In case you were busy scaring little children by reciting Mariners hitting stats from the past decade, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
The Utah Jazz were eliminated from the NBA playoff picture after an 86-70 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. But don't worry, people of Salt Lake City, you still have a critically acclaimed production of the classic musical West Side Story playing through April 21 at the Capitol Theatre. The Salt Lake Tribune raves, "This touring production of the 2009 Broadway revival hits on most cylinders."
Who will be taking the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs? Why, it's the Los Angeles Lakers, who not only qualified, but in beating the Houston Rockets 99-95 in overtime, were able to snag the seventh seed in the West. "It's quite an achievement," said Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni after the game, "that a team no one believed in overcame all the odds to make the playoffs. If you had told me when I took over this team that was stuck in a mire that we would be seventh in the West " D'Antoni then drifted off and shook his head, before Lakers center Dwight Howard tiptoed up behind him and dumped a small cup of red Gatorade over his head.
The Jazz looked dead after a dispiriting road loss to Dallas two Sundays ago, and it’s tempting to write them off again after their defense no-showed (or, alternatively, showed up in its usual form) last night against a very enthusiastic Denver team missing its best player. But it’s too early to declare the Jazz dead. The most sophisticated playoff odds predictors have them somewhere between a 50/50 shot and 35/65 underdog to overtake the Lakers for the no. 8 spot.
In the 71st game of your 17th season, in the midst of a “heated” playoff “race,” why are you still watching your own errant jump shot while your mark, Klay Thompson, beats you back in transition for an open 3-pointer? Thompson doesn’t exactly take off like Corey Brewer, either, and he still beats you down the floor by several steps.
Why is this still happening? It’s almost April, and Bryant and the Lakers still can’t figure out transition defense, or defense in general.
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:
North Korean basketball enthusiasts have long remained anonymous, as their sport flew as far under the radar as most other objects in North Korea. But their modified rules can enhance the sport — if you tried to play a game of pickup ball in downtown Pyongyang, here’s what you’d need to know:
Dunks are worth three points
Made 3-point shots that don’t hit the rim are worth four points
If you miss a free throw, your team loses a point
Any shot made in the last three seconds of any quarter is worth eight points
What if the world’s greatest players competed under these rules? If we could only imagine
The year is 1997. Dennis Rodman, famed international peace agent and part-time basketball professional, has brought friendship across the Pacific Ocean, repairing relations between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. As a gesture of goodwill, Rodman negotiates for the NBA Finals to be played on North Korean soil, under North Korean rules. Carried by his iron resolve, Rodman’s Chicago Bulls team navigates its way through the Eastern Conference and into the championship series against the Utah Jazz. Game 1 is set for June 1, live from Pyongyang. Run it, Tesh.
For basketball dweebs, the last few weeks have been Morey-palooza. Eat Morey. Sleep Morey. Listen to Morey-house Morey-wave Morey-trap. Find a remote island, call it New Mauritania, and govern by conch-shell possession and small-sample-size offensive rebounding rates.
Of course, we’re talking about Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets and the patron saint of advanced metrics enthusiasts. Last weekend, he was a deity at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, a gathering of 3,000 number-smashers that has become an annual pilgrimage for representatives from just about every NBA team. His remarks at a panel discussion with Mark Cuban were thirstily live-tweeted. He knocked out a podcast with Grantland’s own Zach Lowe. And this week, Morey agreed to a four-year contract extension to remain with the Rockets.
In case you were busy singing John Philip Sousa tunes with your loved ones, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
The New York Knicks overcame a 22-point deficit and a knee injury to Carmelo Anthony to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 102-97. Anthony, who's day-to-day with knee stiffness, said after the game, "I'm glad we won, but I'm really just glad Pablo Prigioni didn't put up a career night. I'm not at all ready for Prigloonacy."
A survey of the players and teams making moves in last night's NBA action.
1. The Denver Dunkets
The Lakers are old; the Nuggets are fast. Last night, the Lakers went up on top of a mountain, and the Nuggets ran them right off of it. Denver had 33 fast-break points, and Los Angeles had three. Everything Denver is — young, fast, fun, and deep — the Lakers aren't (don't worry; the Lakers are probably going to sign Raja Bell, so this disparity should be taken care of). That first Iguodunka in the video above was the product of a Faried-to-Lawson-to-Brewer-to-Iggy fast break, where the ball took about two seconds to get from end to end, and never touched the ground. It's followed in that reel by a mid-air Iguodala-to-Faried alley-oop. AND NEITHER IS THE BEST THING THAT HAPPENED IN THE GAME.
In case you were out stocking up on discounted Swedish meatballs, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
George Karl's Denver Nuggets continued their torrid offensive play as they beat the Los Angeles Lakers at home, 119-108, to deny the Lakers a chance to get back to .500. After the game, Kobe Bryant was all smiles, joking around with teammates and coaches in the locker room. When asked about his cheery demeanor, Bryant said, "I'm so glad you asked. You see, I enjoy losing to Coach Karl in the regular season because it reminds me of the last time I lost a postseason series to him back in, hmmm, I can't remember when. He's been coaching my whole career, though, so I'm sure he must have beaten me once in the postseason. No? No." Bryant then pulled a microphone out of his waistband and dropped it on the ground.
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:
A survey of the players and teams making moves in last night's NBA action.
1. Joe Johnson
Hey, guys, maybe you weren't in the last meeting, so I just want to catch you up. Apparently, the Barclays Center fills up on a cold Tuesday night when Milwaukee comes to town, the crowd actually rocks out a little, the Lakers-Staples theater lighting looks awesome, the Bucks are/were something of an arch-nemesis of the Nets (winning 13 in a row against the franchise, regardless of what side of the East River they were located), and Joe Johnson is now an ice-cold closer with a disturbing, growing dagger collection.
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:
In case you were out getting arrested while rehearsing your Les Misérables flash mob, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
The Chicago Bulls held the Atlanta Hawks to 20 first-half points en route to a 97-58 win in Chicago. It was the fewest points the Hawks had scored in a game since 1955, the year the shot clock was introduced, when they scored just 57 against the Boston Celtics. "I can't believe you clowns," joked Bulls coach and amateur insult comic Tom Thibodeau after the game. "One fewer basket, and we would've really stuck it to that old nincompoop Red Auerbach. He hasn't been had that bad since someone replaced one of his stogies with an exploding cigar. I guess you kidders will just have to win nine championships now to make it up to me. Am I right? Now which of you buffoons wants to get silly and see this ol' wisecracker work out some new material down at the Chuckle Bin?" There were no immediate takers, but Thibodeau thought he could get Kirk Hinrich to bite if he picked up the tab on the club's two-drink minimum.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been ruled out for the remainder of the postseason after reinjuring his broken arm in New England's game against Houston on Sunday. "I thought it was worth playing through it, and Coach thought playing was the right choice." Gronkowski said to the media. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick quickly interjected, "Thinks. Not thought. Coach thinks playing is the right choice."
In the time of attack guards, small ball, and stretch 4’s, Big Al Jefferson’s game is unapologetically old school. He’s the kind of post player that was once so ubiquitous in the league, but now seems to be an endangered species. Like Adrian Peterson rushing as if it’s still the 1980s, Jefferson’s throwback style is strangely comforting to fans of a certain age, and the scarcity of those who play like him also offers commentary on the state of the NBA in 2013.
When you watch the Jazz offense trot down the court, chances are you will see Jefferson quickly assume his position in his native ecosystem, down on the left block. Simply stated, Al Jefferson loves the left block. If all the NBA players were on Foursquare, Big Al would definitely be the mayor of the left block. He has compiled a collection of effective pivots, drop steps, half hooks, mini-jumpers, “weezies,” and up-and-unders that are highly calibrated for the left side, not the right. This asymmetric love affair is so torrid that Big Al has become the most lopsided shooter in the NBA. No player in the NBA has a more asymmetric shot chart than Al Jefferson. Out of the 137 players who have attempted at least 200 field goal attempts this season, Al Jefferson is the most one-sided shooter.