Andrew Unterberger

Andrew Unterberger

Andrew Unterberger is a chemically-dependent League Pass and Billboard chart user living in Astoria, New York. When not writing for The Basketball Jones, he is likely either attempting to master the keyboard part to Billy Joel's "Big Shot" on Rock Band 3, watching Observe and Report on cable, or obsessively refreshing his TBJ columns hoping for new comments. In between, he also writes about America's Team, the Philadelphia 76ers, for The700Level.com. He is currently available for weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, provided that you supply the necessary karaoke equipment and/or magician props.

Recent Posts

greg-oden-by-bench

All the biggest dominoes have fallen in free agency this offseason. When the biggest questions left on the open market are when Nikola Pekovic is gonna give up on waiting for an imaginary team to blow away the Wolves’ $50 million offer, whether or not Brandon Jennings will sign his qualifying offer and try again next season, and what team Mo Williams will sign a minimum contract to come off the bench for, you know you’re officially in the dog days of the NBA summer, with a lot of hours to fill with non-hoops-related intrigue and entertainment. There’s only one real story left, and it’s likely to be resolved by the end of the week: Who’s gonna get to the chance to resurrect Greg Oden?

I doubt there’s ever been a free agent quite like Greg Oden before. Here you have the chance to sign a former No. 1 overall pick that never really busted as a pro — he has a career PER near 20 and according to Basketball-Reference was worth 6.8 wins in his first 82 games, about how many second-year sensation Jimmy Butler was worth in a full season last year. Unfortunately for Oden, those 82 games came over the course of two seasons in six years, and represent the sum total of the basketball he’s played thus far, with knee injuries upon knee injuries cheating him out of getting to establish himself as a pro. Now he represents a free agency lottery ticket to make even Andrew Bynum seem like a safe bet, a guy who at age 25 still has that franchise center potential sheen to him, if you can overlook the fact that he hasn’t laced up his sneaks in four years and may never be fully healthy again.

Unsurprisingly, a number of teams are interested — particularly since with his miserable track record of health, Oden probably can be landed for a minimal financial investment. At last count, it sounded like Oden was debating between a half-dozen teams in pursuit: the Pelicans, Kings, Mavericks, Hawks, Spurs and Heat, all of whom have seen Oden work out (“looks quite lean & is moving quite well,” reports Marc Stein!) and all of whom should be making their offers sometime this week, in a kind of low-rent version of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes.

I fear, however, that I already know where Oden is headed, and this Marc J. Spears tweet doesn’t help: To me, it seems all but certain that Oden is going to Miami.

The pitch that Miami can make to Oden is obvious and undeniable. They’re the two-time defending champs. They have LeBron. They have Pat Riley. They have South Beach. They have a borderline-desperate need for size and rebounding. They have enough media pressure at all times that Oden’s rehabbing can go under the radar as never being more than the third-biggest story surrounding the team at any given point in time. And after last year, they have a proven track record of veterans taking lesser or even minimum contracts to play there, and certainly looking like they have no regrets about doing so. The Heat are the gravitational center of the NBA now, and resisting their pull will take some serious effort from the former No. 1 pick.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the Heat also now have Chris Andersen. Like Oden, The Birdman was out of the league for some time — albeit for dramatically different reasons — but filled a potential need in the middle for the Heat during their stretch run last season. Once signed and slotted in, he instantly performed at a high level for the rest of the season, and a near All-Star level during the playoffs, where he led all players in offensive rating, true shooting percentage and Win Shares per 48 Minutes, hitting 18 straight shots over one stretch of games. If Oden is looking to be put in a position to succeed instantly after his long NBA sabbatical, he’ll find none more opportune than Miami, and Andersen is pretty good evidence of that.

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Over the course of this week, Andrew Unterberger counted down the 100 best things (here are Nos. 100-61, 60-41, 40-21 and 20-11) that happened from opening night to the start of the offseason in the NBA year that was. Read on and live the 10 greatest plays, games, photos, performances, celebrations, quotes, fights, achievements and fashion statements from the 2012-13 season, and begin counting down the long, lonely days and nights before the National Basketball Association is once again upon us.

10. Heat-Pacers Game 1

I’ll admit that I didn’t give the Pacers much of a chance of even competing with Miami, much less taking them to seven and downright looking like the better, more complete team for a good deal of the series. Game 1 was a pretty good indicator that Indiana was a worthy foe, however, and that the Pacers were going to be a tough out for the Heat, not just in this postseason, but likely in several more to follow. Paul George in particular proved that he could hang, hitting not only that jaw-dropping 30-footer to tie the game but three super-clutch free throws to put the team up in OT. And Roy Hibbert proved what a beast he could be in the middle on both sides of the ball — though not for the final possession, of course, as coach Frank Vogel yanked Hibbert for what ended up being a game-winning LeBron layup, a move that’s still probably being debated in a bar outside Bankers Life Fieldhouse right now.

It was probably a year too early for Indy to take the series, and the fact that the Heat squeaked this one out was probably a sign of that. But Game 1 showed that the East wasn’t going to roll over for Miami in this postseason as so many predicted, and likely won’t for the next few playoffs to follow, either.

9. The Draft

Who could’ve guessed how entertaining this year’s draft would be? With the least-hyped class in ages and seemingly no big draft day deals imminent, it seemed like the events at Barclays a couple weeks ago would come and go barely as a footnote to the season. Instead, we had a surprise No. 1 overall pick, a presumed top pick slipping out of the top five, a franchise-altering trade to go along with that fallen pick, and uh, Cody Zeller going fourth to the Bobcats. All of that, plus the consummation of the only-just-rumored megadeal merging the Celtics and Nets in Brooklyn, Doc Rivers and Bill Simmons having it out on the ESPN broadcast … it was almost too much to take in in just one night.

Of course, the best part of all was the fans’ back-and-forth with the Man of the Hour, Commissioner David Stern. Pausing before reading the No. 1 pick, giving Barclays the “let me hear it” ear cupping, criticizing the crowd for lagging in energy … it was a five-star performance from the Commish. And when the boos were finally replaced with cheers for Stern’s final pick as acting commissioner, it was among the most touching moments of the whole season — as was, oddly, the crowd turning around and booing the previously popular Adam Silver upon taking Stern’s place. Welcome to the big leagues, kid.

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Over the course of this week, Andrew Unterberger will be counting down the 100 best things (here are Nos. 100-61, 60-41 and 40-21) that happened from opening night to the start of the offseason in the NBA year that was. Read on and live the greatest plays, games, photos, performances, celebrations, quotes, fights, achievements and fashion statements from the 2012-13 season, and begin counting down the long, lonely days and nights before the National Basketball Association is once again upon us.

20. Kobe’s insane comebacks against the Hornets and Raptors

It all seems a little silly in retrospect, given that Kobe’s herculean efforts (on one side of the ball, at least) to get the Lakers into the playoff picture ended with him missing the team’s four-game first round sweep by the Spurs with a season-ending ACL injury and Dwight Howard skipping town after getting himself kicked out of the Lakers’ Game 4 loss. Still, outside of Miami, there was no drama better in the second half of the NBA season than watching Kobe shoot his teams to victories that probably shouldn’t have been nearly as suspenseful as they were, each one keeping their slim playoff hopes alive another day.

These games were the two best — aside from the last one, which we’ll get to later — with Kobe going off for 40+ and 10+ in consecutive fourth quarter comeback victories against two crappy opponents, a loss to either of which would have essentially deaded their season. The Lakers’ season may have been a disaster, but you certainly couldn’t ever say it was a waste of time, and that was pretty much all Kobe.

19. Carmelo Anthony scores 131 points in three games

It wasn’t as neat or as long-lasting as LeBron’s 30-point, 60 percent FG% streak, but it was arguably more impressive (and for me at least, far more fun) to watch. For this three-game period — 50 points against Miami, 40 against ATL and 41 against the Bucks — Carmelo Anthony was in as much of a zone with his jumper as we’re likely to ever see any NBA player be, hitting automatically the way we always assume the best players are able to do when we’re kids, but which is usually slightly more difficult than that against grown-man NBA defenses. What made these games especially notable for Carmelo is that usually, when he puts up 30-40 in a given night, it’s much uglier than it looks in the box score — lots of putbacks of his own misses, some helter-skelter threes, tons of trips to the foul line. Not in these three, though — just swished jumper after swished jumper, until it seemed like he might never go cold again.

Unfortunately for Knicks fans, go cold again he most certainly did, and at a much less opportune time than meaningless-in-retrospect games towards the end of the season. But damn, who knows when we’re ever going to see shooting like this again?

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Over the course of this week, Andrew Unterberger will be counting down the 100 best things (here are Nos. 100-61 and 60-41) that happened from opening night to the start of the offseason in the NBA year that was. Read on and live the greatest plays, games, photos, performances, celebrations, quotes, fights, achievements and fashion statements from the 2012-13 season, and begin counting down the long, lonely days and nights before the National Basketball Association is once again upon us.

40. Kobe Bryant over Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace
If there’s a better combination of players to dunk over in the same dunk than Crash and Hump, I’m not sure what it is.

39. Wale vs. Matt Devlin

“And supposedly, this fan is a well-known local rapper … Wall-ay.” If we were still at the height of Wale’s sports-nerd phase, this would’ve gotten at least a full track’s response on “The Gifted.” (Ed. note: Close enough.)

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Over the course of this week, Andrew Unterberger will be counting down the 100 best things (here are Nos. 100-61) that happened from opening night to the start of the offseason in the NBA year that was. Read on and live the greatest plays, games, photos, performances, celebrations, quotes, fights, achievements and fashion statements from the 2012-13 season, and begin counting down the long, lonely days and nights before the National Basketball Association is once again upon us.

60. Byron Mullens over LaMarcus Aldridge

59. Kobe Bryant over Josh Smith

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kent-bazemore-and-stephen-curry-posing

Over the course of the next week, Andrew Unterberger will be counting down the 100 best things that happened from opening night to the start of the offseason in the NBA year that was. Read on and live the greatest plays, games, photos, performances, celebrations, quotes, fights, achievements and fashion statements from the 2012-13 season, and begin counting down the long, lonely days and nights before the National Basketball Association is once again upon us.

100. That Kent Bazemore / Stephen Curry picture

99. LeBron tackling the halfcourt-shot maker


98. Spurs-Grizzlies, Game 3

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dwight-howard-grimace-face

As you probably heard, Dwight Howard went a-courting this week, visiting five teams who hoped to be enlisting his services for next year and several years to come. Dwight made little secret of his desire to be wooed, and wooed he indeed was — reports from the sites of the five job interviews (because all job interviews consist of companies desperately pitching themselves to unconvinced potential employees) described elaborate sales pitches that involved Hall of Famer alums of the respective teams, local celebrities, and some no-doubt seriously balling PowerPoint presentations. Promises were made: Of wins, of rings, of local TV deals and probably some cool jet packs and laser sharks and stuff.

It’s unclear, however, if any team promised Dwight the one thing he probably wants over all else: The chance to be liked again. Four seasons ago, Dwight was one of the most popular players in the league, an amicable, goofy tall guy with an active sense of humor and seemingly limitless athleticism and potential. The unquestioned best player on one of the best teams in the league, he seemed well-liked by his teammates and peers, and mostly respected by his coaches. More than most basketball players of his era, stardom really seemed to fit Dwight’s personality — he was a natural in interviews and commercials, and always seemed one good opportunity away from becoming a multi-platform star, famous beyond basketball, like his most obvious predecessor, Shaquille O’Neal. And aside from a couple stray worries that maybe his jokey demeanor and off-court considerations occasionally interfered with him realizing his basketball greatness, basketball fans were generally good with the Dwight Howard experience.

Then, of course, came the Dwightmare. Coming off the heels of the Melodrama in Denver the season before and LeBron’s Decision before that, Dwight became the latest athlete who let his impending free agency and desire to play for a contending team cast a pall over his career and his public image. Howard’s indecision about whether or not to force a trade from the Magic would eventually alienate him from his teammates, get his coach fired and turn fans in and outside of Orlando (as well as the general hoops media) totally against him. The threat of the Dwightmare going on for another season was seemingly quashed by his trade last offseason to the Los Angeles Lakers, Howard’s rumored eventual destination all along, and there he was expected to win the haters back (as LeBron had) by winning a whole lot. But the Lakers’ season was a colossal disappointment, and now Dwight enters this free agency as doubted and disliked as he has ever been in his pro career.

Dwight Howard is not the kind of player to say “f— the haters” and play the villain, or to say “only God can judge me” and tune out the criticism, or just say nothing at all and let his play do the talking, all of which LeBron attempted at various points of his being hated, to limited success. Dwight is a guy who still wants to be liked. Dwight is a guy who needs to be liked. Dwight is a guy who will absolutely factor in how likeable he will be for choosing a certain team in free agency when he makes a decision on where he will ultimately sign.

So let’s help him out, then. Teams probably won’t address this themselves, since talking about him being liked again would correctly imply that he’s not liked currently (though Ramona Shelburne did report that the Lakers’ meeting with him was “honest,” so maybe Nash dropped some serious real talk on him), but nothing’s stopping us from talking about it. How liked will Dwight be if he joins any one of these teams? There’s a pro and con argument to be made for each, so let’s make both of ‘em and come to a conclusion. In order of Dwight’s meetings:

Houston Rockets

Yes Like: Dwight could very easily become likeable-by-association just by joining the Rockets. Houston established themselves last year as one of the league’s preeminent bandwagon teams, with a super-fun, uptempo style of play that results in a whole lot of three-pointers and a whole lot of points in general. What’s more, they’re also a well-liked bunch of dudes, nice boys like Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and James Harden, with good reputations and oddball demeanors. Dwight would fit into the team’s style and personality as if he’d been there all along, like when the new kid hangs out with your group of friends at middle school for the first time and you just know. It’d be pretty hard to stay mad at him playing on a team like that.

No Like: Dwight will be changing teams again — a given for most of these scenarios — and leaving his crumbling situation for the second time in two years to go play with the cool kids elsewhere. His arrival may also result in the necessary deposing of the well-liked Omer Asik, leading to inevitable and potentially unfavorable comparisons between the two should Dwight’s defense falter as it did early last season, or should he be perceived to not be working hard enough.

Likability Scale: 8/10. Some inevitable minor PR concerns, but Houston seems like a pretty good shot at long-term redemption for Dwight, turning him back into both a winner and a fan favorite.

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