There was no time to print new programs before last night’s game between the Nets and the visiting Nuggets: There, on page 28, was Lawrence Frank’s name, first among the six assistant coaches listed. Good-bye to all that. Just a few hours earlier, Frank had been reassigned from bench duties “to doing daily reports,” which presumably means he will now be undermining Jason Kidd’s authority in writing on a daily basis. It’s easy to make up some reason Frank lost his place in Kidd’s inner sanctum — perhaps it was all those times Frank rolled his eyes and air-jerked during Kidd’s halftime team talks. Or maybe the “philosophical differences” that divided Frank and Kidd boiled down to the fact that Frank actually had a philosophy. The harder part to process is why Frank remains in the building at all.
Just a few months ago, I would have never cared about any of this. I was perfectly content watching the Nets from a safe, neutral distance. The only person in the organization I was remotely curious about was Mikhail Prokhorov, mostly because of my hobby fascination with post–Cold War economies. But shortly after the Nets torpedoed the future to acquire two-fifths of Ubuntu, I found myself on their team website, studying ticket packages for the upcoming season. I remember looking out my office window and regarding the fine, possibility-rich glint of a summer day, and convincing myself this was a totally reasonable investment in my future happiness. I convinced my friend Reihan that Nets tickets would improve his life as well and, a few bank transfers later, an official Brooklyn Nets thumb drive and a card loaded with all our tickets arrived in the mail. I began to give a shit about Mason Plumlee and Tyshawn Taylor, I saw wisdom in the signing of Shaun Livingston, I parsed the enigma that is Andray Blatche. I looked forward to Jason Terry doing the jet thing and punching his chest within seconds of his Brooklyn debut. I couldn’t wait to watch Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce again on a consistent basis. I began to receive weekly emails from the Nets and Barclays Center gauging my emotional responses to sponsors, security companies, party supply outlets.
In case you were busy really thinking about Michael Jordan's trademark celebration; he was just sticking his tongue out, right? How did he make that cool? That's kinda just gross, yes? Yeah, anyway, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Despite being held to three second-half points, the New Orleans Saints did enough to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 17-13, to keep in pace in the race for the top seed in the NFC. "I almost wish we'd let them win that, but the damn Seahawks " Saints quarterback Drew Brees said while shaking his head. When asked why he would possibly want to lose a divisional battle in the heat of the playoff race, Brees suddenly clammed up, but the wind whispered, "Clowney," as a shudder ran down his spine.
A late 3-point barrage from guard Nate Robinson and forward Jordan Hamilton was the difference as the Denver Nuggets pulled away from the Chicago Bulls in a 97-87 home victory. "Hamilton and Nate, you say?" said Robinson after the game, as he arched an eyebrow. "That sounds like a great idea for a buddy cop drama starring me, Nate Robinson. I call it Nate and Hamilton. I'm a young bad boy, and Hamilton's a grizzled veteran. And he's all like, 'Gimme your badge, Nate,' and I'm all like, 'Gimme one more chance, Hamilton,' and he's all like, 'You're a loose cannon, Nate,' and I'm all like, 'This whole city's a loose cannon, Hamilton.'" Hamilton then piped up to ask who would play Hamilton, because it sounded like a juicy part, and he wondered if Robinson had anyone in mind. Robinson considered for a second, before pointing at Hamilton and saying, "Carl Weathers."
Connoisseurs of basketball misery, pour out a sip of your MD 20/20: For the first time in history, Grantland’s Fate Worse than Death column will not open a new NBA season with a Washington Wizards game. This year, Randy Wittman and the Verizon Center posse decided not to be the last team in the NBA to win a game, so we were forced to abandon the tradition of writing about the Wizards’ firstvictory of an NBA season. Also, Washington’s 2-4 record is just good enough to fend off inclusion in a series that looks to feature the true dregs of American professional basketball, especially on a night that features the 0-7 Utah Jazz hosting the 1-4 Denver Nuggets. Don’t worry, Coach Wittman — I’m confident that I, you, John Wall, and Marcin Gortat will get to dance the Dougie of despair before season’s end.
Compiling the Triangle NBA All-Stars offers a way for us to celebrate the players we love way too much. You can see the other entries in the series here. Check out the latest additions, Andrea Bargnani and Kenneth Faried, below.
Why We Love Him: Kenneth Faried only has one gear. Some people have a first gear, some have a second or a third. Faried's gear is called "I AM A CONDOR." He knows only how to soar.
It doesn't matter if it's the playoffs and he's playing on one leg or if he's playing in the glorified exhibition game that is the Rising Stars clash during All-Star weekend. Kenneth Faried flies high. Everybody else came to chillax? Kenneth Faried came to score 40 points.
"JaVale enjoys Cinematography." That's an actual line from Denver Nuggets folk hero JaVale McGee's biography, taken from his recently relaunched website, JaValeMcGee.com. The line is found in the section of McGee's bio titled "Philanthropy." Because JaVale McGee's mere existence is a charitable donation to the world.
In the last 10 or 12 years, technology has evolved to the point that we can almost paper over the yawning soul-voids found within our earthbound flesh. Want to look at attractive people? You can do that. Want to look at attractive people having sex? Yes you can. Want to send a message to your favorite celebrity? Sure. Want to be your favorite celebrity? Well … there’s a few more steps involved, but you can do that too. From a cell phone, even.
So what does this have to do with Birdman? Let’s back up a bit: In May 2012, while Chris "Birdman" Andersen was with the Denver Nuggets, Douglas County Sheriff deputies searched his home. Because the deputies declined to provide information on the search and what might have spurred it, rumors naturally spread. What was known was that the deputies were looking for unknown evidence of Internet crimes against children. It goes without saying that “Internet,” “crimes,” and “children” are words that you never want to see together in a sentence; they are words that make a person an instant outcast.
In case you were busy giving birth to an heir to a throne (hey, Kate, what's up?) here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
If your favorite sports news is depressing drug suspension news, well, you're in luck, because Denver Broncos' defensive superstar Von Miller is reportedly facing a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. Good for you, person who likes depressing news. Today is a great day to say about your favorite professional athlete, with a smug shake of the head, that "Everybody's doing it, it's just a matter of time until they're all caught." Me? I'm going to continue to live in denial, and will be literally burying my head in sand and living off nothing but hermit crab meat until this case is overturned as it inevitably, rightly, and irrevocably will be. Moving on, forever, surely …
Oh, we're not moving on? No? OK. Brewers star and former NL MVP Ryan Braun has accepted a 65-game suspension for his violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs both due to his role in the Biogenesis scandal and for previous statements related to his rescinded suspension before the 2012 season. Guys, you know that we here at About Last Night are all about fostering debate with regards to the biggest sports stories of the day, and this is no exception. I mean, are we really sure that Braun is guilty here? Really? What evidence do we really have? We have a positive test that was overturned because of improper handling. Stricken from the record. Then he have his name written down on paper at a Florida anti-aging clinic. Everything about those words is too sketchy to be believed. Anti-aging clinic? Florida? Handwritten notes? Come on. Handwritten notes? Seriously? What year is this? And finally we have a confession. But do we really know that no one has entered Braun's dreams, planted the idea of taking steroids deep within his subconscious, tricking his now conscious mind into believing that, despite a lifetime of clean living, he has used illegal performance-enhancing drugs? Do we really know? And if we think we know, can we really be sure that our knowledge wasn't planted in our minds by dream invaders out to take control of our family's massive wealth in a Braun-related scheme so convoluted that it is totally impossible to comprehend? Can we really be sure? Really? Checkmate.
So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is here to help you keep track of it all. Here, you'll find takes on all the big free-agency transactions of the last few days, along with some of the not-so-big ones.
“It was on the Fourth of July,” Howard said. “That’s when I felt it was Houston. I was in Colorado. It seemed like every person that I met was from Houston. It was just so ironic. I’d walk around. Someone would ask for a picture. They’d give me a business card and it would say Houston on it. I was like, ‘Is everybody in Colorado from Houston right now?’ It was unbelievable. … I was like, ‘You know what, this has to be from God.’ You pray for things to happen. You pray for signs, for God to show you things. It just seemed like, this was it.”
So this whole thing, this whole will-he-or-won't-he, and if and when he does, where-will-he … all of this got settled by one chance encounter, like something ripped from an unreleased Frank Capra movie about a giant moron who goes up a mountain to decide what to do with his life, and finds a moment of clarity with a complete stranger. Word is he had an eye patch, wore himself salty sea dog facial hair, and spoke with a lot of "ARGGHS" added to the end of his sentences. But, man, isn't it weird that there happened to be a guy walking around the streets of Aspen, just as Dwight Howard was taking his Independence Day constitutional, and these two wayward souls bumped into each other and found common ground?
"You're thinking about going to Houston? Aye! Arggh! I be from Houston, matey."
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.
In case you were busy anxiously looking over your shoulder like a wraith was following your every step, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Lord Stanley smiles upon Chicago again, as the Blackhawks scored two stunning goals in the final minutes of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final to earn a series-clinching 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins. Patrick Kane was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, an honor that Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask mournfully referred to as "Rask! Rask! Rask!" before letting his head fall back and bellowing out a final, tragic "Rask!" as his counterpart, Corey Crawford, skated around Rask's home ice with the Stanley Cup held high over his head.
Rafael Nadal is out of Wimbledon in the first round after falling improbably in straight sets, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-4, to Steve Darcis of Belgium. The defeat outranks Nadal's second-round exit last year as the most stunning early-round exit at Wimbledon for a top seed among people who totally forgot that Nadal exited last year's tournament in the second round. For these people, this loss was a perception-rattling affair, a seismic shift in the world of tennis, akin to the shock associated with LeBron James's recent ability to get the NBA Finals monkey off of his back, and yesterday's cathartic Blackhawks Stanley Cup championship.
Earlier today the Denver Nuggets announced that head coach George Karl, reportedly seeking a contract extension, would part ways with the team with one year left on his deal.
There are at least three big themes that have followed Karl through his career:
1. Innovation and stylistic flexibility.
2. Teams that have generally been better on offense than on defense, save for those glorious 1990s Sonics, which enjoyed a two-way balance Karl’s teams have since struggled to achieve.
3. Playoff disappointments. Karl’s Sonics made the Finals in 1996, but the the 1993-94 version became the first no. 1 seed to lose in the first round, and his Nuggets advanced past that first round just once in his nine seasons — despite making the playoffs every season. To pin all that on Karl is unfair and ignores context. Denver had a better regular-season record than its opponent in exactly one of those eight first-round losses — this season’s crusher against the Splash Brothers. Four of those seven first-round losses came against the Tim Duncan Spurs and Kobe Lakers — teams that hogged the NBA Finals for much of Karl’s tenure. (Denver had home-court advantage against Utah in the 2010 playoffs, but the teams had identical records, and Karl missed the series while undergoing cancer treatment; Adrian Dantley coached the team.)
In case you were busy watching The Great Gatsby in 3-D as an ill-advised cram session for your 11th-grade English final, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
The Miami Heat rebounded from a disappointing Game 1 defeat by pasting the Chicago Bulls, 115-78, to even up their second-round series. After a pair of ejections, the Bulls found themselves playing without Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson, meaning they had to play a mostly reserve lineup of B.J. Armstrong, Jud Buechler, Toni Kukoc, Bill Wennington and Luc Longley. Despite the influx of forgotten veterans, the oldest player on the court remained Heat reserve Juwan Howard, who was inactive with "being tired, man; real, real tired."
Klay Thompson had 34 points and 14 rebounds as the Golden State Warriors held off the San Antonio Spurs, 100-91. Midway through Thompson's explosive first half, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was seen staring at the Warriors' wing, mumbling, "decent athleticism, floor-stretching 3-point shooting, on a rookie contract … how do I not possess him?" Popovich then wiped off the small amount of drool that had collected at the corner of his mouth, snapped at Spurs guard Danny Green for being a "lollygagger," before making a mental note to himself to take the title of "general manager" back from R.C. Buford after the game.
After All-Star forward David Lee went down with a torn hip flexor, it appeared this Golden State Warriors team was toast. The Nuggets were dealing with their own injured star, Danilo Gallinari, but the team’s depth and impressive second half of the regular season still put them as the odds-on favorite to win the series. Yet by replacing Lee’s production with a combination of Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, and Carl Landry (and by riding Stephen Curry’s hot hand), Golden State roared back from a 1-0 series deficit to beat the Nuggets in six games and become the best story of the first round.
As was the case with the Nuggets, most are assuming that without Lee, Golden State’s matchup against the Spurs — a superior regular-season team inching closer to full strength thanks to the extra rest they received by making short work of the Lakers — will be the end of the road for the Warriors. But a funny thing might have happened for Golden State when Lee went down — they might have gotten better.
A survey of the players and teams making moves in last night's NBA action.
1. Stephen Curry
Brett Koremenos: Though he has made a number of incredible, acrobatic shots over the course of this series, the first 3-pointer Steph Curry made in the third quarter last night particularly stood out. As far as degree of difficulty was concerned, it was a relatively easy look for Curry. What made it stand out to me was the rush I felt when it went down. At any point during a Warriors game, one made jumper from Curry can sometimes seem like the precursor to a brilliant stretch of basketball that’s so damn fun you might want to strap yourself to the couch out of safety.
As Oracle Arena fogged up with gold confetti, while the Warriors began to celebrate a series-clinching win that they nearly threw away, Green grabbed hold of Mark Jackson and held on for a while. Soon, Jackson would grab Stephen Curry. Earlier in the night, he'd told his young star, "You're going to take over this game, and then everyone else will follow." Fourteen third-quarter points later, Curry had proved him right.
As Jackson kept making the rounds, he reached Andrew Bogut. The Aussie had just finished the best game of his short season — 14 points, 21 rebounds, and a defiant, sneering rejection of the Nuggets' attempt to reclaim the series by going big. As Jackson and Bogut embraced, the 7-footer shouted over the cheers into his coach's ear: "It's about time."
Perhaps you heard — over the last couple days of the Warriors-Nuggets series, there was a lot of talk about physicality. Who's dirty, who's soft, who's trying to influence the refs, who deserves a $25,000 fine. It all got to be so much, that at one point before Game 6, Nuggets coach George Karl was waxing philosophical about the league's "ass and elbow guys." By that point, allegations had been volleyed and returned. Wrists had been slapped. The hip-checking and ankle-tweaking mini-controversies had finally run their course.