We won't do a full update and make Tri-Stars roster changes — a.k.a. the Viking funeral for Bargs — until the beginning of next month, but because sports news is a little heavy this week, it feels like the right time to look to the People's Dream Team to brighten the spirits. A few highlights from the first full of week of regular-season hoops.
And I know it was just one regular-season NBA game, most of the East Coast was asleep, and it probably changes nothing for what we expect from either team. But as single games go, it was so much more fun than it should've been. Let's start from the beginning.
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, J.J. Redick and Andrea Bargnani, below.
Hey, guys ... it ain't White Boy Day, is it?!
It's White Boy Day!
Why We Love Him: The short answer is sort of self-serving. When Grantland did its Most Hated College Basketball Players bracket, Redick, easily one of the most loathed Duke players ever (and that's saying something), not only graciously agreed to talk about the subject with us, but proved himself to be an incredibly interesting interview. Speaking with Robert Mays, Redick was funny and candid about his Duke days. When Mays asked him about all the grief he took from opposing fans, Redick was honest: "I probably deserved it ... I was sort of a prick."
Back from a glorious international wedding, I'm ready to give my jet-laggy thoughts on a whirlwind second day of free agency — a day refreshingly free of the tanking taint. Most of the teams who made moves Tuesday did so in an attempt to actually get better at NBA basketball next season. We saw borderline playoff teams (Minnesota, Washington) stock up on players they like, and the incumbent Western Conference finalists reupped with key present and future cogs at fair-market deals. Heck, even Phoenix, which probably should be tanking, helped its 2013-14 cause by swapping Jared Dudley for a roughly equivalent player (Caron Butler) and a prized young asset in Eric Bledsoe. Only the Bucks took a clear step back in completing the epic transformation of Tobias Harris into J.J. Redick and then into zero human beings who will play for the Bucks next season.
Some quick-hitting thoughts on those moves:
The Clippers, Suns, and Bucks strike a three-team trade centered on Eric Bledsoe and a signed-and-traded J.J. Redick
A very solid deal for the Clips, who have known for a long time — at least a year — that they would have to trade Bledsoe in the event the NBA’s resident slumlord owner somehow convinced Chris Paul to ink a long-term deal. The Clips have acquired two very nice role players at fair prices — contracts that are easy to move in case it ever becomes necessary. They’ve got only seven players under contract now (including Reggie Bullock, their first-round pick), but those seven players alone have enough to form a top-three offense. The Clips already had a top-five outfit on that end, but it was uncreative and faced occasional spacing issues — little flaws that don’t show up in the big regular-season picture, but can become fatal against an elite playoff defense geared toward stopping a single opponent.
In case you were busy warming up the ol' fuse-lighting hand, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Homer Bailey threw his second career no-hitter, as the Cincinnati Reds beat the San Francisco Giants, 3-0. Bailey joins an elite list of 31 pitchers who have thrown multiple no-hitters, including Nolan Ryan, Cy Young, Justin Verlander, Christy Mathewson, Righty Willertuck, "Lots Of" Fingers McGivens, Wee Willie "William" Willamson, Angry Tom Weatherford, "Shin" Splintsy McFingers, "Two Fingers" Uriah White, "One Finger" Elias McGovern, "Just a Palm and a Weird Half-Thumb" Pete Wigglesworth, and Mark Buehrle.
Miguel Cabrera hit another home run, his 26th of the season, as the Detroit Tigers edged the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-6. Guys, you know that About Last Night is all about sparking debate, so I'm going to say it: Miguel Cabrera is underrated. Is there a better hitter in the game today? No. Case closed. That said, Triple Crowns? Overrated. Is there a more arbitrary designation in the game today? No. Case closed. That said, tigers? Underrated. Is there an animal that more people think is indigenous to Africa but in fact is not? No. Case closed. That said, animals? Overrated. I'm sorry, can animals photosynthesize sunlight and produce oxygen? No. Case closed. That said, oxygen? Underrated. Can you breathe without it? No. Case closed.
Self-awareness is overrated, especially among the famous. Should it really be cause for celebration that some historic asshole has the wherewithal to recognize his asshole past? Should we forgive so easily, simply because a celebrity shows the common decency to admit past mistakes? Have our troll-convictions really become so soggy and desperate?
In the early part of this century, a shift in power caused the lines of ACC hate to blur. Duke and Maryland were responsible for two of the first three national championships, and as North Carolina sputtered through the Matt Doherty era, the enmity between the Blue Devils and Terrapins came to a boil. “[It was worst] at Maryland,” J.J. Redick says. “That’s when there was still a rivalry there, dating back to the Miracle Minute and Maryland winning in 2002. It was pretty heated for my first couple years there.”
There were times when the hate actually was hateful. Shelden Williams carried a 2003 incident in College Park with him for his four years at Duke, and Redick said during one game members of the Maryland crowd invoked the name of his then 12-year-old sister.
Behold a video catalogue of the most hated players in college basketball. Some were generational hate-figures found in our Most Hated College Basketball Players bracket. Some were just guys who pissed off our writers at some point or another.
Joe House: There is scientific evidence that suggests the neurological root of hatred follows an activation pattern in the brain that bears certain striking similarities to the pattern for love.
Which happens to provide a perfect explanation for what I'm about to say:
I hated Michael Jordan.
I grew up two miles from College Park, Maryland. While my formative hoops years were populated with heroes on the Washington Bullets and the still-unrivaled highs they delivered (35 years and counting … ), my hoops heart really belonged to the guys playing in Cole Field House. I loved Ernest Graham and Greg Manning and Adrian Branch and Albert King and Dutch Morley and Buck Williams and, of course, Len Bias. Because I could — and did — see those guys play. Not only were the ACC games broadcast on a predictable schedule that was mostly OK for a middle schooler, but I could go to the games (my elementary school had a hookup). And I went to a lot of them. Maryland's coach during this era was Lefty Driesell, who was the perfect underdog coach for a team that never quite got a regular seat at the ACC adults table, and who had a particular skill when it came to fomenting grievances with Dean Smith.
So of course I intensely disliked Michael Jordan. He was an underclassman and he was skinny and it wasn't eyeball-clear why he could play guard and forward so effectively (he used to KILL Maryland on the boards), but more than anything — he was stealing headlines that belonged to Len Bias. Above is the showboater Michael Jordan unnecessarily unveiling the cradle-dunk (10:33 mark) in Cole Field House at the end of a 1984 game Carolina had in the bag.
I have a confession — and that is, in most ways, I am wholly unqualified to write this. One day into our bracket to determine the most hated college basketball player of the past three(-ish) decades, and Patrick Ewing, the ’80s no. 1 seed, is done. The Grantland staff is full of Big East lifers who had a disdain for those Georgetown teams and Ewing’s college career. I did not — mostly because I was born more than two years after it ended. My sole connection to the 1985 NCAA tournament is that I count Rollie Massimino’s grandson among my close friends. That’s about where my Georgetown familiarity ends. And actually, I think that’s sort of the point.
It was just eight days ago that the Milwaukee Bucks were left for dead on the side of the NBA highway. Losers of three straight, the team clung to the final Eastern Conference playoff spot strictly by default. The trigger-happy duo of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings had seemingly shot the team out of any chance at relevance, and even the addition of the trade deadline’s biggest name, J.J. Redick, couldn’t inspire most NBA fans to care about the happenings in the frozen tundra of southeastern Wisconsin.
After a string of tight-knit and entertaining games, the Bucks have won four straight and are emerging as a potential playoff wild card in the East. Ellis and Jennings have been the catalysts for the most recent surge, but not in their usual fashion. Instead of shooting with reckless abandon, they've taken turns in the role of playmaker — with impressive results.
During their winning streak, Ellis and Jennings have combined for 78 assists, including 36 by Jennings in just the last two wins against Toronto and Utah. It is Jennings’s sudden switch from unapologetic gunner to reserved floor-general that's seemingly sparked new possibilities for a franchise mired in mediocrity.
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.
The trade deadline, even a mild one, reshuffles rosters and hints at franchise priorities going forward. The changes and the signals combine to heighten the scrutiny and pressure placed on certain players. Here, we present a list of who — and what — is on notice after last week’s relatively uneventful deadline:
In case you were busy realizing that you waited way too long to make that Harlem Shake video, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
LeBron James powered the Miami Heat to their ninth consecutive win as they beat the Chicago Bulls, 86-67, at the United Center. The game was notable both for James's performance and a pair of scary moments. First, James pulled up limping after being fouled hard by Bulls guard Nate Robinson. Fortunately, he's not expected to miss any time. Scarier still, a large lighting fixture fell from the roof of the arena, narrowly missing a group of spectators. While rumors of a "phantom" haunting the arena were quickly dismissed, sabotage by a man envious of James's success is suspected. Early reports describe the suspect as a bald, 6-foot-6, 50-year-old African-American male wearing a mask over his face and six rings on his fingers. He is reported to have eluded capture using his superior footwork, and remains at large.
Join your Shootaround crew for some fake trades, pipe dreams, and beautiful, dark, twisted, deadline day fantasies.
The Book of Revelation
Golden State Warriors get: Devin Harris (Hawks), Earl Clark (Lakers), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Aaron Brooks (Kings) Los Angeles Lakers get: Josh Smith (Hawks), Andris Biedrins (Warriors) Atlanta Hawks get: Pau Gasol (Lakers), Tyreke Evans (Kings) Sacramento Kings get: David Lee (Warriors), Klay Thompson (Warriors)
The worst-case scenario is that this is the annihilation of many teams at once — but at least it will be entertaining! The Lakers reunite Dwight Howard with his old pal Smith, who gets reunited with his own Cliff Paul; Biedrins slides in at the end of the bench. The Hawks build around Al Horford, Gasol, and Evans, who gets a little more institutional structure — for him, this is one of those “change of scenery” reboots. The Kings lose two streaky young stars but acquire solid cornerstones for the future, whatever that concept means to them. The Warriors get a couple experienced guards who, on any given night, might offer a passable impression of a fourth-quarter triggerman. They also get the budding Clark and Cousins, a combustible talent who could really benefit from a God-fearing coach. Ivan Johnson gets thrown in just to give the Warriors an edge in weirdness. Consider it an homage to 2006-07, when the Warriors traded a third of their team away in January and went on one of the most thrilling playoff runs ever. — Hua Hsu
As Thursday’s NBA trade deadline inches closer, plenty of big names — from Dwight Howard to Josh Smith — are dominating the rumor mills. It’s easy to get caught stargazing, hoping against hope your team acquires an elite talent, but even though they lack the excitement of their higher-profile counterparts, a deal for one of the league’s many available role players can make a drastic difference. With that in mind, here is a list of seven players who could improve the fortunes of any playoff contender savvy enough to bring them into the fold.
Contract status after 2013: free agent
Possible landing spots: Denver, Utah, Indiana, Chicago, Milwaukee
Describing Redick as “just” a shooter overlooks the fact that his game has expanded by leaps and bounds since entering the league in 2006. For a destitute Orlando team lacking much in the way of playmakers this year, the former Duke guard has averaged a career-high 4.4 assists.
His ability to hit the pocket pass curling off screens or find his teammates out of pick-and-rolls is just the newest evolution to Redick’s game. Already much improved as a defender, Redick can now shoot off screens or after spotting up, run pick-and-rolls, and even handle the point guard spot in a pinch. Redick has raised his game to a point where he could be a full-time starter for a contending team if he’s paired with a bigger point guard (like Chicago’s Derrick Rose) with whom he can cross-match defensively.