Here’s the irony: The 2011-12 Blazers serve as my personal reminder against overreacting to any team trend over the first 10 or so games of the season. Those Blazers started 7-2, and the wins included an icy coldcocking of Oklahoma City on the road. LaMarcus Aldridge was cementing his status as one of the league’s 15 best players, and Gerald Wallace, still starting ahead of future nut-puncher Nic Batum, was playing the very best basketball of his life. Lots of teams have gotten off to unsustainable starts; witness last season’s Bobcats and this season’s Sixers. But Portland had been a solid playoff team three years running; this felt like a good team taking the next step, overcoming a sad injury history in the process. It felt real.
We know what happened after that: Raymond Felton forgot how to dribble, infighting engulfed the team, and the front office eventually waved the tank flag by dealing Marcus Camby to Houston and fleecing the Nets in what became the Wallace-for–Damian Lillard heist.
Carmelo Anthony led the NBA in scoring this season, but not everywhere. Every player has their own sweet spots — Shane Battier loves the corners, and Al Jefferson is in love with the left block. After an entire season of play, it’s interesting to look at scoring through a spatial lens. Here’s a look at who was most productive from different parts of the floor during the 2012-13 regular season.
Basketball remains a fairly simple game. If you can regularly score close to the basket, you have a good chance of winning. It’s fitting that LeBron James, the league’s best player, is also its leading scorer close to the basket. Between his post game, his attacking, and his brilliance in transition, James creates and converts tons of opportunities at the rim. As a result, he is the most successful player within the NBA’s most vital space.
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."
A survey of the players and teams making moves in last night's NBA action.
1. Portland's Uniforms
These, with all due respect to the deeply serious basketball played last night, were the best thing that happened in the NBA in the last 24 hours. Love the font, love the using of the nickname. I know it's not the first time Portland's trotted these out, but they're very fresh. I'd like to see some other city-nickname-on-the-jersey looks. Or maybe just some weird phrases! How about the Thunder wearing jerseys that say "GHOST HOTEL" or the Hawks rocking ones that said "THE A"? Any other ideas? Comments, people.
In case you were busy trying to pass off a quiche as an acceptable offering at a Pi Day party, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers handed the New York Knicks their third straight defeat, winning at home, 105-90. Lillard, the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year, has already established himself as a fan favorite in Portland, where he's respected both for his efficient offensive play and his ability to remind people how much they liked Matthew Lillard in SLC Punk.
With his University of Detroit team nursing a two-point lead in the waning moments against an upset-minded Wisconsin-Milwaukee, point guard Ray McCallum calmly held his dribble on the left wing and waited for a teammate to set a screen. As the screen was set, McCallum read his defender cheating toward it. That subtle movement was all it took. McCallum quickly crossed over toward the baseline and exploded to the rim for a right-hand finish that put his team back up four en route to a crucial Horizon League victory on the road.
If you missed the highlight — or have never even heard of McCallum and the Titans — it’s understandable. The Horizon League rarely produces household names, and very rarely does any of their game footage make it to SportsCenter. But plays like this one are why people might want to start taking notice.
Of all the positions in the NBA, maybe the toughest one to project is the point guard spot. The pro game is very demanding on point guards, constituting a real leap from college, especially in terms of the defense the players face. The most interesting point guard prospects in this draft class — Damian Lillard, Kendall Marshall, and Austin Rivers — will have to perform right away.