I'm sitting third row at the Hawks-Cavs game, flanked by two large, handsome Midwesterners. To my right is the 6-foot-5 pastor of the Third Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa, who has a full head of gray hair and is wearing a tracksuit and glasses. The woman to my left is tall, too, with transfixing eyes and a habit of touching your knee when she's talking to you. None of us has been this close to an NBA game before. This is surprising, considering that the man and woman — Kevin and Laine Korver — have a son on the court who's been in the NBA for 10 years and has made a 3-pointer in 89 straight games.
In case you were busy snickering uncontrollably upon hearing that Johnson and Fister got traded on the same day, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Tim Duncan was in vintage form, collecting 21 rebounds and scoring 23 points including a game-winning jumper with 0.4 seconds remaining in the Spurs' 102-100 win over the Atlanta Hawks. Later, Duncan celebrated his heroic outing by giving himself time to consider whether or not Jonathan Franzen's impact on American literature is overrated, before deciding that any such critique was inherently premature.
Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks established themselves as the class of the NFC with a 34-7 dismantling of the New Orleans Saints. "AHHHH YES! PETE CARROLL PETE CARROLL PETE CARROLL!" Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll yelled after the game as he ran laps around the assembled media, "THAT WAS ONE OF THE BEST PETE CARROLL NIGHTS EVER!" When asked if it was Russell Wilson or the team's defensive effort to whom he owed his good mood, Carroll shook his head and replied, "NEITHER! PETE CARROLL HEARD ED HOCHULI TALK ABOUT HIS BALLS! THAT WAS HILARIOUS!" Unfortunately for Carroll, once he started shaking his head, he couldn't figure out a way to stop moving his neck for more than an hour.
On Wednesday, for the first time in nearly a decade, Atlanta played a game without Josh Smith as a member of their team. Whatever you think of Smith as a player — and there are quite a wide range of opinions — he led the Hawks through one of their most successful stretches as a franchise. During a six-year run teamed with Al Horford and Joe Johnson, Atlanta made the playoffs every year, compiling a .557 winning percentage and making an appearance in three Eastern Conference semifinals. Smith’s teams were never serious contenders for a title, but they were dangerous enough to put a scare into a team that was.
Being able to put NBA players into neat little boxes helps fans, writers, and executives alike conceive of their value, be it around the league or to a particular team. Rim-protecting bigs, 3-and-D wings, pure point guards, bench scorers; when a player conforms to one of these archetypes, it’s that much easier to pinpoint how he fits and how much he’s worth.
But there are players who defy convention — some because they lack the requisite skill, others because they’re so multi-dimensional, they don’t fill any particular mold. Andre Iguodala is the latter. Iguodala is a wing — we know that much — but beyond that, it’s hard to describe where he fits.
Iggy’s a great defender — one of the best in the league, in fact — but to pigeonhole him as merely a wing stopper would do a great disservice to his many other talents. Such a label is for the Tony Allens and the Luc Richard Mbah a Moutes of the world, not those with career averages of 15.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game.
Iguodala can score a bit, but it’s a near certainty that you don’t want him to be your team’s primary scoring option. He’s just not efficient enough, especially when you consider the relatively low percentage of his team’s possessions that he uses. Iguodala’s career True Shooting Percentage of .550 would rank as merely average in most seasons for players defined as “swingmen” by HoopData, and that’s despite his slightly below-average usage rate of 19.5.
As his assists per game mark shows, Iguodala is quite the playmaker for a wing. A team can ask him to play point forward for a few stretches a night and feel totally comfortable. Giving him too much of the ballhandling responsibility is unwise, though, because he’s prone to turning it over. He sports a career average of 2.4 turnovers per game, dragging his assist-to-turnover ratio down near 2:1. Among the 90 swingmen to average at least 20 minutes per game and appear in at least 40 games during the 2012-13 season, Iguodala had the ninth-worst turnover rate, per HoopData.
Do you guys remember the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs? They’re still in the playoffs, I swear! That Heat-Bucks series was actually this season. I know — it seems like it might have been Miami’s first-round series last season, but it really was just a week ago the Heat wrapped up the most predictable sweep of this season’s first round.
The biggest story out of Miami since then has been Shane Battier’s decision to grow something like a Fu Manchu mustache. They may have also scheduled some exhibitions against the Generals, just to stay fresh. The Spurs have presumably been on a wine-tasting tour with Gregg Popovich, and rumor has it franchise higher-ups forced Pop to undergo a media-training refresher after he was strangely polite to sideline reporters during the Spurs’ first-round whitewashing of the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
In case you were busy having an adorable cat on your chest and being unable to move, or breathe, or — hey, this cat's trying to kill me! — here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
We're headed back to Boston after the Celtics held on for a 92-86 win over the New York Knicks, forcing a Game 6 in their first-round playoff matchup. Kevin Garnett fueled the Celtics with a vintage 16-point, 18-rebound performance. "Man, that takes me back," Garnett said wistfully after his double-double. "Remember when I was crushing it up in Minnesota. Just me and Terrell Brandon. So young, so naive. Maybe I could get that TV show about my posse off the ground now. Do you think the breakthrough success of Entourage makes it more or less likely? I mean, it was gonna be The Monkees meets The Beverly Hillbillies. I guess it could be reality. That's basically what Carmelo's wife has going on. Nah, TV is a young man's game. I was just born too young."
Despite the absence of Sidney Crosby, the Penguins took care of business by thrashing the New York Islanders 5-0 in Pittsburgh. "Oh man, that'll teach us to come on the mainland," Islanders captain Mark Streit said after the loss. "It's weird here. First of all, not everyone takes boats to get places. Also weird, the lack of nautically themed dining establishments. I'm starving for some fried calamari down by a marina; I can't find that in Pittsburgh at all. Total nightmare. They told me, 'Go to a river.' I told them to go up a river, with dumb advice like that. A butt river. Man, I'm hungry."
Tonight is a night for both rejoicing and sadness: Depending on the results of three crucial games, including two elimination games, this could be the last night featuring more than two games until next season opens. This is a bad thing for fans seeking a variety of entertainment options, especially on nights with one or two blowouts, but a good thing for the spouses and loved ones of us poor saps watching every single one of these first-round bad boys.
A lot is at stake in tonight’s tripleheader, obviously. A game-by-game look at some key questions on this busy Wednesday, in order of Most Intriguing to Least Intriguing:
That’s right — I’m giving Most Intriguing status to this season’s NBA TV/Illegal Streaming/Ratings Basement special. (It’s a league rule, by the way, that the NBA TV Special first-round series must include either Indiana or Atlanta every season. Seriously — I think it’s in the new collective bargaining agreement. Plenty of good seats still available on the cheap for tonight in Indy, by the way. Catch the fever!) After three boring blowouts, these two finally gave us a competitive contest in Game 4, albeit one in which the Hawks were in control after a blistering second-quarter run. Some key questions:
• Can Indiana figure out the Hawks' “big” lineups?
In case you were busy being the guy who started icing bros again, much to the chagrin of everyone who knows you, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
James Harden and the Houston Rockets gave the Thunder their best shot, overcoming a 15-point, fourth-quarter deficit, but Oklahoma City held on late to win, 105-102, to take a 2-0 series lead. When asked how he and his team would recover from the defeat, Harden said, "Oh, we won't. It's over." When asked if he was serious, Harden replied, "Have you seen Kevin Durant play basketball? I mean, playing with him, you know he's good, but playing against him? No, no, this is done." When asked again if he was serious, Harden replied, "Yes, I'm dead serious. We might not even go back to Houston. We're just going to pack it in." When asked again if he was serious, Harden shook his head. Then he nodded. Then he shook his head again. Then he shrugged.
Tony Parker had 28 points to lead the San Antonio Spurs over the Los Angeles Lakers, 102-91. "We are ahead by two games," Parker, a noted French person, said after the game, twitching visibly. "But I do not care an iota. The degree to which I care is so infinitesimal as to be not a thing at all, as my very existence has been laid bare by a new team policy banning smoking during the postseason. What is it to make policy anyway? To say, 'I know a thing and you must behave thusly.' How much false arrogance must live in the mind of a man who believes he knows a thing? When the mind is mere electricity that wants wants it wants a smoke so bad, I just want one drag, just one, just please one drag. Oh, I am no more than a dog!" Parker then let out a cry of lamentation before closing his eyes and willing a Gauloises into existence between his fingers. He then added with a wink, "One cannot know of policies if one cannot know, yes?"
So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is here to help you keep track of it all. You'll find takes on moments you might've missed from the previous night, along with ones you will remember forever.
He Ate the Bones
Bucks coach Jim Boylan on LeBron James: "I mean, what can you do?"
In case you were busy scaring little children by reciting Mariners hitting stats from the past decade, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
The Utah Jazz were eliminated from the NBA playoff picture after an 86-70 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. But don't worry, people of Salt Lake City, you still have a critically acclaimed production of the classic musical West Side Story playing through April 21 at the Capitol Theatre. The Salt Lake Tribune raves, "This touring production of the 2009 Broadway revival hits on most cylinders."
Who will be taking the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs? Why, it's the Los Angeles Lakers, who not only qualified, but in beating the Houston Rockets 99-95 in overtime, were able to snag the seventh seed in the West. "It's quite an achievement," said Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni after the game, "that a team no one believed in overcame all the odds to make the playoffs. If you had told me when I took over this team that was stuck in a mire that we would be seventh in the West " D'Antoni then drifted off and shook his head, before Lakers center Dwight Howard tiptoed up behind him and dumped a small cup of red Gatorade over his head.
At the end of last night's Lakers-Hawks game, with L.A. down two and three seconds to go, Kobe Bryant (guarded by Dahntay Jones) attempted a baseline jumper to tie things up. His shot rattled out and Kobe collapsed to the floor, clutching his leg in pain. In replays of the incident, it appears as if Jones intentionally left his leg underneath Bryant as he landed. Kobe certainly seemed to think that's what happened, tweeting this out after the game:
In case you just saw the trailer for Upside Down and found yourself suddenly back to square-one on your big screenplay idea, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Wide receiver Wes Welker has left the New England Patriots, signing a two-year contract with the Denver Broncos. "I always hated Welker," said Northeastern sophomore and Patriots superfan Aaron Sullivan. "Just like I always hated Clemens, Vinatieri, Damon, Beckett, Ray Ray, Manny B, and Tom Brady." When asked why he hated Tom Brady, who never has left a Boston-based team to play for a rival, Sullivan responded, "Oh, guy thinks he's so great because he never left the Pats. Real Pats leave. Period."
The Miami Heat won their 20th consecutive game, beating the Philadelphia 76ers, 98-94, on the road. "Twenty in a row, that's a perfect game in Magic: The Gathering, am I right?" asked Heat forward Shane Battier after the game. "If only someone on this team would play with me. I have a sweet black/blue deck I want to try out. I tried to teach Chris Andersen how to play, but he kept folding up the cards and throwing them at me while yelling, 'Cacaw!' It was disappointing."
Kobe Bryant suffered an ankle injury while landing awkwardly on a late field goal attempt defended by Dahntay Jones, as the Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Hawks in Atlanta, 96-92. Bryant has been ruled out indefinitely with the injury, saying after the game, "Revenge isn't the sort of thing that has a timetable. Except for a 30-minute head start." When told of Bryant's statement half an hour later, Jones asked, "Wait, when did he say that?" before slipping on a loose piece of linoleum and bruising his knee.
In case you were busy dealing with your body shutting down all systems unrelated to the production of mucus, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Dwight Howard scored 39 points as he led the Los Angeles Lakers to a 106-96 win over the Magic in Orlando, where he played the first eight seasons of his career. Howard was met with a chorus of boos, or as he calls them, "Laughs, right? Cause that's the typical reaction to my hilarious antics. That and guffaws. Kobe's a big guffawer. Let me show you what I mean." Howard then stared at the assembled press and did a throat slash gesture, before adding, "Oh, man, that guy can't get enough of me."
Valparaiso beat Wright State, 62-54, to win the Horizon League championship and qualify for the NCAA tournament. "Bryce Drew isn't walking through that door, so it's time to write your own destiny," said Valparaiso legend and current head coach Bryce Drew after the game, before adding, "Well, he is. He did. I mean, I is — I did. I meant, as a player, you're gonna have to create your own legend. But he will be attending the game. I mean, I will. You don't have to worry about that."
A survey of the players and teams making moves in last night's NBA action.
1. Monta Ellis
Ellis had 34 points on 15-21 shooting last night, leading his Milwaukee team to their second overtime win in as many games (this time over the Jazz), and their fourth straight win overall. With J.J. Redick in the lineup, Monta's averaging 21.5 points, 9.3 assists, and 4.3 steals per game. He also does stuff like this.