NBA Shootaround: Worst Behavior

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.

Coming Attractions

netw3rk: Wednesday night’s Indiana-Miami game was basically the trailer for the summer blockbuster known as The Eastern Conference Finals, and, yo, I think it’s gonna be a hit. Snippets of action intercut with a dude grinning while slo-mo walking away from explosions, hints of narrative structure, and interesting character beats. Roy Hibbert tattooing Greg Oden’s treebeard ass for 13 first-quarter points and escorting him by the arm to the Miami bench. LeBron ringing Hibbert’s jaw like a gong at the end of a John Bonham drum solo. Lance Stephenson as the aggro-close-talking vice cop who plays by his own rules. Dwyane Wade Jedi-ref tricks. And a rated-PG poster dunk. Bring on the summer.

CalmIllinformedDevilfish

Here are a few random observations:

• Can Hibbert keep scoring against Miami come playoff time?

• Hibbert was legit pirouetting like he spent the summer at Olajuwon State College while notching a the-harder-they-come 21 points (he has more 20-point games versus Miami than against any other team) and suffering a the-harder-they-fall fourth-quarter brain injury off a LeBron tiger-burst elbow. I am not a medical doctor, but Hibbert probably shouldn’t have been out there afterward.

• P.S. If LeBron James elbowed me in the jaw, I’d be on some Captain America–asleep-in-the-ice level of unconsciousness.

• Can Oden do anything besides look pensive and 50 years old?

• Lance. Dude. I would describe Lance as the kid you knew growing up who messed around with nunchucks. He’s probably crazy, and he’ll likely break your mom’s vase, but in a bad neighborhood you kinda want to ride with a guy like that. Lance exists right on the edge of recklessness, and as the size of the moment increases, that edge only gets finer.

• Luis Scola was supposed to add some second-unit scoring punch but has shot a career-low percentage with a career-low PER and a career-high turnover percentage. Last night he contributed zero points (0-for-5) and four rebounds in 11 minutes.

• Little did Wade know, all those years ago, that wearing a Band-Aid on his face would be strangely prophetic. It’s been mentioned by everyone, and, yet, worth mentioning again: Can Old Man Wade keep off the trainer’s table? Last night he seemed to tweak his hammy chasing after Evan Turner, a play that has the potential to inadvertently be Turner’s greatest contribution as a Pacer.

I Wear the Black Hat

(GIFs via @HeyBelinda, unless otherwise noted.)

Chris Ryan: Good teams take away what you do well. Great teams exploit what you do poorly. I just made that up, but it’s completely true. The Heat know the Pacers are still assembling the portfolio when it comes to the mental side of the game. Indiana is a team that holds the wheel real tight, and if the Heat can gain a competitive edge by sitting in the passenger seat, monotonously singing “99 Bottles of Beer,” then so be it.

That’s why nobody was shocked at the appearance of Darth Wader. Five minutes left in the fourth, Lance Stephenson, playing on one tech for getting tangled up with Mario Chalmers — who knew exactly what he was doing, by the way — earlier in the game. Lance is getting to the rim at will and is proud of this fact, so he starts getting all Braveheart with the crowd. And that’s when Wade comes through and cuts his throat; Flash stares Born Ready down just long enough to push him over the edge, but not for so long that he gets associated with the worst behavior. Second tech for Lance. The phone is for you. It’s ringing in the locker room.

1393456096000-lance-money

Dwyane cannot keep up with Lance Stephenson for 48 minutes. But he can get in his head in a quarter of the time. Is this fair? No. This is war. And Lance — bless him — was not born ready for the way Miami fights.

You Can’t Quantify the Future

anthony-davis-tri

Andrew Sharp: Here’s a sequence from Clippers-Pelicans last night: Anthony Davis switches onto Jamal Crawford, stays in front of him, and when Crawford rises for a 20-footer, Davis is four feet away but swats it out of the air. So it goes the other way, and in maybe two seconds Davis is on the opposite block catching a pass from half court. Rather than go up for the contested layup, Davis lofts it to the opposite wing as soon as the ball touches his hand, and Anthony Morrow drains the 3.

The end.

It goes in the box score as a block and an assist.

I say this because Davis has spent the entire year putting up outrageous numbers. He’s averaging 25 and 11 since the All-Star break. He’s leading the league in blocks, and he holds opponents to fewer shot attempts at the rim than any other frontcourt player playing in the league. His PER (27.1) is fourth-best in the NBA. He’s 21 years old.

But whenever I watch Pelicans games, Davis has two or three sequences like the one above. Stuff that generally results in only two points, and sometimes not even for him. But stuff that should honestly make the entire game stop, just so everyone can process exactly how unfair he really is.

This is the amazing thing about Davis. As incredible as the stats are, they’re not half as crazy as what you see when you actually watch him play. He makes everything on a basketball court look easy, and makes life look impossible for the people he’s playing against.

Everything looks effortless, whether he’s guarding Blake Griffin or Crawford, scoring in the post or raining jumpers. When you see him put it all together for a few plays at a time, you can’t help but wonder what this looks like when he does it for a few seasons at a time.

The Pelicans had their starting lineup healthy for exactly eight games this year, so things haven’t gone quite according to plan. But they’ve beaten the Heat, Nets, and Clippers in the past week, and Davis isn’t going anywhere, which is a good thing for everyone but the teams that have to play him.

The NBA’s not perfect, but I’ve never loved it more, mostly because of the stars we have right now. LeBron, KD, Blake, Chris Paul, Harden, Russ, Dirk, Hibbert, Noah — all over the league, there are superstars who can take over games so completely and perfectly that it makes 82 regular-season matchups seem worth it. Then every time the Pelicans play, we get one or two sequences that remind us another superstar’s coming, and he might be more incredible than any of them.

Somehow a Vital Connection Is Made

Danny Chau: Consider this thought exercise: Visualize a Venn diagram of all the basketball players Michael Jordan has respected in his lifetime; ditto for Kobe Bryant. Between them, nearly 30 NBA seasons worth of on-court experiences, and even more when you factor in Jordan’s time as an executive. That area where the two lists of names intersect? It’s full of all-time greats, hard-nosed defenders, and winners.

And Josh McRoberts … Yep.

Jordan started worrying that McRoberts might opt out of his two-year contract in the coming summer before the Bobcats even played a game this season. And this play, back in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, single-handedly forced Kobe to acknowledge his age, and how much time had passed since he first came into the league. That, my friends, is power.

Look, I’m not here to spread any McBob propaganda, or to defend all the reasons I have for him being one of my five favorite players to watch in the last three years, or to explain why I once called him the patron saint of mediocrity, à la F. Murray Abraham’s Salieri in Amadeus. I just want to let some light in.

Last night, McRoberts did a really, really incredible thing in overtime against the Nets. He is capable of incredible things, yet it’s almost impossible not to dismiss them as inexplicable novelties. There aren’t many guys his size who can match his explosive vertical leap. There are even fewer guys his size who could (and would) make a pass from one edge of the baseline to the other.

But they aren’t strung together with regularity. Really, he’s just one of the guys. He has self-imposed limits. It’s what made him a bummer at Duke, and why the Bobcats were able to sign him in the short term for cheap. “I’ve probably been too unselfish at times in my career,” McRoberts said in October. “But that’s the player I’ve become.” That’s a player any team could use. He’s the Connector, as Jordan calls him, for a team on the precipice of its first postseason run in four years — of turning my dreams into a reality. Jordan was right to worry.

Is Gorgui Dieng for Real?

Faces of Rick

Steve McPherson: There have been a couple of consistent things for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season: Kevin Love’s ludicrous numbers, losses in close games, a super-subpar bench. But an underrated layer of bedrock for the Wolves has been head coach Rick Adelman’s reliable exasperation at just about everything that happens on the court. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they’re winning or losing. Even as the Wolves pulled ahead against the Atlanta Hawks in the third quarter last night and finished strong (which has NOT been a consistent experience for them), Adelman was there, eyes bugging out, hands up as if he were pleading, or else sitting down and audibly taking the Lord’s name in vain. It’s gotten to the point where you begin to wonder if he can turn it off after the games, or if he carries his frustration with him throughout the day.

Rick, the smoke detector at the bottom of the basement stairs is running out of batteries.

AdelmanLipRead

Rick, we can’t accept this coupon. It’s only good for Honey Nut Cheerios, not the regular kind.

RickAdelmanWhateverHandsFBomb

Rick, I’m glad they reconsidered and decided to accept your coupon for Honey Nut Cheerios, but we’re out of milk.

AdelmanFBombs

Rick, it’s trash day. Could you …

AdelmanHeadShake (1)

Never mind: I got it.

(GIFs via @CJZero)

Boogie Watch

Brett Koremenos: It’s easy to get caught up in the things that are currently holding DeMarcus Cousins back — temper, defense, general demeanor. We tend to lose sight of just what an incredible force the mercurial big man could be if he figures it out. It’s not hyperbole when I say that if Cousins reaches his immense potential, we’ll see him quickly ascend to the top of the NBA hierarchy, joining the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant as an annual MVP candidate.

If you think that is an outlandish claim, check out this list of players who posted a usage rate over 30 and PER over 25, all while 23 or younger. Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on  you. That is, in fact, Cousins up there with the likes of Jordan, Shaq, T-Mac, LeBron, and Durant. Stats don’t paint the complete picture and certainly don’t factor in Cousins’s crippling defensive apathy. But any combination of statistical parameters that produces a collection of names with that star power means Cousins is definitely on the verge of something special.

Cousins is putting up these crazy-awesome numbers while also delivering at least one play a night where I say to myself, “A human being that’s 7 feet tall and 270 pounds shouldn’t be able to do that.” During his near triple-double against the Knicks, you could pick from at least a handful of such moments. This was my personal favorite:

The crazy part about Cousins is, he does things like that nearly every game. Whether it’s behind-the-back dribbles while leading the break, whipping passes across a collapsing defense to open teammates on the opposite side, or muscling his way through three defenders to draw a foul — there is literally nothing Cousins can’t do. On the offensive end of the floor, at least.

Welcome to the NBA, Ray

RayMcCallum

Kirk Goldsberry: Ray McCallum of the Kings got his first start last night. Tyson Chandler says hello. Also, Rudy Gay ran the point last night. It went … OK.

RudyAtPoint

Super Slash Bros.

Jason Gallagher: When you’re a product of my generation, there’s only so much self-control one can exhibit when presented with this tweet from the Phoenix Suns.

So naturally, here’s your list of Smash Bros. moves that correspond with the top four plays from Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic in last night’s win against Washington. Forgive me, for I am weak.

Dragic Mario Tornado (2)

Bledsoe Fox McCloud Blaster

Dragic Ness PSI Magnet

Bledsoe Pikachu Thunder Jolt (2)

Metta World Peace Spent His Evening Comparing Coaches to Rappers

Jared Dubin:

Well, I mean, maybe? I think he might be more like the 50 Cent of coaching, but I’ll let you have this one.

Actually, that sounds about right. Good call, Ron.

Oh, come on. That doesn’t even make sense. You can’t just be out in these streets mixing up your rap metaphors, you St. Lunatic.

WHO? WHO IS THE MILEY CYRUS OF COACHING? TELL ME! (It’s Mike Woodson, isn’t it? Tweet something ridiculous if it’s Mike Woodson, Metta.)

That’s deep, man. Everyone knows that you are a diligent practitioner of nonviolent civil disobedience, though, so it makes total sense.

So Gandhi is really just the white Ron Artest? Is that what you’re saying here?

Patently ridiculous. Coach K is clearly the Jadakiss of coaching.

That’s cool, Ron. You do you.

Whatever, man. I’m not even gonna try to figure this one out.

Filed Under: NBA, NBA Shootaround, Chris Ryan, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Roy Hibbert, Paul George, Brett Koremenos, netw3rk, Andrew Sharp, Jared Dubin, Kirk Goldsberry, Steve McPherson, demarcus cousins, Anthony Davis, Lance Stephenson

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