Friday, January 14, 2011

Worst of the Night: January 13, 2011

spoelstra facepalm
Pretty much sums it up, don't you think?

The Washington Wizards Generals: The Generals opened the night 0-18 on the road. But hey, they were playing the Timberwolves, right? Even the Associated Press described Minnesota's Target Center as "the arena where losing streaks come to die." What's more, the T-Wolves had lost five in a row and Michael Beasley, Minny's biggest scoring threat, was out with a sprained ankle.

That had to mean "Winning Time" for Washington...didn't it?

Nah. After all, Beasley's absence was evened out by the fact that Andray Blatche missed the game with a sprained right shoulder. On top of that, the Generals got too much love. Too much Kevin Love, that is. Love finished with 35 points and 11 rebounds while going 13-for-18 from the field and 5-for-6 from three-point range.

Speaking of Love, the dude leads the league in rebounding and just cracked the Top 10 in Three-Point Percentage. And he's a double-double machine. According to ESPN Stats and Information, this was Kevin's 26th straight double-double. What's more, he's only the fifth player over the last 25 seasons to have a double-double in at least 26 straight games.

The funny thing is, a lot of commenters on this site have been getting really excited about Blake Griffin's double-doubles while kind of scoffing at Love's. I'm sure that has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that Blake is making highlight reels while Kevin looks like he should be making moonshine in the backwoods of Kentucky.

Anyway, Washington actually had a four-point lead with just under six minutes to play...then got outscored 19-3 the rest of the way to lose 109-97. Love scored eight of those 19 points, including a couple ball-busting triples.

Said Generals coach Flip Saunders: "We expected Love to be a handful. We thought he had a chance to beat us. He basically beat us from the 3-point line."

Added Al Thornton: "This is a team we should beat. We just didn't close it out."

There you have it. When a team is 0-19 on the road, they should never, ever have the "this is a team we should beat" attitude. As Yoda would say...that is why you fail.

Said John Wall: "It's embarrassing. that we're the only team left that hasn't won on the road."

Bonus stat: Washington gave up 24 points off 18 turnovers.

Darko Milicic: His double-double (14 points and 11 boards) doesn't change the fact that he scored two points for the other team. A tip 'o the hat to Basketbawful winnetou for the video link.

Kurt Rambis, coach of the year candidate: "It seems like those games, that we've had where everyone's contributed and had a pretty decent game scoring wise, we seem to win the ballgame."

The Orlando Magic: Talk about stat curses.

First, Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus described how amazing Orlando's offense has been since their blockbuster trade. Then ESPN's Tom Haberstroh proclaimed that this year's Magic squad is significantly better than the team that made it to the NBA Finals in 2009.

And just like that, Orlando immediately lost back-to-back games. On Wednesday night, their otherworldly offense utterly failed them in a 92-89 overtime loss to the Hornets. That's right: The Magic couldn't even break 90 points in a 53-minute game.

Last night, Orlando bounced back by scoring 124 points as Dwight Howard went all "God Mode" on the Thunder: 39 points, 18 rebounds, 11-for-19 from the field and 17-for-20 at the free throw line. You read that correctly. I said 17-for-20 at the charity stripe. As Basketbawful reader The Other Chris put it: "Dwight Howard went 17-20 from the line, what the f**k? Mommy I'm scared, is the apocalypse imminent?"

Unfortunately, the Magic's defense -- currently ranked 4th in Defensive Rating -- took the night off to watch Chuck reruns. To wit: The Thunder finished with 125 points on 56.4 percent shooting. Oklahoma City also went 7-for-14 from downtown and earned 37 free throw attempts.

And if you want to talk advanced stats, the Thunder established crazy high marks in Effective Field Goal Percentage (60.9), Offensive Rebound Percentage (34.4), Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt (38.5) and Offensive Rating (137.4).

Compare those numbers to the league averages of 49.7, 26.2, 23.4 and 106.6. Now compare those to what the Magic's defense usually holds opponents to: 48.2, 22.3, 22.2, and 102.0.

Said Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy: "We just couldn't stop them at all, but particularly Durant and Westbrook. They're great players, they average 50 between them, but we gave them 68. Last night, it was our offense was awful and tonight we couldn't stop them at all. Obviously, our defense was bad, but we're just playing out of a hole every night. I don't like that trend. Whether we have to make changes in that lineup or something, but those guys -- we're just always in a hole now and that's not good."

Speaking of trends, did anybody take a close look at that nine-game winning streak that had Pelton and Haberstroh (and lots of other people) drooling in admiration? It started with a genuinely impressive homecourt win over the Spurs. It then continued with another home victory over the Celtics on Christmas day when Boston's offense (78 points and an Offensive Rating of 85.7) struggled mightily without Rajon Rondo (although it's worth noting that the Celts led most of the game before getting outscored 29-15 in the fourth quarter).

Then the Magic racked up victories over the Nets (10-28) and Cavaliers (8-30) before holding off the Knicks at home. Then they beat the Warriors (15-23), Bucks (14-22) and Rockets (17-22) in Orlando before downing the Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavericks in Dallas. And you'll note that the Mavs have gone 2-6 during Dirk's eight-game absence.

Look, the winning streak was impressive, and the wins over San Antonio and New York were legit. But the rest of the wins probably need to be put in context. Seven of those nine wins were against sub-.500 ball clubs or significantly weakened teams (Boston and Dallas). And even the wins over the Spurs and Knicks were in Orlando, and we all know how important homecourt advantage is.

So, you know, let's not crown the Magic just yet.

By the way, Basketbawful reader Ilkka sent in this image after the Magic lost to the Hornets. Mmm...Magic Steak...


Stan Van Gundy, quote machine: From the AP recap:
There's a belief among some in the NBA that the Skirvin Hilton, where the
Magic stayed, is haunted. "What haunts me are guys like Kevin Durant," Van Gundy
said. "So, I would say this building is haunted because of guys like him, as are
most of the buildings in the NBA. I haven't run into a haunted hotel, just
haunted arenas."
The Miami cHeat: With LeBron James sitting out because karma's a bitch due to a sprained left ankle, the cHeat suffered their worst loss of the season, a 130-102 drubbing by the Nuggets. Those are the most points Miami has allowed all season, by the way.

We all saw this loss coming, right? After all, James was out, Bosh and Wade both logged 40 minutes in the previous night's loss to the Clippers, and teams usually curl up in a ball and die when playing in Denver on the second night of back-to-backs. In fact, TNT flashed a stat that said the Nuggets are something like 46-9 in the Pepsi Center when their opponent is playing for the second night in a row.

Here are some numbers. Seven Nuggets scored in double figures. J.R. Smith scored a game-high 28 points and drilled a season-best eight three-pointers. Denver shot 53.3 percent from the field and hit nearly 50 percent of their threes (15-for-31). They outscored the cHeat 14-5 in transition and 50-34 in the paint.

That last number may be the most important. The Nuggets set the tone early on by getting whatever they wanted around the rim. Miami couldn't have made the paint more inviting if they'd filled it with feather pillows and stuffed animals. Once Denver got it going inside, that opened things up for their shooters. And, well, that was that.

Ultimately, I don't think this loss means all that much, given the circumstances. Well, other than (as Wild Yams pointed out) officially protecting the '96 Bulls 72-10 record from the cHeat and proving Jeff Van Gundy probably should have held off on the crazy predictions.

So instead, I'm going to address something that's been causing a little chatter, namely Henry Abbott's "defense" of LeBron James. From TrueHoop:
Say James did something specific that pissed you off. Say he didn't play where you wanted him to play. Say you thought the TV show was too much. Say he shouldn't refer to himself in the third person. Say you're disappointed or hurt. Who can argue any of that?

But that's not where the majority of James rhetoric lives. It goes far beyond that, with the normal position being to imply that you, NBA fan, has the information, the final word, on the totality of the man ... the whole complicated person ... and you know he's bad.

Every single person who has never met LeBron James, but "knows" he's bad ... well, that's somebody coloring way outside the lines. The public profile of this man does not nearly add up to that.

I have a blog with the word "true" in the title, and we live in a moment when the biggest story in the NBA -- the unchecked villainy of LeBron James -- is not true, or is at the very least unproven. So I am going go keep writing about that. Go back and read, though. My radical point is not to that he's tremendous. It's to ask: How do you know he's so bad? What evidence do you have? And if you don't have good evidence, can we just tone it down a little?
I get where Henry's coming from, and it reminds me of what Friedrich Nietzsche said in On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense (1873):

What does man actually know about himself? Is he, indeed, ever able to perceive himself completely, as if laid out in a lighted display case? Does nature not conceal most things from him - even concerning his own body - in order to confine and lock him within a proud, deceptive consciousness, aloof from the coils of the bowels, the rapid flow of the blood stream, and the intricate quivering of the fibers! She threw away the key.
This was going to lead into another Nietzsche quote. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the one I was thinking about, but (and I'm paraphrasing) it says something to the effect that "since we can't know ourselves completely, we can't possibly know someone else."

So from that standpoint, Abbott is correct. We can't prove LeBron is the NBA version of Dr. Evil. After all, James doesn't hold his pinky to his mouth when he laughs, and he certainly didn't spend five years in Evil Medical School. We don't know him and we'll never know him. If you believe Nietzsche, LeBron's friends and family will never really know him, and LeBron will never fully know matter how many times he refers to himself in the third person.

And yet, in the final analysis, if Henry is really committed to truth, he should understand that personal truths are and always will be subjective. Hey, according to some accounts, Adolph Hitler was devoutly religious. Moreover, he had a wife, and close friends, and millions of people who believed in him and his causes. It's horrible. But it's true.

In this world, "right" and "wrong" are not concrete, provable things. They are mostly about what you believe in. And, for good or ill, people have the right to decide whether they like or dislike other people based on observation, their internal code of ethics, and their personal biases.

After LeBron made his already-infamous "karma's a bitch" tweet, I said he was an asshole. Now, is his asshole-ness "provable" in the sense Abbott was talking about? Probably not. Last time I checked, science hasn't yet devised a way to quantify how much of an asshole somebody is or isn't. Damn you, science.

But that doesn't mean I don't have the right to observe and consider LeBron's behavior to determine whether he meets my own personal criteria for what an asshole is. And, not that I feel the need to justify my stance, I'm not only referring to the tweeting, the backtracking, or The Decision. Just go through the Basketbawful archives and you'll find years and years of words and actions that illustrate behavior I personally don't care for. Talking in the third person. The whole "I wanna be a global icon" thing. Refusing to shake hands in defeat and then justifying it by saying (in essence) that winners don't show sportsmanship. The Crab Dribble. The way his foot always seems to end up in his mouth.

I could go on and on, but, in my opinion, LeBron's behavior -- and I'm talking about what he says and does off the court -- is arrogant and narcissistic. And in the end, opinion is all we ever have to go on when judging the merits of human behavior. I have the right to make up my mind about whether or not I like LeBron the Man. And guess what? It has nothing to do with what I think about LeBron the Basketball Player. It's not like I'm denying his greatness on the court. I'm simply saying that, based on what I've observed over the last eight years or so, LeBron isn't somebody I'd want to be buddies with.

People make these decisions all the time. I bet there's somebody you don't like at work, and that dislike (or "absence of liking" if you will) is probably based only on what you know about them as a co-worker. You don't know what they're like at home or when they're out with their friends. You didn't grow up with them, go to high school with them, or attend college with them. Under those circumstances, they might have become your bestest friend ever. But as things just don't like 'em.

That's life. We set boundaries and draw lines in the sand all the time. Of course, there must be reasonable limits. Just because we don't like somebody doesn't give us the right to be abusive or violent -- in either words or actions -- toward them. Nor should it mean we refuse other people the right to like the people we don't. Just because I think LeBron James is a douchebag doesn't mean I would deny others the right to love and adore him if that's want they want. It may make me throw up in my own mouth, but I wouldn't blame them for it.

In truth, we'll never know everything that makes a person what they are. Nonetheless, it is each person's right to choose whether they like or dislike someone based on what we do know. And that's the truth.

Brandon Roy's knees: Roy will have arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees next week. Those poor knees. The Curse of the Frail Blazers continues...

Chris's Lacktion Report: Cartier Martin discovered the ledger yet again after tossing a brick from the Mary Tyler Moore statue for a +1 in 1:51. Minnesota's Nikola Pekovic provided two boards and a field goal in 10:06, only to foul and lose the rock thricely each for a 6:4 Voskuhl.

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