It seems every year a player or two enters the preseason having publicly removed the safety net for themselves – make an NBA roster or retire.
Most of the time those players are washed up veterans who will never impact a season in any significant way but are instead bound to be the twelfth man on a roster, a visual reminder to fans that they used to be something besides a warm body earning a paycheck, like Quentin Richardson has made a recent career of doing.
And until recently I always had the same thoughts on those types of players, sure it was sad but it was time to accept that their point of usefulness was over, time to hang up the jersey one last time and let a young player try and break into the league.
But this preseason I found myself in a new spot. I found myself rooting for Corey Maggette to make the Spurs instead of being forced to retire. I have never been a Maggette fan, in fact the only time I even remotely rooted for him was during a 67 game stop he had in Milwaukee for the 2010-2011 season.
At first I couldn’t figure out what caused me to root for Maggette, and ultimately what made me sad for him when he was cut, sending him into retirement to chase a front office job. But recently it hit me, after years of not completely understanding what caused players to hang on to a career that had already passed them by I finally have a bit of understanding.
Since I graduated from the University of Georgia in May 2012 I have held two jobs. The first kept me busy in the fall and the spring doing exactly what I planned since I was a high school junior, covering sports for a newspaper. It wasn’t a professional team or anything but the high school field hockey and softball beats I was assigned were steps in the right direction.
When the paper didn’t need me in the winter thanks to a lack of sports I was handed the keys to the middle school basketball team in my hometown.
I had been coaching in the program since the summer following my freshman year of college, when I offered to help the coach and program that had meant so much to me as I grew up. With my love of the game I expected to have some fun teaching younger players some things during that year’s summer league but never for it to turn into much besides the volunteer work it started as.
But midway through my first, ultimately meaningless, game I realized just how much fun that being on the sidelines was. It was the competition I had craved so much during my first year without organized ball in the winter, as the team I led did what they always did and tried to win every game they stepped on the floor for, despite being severely undersized and undermanned.
One summer turned into two, two into three, and after I graduated, three into four. Being around the game, even in just a semi-meaningful way, was too fun to give up yet, so I gave up free time three days a week to continue to lead those summer league teams.
When the offer to coach in games that mattered presented itself I jumped at the chance, especially since it meant a paycheck I wasn’t expecting. I learned quickly the season would be tough when the middle schoolers stepped on the floor for tryouts and I realized they were never taught the simplest things like jumping off your inside foot to shoot a layup. We got beat by 50 twice, 60 once and held below 25 points in almost every game because we only had one player who belonged at that level. But every day brought with it a new sense of competitiveness, that maybe the next game would be the one I could somehow put my team in position to win. When it finally happened, one time towards the end of the season, the hard times were worth it – watching those kids realize what it felt like to win while enjoying the feeling myself.
Being the middle school coach also made me a varsity assistant on a team that had one of the best seasons in school history, and that was where I truly had the most fun. In truth I probably didn’t add all that much to the great two man staff that was already in place but that didn’t matter, in the moment anything I could add felt like it could be the difference between a win and a loss.
In the end though, a Board of Education rule prevented me from returning as middle school coach this season, as a teacher with full-time certification decided he wanted the job despite everyone’s objections. It left me without a paycheck and seemingly without anything to do outside of blogging this coming winter.
But my need for competitiveness hasn’t subsided yet and again without reporting work in the winter I have a chance to coach. So I will still be on the sidelines for varsity games, as a volunteer assistant, again hoping to make a small difference while feeling the adrenaline boost that comes with every game.
As I move on in life though, I realize I am coming to a decision I never expected to have to make and one that has given me a new perspective on players at the twilight of their careers. Do I give up my work in journalism despite years of schooling for it and return to get a teaching degree with the intention of becoming a high school coach, hopefully fated to take over at my alma mater one day?
The decision will need to be made in late February or early March, whenever my season on the bench ends, and as I think about it I finally get what guys like Maggette and Tracy McGrady felt, though on a much lower scale.
I can’t imagine how hard it was for those guys to finally decide it was time to move on to new careers in a new phase of their lives, to leave that competition that they had every day for the majority of their lives behind for good. I’m not sure I can give up coaching, not because I want to be a teacher or don’t want to be a reporter, but because I’m not sure I can give up the competitiveness for those twenty to twenty five games and countless practices over a three month stretch.
One thing I do know is that never again will I wonder why a guy won’t just accept their fate and move on. Instead I think I will find myself rooting for them to get one more year and go out on their own terms.
This year, for the first time, Hickory-High will be tackling the challenging of crafting season previews for all thirty NBA teams. Beginning today we’ll be rolling out these previews, one each day, leading up to Opening Night. This was a task of considerable size and complexity and it required the help of every member of our staff. The only guidelines given were that each writer approach team by staying true to their own style and the result is season previews of a difference sort. We hope you enjoy!
As the NBA season approaches some fans are coming face-to-face with one of the most difficult decisions they will have to make all year—which teams to choose for their NBA League Pass Broadband limited package. The package, for those who don’t know, forces someone to somehow choose just five teams to watch throughout the regular season with the typical blackout rules (national TV games and games in their local market) applying.
April 3, 2010 is a sad day for me as a basketball fan.
Because on April 3, 2010 things one freak accident changed the career of a player that was quickly becoming second to only Ray Allen on my list of personal favorites.
Before that fateful day Andrew Bogut was doing everything he could to carry that special “Fear the Deer” mishmash of players to what looked like a potential first round playoff victory and the designation of a team people didn’t want to see in the playoffs.
Then everything changed.
Bogut slipped off a Milwaukee rim and came crashing down, destroying his right arm. Elbow, wrist, hand; everything was just a mangled mess.
Finally after another freak injury on March 13, 2012, this time to his ankle, put Bogut out of action, the Bucks decided it was time to move on, trading him to the Golden State Warriors for a package built around Monta Ellis.
It was move, universally questioned. How could the Bucks give up such a dominant inside force just because of a few freak injuries and pair their small, ball dominating, streaky-shooting point guard with a small, ball dominating, bad-shooting, two-guard?
Bogut can never stay healthy was the answer that was eventually settled on. The Bucks couldn’t trust him to do so.
Now, finally healthy again, Bogut is the dominant inside force on a running, gunning Warriors team capturing everyone’s imagination after dismantling the Denver Nuggets in a six-game series.
Bogut averaged 8.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 2.3 blocks and almost a steal a game in the series, capped off with a monstrous 14 point, 21 rebound, 3 assist, 4 block, 1 steal, 39 minute masterpiece in the series clincher.
The dominant defensive force, with a bit of a nasty streak and the incredible understanding of what every offensive player on the opposing team wants to do is back.
That “Fear the Deer” Bogut is back except this time he “Believes.”
The Bogut I wished would always be back has been back, and yet I can’t fully enjoy it. Because deep down the thought that as this was building, I was watching Monta Ellis ruin things in Milwaukee still lingers.
This run should have been ours.
Monta didn’t exactly help when he Monta’d things up as the Bucks got swept by the Heat; shooting 43% from the field, 16% from the three-point line and 36% from the free throw line in the series.
The differences in the way the two players affected their series couldn’t be more perfect.
Monta, missing shots from everywhere on the floor, yet never stopping those shots from going up, while Bogut scoring when he gets a chance but mostly stopping Denver from relentlessly attacking the rim and finishing; one guy preventing his own team from getting good shots and scoring, while the other prevented his opponent from doing the same.
Bogut wouldn’t have helped this Bucks team defeat Miami, and he probably wouldn’t have allowed LARRY SANDERS!, the bright point an otherwise bleak Bucks season, to develop into the force he has today.
But what if he had been healthy? What if the run these Warriors were on now was instead a magical run those 2010 Bucks went on led by the big Aussie?
They probably wouldn’t have beaten the two-seed Orlando Magic, just like these Warriors probably won’t beat the two seed-San Antonio Spurs.
But maybe with the excitement built around that run things would have been a bit different. Maybe Brandon Jennings never becomes Monta light, as Bogut possibly found a way to reel him in. Maybe then the Bucks would have been on the upswing instead of the perpetual battle for the eight seed we seem to now find ourselves in, despite not having many young players on that roster. In the end, maybe nothing would have changed outside of a series win against the Atlanta Hawks we ultimately took to seven games.
But I wish we got to find out.
This isn’t to say I am not enjoying what Bogut is doing, because I am.
The rim protection, the passing, the general nastiness; I love it. Bogut is showing flashes that the old dominant force we all saw is still there. Maybe he only will be able to unleash it for a few games a year. It isn’t the perfect situation but one I would enjoy just for those dominant moments.
But every time I start to smile as he does something good I can’t help but shake that feeling.
This should have been the 2010 “Fear the Deer” Milwaukee Bucks. This should have been that Andrew Bogut.
Despite their victory in Game 3 on Thursday night the Memphis Grizzlies are getting to the point where a tough decision needs to be made. Despite only being down 2-1 in the series Memphis has gotten virtually nothing from Tayshaun Prince. In his 97 playoff minutes he’s gone 4-18 from the field and has just 11 rebounds and four assists.
As we saw in Game 2 between the Rockets and Thunder a lineup change can make a big difference in the playoffs and the Grizzlies seem to have a possible fix in place to make up for the lack of production from Prince that would make life a bit tougher for the Clippers; give Jerryd Bayless more of Prince’s minutes, especially with Chauncey Billups on the floor, if not move him into the starting lineup.
The idea would be simple, playing with Bayless and Conley on the floor at the same time would give the Grizzlies two quick guards and let them create a bit more from the perimeter instead of trying to force feed the ball into Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol as the Clippers pound the paint. By adding a shooter in Quincy Pondexter into the lineup at small forward for some of these minutes things open up even more.
The other great part of the move would be its impact on Mike Conley, who outside of Game 1 has scuffled a bit in the series. By forcing Chauncey Billups to guard Bayless the Grizzlies could force the Clippers to help off of Conley just a bit, possibly allowing him to get going like he did in Game 1.
In fact for the season Conley showed a nice jump in his offensive numbers when he shared the floor with Bayless. Conley jumps from 14.4 points per 36 minutes to 19.4 with Bayless on the floor on about two more attempts and actually slightly raises his field goal percentage from 44 percent to 46 percent. Conley also gets too the line two more times per 36 minutes and dishes an extra assist. As expected as things open up more for Conley, and the Grizzlies in general life becomes easier. While moving Tony Allen down to the small forward spot doesn’t make spacing perfect, the addition of Bayless at least makes it so the Grizzlies have just one non-threat on the floor instead of two like they do with Prince playing.
On the defensive end things work out fine thanks to Vinny Del Negro’s use of Billups for 20 minutes a game. Billups is a perfect person for Bayless to defend as at this point he is essentially a spot up shooter that creates very little. Bayless won’t be giving up any real size so Billups taking him into the post shouldn’t be that big of a worry. In fact if he does it may work to the Grizzlies advantage as more looks for Billups means less for Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. As for Allen he should be able to contain Caron Butler who has scored the ball semi-efficiently so far in the series. While Bayless is not the defender Prince is the Grizzlies team defense and interior rotations will make up for some of his deficiencies, especially if he sees more minutes with Marc Gasol on the floor with him.
In the end something needs to be done as in such a tight playoff series the smallest things can make a big difference. When someone plays 32 minutes a night and averages six shots on just 22 percent shooting it makes life incredibly hard. The Grizzlies need to do something for a spark and Bayless seems to be an answer, at the very least it will be hard to be worse than Prince.
Every year as the playoffs approach one thing is guaranteed.
A team or two always gets marked as “the team no one should want to face.” The teams normally fall into one of two categories.
First the young up and coming team that does something better than anyone else in the league. Think the Grizzlies of a few years ago, who excelled at the slowdown grind it out game because of an elite defense. Or this year’s Rockets who possess one of the most efficient and explosive offenses in the league.
The other category is the one the two teams being anointed as this years “don’t want to face” teams fall into. Veteran teams that fell below the seeds that many people expected them to before the season.
This year those teams are the Lakers and Celtics.
There is a problem with the labels this year though.
They just simply aren’t true.
These aren’t teams that were missing their best player for large chunks of the year but now have them back. These aren’t teams that are all of a sudden playing great basketball. In all reality, these aren’t even good teams.
In the end the Celtics and Lakers are who they are. They are bad teams, one who hung onto the seventh seed in the East because the Bucks forgot how to play basketball and lost to the Magic and Bobcats, and the other who plays tonight to determine their playoff fate.
Kobe Bryant is not about to come back from some midseason injury to save the Lakers. Ditto for Rajon Rondo and the Celtics.
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece in which I took a deeper look at the “defense” of Andre Miller. In the process of writing that piece I happened to check the on/off court splits for Miller according to 82games.com.
What I found surprised me to say the least. The Nuggets were actually better defensively with the walking, lazy Miller on the floor.
After I saw that I decided to take a look at every player in the league that played a significant amount of minutes for a team this season and see what fun the numbers would show.
What follows are the nuggets of information I found. Some are good, some are bad, some make sense and others make no sense at all.
As with all stats these numbers don’t tell the entire story, just a piece of it. But like all stats there is some fun to be had.
151 players posted positive differentials this season per 100 possessions (their teams gave up less points per 100 possessions this season with them on the floor than off), with those differentials ranging from 9.7 to 0.1 points.
Yet when I sorted the list by who had the best numbers I could not believe the name that came out on top.
Unlike the top player on the list the bottom player is one that won’t surprise a ton of people.
Al Jefferson made the Jazz ten points worse per 100 possessions he was on the floor defensively. It makes some sense considering he would typically be replaced by a much better defender in Derrick Favors or Kanter but ten points is a huge amount and adds to plenty of the other criticisms of his defense out there.
A few of the most surprising results I found were:
Chris Paul had a -5.4 points per 100 possession difference. I know that Eric Bledsoe was very much an impact defender off the bench but the number being so high for Paul startled me.
Luol Deng had a -3.5 points per 100 possession difference which was another surprising result for someone who is rightfully known as such a good defender.
Kyle Korver finished basically equal with LeBron James as the Hawks were a positive 3.9 with the Heat 3.8 points per 100 possessions better with those two on the floor then off it.
And finally some more interesting or funny things that I found:
Kevin Garnett, LARRY SANDERS! and Dwight Howard finished consecutively with Garnett leading the pack with a positive 6.9, followed by SANDERS! 6.7, and Howard at 6.6.
But my favorite random coincidence was the consecutive order of three other players on the negative side.
Kobe Bryant, Monta Ellis and Antawn Jamison all finished at -3.2 points per 100 possessions worse on the floor than off it. For players that get called out for their ball watching to land with the exact same number was something I found pretty funny. In fact the only way it could have been better would have been if Andre Miller fell at that number as well.
All in all most players’ numbers fell around where I would have guessed. Guys with reputations as good individual or team defenders found their team better when they were on the floor and guys with bad reputations often posted negative numbers. But like with most things there were a few surprises and funny coincidences, and for those the entire process of tracking the information down was worth it.
The Daily Dribble is a somtimes-daily feature here at Hickory-High. Matt Cianfrone offers his thoughts on a handful of the previous night’s NBA games, and then turns to Twitter to fill in the gaps.
We had some close games, but the action last night wasn’t nearly as gripping as Monday or Tuesday.
Warriors 97- Heat 95:
This was an incredibly fun game and it came down to the last play. Basically all anyone can ask for.
Early in the game Dwyane Wade really botched a couple of transition opportunities. First he tried to get too flashy and tried to go behind his back with a pass that ended up killing the break. A little later he tried to throw a lob to LeBron that ended up hitting the rim instead. Just a bad sequence.
LeBron was great in this game but forced a shot in the last minute when he spun into the lane and tried to throw a little runner up that missed.
Speaking of LeBron, he seemed visibly upset that he didn’t get the ball on the Heat’s penultimate possession, the one that ended up with a missed Shane Battier corner 3. I am on his side, after all he was playing great and is the team’s best player, but the look they got wasn’t bad either.
On the last Warriors’ play Chris Bosh did a great job bumping guys (I believe Klay Thompson and Steph Curry) as they came around a pick his man (David Lee) set. It knocked the shooters off path and seemed to disrupt the play.
But it all didn’t matter when Jarrett Jack made an incredible heads up play and found a cutting Draymond Green with a perfect pass. It surprised me Shane Battier of all people fell asleep, but kudos to the W’s for reacting to it.
Bucks 98 – Kings 85:
I’m a Bucks fan and all but boy was this one ugly. So ugly in fact that I only watched the first half.
One of the bright spots was seeing Drew Gooden do things. It wasn’t always good but the guy has worked hard since he got to Milwaukee and hasn’t complained since losing his playing time this year. Glad to see the crowd get behind him, I know I like him more than I ever thought I would.
Watching Sam Dalembert play made me miss Larry Sanders, who was sick, so much. Sam is just so much slower to do things and when he tries to block a shot he completely eliminates the chances he will grab a rebound on a miss. With Larry he can contest and react and move quick enough to at least be in the play on a miss.
Thunder 92 – Hornets 88:
I only saw the last little bit of this but I really liked what Reggie Jackson brought to the game. The energy helped the Thunder comeback happen.
I hated the last play the Hornets ran. It seemed like there was only one option, the three for Ryan Anderson in the corner, and when it didn’t come open they didn’t know how to react and seemed to panic a bit. They got a decent look but it could have been much better.
Austin Rivers makes things so much harder than it needs to be. He shoots way too many floaters, especially for a guy who doesn’t have a good one.
Celtics 117 – Mavericks 115 (2OT):
This was one of the uglier double overtime games I can remember, and I only saw parts of the overtimes and the very last bit of regulation.
The Celtics’ final plays in regulation and the first overtime were terrible. Both jumpers were contested and fell well short of the rim. Doc Rivers draws up some amazing plays and I wish he would for those situations instead of just isos.
Paul Pierce seemed way to interested in trying to draw fouls late in this game and it led to some truly awful shots.
Luckily for Boston the Mavs couldn’t hit anything for most of the second overtime. It was a terrible period for the most part.
The game basically ending after a Mavs turnover down 3 was so fitting. I have no idea why they felt the need to throw the baseball pass to half court there but it wasn’t a good decision.
The Daily Dribble is a somtimes-daily feature here at Hickory-High. Matt Cianfrone offers his thoughts on a handful of the previous night’s NBA games, and then turns to Twitter to fill in the gaps.
This turned out to be the the second straight night of fun, fun basketball.
Cavaliers 100 – Lakers 94
The NBA is better when Kyrie Irving is healthy. The second-year point guard was terrific in his return from a finger injury and his shootout with Kobe Bryant in this game was a joy to watch.
There may not be a better ball handler in traffic than Kyrie, though arguments can certainly be made for some other, more established guys like CP3 and Steve Nash. Irving made some terrific plays late that started with his dribbling through the Laker defense. It was incredible.
As great as Kobe was offensively, and he was absolutely terrific, he had some really bad moments on defense late in this one. First on the play where Anderson Varejao slipped a screen and got a wide open dunk , Kobe watched from about three steps away as Varejao ran right past him into a wide open lane where Irving found him with a great bounce pass. I know Dwight yelled at Jordan Hill for blowing a rotation but Kobe could, and should, have at least reacted, even it was just to foul Varejao and not allow a layup.
The second was way worse though. After a great defensive possession by the Lakers, Bryant fell asleep off the ball on none other than Irving. Irving made him pay by making a great cut to the middle of the floor and was by Bryant before Kobe realized it. The play led to a foul and helped the Cavs keep their lead.
But man was Kobe a joy to watch offensively. 42 points on 28 shots is always good, scoring that many points on 57 percent shooting is incredible. Kobe had everything going – drives, the mid-range game and even some threes. While he only had 2 assists, some of that was open teammates missing wide open shots after Kobe made the right pass. All in all it was just a brilliant offensive game for a guy having a brilliant offensive season.
Knicks 100 – Nets 97:
The Nets’ last possession was all kinds of ugly. A whole lot of dribbling that went nowhere since the Knicks knew they needed a 3. The only decent look was off the great rebound and pass from Joe Johnson to Deron Williams who shot a really ugly 3. Just a bad possession for a group that should be able to run a decent play with the group of guys they have.
The Melo fall-away late in the fourth was really pretty but the Knicks played most of the possession 5 on 4 because of Gerald Wallace being hurt and that was still the best shot they got. It was kind of stunning that the offense broke down like that when they normally are so good at making the extra pass.
Nuggets 101 – Pistons 94
I kept flipping back and forth to this game from the Lakers/Cavs game but I saw some things I really liked from the Nuggets.
First of all Ty Lawson played really well, especially in the second half. He made some really tough shots which helped a lot but he really attacked the basket hard and gave the Pistons problems when he did so. It was a good night for a guy who has struggled all year to consistently play well.
Andre Miller also played well and from what I read he really changed the game. He threw a great alley-oop to JaVale McGee and had another really nice pass to Cory Brewer that were just typical Andre plays.
JaVale was good JaVale tonight, 6-9 from the field for 12 points with 4 blocks in 19 minutes. But the single rebound is a problem, at his size and with his skills he needs to hit the glass harder than that.
It was ugly, and it took them some time to get going but the win was important for the Nuggets just because they got it. In the end they are doing what the Lakers aren’t right now, beating teams they should beat even if it is ugly, and to stay afloat until they can figure things out.
Clippers 94 – Bulls 89
Hubbie Brown is amazing. He made some great points, like normal, had some great lines, like normal and at one point got particularly mad at Nate Robinson. It led to Hubie angrily declaring ”he’s gotta pass the ball,” as Nate Rob dribbled for a second or two more.
I wonder if anyone in the league gets as many dunks after offensive rebounds than DeAndre Jordan. There are like three or four times a game at least it seems that he cleans up a miss with a monster jam. The one he dunked over Blake Griffin in this game was pretty nasty.
Lamar Odom played pretty ok in this game. He had a nice sequence in the fourth when he stepped in and took a charge on a Carlos Boozer floater then a bit later in he threw a great lob to Blake. Yet there were still too many possessions that Odom just didn’t feel like playing and it showed.
The Chris Paul dagger with 27 seconds left was just unfair. Stopped on a complete dime and let Kirk Hinrich fly by him. Just a joy to watch, especially in the clutch.
News day. And quotes. The first thing I saw walking into practice was Kent Bazemore jumping and hollering while David Lee looked on seemingly puzzled. In the foreground was Stephen Curry doing his usual shooting drills. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes were off to the side practicing free throws. But most importantly, Andre Iguodala was on t […]
It’s been an interesting week on the New York blogosphere, with hometown hero Jim Cavan pondering whether the Knicks should trade Carmelo Anthony over at Bleacher Report and friends Jared Dubin and netw3rk exchanging e-mails about whether or not to blow up the team (unclear on whether they mean that literally) at Grantland. Both pieces are well-written and e […]
I have seen the calls for my apologies. The demands that I come out and eat crow for predicting the Nuggets were clearly lottery team. The wonder at where I have been during the recent streak of great play. (For the record I was away for ten days for the holiday). But I have been […]
The Minnesota Timberwolves entered Saturday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks hoping to put the stop to a recent six-game-road-skid, which they did; 112-106. Vince Carter, unlike the team’s matchup earlier this month in Minnesota, was in-uniform for the Mavs, however, he would need to compensate for an inactive Jose Calderon — who was sidelined with […]
FINAL (8-9) 108 – 101 (9-9) Key Performers: J. Wall (WAS): 26 pts, 6 reb, 12 ast, 5 stl P. Millsap (ATL): 23 pts, 10 reb, 2 ast, 2 blk [FULL BOX SCORE] The Hawks once again found themselves in a second-half rut, but this time they couldn’t come back to take the victory as […]