In case you were busy demanding a recount of People’s Sexiest Man Alive voting, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Rodney Stuckey scored 21 points off the bench as the Detroit Pistons heaped more woe onto the New York Knicks with a 92-86 win. Meanwhile, in Bayside, Queens, a father and his son watched the game together. "I hope the Knicks win!" the boy exclaimed, long after it was clear the Knicks were certainly not going to win. "Remember, son," the father said as the clock wound down. "Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane." The father then grabbed his boy by the shoulders. "That's why we watch the Knicks. Not to win. We never win. But to remember not to hope. Never hope, my boy. Promise me you'll never hope."
In front of a star-studded audience in Stillwater, including Kevin Durant, sophomore Marcus Smart put up 39 points as Oklahoma State throttled Memphis 101-80. "Man, there are so many kids out there this year," the 19-year-old Smart said after the game. "Think they know what's up. They don't." Smart, who is 12 months older than Jabari Parker, then added, "I get it, I was that age once." Smart shook his head, age having worn his face visibly, and added, "But now I know about the real world. About hard work, discipline. I've been in college for a whole year, man. I've traveled all over Big 12 country. I took Art History 104. Shit. The things I know, I could write a 1,500-word paper on them. These kids? They'd be lucky to pump out 800 words. Lucky."
In case you were busy convincing friends and family that your Movember mustache should probably stick around through Mocember, here's what you missed on sports on Tuesday:
In a battle of the nation's best freshmen, Jabari Parker outshone Andrew Wiggins, but Wiggins's Kansas Jayhawks pulled away late, beating the Duke Blue Devils 94-83. Coming up with nicknames for the scintillating Parker is the task du jour for college hoops fanatics, so I'm going to throw a few out there; feel free to use any or all of them as you see fit. JaStarry Parker (Parker is a star). JaStarry Starker (seriously, the guy's a star). JaBobri Barker (the price is right for Duke, as college athletes are unpaid). Jaleel Parker (did he do that?). Jab-Ari Gold (for the obvious crossover potential with the upcoming Entourage movie). JaBerry Parker (for the obvious crossover potential with the upcoming Jamba Juice movie that's still happening, right?). Jerk-bari Parker (for NC State fans). Jerk-bari Jerker (for UNC fans). JABARI PARKER! (for Dick Vitale). Jay Parker (it's shorter to say Jay than Jabari). Danny Ferry (for people suffering from long-term amnesia). Shane Battier (for people suffering from mid-term amnesia and a rare disease that prevents them from differentiating between levels of raw athleticism). Jabari Plumlee (for people who don't have time to differentiate between Duke basketball players). Mason Plumlee (for people who really don't have time to differentiate between Duke basketball players). And finally, Marshall Plumlee (for people who really don't have time to differentiate between Duke basketball players, but at least want to make up a fake Plumlee name wait a second Marshall Plumlee is real? What the hell, Duke?).
Last season, in late March, I awarded John Wall something called M.V.P.N.N.K.L. It's the MVP for people not named Kevin or LeBron. The only NBA players disqualified from winning the award are LeBron James and Kevin Durant (and Kevin Garnett, and Kevin Martin … sorry, Kevin Martin). The point is, while Durant and LeBron are around, it's hard to imagine anyone else winning the MVP award, so we have to come up with something for the rest of the league. Hence, the M.V.P.N.N.K.L.
After one week, this award belongs to Paul George. In fact, he might not even need the Kevin/LeBron exemption. He might just be the MVP.
Yesterday, we kicked off the Triangle NBA All-Stars, celebrating the players we love way too much. The first two members were John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Today we welcome Andre Drummond and Ricky Rubio to the team. Squad up!
Why We Love Him: Nobody has any idea what to make of Andre Drummond. He played only 20 minutes per game for Detroit last year, but the Drummond glimpses we saw were kind of unbelievable. His per-48 numbers: 18.4 points, 17.6 rebounds, 3.7 blocks, .608 shooting. If you stare at those numbers long enough, he starts to look like the next Kevin Garnett. On the other hand ... Anthony Randolph once built years of hype on the strength of per-48 numbers, so, you know. You never know.
Yesterday we looked at ShotScore, a new method to identify the NBA’s best scorers. You can read the full piece here, but in a nutshell, the method compares the actual point yield of an individual NBA shooter against an estimated tally of what an average NBA shooter would accrue from that exact same set of shots. This is a useful way to evaluate shooting because unlike field goal percentage, it accounts for where on the floor the shooter is most active and factors that in to the analysis. Midrange shooters are compared against the NBA’s average midrange production, etc.
Players like Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Jose Calderon, and Kyle Korver immediately rose to the top; these players consistently outperform league averages from their most active shooting zones. But, it’s also instructive to identify the players who make shots at rates much lower than league averages, the guys that regularly underperform relative to their shooting cohort. Here is the bottom five:
Almost exactly a month ago, Brandon Jennings got slapped in the face during a Drew League game in Los Angeles. Today, we have reports that Jennings was punched in the grill by L.A. rapper The Game at a nightclub in Hollywood on Saturday. AT HIS OWN BIRTHDAY PARTY.
Joe Dumars has been Detroit’s top decision-maker for 13 years, and, holy cow, what a 13 years it has been for the franchise. Over this stretch, Dumars has experienced the end of the Grant Hill era; the related and visionary Ben Wallace theft; the surprisingly effective Rip Hamilton–Jerry Stackhouse swap; the magical 2004 title run; the Malice at the Palace; a heartbreaking seven-game loss in the 2005 Finals (Robert Horry was involved); six straight conference finals appearances (think about that); the highly controversial Chauncey Billups–Allen Iverson trade; the 2009 free-agency splurge the entire city of Detroit has agreed never to mention again; and a slow, painful rebuild during which attendance dropped to league-worst levels and Detroit became the consensus “league’s most boring team” — even as they quietly drafted very well outside the top five.
Suddenly, bam: The Pistons are the NBA’s new League Pass darling. Everyone wants to see the Andre Drummond dunk fest, and how three guys who need the ball — Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, and Greg Monroe — will coexist in lineups that will struggle for spacing. The Pistons have somehow become the most captivating non-contender while acquiring two big-money players most fans seem to find frustrating more than anything else.
After a weekend watching prospects at Adidas Nations in Los Angeles, Dumars took a break and chatted at length one-on-one with Grantland. What follows is an edited transcript of our chat.
Despite all the free-agent hoopla this summer, with trips to mountain retreats and breathless Twitter updates coming at all hours, the Detroit Pistons’ acquisition of Italian League MVP Luigi Datome has gone largely unnoticed. Signing for just $3.5 million over two years, Datome’s arrival certainly didn’t merit attention on the scale of Dwight Howard landing in Houston, but he could be an impactful signing all the same.
First of all, let’s congratulate the Pistons and Bucks on collaborating for a fitting capper to the NBA’s silly season. It seemed at times like these two were at the center of at least half the free-agency rumors after July 1. The Pistons used their cap space — earned mostly via sacrificing a first-round pick to dump Ben Gordon on Charlotte — to sign one polarizing lefty free agent, and have now nabbed another via sign-and-trade. In between, they signed Italian sharpshooter Luigi Datome, who joins Milwaukee’s Miroslav Raduljica in the club of “international guys only 2 percent of NBA fans had heard of before Detroit or Milwaukee signed them.”
The Bucks, meanwhile, turned over two-thirds of their roster in ditching every perimeter player from their 2012-13 squad, save for Ish Smith. They signed Zaza Pachulia in what might have been a clerical error, and they and the Hawks damn near discussed flipping rosters at one point. The Bucks and Hawks should have worked a token swap of second-round picks into this Brandon Jennings deal, making it a three-team trade that would have worked as a convenient shorthand for the entire non–Dwight Howard portion of the 2013 offseason.
In case you were busy becoming an expert on the recovery period for hip surgeries, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The Red Sox bolstered their rotation before the trade deadline, acquiring former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy from the Chicago White Sox in a three-team deal. When asked if he was worried about the pressure of playing in Boston, Peavy responded gravely, "Yes. Terrified. Everything changes. I've spent the last couple of hours weeping into this bucket. Look at it!" Peavy then held up an empty bucket, before adding, "Of course I dumped out the bucket before I came out here. I'm not a weirdo."
Mark Ellis hit a walk-off single and the Dodgers kept on rolling, edging past the New York Yankees, 3-2, and improving to 27-6 over their past 33 games. The hit extended Ellis's hit streak to 11 games, a run he credits to "not having anything to do with hallucinogenic drugs, why is everyone asking me that? Of course I'm not tripping at the plate. That would have made this impossible I would imagine." Ellis then furrowed his brow and asked, "Is this because of that honorary doctorate I got in June?"
It's mid-July, the offseason is two weeks old, the second (or third?) Dwightmare is officially over, and we have at least three teams who vaulted themselves into the title contender conversation. This summer's especially fun because teams who were good last year (Nets, Rockets, Warriors, Clippers) have gotten much better, and then you have a separate group of teams who are going into scorched-earth tanking mode already. In a normal year, you're not technically tanking until you bench your best players for the final three months of the season, but what the Sixers just did has gotta qualify. Ditto for the Suns, Magic, and especially the Jazz, who let Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap walk and then replaced them with Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson. INSPIRED.
The offseason is always great, but this one's been especially fun as two sides of the league do everything they can to either contend for a title or gut their roster and lose 50 games. In the middle we have the Lakers, reloading with Chris Kaman and Jordan Farmar and Nick Young as Kobe's wingmen for next year. Again, the offseason is GREAT.
Anyway, to celebrate the season, let's check out a handful of teams and hand out grades for what's happened thus far. We begin with the trade that kicked everything off back on draft night …
Another day in Orlando, another day of interesting developments. I must say, I feel fortunate to even be able to write another column today. Yesterday, I watched with some serious trepidation as Joey Crawford approached Rasheed Wallace only to … shake his hand and act like he was seeing a beloved old friend. Definitely not the interaction I was expecting. Since the Amway practice center didn’t spontaneously combust as two of the NBA’s most temperamental personalities collided, I’m able to dole out yet another set of notes on the summer league action.
The Power of Thor
One of the (if not the) most consistently impressive players this week has been Boston’s Kelly Olynyk. The Canadian big man (Canadians, man … they’re taking over) has showed off an extremely polished skill set along with better-than-expected mobility. In Boston’s two-point win over Indiana yesterday, Olynyk had 21 points and nine rebounds while posting a sterling plus-15 in 29 minutes. Summer league stats can often be misleading, but the way Olynyk put up those numbers is what should make Celtics fans feel good about their team’s first-round pick. At 6-foot-11, Olynyk played on the perimeter like a guard. Early in the game, he caught a kickout pass in the left corner, only to shot-fake an onrushing defender before taking a silky smooth pull-up jumper. At one point, Olynyk ripped down a rebound, drove coast-to-coast and finished with a rip move over the top of a defender (à la Dwyane Wade) before laying the ball in. While questions still remain about how he’ll handle himself defensively and whether he has the strength to score on the block against legitimate NBA big men, there have been several encouraging signs this week for Olynyk’s future.
It's the most wonderful time of the year. NBA free-agency season is officially got under way. Consider this a clearinghouse for all the rumors floating around. Loose lips may sink ships destroy cap space, but they also sure as hell make for interesting reading.
This Year's Model
The Subject: Tyreke Evans
The Players: The Pelicans, the Kings, the Pistons, the Hawks, Tyreke Evans's business manager, that guy who was hoping Tyreke Evans would invest in his Korean BBQ taco truck
The Gist: This seems like seller's market hysteria to me. The Pelicans reportedly offered Evans a four-year deal between $40 million and $48 million. Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Greivis Vasquez, and Austin Rivers. Keeping Austin is an obvious decision, but someone else has to go. Eric Gordon has shown nothing but Pelican passion and Greivis is named "Greivis," so I guess that means amnesty Jrue. In the meantime, the Pelicans' interest in Evans has sparked a little bit of a bidding war, with Detroit, Atlanta, and Evans's current/former team, the Kings, all wining and dining the combo guard.
It's the most wonderful time of the year. Early this morning, at midnight, NBA free-agency season officially got under way. Consider this a clearinghouse for all the rumors floating around. Loose lips may sink ships destroy cap space, but they sure as hell make for interesting reading.
The Red Carpet
The Subject: Dwight Howard
The Players: Daryl Morey (Houston general manager), various Rockets luminaries, Mitch Kupchak (Los Angeles general manager), a limping Kobe Bryant, the sides of buildings in Los Angeles.
Popular consensus holds that when looking to fill a head coaching vacancy, hiring a coach with prior NBA head coaching experience is the smart, safe move. Congratulations, NBA team! You’ve chosen an “experienced, veteran coach” who “knows the league” and “has seen everything!” You’re ready to take on the world. Funny story: That’s basically a bunch of bullshit.
Gregg Popovich, who took over as head coach of the San Antonio Spurs in 1996, is the longest-tenured head coach in the NBA. Because he’s thought of as such an experienced old hand now, it’s easy to forget he was a first-timer when he installed himself as head coach 17 seasons ago. (Popovich was hired as the team’s general manager and vice-president of basketball operations in 1994. He replaced Bob Hill as head coach in December 1996 after firing Hill 18 games into the season.) In today’s NBA, that makes him something of a rarity.
Starting with the hiring of Popovich, there have been 150 full-time head coaching hires (meaning ones that weren’t interim coaches being given the full-time job, à la Mike Woodson in New York or Frank Vogel in Indiana) made by NBA teams prior to this season. Of those 150 openings, 90 were filled by “retreads,” those who had previously been an NBA head coach.
“Retread” carries negative connotations, so most teams sell the “experienced” angle I referenced earlier. When your favorite team hires someone who has been a head coach elsewhere, you can set the over/under for combined uses of “been there before,” “winning culture,” and “proven record of success” at the introductory press conference at somewhere around 73.5.