I guess this is what happens once you’ve spent time in Stephen Jackson’s posse. Real gangsta ish.
I guess this is what happens once you’ve spent time in Stephen Jackson’s posse. Real gangsta ish.
With the dust mostly settled on this offseason’s player movement — and there was a whole lot of it this year — it’s time to take stock of all the fascinating new faces in new places, as well as the more compelling stories of players who will face new challenges while sticking around. Over the course of the next few weeks, Andrew Unterberger will do a team-by-team look at the most interesting players going into next season — one new to the team, and one returning — as we all try to pass the dog days of NBA-less summer, dreaming of hoops-filled months to come. The series continues today with the teams in the Southwest Division: the Mavericks, Rockets, Grizzlies, Pelicans and Spurs.
Most Interesting New Player: Monta Ellis
All of Dallas’ big free agent pickups were the same basic level of Interesting But Not Really. Seeing decent players like Jose Calderon, DeJuan Blair and Devin Harris in new roles in new jerseys will have some limited novelty, but these are players we’ve seen for long enough now that we basically know who they are and what they do — any legitimate surprise they provide in Dallas will be, well, surprising. Of these players, Monta seems the closest to an unknown quantity, since while we know his strengths and weaknesses a player pretty well, there’s still some debate about how much he can help a solid, veteran team actually win ball games, which is ostensibly what he’ll be called on to do as Dirk Nowitzki’s teammate in Big D. The answer very well might be “little” or “none,” but he’s never played on a team like Dallas, for a coach like Rick Carlisle, or with a teammate like Dirk before, so at least there’s some chance for personal growth there. It’ll be moderately interesting to see.
I would have liked to pick any of Dallas’ rookies in the backcourt for this — Gal Mekel and Ricky Ledo both intrigued in Vegas, and some people seme to think Shane Larkin has sleeper potential — but after the Mavs’ offseason splurging on mid-tier guards, they’re all likely to enter this season buried so deep on the depth chart that they’ll be lucky to even get consistent minutes in garbage time. Wayne Ellington eats first, you know how it is.
Most Interesting Returning Player: Brandan Wright
Brandan Wright is either the league’s most underrated big man, or the best piece of evidence remaining to show how flawed Player Efficiency Rating is as an all-encompassing stat of player evaluation. Wright has had a PER of 21 or better each of the last two seasons, and his 21.0 last year would have ranked sixth amongst all big men in the league. Of course, this is fairly small sample size stuff, as Brandan played only 64 games and just 18 minutes a game. But in those minutes, he shot nearly 60 percent, rebounded decently (about eight per 36) and essentially never turned the ball over, making him a big man of the Tyson Chandler-type, know-your-role offensive efficiency.
It’s surprising to me that Wright didn’t garner more interest in free agency. True, he’s never done it in big minutes, partly because he’s too much of a defensive liability against more physical post players to earn those defensive minutes, but offensive numbers that good, attached to a player only 25 years of age (and still with a lottery pedigree), generally tend to draw some interest around the league, more so than the two years and $10 mil he re-upped for with the Mavs. If he ends up taking big minutes from Samuel Dalembert — and considering Sammy couldn’t hold down starting gigs the last three seasons with the Kings, Rockets or Bucks, I’m guessing he won’t lock this one up either — he could end up being as important to Dallas as any of their bigger-name new pieces. Hope so for Dirk’s sake.
This is from way back in 2010, but it has such a small number of views and since I haven’t seen it, there’s a good chance you haven’t either. And really, we all need to see this since the Tim Duncan Making Jokes Archive isn’t very extensive. As far as I can tell, it’s this clip, those HEB commercials the Spurs always do and that time he trolled Dwight Howard. It’s not the most extensive collection, but between it and Timmy D’s fancy knee braces, I’m starting to believe he’s human or that his latest operating software is a significant improvement.
Something that is very funny to me is that Tracy McGrady followed up his scoreless Finals appearance by immediately flying to China to play in one of those NBA Legends Tours. He is literally there right now, which is incredible because he was literally “playing” in the NBA Finals less than a week ago. Time flies when you’re a washed up basketball player, I suppose.
And even though that is a huge laugher, that Tracy McGrady was a part of the NBA’s second place team and the star of a team of misfit pros within the same week, T-Mac is also doing business out in China. He might not have gone there for that, but it still happened, as he somehow became the fake agent for high school star Aquille Carr in his old stomping grounds. From SLAM:
Aquille Carr’s professional career in China has begun. After posting 15 points and 8 assists in Chengdu followed by 9 points and 7 assists in Shenzhen against the Bayi Rockets during the USA Legends Tour, Carr was offered a contract in China for next season.
“How does it feel to have your first CBA contract offer?” Qingdao Double Star owner Max Shicanbin asked Carr.
Shocked, Carr said that he would have to talk with his agent. But Tracy McGrady stepped in and volunteered to assume the role, playing both sides of the fence with the owner of the club he played for until he joined the Spurs.
“We want stability,” McGrady said in his new role of player representative. “We also want a guaranteed contract and position on the team.”
So just to be clear, here is Tracy McGrady’s résumé from the past year or so.
That is a weird 13 months, but at least T-Mac can say he’s getting some serious work experience before he eventually tries to coach, as retired players do. Which judging by his recent timeline should be Friday or Saturday.
The best thing about the Spurs being so good with the same main players for so long is that the internet gets to keep coming up with ways to show how they’ve aged. Well, that and all the titles, probably. One of the two.
Also, still pretty funny Richard Jefferson was a Spur for so long. Kind of slips your mind sometimes, but it’s still worth a chuckle.
“The juice is great.” What does that even mean? Probably that Gregg Popovich likes the Spurs’ energy or pace or something like that. But really, what does it mean?
What. Does. It. Mean?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
(via Oskar Jamtander)
“How often in life do you get EXACTLY what you want??!?!” – My brother at his bachelor party, to me, repeatedly
Listen, I’m not going to pretend like I enjoyed watching last night’s NBA game. I mean, the parts where it seemed like the Spurs would win and the Heat would lose were fun, but from the moment LeBron lost that damn headband — minus a couple of those Tony Parker circus shots — the panic and queasiness I felt were remarkably similar to those I get in that recurring dream of mine where I show up for a college final after having forgotten all semester that I had even signed up for the class. As a LeBron hater first and foremost, it was absolutely awful for me, and chances are that whenever this post actually goes live, I’ll still be restlessly flipping my pillow from one side to the other, trying in vain to get visions of missed free throws and made corner threes out of my head.
Still, I am an NBA writer of some sort, and as such, I must at least attempt to attempt objectivity. And I can distance my own feelings enough from the game to be able to realize that this was indeed the game of the year — yes, even better than the Nate Robinson game, though I can tell you which viewing memory will be the significantly rosier-colored one for me — and easily on the shortlist of greatest NBA Finals games of all-time. It’s pretty inarguable, and if I couldn’t tell it my own damned biased self, the steady stream of fellow NBA scribes smarter and less emotional than myself saying as much on Twitter could’ve pretty well clued me in. The game was so good that people had to keep throwing random “Yeezus” quotes at it, just because that was the other really good thing that happened yesterday.
What made the game so great? Well, a bunch of things, and you probably remember most of them pretty well, but I think the game’s greatness can be summed up by that lead quote of my brother’s, or the catchphrase of a more prominent basketball analyst: It gave the people exactly what they wanted. Not me, of course, but for an average NBA fan with no tremendous rooting interest in this series, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more strictly crowd-pleasing game in my life. Anything you could’ve possibly wanted from that game, you got it, and in most cases, you got it in spades. Seemingly every major narrative was at play, everything that pundits predicted was going to happen happened, and any lingering desires left from the first five games of the series were satiated.
And what was it that the people wanted? Well…
1. A close game. If you had one complaint about the Finals thus far, this was probably it. Aside from Game 1, which was close through four quarters before ending with the Tony Parker .1 Prayer (yeah, this is what I’m going with, though I also liked “The Southwest Texas Floater” and “The Longest Twenty-Four” from the comments section), this series has mostly consisted of blowouts and games that were generally just over before they were over. Not so with this one, which the Spurs looked maybe a basket or two from blowing open late in the third, but which was otherwise neck-and-neck throughout, and obviously very tight towards the end. A game like this was all that was keeping this series from being an all-timer, and now that it has it, bring on the historical accolades.
2. Crazy momentum swings. I gave up counting on this one at some point in the fourth quarter. For all the mini-narratives contained within, this was a game that resisted big, sweeping narratives. Any time one storyline seemed to dominate the game, another one would zoom in to potentially take its place as the headline. It was very diplomatic, in a way. Just about everyone and everything got their turn being the focus of the game. I’m very curious how beat writers would even begin to approach recapping the events of last night in a game story, however, since I’m of course going to spend the two days from after I hit “send” on this e-mail to Trey until 8:30 on Thursday night pretending this game never actually happened, I’ll probably never know.