these past six weeks: at Milwaukee, at Miami, OKC at home, before wrapping the season in Orlando. The Pacers need not worry though, as Tony Parker reassures us all: “It’s hard to explain. Everybody goes through this. I’m not worried about them. They’ll still make it to the Eastern Conference finals and they’ll still play Miami.”
Tony Parker, soothsayer
Andris Biedrins was waived by the Utah Jazz on Saturday which marks an ending of sorts for the big man from Latvia. In case you don’t recall, Biedrins averaged close a double double for Golden State as a 21-year-old way back in 2008. The Warriors rewarded their future cornerstone with five-year/$54-million deal. Andris and his well-styled hair paid immediate dividends the following season as he went for 12pts and 11rebs/game, but then it all fell apart like a paper bag stuffed with heavy groceries stuck in a torrential downpour and you’re having to walk home with this soaking wet bag that’s barely holding together – yes, Golden State was the poor bastard carrying that bag, but no one ever considers the feeling of the bag, in this case represented by Biedrins. What happened? Well, he spent much of 2009-10 dealing with injuries and never regained whatever propelled him to double double heights. Biedrins and his huge contract are now a thing of the past. It shuts the door on one of the sadder, stranger descents in recent NBA history – possibly stranger than this year’s Pacers team. What happened to you, Andris?
To play off that sadly catchy “hide your kids, hide your wife” meme, when prospective NBA owner Chris Hansen starts talking, it’s best for NBA cities to hide your franchise (and maybe your wife too). If you recall, Hansen is the Seattle native who offered $625-million for the Kings last year and clearly operates off of Ted DiBiase’s motto: “Everybody’s got a price.” Unlike DiBiase, who was merely a character drawn up for pro wrestling, Hansen is a real person with real money. He made it into the Seattle Times last week for donating some of the space earmarked for a new Seattle arena to a nonprofit youth program. However, Hansen also used the opportunity remind us of the inevitability of Seattle getting an NBA franchise:
Does anybody really think that Seattle is not going to have an NBA team at some point in the future?” Hansen said. “I think everybody can get really impatient when things don’t happen on their own agenda. It’s inevitable Seattle will have a basketball team. It’s just a question of when.
Just a guy casually leaning on a light pole
Larry Sanders joined Arnett Moultrie in being suspended for a third positive test for reefer usage. There is a lot to discuss with Sanders’s statement, the league’s and NBPA’s stance on marijuana, and how their joint policies are both independent of and dependent on public perception, progressive policies, and the needs of league sponsors. This is not the forum for that discussion so I’ll leave it to Sanders who chose to defend his usage:
I know what it is if I’m going to use it. I study it and I know the benefits it has. In a lot of ways we’ve been deprived. You can’t really label it with so many other drugs that people can be addicted to and have so many negative effects on your body and your family and your relationships and impairment. This is not the same thing.
From the random ass Did You Know file cabinet (which is conveniently stored in my head and accessed at random intervals), Al Horford has appeared in 114 of a possible 230 games since the 2011-12 season – that’s less than 50%! The source of these missed games has been tears to both the left and right pectoral muscles. Are these freak injuries or is there a little mutation in Horford’s DNA that leaves him prone to pectoral muscle tears? And does Danny Ferry plan to do anything about this? Horford’s under contract for $12-mill/year for the next two seasons and given Ferry’s present dismissive attitude about the playoffs, the Hawks are likely better off choosing to ride or die with the big man a couple more seasons.
How about that JR Smith? Over his last seven games, Smith has taken a whopping 12.7 3PAs/game and is hitting at a 46% clip. Bananas you say? Well, to put it in perspective, the league record for 3PA/game is 8.7 by the ever-chucking Baron Davis back in 2004. Of course, of course, of course Smith’s little seven-game flourish is less than a tenth of season, but damn, when we talk about prolific, JR’s unconscious ability to gun from deep is in a special class of its own. Yesterday against the Heat he set the league record for 3PAs in a single game with 22 and before you roll your eyes and decry Smith’s outlandish chucking, know that it was the only way the overmatched Knicks were able to keep the game somewhat competitive. Ahhh, we can all roll our collective eyes and sigh and shake our heads at Smith’s selfish antics, but let’s at least all agree that JR Smith is that unknown variable equally capable of lifting us out of our Sunday slumbers and making us doubt our own hopes in this great game called basketball. JR Smith, comedian indeed.
Choices, by JR Smith
Finally, the Spurs lost to Oklahoma City, thus ending their streak at 19 games. I’ve heard Popovich promptly celebrated with Manu over a couple bottles of Argentina’s finest Malbec.
The Bulls have won five games in a row and Joakim Noah’s dream season continues. His 12ppg, 11rpg, 5apg, 1spg and 1bpg put him in the rare company of Kevin Garnett, Charles Barkley and Kareem. What a polarizing group!
If a little blood and crushed hopes isn’t your thing, then stay away from the Western Conference playoff race where (realistically) three teams are battling for two spots: Dallas, Phoenix, and Memphis. The Mavs has to play both Phoenix and Memphis and the Suns/Grizzlies will also get a chance to face off next Monday. Supposedly TNT is where drama happens so let’s hope some of these games get national TV attention … after all, I think we can agree that there have been more than enough Laker games on ABC, ESPN and TNT.
I was an angry basketball fan last night when OKC shat the bed once again in the fourth quarter. I was texting out blames to Russell, Kevin, Maynor and especially Scotty Brooks. It was inevitable and Dallas somehow knew it with all their experience and come-from-behind poise and it grated me; grated the skin right off into a nasty little pile on my coffee table.
On that note, I decided to say goodbye to the Thunder for the 2011 season:
Russell Westbrook: You were the most intriguing player in the playoffs this year and in terms of basketball culture, you’ve made the leap. We all knew who you were and anyone who watched OKC knew what you were about, but by the end of the whole thing, I just wanted to give you a hug and tell you it’ll all be alright:
Kevin Durant: Was there a sadder scene than Durant at the game four post-game press conference? All gangly arms, legs; shoulders hunched forward and infinite sadness painted on his 22-year-old face with that damn backpack on asking, “What could I do?” We love you Kevin because it hurt so bad:
James Harden: Has Harden always been this good or is it a product of off-the-radar, covert development? Was OKC just playing possum for next year when they unleash this guy? Seeing him play point opposite Westbrook and Durant on the wings was watching living, breathing basketball genius—and then Scott Brooks snatched it away from us:
Nick Collison: I watched Collison play a few years in Seattle before the departure and was always impressed with his defense. He did the best job any single human could do against Zbo and Dirk and did it all by his damn Iowan self. This man is underappreciated.
Serge Ibaka: Don’t be scared, Serge. It’s all over now.
Kendrick Perkins: We all stood up and applauded the great Sam Presti after he made this trade; then the playoffs happened and we realized he was still hurt. Perkins was about as effective as a grocery cart with a brain would’ve been (as opposed to a grocery cart without a brain?) and was exposed by John Hollinger as being the biggest detriment to OKC’s success against Dallas. We know you weren’t healthy, but still, it was ugly.
Eric Maynor: You walked into my life as a warm, soft beacon on the horizon; something to cling to in a time of chaos and tumult. Then you betrayed me when you tried to slay Dirk on one play.
Scotty Brooks: Jeeeeee-sus. I used to be a Scott Brooks fan and maybe there’s still a place in my heart where he can redeem himself, but when OKC calls a timeout and I immediately text people “Bad Shot Alert!”, it’s a fucking problem. And any arguments about Brooks being just a second-year coach or coaching a simple game because his team is so young are ignoring the obvious: Brooks was out of his league. Maybe it’s time to hit up Phil Jackson for some of that peyote: