In case you were busy letting yourself go after realizing that a late push for a role in Pain & Gain was a fool's errand, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
In a battle of red-hot Eastern Conference foes, Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks outdueled John Wall and the Washington Wizards, 120-99, securing their first division title since 1994. The Knicks drilled 20 3-pointers in the win, their 13th in a row. This game came one day after Knicks legend Bernard King was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade announced that he's likely out of action until the playoffs begin. Additionally, the weather in New York was perfect, with sunshine and highs in the low 80s. Am I blaming this run of Knicks good fortune on global warming? No. But am I blaming global warming on the Knicks' unprecedented run? Maybe.
The Los Angeles Lakers beat the New Orleans Hornets, 104-96, to move back into the no. 8 spot in the Western Conference playoff race. Kobe Bryant was sensational in the win, scoring 23 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter. "You know what they say about Kobe; he's a closer," said Lakers center Dwight Howard after the game. "Well, that's what Kobe says about Kobe when he refuses to let me have any coffee in the clubhouse."
A survey of the players and teams making moves in last night's NBA action.
1. LeBron James
I know that this one came with all the attendant "Here lies Jason Terry/He did the Jason Terry dance/He wore a headband" kind of memorials. But it was just one French horn stab in what was a masterful funeral procession written, composed, and conducted by James at the Garden last night. This dude was responsible for 64 points last night. SIXTY-FOUR. 37 points and 12 assists. He is the engine inside the fourth quarter soul harvester that is the Miami Heat offense. I mean ... look at this:
In case you were busy getting your NIT bracket in before tipoff, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
The Miami Heat secured their 23rd consecutive victory, overcoming Jeff Green's 43 points to grab sole possession of the second longest winning streak in NBA history, as they edged the Boston Celtics, 105-103. "That has a nice, non-confrontational ring to it," said Heat forward LeBron James after the game. "'Second best of all time.' Maybe people can just say that about me. And just leave it at that. Really. I don't care at this point."
Not to be outdone, the Denver Nuggets won their 12th consecutive game, overcoming 34 points from Nate Robinson to beat the Chicago Bulls, 119-118, in overtime at the United Center. "That has a nice non-confrontational ring to it," said Nuggets head coach George Karl. "Second best team in the NBA hold on, I seem to be getting a call." Karl then looked at his phone before sheepishly muting the ringer. "It was Coach Pop. I'll call him back How about third best team in the NBA?"
In case you were out grilling in the rain to prove to yourself you could withstand the rigors of living in ancient times, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
The San Antonio Spurs blew a double-digit, fourth-quarter lead, falling to the Phoenix Suns in overtime, 105-101, snapping an 18-game home winning streak. Spurs point guard and noted Frenchman Tony Parker, who was serenaded with MVP chants in the third quarter, said after the game, "How can one be 'most valuable' when we are all merely sacks of meat containing hearts that only continue beating out of a fear of change. Hopefully, our late collapse taught the people of San Antonio that lesson, and if it did not, que sera, for they are already dead in the eyes of our already living future selves." Parker then pulled out a pack of Gauloises, only to find it empty. "Cruel irony, if this does not serve as proof of a merciless God, which it does not, then what could?" Parker then folded the empty pack into a balloon and used it to hover slightly off the ground.
In case you were busy finally figuring out the trick to seeing the hidden image in those Magic Eye posters, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
LeBron James became the first player in NBA history to score 30 points on better than 60 percent shooting from the field in six consecutive games as the Miami Heat beat the Portland Trail Blazers, 117-104, at home. "What's with these newfangled statistics?" asked elderly Miami resident Saul Zinman. "Points? Shooting percentage? When I played, we only had two statistics in netball — bouncy passes and bloody noses, and I led the Staten Island Pantaloons in both. Also, all the teams used to be named for types of pants: The San Francisco Denim Men, the Columbus Corduroys, the Weehawken Torn Trousers. I bet you three nickels there's not a single team left named after a type of pants."
In case you were busy celebrating National Croissant Day by gorging yourself on refrigerated crescent rolls to spite the French, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Brooklyn Nets forward Reggie Evans raised some eyebrows before his team's game against the Miami Heat by saying he was "unimpressed" with Miami forward LeBron James. "He's no different than Joe Johnson or Andray Blatche," said Evans, who suffers from a rare illness where he mixes up names and faces within professional organizations. Evans went on to say, "I saw that white kid play at Florida, and he's a good shooter, but people talk about him like he's the best in the world, when obviously their real superstar is small forward Joel Anthony. That guy's a triple-double threat every night, like the reincarnation of Byron Scott and Toni Kukoc in a single body. Where's the Joel Anthony MVP talk? That's what I, Mikhail Prokhorov, want to know." The Heat went on to blow out the Nets, 105-85, in Brooklyn, as Evans missed every last one of his defensive assignments.
Much like their Northwest Division rival Denver Nuggets, the Utah Jazz are a collection of talented youngsters and productive veterans void of a superstar. Without a clear central figure, the pressure has been on head coach Ty Corbin to identify the best rotation of players that are, almost to a man, multi-talented but somewhat limited in some facet of the game.
The lineup data shows that the Jazz boast some downright awful five-man units, but they also have a few very productive ones. Injuries have forced the team into some tough spots this year, but among its roster, Utah may have the right combinations to seriously compete with the West’s elite rather than settling for a one-and-done stay in the playoffs. The main problem with that option is that it’s boring as hell.
Utah has multiple picks in next year’s first round, and and a few of those productive veterans — most notably Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap — are on expiring contracts. This makes the Jazz an ideal candidate for a big deadline move. By dealing one of their surplus big men to upgrade a backcourt in dire need of help (and making a few other small tweaks), the Jazz could become Denver 2.0 — a team that no one takes seriously as a Finals contender but that everyone wants to avoid in the postseason. To figure out how they might get there, I visited the trade machine and descended further into madness to whip up yet another ridiculous multi-team deal:
Moving on from Steve Nash has proved difficult so far for Phoenix. The Suns are 12-26, just a game up on New Orleans in the “race” for worst record in the Western Conference. Their once-prolific offense fell to 23rd in points per possession after a dispiriting road loss to Brooklyn on Friday, and they’ve ranked among the league’s half-dozen worst defensive teams almost all season. Despite a recent slump from long range, Goran Dragic has done solid work as Nash’s replacement. But the rest of the roster is lacking in off-the-dribble creators, and the other free agent Phoenix expected to fill that void — Michael Beasley — has been a total bust.
Close games have been a particularly thorny problem, as they are for most bad teams — especially teams that play below-average defense and lack a foundational scorer. Phoenix is 8-15 in games in which the scoring margin has been at five or fewer points within the last five minutes, and their play in those crunch-time situations has dropped off almost equally on both ends, per NBA.com’s stats database. Random luck influences any small crunch-time sample size, but the consistency of the pattern has been discouraging.
Alvin Gentry, in his fifth season as Suns head coach, stopped by for a one-on-one visit with Grantland before Phoenix’s loss to the Nets in Brooklyn on Friday.
How’s life in a post–Steve Nash world?
Well, obviously, we’re in transition right now. It’s something we’re all learning to deal with. I think Goran is going to be a very good player for us, but it’s a learning process, and it takes time. We’re all wishing the best for Steve, but we know we have to move on as a franchise.
In early July, the Phoenix Suns signed restricted free agent Eric Gordon to a four-year, $58 million offer sheet. Gordon is only 23 years old and is a rising star in a position losing its star power. But he has missed 107 games in four seasons and played in just nine last year. The New Orleans Hornets had a tough decision to make: match the offer sheet and secure one of the more promising shooting guards in the league or leave the Suns to worry about an injury-prone player on a max deal.
Fast-forward to today. Gordon’s a Hornet but he’s not in the lineup. He’s missed every game up to this point, including the preseason, with lingering knee pain. Gordon’s return to the court was last reported to be six to eight weeks away. Given his continued setbacks, it’s easy to be skeptical he’ll make it back in that time frame. Even if Gordon’s rehab goes flawlessly, he's still slated to miss roughly a third of this season.
It's only natural for the New Orleans brass to be questioning their investment. Maybe they’re kicking themselves for not working out a sign-and-trade with Gordon when they had the chance. But maybe they’re keeping the faith, holding strong to the idea that Gordon’s injury woes will soon be a thing of the past and he’ll prove to be a cornerstone in their rebuilding process.
The decision the Hornets faced back in July — a common scenario in today’s NBA — carried with it major ramifications. With a strict salary cap and an increasingly harsh luxury tax, it is imperative to make the right call when it comes to huge financial commitments like the one made to Gordon. But as the Hornets initially debated the best course of action, their thought process was influenced by something that affects decision makers in the sports world and beyond: something called the optimism bias.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports since Tuesday.
Phoenix Sun? More like Phoenix done! Steve Nash is headed to the Lakers the Los Angeles Lakers, that is. The Suns point guard worked out a sign-and-trade deal with Phoenix that will send him to L.A., where he'll chase an NBA title with a certain fellow superstar. Maybe you've heard of him: Kobe Bryant.
Athletes are often asked what was running through their minds during given plays. This is what was running through Memphis center Marc Gasol's when he dunked on Phoenix's Markieff Morris on Wednesday night.
Steve Nash swings by to discuss Phoenix's improbable playoff run, being in so many trade rumors, the current point guard boon, how the lockout-shortened schedule has affected him, Mike D'Antoni's legacy (and whether it worked), his favorite Suns team, Dirk's first title, the time he played pickup hoops in a Scottsdale health club and got his butt kicked, and why Lionel Messi is the greatest athlete on God's green earth.
With the Lakers, Clippers and Kings hosting a whopping 28 home games in 28 days from March 11 through April 7 — all happening at Staples Center, which is only a wind-aided Andy Lee punt from Grantland's headquarters — we couldn't resist attending these 28 games and writing about as many of them as possible. For previous 28 Days Later dispatches, click here.
With a little less than 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter of Thursday night's fun-but-sloppy Staples Center game between the Clippers and Suns — with Los Angeles up by 10 and the Suns with the ball — Blake Griffin mugged Jared Dudley.
Knocking the ball loose, Griffin ran through Dudley and took off down court. Despite the whistle blowing for a loose ball foul, Griffin kept going, throwing himself an alley-oop off the backboard and nearly following through with a tomahawk dunk.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
The Texas Rangers reached a deal with Japanese pitching sensation Yu Darvish worth approximately $60 million. When he heard the news that he'd be going to Arlington, Darvish immediately learned the English translation for "T-Bone steak," "dude ranch," and, "I'm Japanese, so please stop calling me 'Jorge' in a vaguely menacing way."
According to a source, Tim Tebow sustained serious injuries in the third quarter of the Broncos' loss to the Patriots. He soldiered on despite torn rib cartilage, a bruised lung, and fluid buildup. He laid pretty low on Monday, but gave hope and solace to his followers when he was back up and about on the third day.