So Long, and Good Luck, Tyson.

I actually like this trade for the Hornet’s prospects this year.

I know that all the word is going to be that the Hornets are doing this purely for financial, cap related reasons, but let me tell you Chris Wilcox and Joe Smith will give the Bees some long needed bench depth and toughness.

It just so happens that I had just browsed through my latest copy of Slam. The slamadamonth is Jason Terry over Tyson. The dunk was not spectacular the spectacle was the seven foot Chandler being posterized by the 6′ 2″ Terry.

The accompanying story is about Hornet coach Byron Scott calling Tyson into his office and asking him “What are your primary responsibilities for this team?” Tyson said “That’s easy coach. I catch oops from Chris” When the coach asked him what else, Tyson said, “Well, rebound, I guess.” His third try was “Um. update my blog?” Then the coach showed him the picture!

Tyson is, was, and always will be a soft man defender. He was good on help, off-the-ball defense…last year.

Wilcox and Smith are both 6′ 10″ and about 235 lb. They can play power forward or center. Both of them have expiring contracts. Depending on whether we can draft a center, we could always resign one of them and still get some cap relief.

I like it!

LeBron sends a msg at the MSG.

In my last entry I mused about the influence of one building, it’s storied history, and it’s legendary place as a showcase for talent in the mass media heart of America.

Now LeBron James has to get in on the act, both with his amazing triple double with 52 points as a follow up to Kobe’s 62 and with this quote about Madison Square Garden:

“Like Kobe said, this is the last building that’s still alive,” LeBron said. “It’s just a different feeling when you come into this building. You feel like, honestly, you’re on stage and playing the game of basketball more than you’re on the court, because of the fans and how the lighting is in here. And you think about the history of the game, so many great performances. … There’s no way for me to ever think that this is just another road game.”

Shakespeare may have famously thought that “all the world’s a stage”, but obviously some stages are more equal than the others.

Is the MSG the msg?

There would seem to have been enough cyber ink spilled already about the Knicks persuit of the likes of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Google “Knicks cap space 2010” and you 32,500 hits!

I just want to add a little footnote about the lure of the MSG, Madison Square Garden.

Seeing that Kobe has just set the MSG record by scoring 61 last night,my first thought was about the allure of the NBA’s biggest names playing in the NBA’s biggest venue. Was it a coincidence that Kobe chose this night to grab the reins and lead his Bynum depleted mates to a win over an also-ran New York Knicks? Did Kobe need to do this in order for the Lakers to win?

Personally I don’t think Kobe had to but I know he wanted to.

I was sceptical when I first saw that the Knicks had the hutzpa to think they could reassemble the core of the 2008 Olympic Re-deem Team…now not as much.

Go-To-Guys, with the Stats to Prove It.

I am aways on the lookout for stats that acurately reflect my own sense of what is really happening on the floor in our beloved NBA.

There are few sources for NBA stats as rich as 82games.com. Kudos, props, thanks, and praise to those guys. On the front page of their site they have a category they call “Clutch” stats. They even have a great working definition of “Clutch”:

“For these stats ‘Clutch’ is defined as: 4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points.”

It would be hard to dispute that their top ranked players are as clutch as you get. I won’t steal their thunder by repeated the names here, let their site get anther well deserved hit when you go there. But before I saw that they had done the sorting and analyzing for us already I had looked at another set of their numbers and since this was just one sorting of their multifaceted stats I don’t think I’ve done them an injustice by showing them here and putting my own twist on them. One problem with the original table is that it provides so much information that its hard to see the forest for all of the trees, so I have taken just three of their 19 columns for my table below:

NBA Team Go-To-Guys

gotoguys

These fourth quarter scoring stats seem to identify the player most of us think of as the go-to-guy on each team. The exceptions are interesting. One of the things I determined from the complete list at 82games was that you had to go down to the 73rd name to find Al Thornton as the Clippers representative. In the meantime a lot of other teams had their third or fourth ranked player already higher on the list than Thornton.

Here are some observations:

  • The first name that surprised me was Jamal Crawford for Golden State. But  the warriors wound up having four players listed higher than Thornton. I think this reflects the fact that Warrior Coach Don Nelson never seems to settle on a set rotation.
  • Jason Terry for Dallas and J.R. Smith for Denver weren’t who I was expecting for their teams, but I imagine come as no surprise to anyone following those teams closer than I do.
  • Since Leandro Barbosa is only scoring 12.4 pts per game on the season his 4.9 points in the fourth quarter is striking.
  • Similarly, D.J. Augustine scores 4.6 of his 12.1 points per game in the final stanza. Way to go rook!
  • Some of the guys on the list may well be their teams go-to-guy but they don’t seem to step things up any in the fourth quarter. Al Jefferson still leads the Timberwolves in fourth quarter scoring but actually scores more in each of the first three quarters of the game. If he kept up his 6.5 points third quarter scoring maybe the Timberwolves would win more games.
  • Dirk Nowitzki is shown for the choke artist he is by not being his teams go-to-guy. He only scores 5.0 of his 25.7 points per game when the going gets tough. Dirk ranks a dismal 56th in the league in fourth quarter +/- stats ( I had to throw in the +/- stats because I never miss a chance to hate on Dirk NoWINski).
  • It may not always be good for a team to have a player who is high on this list. Wade is absolutely a go-to-guy, but are the Heat a better team than the Celtics with Paul Pierce coming in at 24th on the list.

I could milk these stats for even more interesting information, but I’ll leave some of that to the inquisitive reader of these musings.

Bad Contracts and Good Trades.

I was talking to some friends during a lull in the action at the Hornets/Sixers game last night and we started talking about the Hornet’s needing to make a trade to get another big man.

The availability of Jermaine O’Neal and a rumor of a trade where the Hornets would get JO’s bloated contract and bad knees for Peja Stojakovic and a couple of minor players to match the salaries, has me musing about the value of bad contracts.

The Hornets have no truly bad contracts. But is that good or bad?

Look at the Trail Blazers situation:

“The Blazers have been shopping out the ending $12 million contract of Raef LaFrentz that is now covered by insurance making Raef an absolutely free player that clears a ton of cap space in July.”

Now I would not have wanted to be paying Raef LaFrenz even a fraction of $12 million, even when he was healthy. In his best recent year’s performance LaFrentz averaged 11, 7 and 1. That was with Boston in ’04-’05. He’s been a total bust for Portland, never playing even half a season, or more than 13 minutes a game, or scoring more than an average of four points a game.

And yet his expiring contract, that is totally covered by injury insurance at this point, is rumored to be the key to a trade that will bring the Blazers  John Salmons and either Kenny Thomas or Mikki Moore from the Kings who want to clear cap space.

Who gets the best of that trade? It’s actually hard to say. If the Blazers kept LaFrentz and let his contract expire they could be a major player in free agency next year. If they acquire Salmons he would probably start for them over Nicholas Batum and improve their playoff chances this season.

Personally, I think the Kings get the best of the deal since the return of Kevin Martin makes Salmon expendable and the cap space they get when they let LaFentz’s contract expire makes them a player in the free agent market.

Either way, its LaFrentz’s bad contract that greases the wheels of this trade.

The Hornet’s have no bad, expiring contracts so they will have to fill the holes in their lineup through the draft, and be content this year to let Chris Paul take them a round or two at best in the playoffs when just another piece or two and they could’a been a ‘contenda’.

Hornet’s coach and “rooks”.

Here is a quote concerning Hornet’s coach Byron Scott’s handling of current Denver sixth man J.R. Smith when Smith was a rookie with the Hornets:

“From the time Smith played in his first summer-league game in Long Beach, Calif., Scott was tough on him. He only referred to Smith as “Rook” throughout the 2004-05 season. Scott also pushed Bass to be mostly a defender and rebounder, although Bass, a former LSU standout, was mainly a scorer in college.”

The article goes on to show that Scott is unrepentant about his handling of Smith, Brandon Bass who was traded to the Mavs and has blossomed there,  and current Hornet second year man Julian Wright. The article is balanced in it’s handling of Scott, quoting the Hornet’s GM in support of how Scott has appropriate high expectations of rookies on a veteran team that is contending for the lead in their division and in the Western Conference.

What I want to muse about is a very revealing quote from coach Scott himself that occurs late in the original article by John Reid of the Times-Picayune, the New Orleans daily newspaper. The quote ended the article and received no comment by Mr Reid.

“Scott remains steadfast when it comes to dealing with younger players. He remembers his days as a rookie with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1983, where he had to earn the respect of veterans as well as earn playing time on a championship team. Now he’s trying to get the same mental toughness across to his younger players. “They traded Norm Nixon for me, and everybody acted like it was my fault, ” Scott said. “For the first two weeks, they (teammates) were trying to beat me up in practice, hit me and knock me down. Then I said, ‘That’s the last time this is going to happen.’ I told Michael Cooper, ‘If you hit me again, I’m going to be swinging.’ That got me respect from them, and like I told them, I brought my own shoes, my own game, and I didn’t make the trade. The next day, Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) spoke to me and stopped calling me ‘Rook.’

“I’m hard on them because I’ve always prided myself on not making the same mistakes twice. If a guy beat me once, he’s not going to beat me on the same play again. But I still think it takes three or four years before a young player starts understanding what they really need to do.”

I’m a retired psychologist so maybe it’s just me but coach Scott seems to have given us a glimpse into the usually hidden psyche of an NBA head coach.

Scott was called “rook” until he stood up to one of his tormentors, and now he refers to Hornet rookies as “rook” until they meet his expectations.

Times have changed Coach!

  • Coach Scott was a 22yr old college junior when he was drafted and then traded to the Lakers.
  • J.R. Smith was a 19yr old out of St. Benedicts Prepatory School.
  • Brandon Bass was a 20yr old LSU sophomore.
  • Julian Wright was a 20yr old Kansas sophomore.

By the time Smith and Bass were 22 they had been given up on by coach Scott and the Hornets and traded to teams where they have since flourished. J.R. Smith is a candidate for NBA Sixth-Man-of-the-Year and Bass is the kind of paint presence the Hornets could sorely use right now instead of the apparently more compliant nonentities who dwell deep down coach Scott’s bench.

To his credit J.R. Smith acknowledges he was immature:

“It’s one of those situations that if I knew then what I know now, being more mature off the court, it definitely would have been better, ” Smith said. “I really was hard-headed, and I pretty much did what I wanted to do. I think we both could have handled the situation different, but that just wasn’t the case.”

Smith apparently has held no grudge from his treatment in New Orleans. There was this recent announcement in the Denver paper:

“J.R. Smith said he likely will choose a Hurricane Katrina charity for a $25,000 donation courtesy of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Cuban will match his recent fine for antics in Denver. Smith, with New Orleans during the 2005 hurricane, has donated before to Katrina relief.”

Coach Scott had better nourish and cherish the talented Julian Wright before he, too, departs the Hornets and fulfills his early promise for another team.

Ouch!

Found this at HoopsHype:

From what I’m told, Kirk Hinrich is not available, as numerous outlets continually speculate. The Bulls are a better team now that he’s back in the mix, a forward observer underlines.

“He is the closest thing to a leader we have. His tough play along with Andres Nocioni brings out the best in the others who are certifiably soft.”

Maybe we have stopped inducting Derrick Rose into the Hall.  He’s gonna get there, give him time.


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