NBA Shootaround: Swish Kids

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.

Dinner Is Served

Chris Ryan: Early in the night, when nothing seemed to be going in for Steph Curry, and by extension, nothing seemed to be going right for the Warriors, Doug Collins said something about how Oracle Arena needed a 3, because it fed off long-distance shooting the way some crowds fed off a dunk. It took him a little while, but by the end of the night, Curry got around to feeding the Dubs fans, and they went home stuffed.

There are two kinds of Steph Curry 3s. Well, that’s not true: There are probably dozens of kinds of Steph Curry 3s. But there are two kinds of Oracle reactions to those 3s. There’s the kind they know are coming. Like when he pump-fakes someone out of his sneakers and takes a second to adjust for the wind, align his sights, and do whatever else it is that snipers do when they’re about to shoot. Here, Curry runs Jose Calderon into a brick wall and gets a good look at the basket. The crowd sees this happening and starts to rise in unison like they are all doing the wave at once and just didn’t know where it was supposed to start.

Then there are those Curry shots that get very little reaction because nobody could have possibly seen them coming.

I don’t know. At this point, if I were a Warriors fan at Oracle, I’d probably just watch the game standing up. It’s safer that way.

Everybody Loves Draymond

Jason Gallagher: Wholesome family fun. That was Draymond Green’s game last night. We probably won’t think much on his performance, especially after Steph Curry decided to go all supernatural on everyone down the stretch, but Green was exactly what the Warriors needed. He helped fill Golden State’s Iggy-sized hole by dropping nine points, grabbing five boards, handing out four assists, and adding two blocks and a steal against the Mavs. On top of all that, at times Green was tasked with guarding Dirk Nowitzki, which is about as daunting as being asked to skydive directly into Godzilla. But, lo and behold, Green did a pretty good job on Nowitzki. Again, it was nothing too flashy, but that’s not what the Warriors need right now.

The Red Wedding of Basketball

netw3rk: It’s not yet Christmas, and already Eastern Conference basketball has exhausted the ability of the English language to describe its awfulness. This week, we ran out of adverbs; now we’re mining Old English and Indo-European word roots. Last night, the Knicks and Bulls engaged in a game that resembled two elderly drunks strangling each other and falling into the street. The Bulls had 22 turnovers and 24 made field goals on 33 percent shooting, but still managed to erase a 23-point deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter. J.R. Smith seems to go out of his way to aggressively hurt his own team like a one-man Red Wedding, culminating in a fourth-quarter foul on a screening Kirk Hinrich that was basically just Smith two-hand-shoving Hinrich to the court. Mike Woodson finally benched Smith after that, for a few minutes anyway. This game was evil.

So, the best way to talk about Knicks-Bulls — a game that New York won, everyone who watched it lost, and the fourth quarter of which resembled an infinite series of buttfumbles — is with the most depressing and eye-clawing-ly bad GIFs, pictures, and Vines from the putrid affair. Afterward, all records of this game should be burned.

Mistaken Identity

Jared Dubin: Madison Square Garden last night ran what shall henceforth be known as The Single Greatest Between-Quarters Jumbotron Segment of Our Time.

The segment was called “Know Your 'Bockers.” With a name like that, you’d think it would just be a short video of players telling the crowd a little bit about themselves. You would be wrong. This segment had members of the Knicks informing the audience of instances of mistaken identity.

It started off with Raymond Felton informing the fans in the Garden that he has often been mistaken for a portly looking fellow with whom I was not familiar. Tyson Chandler was up next and told the crowd that he had been confused with both Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby. (He said a fan came up to him and screamed “Camby!” and he screamed back “No!”) Tim Hardaway Jr. spoke of the time he had to clarify that his father was in fact Tim, and not Penny Hardaway.

And then Kenyon Martin came on the Jumbotron and told the world he is often mistaken for Method Man. And HOLY CRAP GUYS KENYON MARTIN ACTUALLY DOES KIND OF TOTALLY LOOK LIKE METHOD MAN. Here are some Kenyon Martin/Method Man facts.

A Google search for “kenyon martin method man” returns more than 47,000 results, including “NBA Doppelgangers,” “NBA Celebrity Look-A-Likes,” “Kenyon Martin and Method Man — The Most Accurate NBA Doppelganger,” and “Kenyon Martin Totally Looks Like Method Man.”

The first three images that come up in the Google search are shown above. I rank them 1. Right, 2. Left, 3. Middle.

When you click on the images tab after searching “kenyon martin method man,” you are also treated to images of Corey Maggette and Xzibit, who also totally look alike.

Martin could definitely have pulled off playing Cheese Wagstaff on The Wire. He has just the right kind of annoying arrogance.

How much would you pay to see a sequel to How High starring Martin and J.R. Smith in the Meth and Red roles? I would pay all of the money currently in my pocket ($26) plus eleventy billion dollars.

Speaking of Smith, he was the last one to go in the “Know Your 'Bockers” segment. He lied and said people often mistake him for Denzel Washington. Then he stroked his goatee, rubbed his head, and fell over laughing for no apparent reason.

Z-Bo Is for the Children

Urgently Caring for the Bucks

Danny Chau: Sure, the Milwaukee Bucks lost by 32 points to the Spurs last night, and they’re enduring postapocalyptic squalor left by all of their injuries, but let’s look at the positives. Giannis Antetokounmpo might be the most perfect 19-year-old (happy belated birthday!) angel ever, and he’s going to get his driver’s license soon! Nate Wolters played his heart out against the vastly superior team, handing out seven assists and scoring 18 points, one point away from matching the output of the entire Bucks starting lineup. Then there’s Miroslav Raduljica, who played a solid 23 minutes. Unfamiliar with Miroslav? Think Nikola Pekovic’s enormous baby brother with Miles Plumlee’s hair and an incredible Stephen King–inspired tattoo. Because Stephen King is what happens when you spend your childhood in Serbia without a TV.

Antetokounmpo, Wolters, and Raduljica were the only Bucks players in double figures, and they made up nearly 56 percent of the team’s total points. OK, it was all in garbage time, but the Spurs led by as many as 18 in the first quarter. Is garbage time still garbage time when it makes up more than three-fourths of the game?

Midway through the third quarter, an advertisement for Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital popped up on the scoreboard graphic, but I had no idea what it was at the time.

Now picture yourself watching the action as that suddenly appears on your screen. Imagine giving it a quick glance. Then imagine reading “The fishhook landed in Jacob’s eye instead of …” There’s a chill running down your spine and you’re cringing. That was me in real time.

A few beats later, the image changes. It’s unintentionally poetic. I hit “print screen.” Everything aligned in that moment. There it was: the 2013-14 Milwaukee Bucks experience, all in one frame:

Stay safe, Bucks fans.

The Spurs, Guys

Kirk Goldsberry: In the most lopsided game of the night, the Spurs dismantled the Bucks in Milwaukee. That should surprise no one — the Spurs are really good, and the Bucks … well, they have managed the second-worst record in the league despite playing in the Ewwwstern Conference. The Most Valuable Player in Milwaukee so far has been its sweet new court, but if you look closely even that is already showing signs of deterioration.

San Antonio, on the other hand, is 17-4 and just plugging along. We’ve come to expect great offense from the Spurs, and that’s no different this year. They are fourth in the league in offensive efficiency, scoring 106 points per 100 possessions. However, here’s something to watch: They secretly have built a dominant defense and are second in the league in defensive efficiency, holding opponents to only 95 points per 100 possessions. They trail only the mighty Pacers in that category. Of course it’s early, but these are very strong indicators that suggest the Spurs will be there when it matters in the Western Conference playoffs.

I Don’t Think This Counts

Remembering the Good Ben Gordon

Brett Koremenos: Back when I was in college, I used to love watching Ben Gordon in the playoffs. The dude was a gunner. He was fearless. He was a key character in that absolutely absurd Boston-Chicago slugfest in the 2009 playoffs that featured approximately 73 overtimes. Gordon even made Doug Collins nearly stroke out on the air during that series. Other than superstars, he was exactly the type of player who made any given playoff matchup incredibly exciting. He could go for two or for 25 while taking the same number of shots. You just never knew which. Gordon was the epitome of a wild card. That’s why he was awesome.

But then Gordon signed with the Pistons during the team’s ill-fated attempt to quickly rebuild after the Billups-Sheed-Prince-Hamilton-Wallace quintet was on its way out. Ever since inking that deal almost five years ago, Gordon has yet to return to the NBA playoffs. Instead of a half-decade where he could have been entertaining us on the game’s biggest stage, he has been stuck in basketball purgatory. Gordon barely even plays for Charlotte now; only an injury to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist allowed him to sneak into the rotation. A bum ankle, age, and a string of shitty teams has seemingly sapped the electricity from his high-voltage game.

I watched a quarter or so of his game against Orlando, hoping for a breakout stretch that never came. Gordon ended up playing OK — nine points, six rebounds, and five assists in 25 minutes — but it only made me long for the good ol' days. The Bobcats may make the playoffs this year and he may even play, leaving hope for one vintage Gordon performance. Until then, he’s just kind of … there. Given how much fun Ben Gordon used to be, that just doesn’t seem fair.

Young Money

Steve McPherson: You hear a lot about small-ball power forwards around the league, and often you hear about them in the context of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Listen, those guys are just phenomenally talented players who present mismatch problems in a myriad of ways, no matter where they are on the court. James, in particular, harnesses such a diverse array of talents and sheer physical moxie that most players in the league are overmatched against him regardless of position.

Which is why I come to praise Thad Young, genuine small-ball power forward. Listed at 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds, he’s 20 pounds lighter than James but is just as wily when it comes to understanding how to take advantage of matchups, particularly in the post. Here are two possessions from last night’s Wolves-Sixers games, where the Sixers run almost the same punch play for Young:

In the first one, getting out ahead of the play got Young matched up on Nikola Pekovic. After Evan Turner clears out and Young sees that Ricky Rubio is cutting off Tony Wroten coming over the top, he makes one quick move out of the face-up, hits the baseline, and lays in the reverse. In the second one, he’s matched up against Kevin Love. He faces Love up, but instead of trying to get around his longer arms and (slightly) quicker feet, he goes into the paint, initiates contact, then spins away from the collapsing defenders for the left-handed layup (he’s left-handed, by the way).

This is the real beauty of the small-ball 4 incarnate: assessing the matchup and applying speed, footwork, and the right amount of power to get easy buckets in the paint.

Love Is in the Air

Things You Hear in the Second Half of a Jazz-Kings Blowout

Andrew Sharp:

“[DeMarcus] Cousins … that’s like a bowling ball crashing into a bunch of pins.”

“There’s no quit in Isaiah Thomas. Never has been, never will be.”

“Richard Jefferson having one of those nights …”

“Hard to figure. It’d make your head swell up if you tried real hard.”

“That was Derrick THRILL-iams right there!”

“Alec Burks, doin’ what Alec Burks does. Make shots.”

“He really knows who’s out there with him, and when it’s Derrick Thrilliams, Isaiah’s gonna lead him right to the rim.”

No. 1: “Both Isaiah and Cousins are frustrated basketball players right now. Lotta frustrated fans, as well. And they should be. Everybody. Players. Coaches. Fans.”

No. 2: “Broadcasters.”

No. 1: “Broadcasters.”

I have no idea how I wound up watching the entire second half of Jazz-Kings last night — a 20-point blowout past the midway point of the third quarter — and I’m just glad it’s over. What did we learn? As much as we talk about the NBA being better than ever, there are still some DARK nights in various corners of the NBA universe.

Also, Grant Napear and Jerry Reynolds deserve a medal.

Also, Derrick Thrilliams.

Oh and one other thing …

THE JAZZ HAVE THE BELT

Sharp: After the Kings claimed the belt with Monday’s win over the Mavs, Trey Burke and Gordon Hayward and the Jazz came out of NOWHERE last night to unleash hell, and now the worst team in the NBA is sitting on the throne.

To celebrate, here’s John Stockton and Jim Nantz celebrating over in that hot tub.

And Salt Lake City native Roseanne Barr, all the way turned up.

And long time Salt Lake resident Karl Rove, doing King Things.

And most importantly …

As this 2001 state legislature resolution reminds you, Jell-O is the official state snack of Utah. So of course we had to throw Jell-O in the mix with Stockton and Roseanne and Rove and Nantz. AIN’T NO PARTY LIKE A SALT LAKE CITY BELT PARTY.

Filed Under: Andrew Sharp, Brett Koremenos, Charlotte Bobcats, Chris Ryan, Danny Chau, Golden State Warriors, Kirk Goldsberry, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA, New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs