In case you were busy calling out traders on Twitter, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The Golden State Warriors exploded for 42 points in the fourth quarter as they overturned a 27-point deficit to beat the Toronto Raptors 112-103. Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was incensed after the game, saying, "The Warriors, they're who we thought they were. That's why we took the damn court." Casey then pounded the podium and yelled, "Now if you want to crown them, then crown their ass! But they are who we thought they were! And we let them off the hook." When told of Casey's comments, Warriors point guard Stephen Curry frowned and asked, "This doesn't mean I'm Rex Grossman, does it? Because I really don't want to be Rex Grossman."
In the marquee move of a busy day of major league hot stove action, sources are reporting that outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury will leave the world champion Boston Red Sox, having agreed to terms on a seven-year deal with the New York Yankees. When asked if he saw himself as following in the footsteps of former Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon, who also moved to the Yankees after winning a World Series title, Ellsbury's eyes darted as he said, "What? No. Who? Who's Johnny Damon? You're crazy." When asked if he was Johnny Damon posing as Jacoby Ellsbury, Ellsbury glared and said, "Why can't you just be cool? If you were cool you wouldn't ask these questions." Ellsbury was then asked if he had ever existed, or if he had always been a clever ruse designed to extend Johnny Damon's career, to which Ellsbury replied, "Seriously, why won't you just let me have this? Please just let me have this."
Victor Oladipo is not the most efficient rookie in his class. He is not the most efficient 2-guard in the NBA. He is not even the most efficient 2-guard on his own team. But that isn't the point. The Orlando Magic have set a course to something worse than mediocrity, and that ship is cruising. The purpose of their season appears to be along the lines of this: lose 55 games; turn Arron Afflalo into a steamer trunk of draft picks; exhume Nik Vucevic from the ocean each night so he can lay waste to a new city; develop Moe Harkless and Andrew Nicholson into chirping, Spurs-esque shooters; shed dead weight like Christian Bale in The Machinist; and let Dipo do Dipo.
So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is back 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.
In case you were busy walking the plank at the behest of Bill Belichick, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
LeBron James and the Miami Heat opened their NBA championship defense with an impressive 107-95 win over Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls. An optimistic Rose, who was playing in his first regular-season game since recovering from a torn ACL, said, "I'm disappointed in the loss, but my performance, I can easily change that by making shots and keeping down the turnovers." When Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau heard his point guard's comments, however, he flew into a rage, screaming, "He could have made more shots and avoided turnovers? Well, why didn't he? What the hell was he thinking?" Thibodeau then threw his hands in the air and said, "Jiminy Christmas, he was only out for a year. I have to micromanage everything with this team."
In case you were busy throwing your old iPad in the garbage like the trash that it is, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The University of Miami avoided major additional sanctions related to the Nevin Shapiro scandal, as the NCAA only revoked a small number of scholarships, deeming the school's self-imposed two-year bowl ban to be sufficient punishment. "Are you serious?" said former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel when asked for comment. "Nothing? Weren't they having crazy sex parties? My boys just got a handful of free tattoos and we faced worse. Well, I want to be very careful with what I say here. Because I know NCAA procedure is complicated, and we were not in the right when I was let go. But fuuuuuuuuuuuudge that." Only Tressel didn't say "fudge." He said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the "F-dash-dash-dash" word. Later, when asked by NCAA president Mark Emmert where he learned that word, Tressel refused to admit that it was from former NCAA president Myles Brand, instead blaming former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who is now himself under investigation by the NCAA.
We're still two weeks away from Halloween, but Dwight Howard already found his costume. He's going as Dwight Howard, Midseason Destroyer of Team Morale and Media Carnival Freak Show. All he has to do is open his mouth and he looks exactly the part.
Like any form of entertainment, sports is a manufactured experience. On some level, we process celebrities — athletes included — like our personal avatars, as a way to experience things beyond ourselves. We are interested, of course, in what they do —playing basketball, rebounding, dunking, etc. But we are just as interested in what it’s like to do what they do. What would it be like to dunk on someone? What’s it like to win a championship? What’s it like to be famous at 18? It’s this empathic process that makes Dwight Howard the most interesting superstar in the NBA, because his reactions to the heady details of modern sports fame are so very, very normal.
We imagine that superstar athletes have some kind of rare personality trait that explains their incredible success. Jordan was sociopathically focused; same with Kobe. Garnett displays unnatural, serial killer–like ferocity. Eighteen-year-old LeBron was as polished in interviews as a 10-year pro. Duncan has preternatural stoic calm in the face of pressure. That’s what we want from our superstar athletes; personal qualities more deserving of fame and riches than what we know from our quotidian experiences.
Dwight, on the other hand, behaves exactly how you’d expect a teenager who was handed millions of dollars and worldwide celebrity just out of high school to behave: he’s indecisive, has little-to-no self-awareness, and he desperately wants to be liked. It’s this inability to play into the traditional superstar athlete personality archetypes (Inspirational Drill Sergeant or Stoic Leader By Example) that seems to annoy most NBA traditionalists. How many times have we heard “Dwight smiles too much”?
One of my favorite athlete-produced documents ever is Dwight’s Orlando Magic–era website biography. In addition to giving you some insight into how the 24-year-old Dwight thought of himself, it’s got a little bit of every kind of unintentional comedy you want from a piece of autobiographical writing.
Day 1 of the Orlando Summer League could be summed up in one word: long. Turns out five 40-minute games, a seemingly endless number of fouls, and some shoddy, disorganized play can truly test your love and appreciation for basketball. Yet I persevered and somehow managed to cobble together some notes.
Cool it, Cooley
If there were a Vegas line on what player would emerge in my notes from the first game between Houston and Philadelphia, the odds on Jack Cooley would have been about 50,000 to 1. The Notre Dame alum didn’t put up a killer stat line (eight points, six rebounds in 14 minutes) but he did put in killer effort. To say Cooley played hard would actually be a major understatement. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward was a rather large man possessed. Cooley ran the floor, battled on the boards, communicated on defense, and generally hustled his way into my heart. And I’m sure I wasn’t alone.
Summer league is a perfect place for a fringe player like Cooley to endear himself to NBA teams with his rugged, energetic style of play. While the NBA is in an era in which stats and efficiency allow for cold, calculating evaluations of players, Cooley’s good ol’ fashioned efforts are enough to warm the hearts of coaches and executives. Guys that play hard every time they step on the floor may not be statistical darlings, but they are good to have around when coaches need to breath some life into the doldrums of the NBA season (also, Cooley must be doing something right in the stats columns if he’s on Houston’s summer league roster). Players like Mark Madsen survived for years purely on toughness, effort, and rebounding, and Cooley seems to be cut from a similar cloth.
Making adjustments in the playoffs is like any art form, in that inspiration is derived from experience. As coaches navigate the gauntlet of playoff basketball, they rely heavily on the situations they’ve already seen. When a coach makes a brilliant, calculated gamble or keenly alters his team’s tactics on the fly, it’s not a moment of virtuosity taking place on a higher plane. It’s a product of tapping into years of scenarios he’s already come across. Perhaps no coach is better at reflecting on that process than Stan Van Gundy. Widely recognized as one of the best at his craft, Van Gundy has experienced almost everything the NBA postseason has to offer — from the highs of coaching in the NBA Finals to the lows of an untimely first-round exit.
But one element of in-game and game-to-game adjustments that remains steady no matter the scenario, Van Gundy says, is that they’re never all that drastic.
“Barring injuries, it’s just going to stay to the core of who you are,” Van Gundy said. “You’re not going to play the way Denver does during the year and then back up your defense and play from the 3-point line and not get in the passing lanes and stuff. I don’t see those kinds of adjustments from people. It’s much more subtle.”
That first qualifier is one that’s come up several times already in these playoffs. As we’ve seen in Oklahoma City’s recent struggles, an injury to a star player can throw an entire team out of whack. Though a lot changes for those teams, the adjustment doesn’t necessarily have to be widespread. When talking about the Thunder, Van Gundy mentions that while things will no doubt be different, they likely won’t be new. Instead, OKC will have to rely on using previously less-emphasized concepts more frequently.
A survey of the players and teams making moves in last night's NBA action.
1. The Pacers
That's eight wins out of the last nine for Indiana, five straight, and the end of a 4-0 road trip, which included two victories in Texas (Dallas and Houston) and a big win in Los Angeles against the Clippers last night. You could say it was a moral victory for the Clippers, who came back from a 24-point deficit to get back into the game. But maybe it was moral victory and victory-victory for the Pacers, who held on in a tough situation. The Pacers got a visit from the goon squad when Matt Barnes and Ryan Hollins went into full nuisance mode in the second half. They got Hibbert out of his locked-in, first-half groove (he had 15 points in the first quarter) and into foul trouble. The Georgetown big man fouled out with about a minute and a half to go, but on his way back to the bench gave his teammates Tyler Hansbrough (seen above) and Lance Stephenson a friendly shove. Real friendly.
In case you were busy crashing Lark Voorhies's birthday party (and if so, kudos to you), here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Tiger Woods had a vintage weekend as he both reclaimed the no. 1 world ranking in golf and won his record eighth Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. When asked if things could be any better than they are right now, Woods responded, "Um, yes. Yes, they could. You have no idea." When asked to elaborate, Woods responded, "No, I better not. I I better not."
The Miami Heat ran their win streak to 27 games after a 108-94 win over the Orlando Magic. Miami forward Chris Bosh was jubilant after the performance, saying, "Big things are happening in Miami. I'm hoping this will finally get the media to pay attention to us down here. These 27 straight wins should definitely get us the attention we deserve."
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.
Chris Ryan: This is LeBron James's shot chart for this season, specifically his behind-the-arc shot chart. You see the area in the left-center, where James is 26-of-74? Isn't it weird that area isn't littered with skeletons and burned-out Cutlass Supremes and tattered American flags and crashed F-15s? I think it's weird, too. Because that's where LeBron is ending entire worlds, on a nightly basis. Statistically, it might not be his most effective shooting zone, but emotionally, narratively, this is where he likes to take opposing teams by the heart and squeeze the life out of them. It's the dramatic weight with which these shots go down that make them noticeable. There was the dagger in the Celtics the other night, and then, last night, in his homecoming game in Cleveland, he did this:
Amid the buzzer-beaters, heartbreak, and drama in the NCAA tournament, NBA teams are using college basketball’s biggest stage to fine-tune their evaluations of some of the league’s future stars. For someone like Ben McLemore of Kansas or Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State, a brilliant stretch in March will allow them to stake their claim as the no. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft. Regardless of where they are selected, both McLemore and Smart — should they declare — will move on from successful college programs to teams in the professional ranks that aren’t exactly synonymous with winning. During the past two seasons, no team has represented this perennial lottery dweller quite like the Charlotte Bobcats.
After a historically bad season that was partially obscured by a lockout-shortened schedule, the team has continued its futility again this year. In 11 of its past 13 games, Charlotte has been blown out by 14 or more points, an embarrassing stretch that has helped make the team owners of the league’s worst record. Or, in other words, things are going exactly as planned in Charlotte.
Welcome to life in the NBA, where every spring brings not only the excitement of the playoffs, but the unsavory notion of tanking. In a league that rewards losing and incompetence with valuable high draft picks, it pays to be bad. So with organizations like Charlotte, Orlando, and even Portland actively looking to avoid respectability, it’s time to restart the conversation about what tanking does to the competitive nature of the league.