20 Second Timeout is the place to find the best analysis and commentary about the NBA.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Artis Gilmore Article Published in Dec. 9 Issue of Sports Collectors Digest

Artis Gilmore ranks first in NBA/ABA history in career regular season field goal percentage, third in blocked shots (this statistic was not recorded during the careers of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell), fifth in rebounds and 18th in points. He was the 1975 ABA Playoff MVP, leading the Kentucky Colonels to the championship. Prior to that he enjoyed a distinguished collegiate career at Jacksonville, becoming one of only five Division I players to average 20-plus points and 20-plus rebounds for a career. It is inexplicable and inexcusable that he has not been inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The December 9 issue of Sports Collectors Digest contains my lengthy profile of Gilmore's career, including the A-Train's recollections of playing against UCLA in the 1970 NCAA Championship, facing off against Wilt Chamberlain in the 1972 NBA-ABA All-Star Game and competing against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1983 Western Conference Finals.

posted by David Friedman @ 11:50 PM

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Walt Frazier Article Featured at Legends of Basketball

My Walt Frazier article from the December 2005 issue of Hoop Magazine is now the featured item at the "Where are They Now" section of the Legends of Basketball site, which means that there are currently links to four of my articles on the main page of the Legends site. The others, as mentioned in a previous 20 Second Timeout entry, are my Billy Cunningham article from Tar Heel Monthly, my HoopsHype.com article about Bobby Jones and "Scottie Pippen's Place in Basketball History," which was originally published at 20 Second Timeout. Here is a link to the main page of the Legends site:

https://www.nbrpa.com/index.aspx

This link goes directly to the Frazier article:

https://www.nbrpa.com/news/wherenow/walt_frazier.aspx

posted by David Friedman @ 3:00 AM

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Kobe 62, Dallas 61

Kobe 62, Dallas 61--that is what Lakers Coach Phil Jackson wrote on his clipboard after the third quarter of Tuesday night's L.A. Lakers-Dallas Mavericks game, underscoring the magnitude of what had just happened: Kobe Bryant had outscored one of the NBA's top teams by himself, in the process producing a 30 point third quarter, the fourth best quarter in NBA history. Kobe did not play in the fourth quarter as the Lakers coasted to a 112-90 victory, but in less than 33 minutes of playing time Bryant racked up several notable accomplishments: (1) he broke his previous single game scoring high of 56 points, set on January 14, 2002 against Memphis (he also did not play in the fourth quarter of that game); (2) he broke the Lakers record for points in a quarter (24), which he had shared with Jerry West and Elgin Baylor; (3) he broke Shaquille O'Neal's Staples Center record of 61 points; (4) he became only the fourth player since 1960 to score 60 points while playing less than 40 minutes (West, George Gervin and Karl Malone are the others).

J.A. Adande of the L.A. Times suggests that even though Kobe set a career high that it was not his best game because the stakes were not high enough. Adande's selection as Kobe's best game is his performance in game seven of the 2000 Western Conference Finals, when the Lakers came back from a 15 point fourth quarter deficit to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers and advance to the NBA Finals. The Lakers subsequently won their first title of the Shaq-Kobe era. Bryant told Adande, "Portland is the one. We don't step up that game, you don't know what could have happened. It's the most important." Those of you who think that Bryant rode Shaq's coattails to three titles might be interested in Kobe's stat line from that game: 25 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, four blocked shots. Adande notes that Kobe led the Lakers in each of those categories in that crucial game. As great as Dwyane Wade has been, perhaps Shaq was a bit premature in saying that "Flash" is the best sidekick that he has had.

Against Dallas on Tuesday night, Bryant shot 18-31 from the field, 4-10 on three pointers and 22-25 on free throws. He added eight rebounds and three steals. His critics will no doubt mention that he had no assists. The title of T.J. Simers' L.A. Times article about Kobe's performance says it all: "Only Bryant Could Get Second-Guessed After 62." Simers writes, "Bryant can't win and it has nothing to do with the stiffs he's stuck with these days. If he shoots, he's selfish. If he's the facilitator--passing the ball to Chris Mihm or Devean George--what is he, nuts?" Simers concludes, "Apparently if the ball goes in a lot, Kobe is a stud; if it doesn't, he's the guy who will never understand the importance of teamwork. That's a fine line to walk, especially when the option many times is to pass the ball to players who can't score."

In the Lakers previous game, a frustrating 76-74 loss to the Houston Rockets, Jackson felt that Kobe neglected to attack the basket on a few occasions. After Tuesday's jaw dropping performance, Bryant said, "It was just a feeling of willfulness. Even if they were going to send two guys at me, I was going to attack them and let them know I was coming after them and just send a message." According to L.A. Times writer Mike Bresnahan, earlier in the day Kobe told Smush Parker and Lakers Assistant Coach Brian Shaw that he was going to drop 50 on Dallas.

What does Kobe have in store for Shaq, Wade and the Miami Heat on Christmas Day?

On December 19, Bryant was named the Western Conference Player of the Week after averaging 33.8 ppg, .517 field goal shooting, 5.8 rpg, 3.8 apg and 2.0 spg as the Lakers went 3-1; it's safe to say that Bryant will do his best to win that award back to back.

posted by David Friedman @ 2:00 AM

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Road Trip Blues or Same Old Sorry Clippers?

A few years ago, the San Francisco 49ers were beating the L.A. Rams for what seemed to be the millionth consecutive time and NFL Films cameras captured a classic, often replayed sound bite emanating from the jubilant 49ers sideline: "Same old sorry Rams." The Rams have long since moved to St. Louis and won a Super Bowl; after a 9-2 start this season, it seemed that the L.A. Clippers--once their cousins in Southern California sports suffering--were finally on the road to the playoffs instead of the road to Secaucus, home of the NBA draft lottery. However, the Clippers' fifth loss in six games raises this question: Are the Clippers simply experiencing road trip blues or are they reverting back to being the "same old sorry Clippers"?

The Clippers shared first place in the Pacific Division with the Phoenix Suns before losing 97-75 to the Indiana Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse on Wednesday night. Elton Brand, touted as an MVP candidate during the first month of the season, lived up to that billing, leading the Clippers with 29 points while contributing 12 rebounds. Center Chris Kaman had a game-high 16 rebounds, nine of which came on the offensive glass, which is not surprising considering he missed numerous point blank attempts en route to shooting 6-17 from the field. Sam Cassell, who provided such a spark when the Clippers were doing well, struggled mightily, shooting 2-10 from the field and finishing with four points and three assists. In the first half he missed all four of his field goal attempts and was whistled for three fouls in less than 14 minutes of playing time; he sat out the last 4:39 of the half after being slapped with a technical foul for complaining about being called for an offensive foul.

The Clippers started the night as the best free throw shooting team in the league, but connected on only 9-18 versus the Pacers. The Clippers have only won six of their last 14 games. Part of the problem is the absence of small forward Corey Maggette (21.7 ppg) due to injury. In his postgame standup, Coach Mike Dunleavy noted, "We're missing three of our top eight players. There is nothing you can do about that. All teams go through it at some point. It is what it is." Dunleavy did not fault the effort of his players, pointing out that the Clippers forced 21 turnovers while only committing 11; strangely, the Pacers scored more points off turnovers than the Clippers (12-9). Dunleavy said, "We had the easy shots, but they just were not falling...I didn't really find fault with our shots, but we just missed too many layups." In his postgame remarks, Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle also mentioned that the Clippers missed some shots that they would normally make. Stephen Jackson led the Pacers with 24 points and Carlisle praised his defense against Cuttino Mobley, who shot 6-19 and scored only 13 points. Danny Granger provided a big lift off of the bench with 16 points (shooting 8-11 from the field), seven rebounds and three steals. Carlisle also singled out the offensive creativity of point guard Jamaal Tinsley, who had 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds; he seemed to get a little too creative at times, resulting in eight turnovers. After the game, Tinsley said, "We went out and worked hard and tried to cut back on turnovers. I personally need to work on that a little bit. I think I had too many tonight. I wanted to be aggressive, take charge, take good shots and direct the team."

*********************
Notes From Courtside:

Although Cassell had an off night, watching him warm up before the game provided some insight into why he is usually such a deadly offensive player. Cassell started on the left baseline and swished several jumpers in a row from 18-20 feet out. Then, as if he were playing "Around the World," he moved up to the foul line extended and again nailed several jumpers in the 18-20 foot range. He proceeded to go to the top of the key, the right foul line extended and then the right baseline before shooting some free throws. Cassell is the master of the mid-range game and knows how to get his shot off against bigger and quicker opponents. Cassell has never had blazing speed or tremendous jumping ability, but he understands the game and his opponents so well that he is able to consistently obtain open shots.

---

On more than one occasion Dunleavy has employed the so-called "Hack-a-Shaq" strategy when his team is trailing, instructing his players to intentionally foul Shaquille O'Neal (or whoever the opponents' worst free throw shooter is--for instance, Ben Wallace of the Detroit Pistons in a recent game), hoping to take advantage of missed free throws to mount a comeback. Possible drawbacks to this tactic are (1) the stoppage of play allows the other team to set up its half court defense and (2) if the other team shoots 50% from the free throw line then the team employing the "Hack-a-Shaq" must shoot more than 50% on two pointers (or hit a lot of threes) to gain any ground--if Shaq is fouled four times and makes four of eight free throws and the Clippers make two of four two point field goals on the ensuing possessions, then both teams have scored four points. Of course, if Shaq makes more than 50% of his free throws then the tactic completely fails (unless the Clippers make a barrage of three pointers). Some coaches and observers swear by the "Hack-a-Shaq," while others are more apt to swear at it, saying that it violates the spirit of the game and, in any case, is not effective. I don't buy the first argument: if anything violates the spirit of the game, it is that there are NBA players who are paid millions of dollars and shoot poorly enough from the free throw line to make this tactic plausible; it is within the rules to try to take advantage of such players and the coach's job is to maximize his team's chance to win. As for whether or not it is effective, before the Pacers game I asked Dunleavy about this. Read his remarks and judge for yourself:

"There are two parts to it--they have to cooperate by missing the free throws and you have to get the rebounds. If you are successful at those parts, it helps you in a lot of ways: you can stop a hot hand on their side, breaking their momentum; your flow is still going because you're scoring and they're not doing it to you; coming back the other way, their guys have not had a lot of touches, so when they do get shots they are not necessarily going to make them."

I asked Dunleavy, "You don't buy into the idea that it perhaps allows the other team to entrench their defense because you can't really run against them off of a missed free throw?"

He replied, "If we've been coming down and scoring anyway, I'm not worried about their defense. I make the decision that we would rather have our chance to score and not give them possession at the other end. The other thing that is going on is you're stopping the clock totally. If the clock is running and you're behind, you're going to lose the game on time alone."

I asked Dunleavy if there is a certain predetermined time/score situation that he uses as a guideline for employing this tactic and he said, "It's all by feeling."

posted by David Friedman @ 1:25 AM

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Three Articles Featured at Legends of Basketball

Legends of Basketball (https://www.nbrpa.com/index.aspx), the official website of the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA), has just reprinted three of my articles.

As I mentioned in my previous post, their current "Homepage Feature" is my article about Billy Cunningham from the January 2006 issue of Tar Heel Monthly:

https://www.nbrpa.com/news/featurearchive/12_19_05.aspx

Their most recent "One on One" item is my Hoopshype article about Bobby Jones:

https://www.nbrpa.com/news/editorial/12_19_05.aspx

Their "Media" section includes a link to "Scottie Pippen's Place in Basketball History," which of course originally appeared at 20 Second Timeout:

https://www.nbrpa.com/news/featurearchive/12_20_05.aspx

posted by David Friedman @ 11:55 PM

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Billy Cunningham Article in Tar Heel Monthly and Featured at Legends of Basketball

Billy Cunningham has enjoyed success at every stage of his basketball career: he is a Hall of Fame player, he won an NBA championship as a player and as a coach, he provided insightful commentary during CBS broadcasts of NBA games in the mid-1980s and he was one of the founding owners of the Miami Heat. My profile of Cunningham appears in the January 2006 issue of Tar Heel Monthly and includes quotes from Cunningham about playing for Hall of Fame coaches Dean Smith and Larry Brown. There is a link to this article at Legends of Basketball, the official website of the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA):

https://www.nbrpa.com/news/featurearchive/12_19_05.aspx

posted by David Friedman @ 11:50 PM

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Two Random NFL Musings

You can expect to hear a mixture of things at Cavs' games: pro-Cavs cheers dominate, of course, but sometimes there will also be a vocal contingent offering support for the visiting team. When the Browns qualified for the playoffs a few years ago, that announcement prompted a lot of applause at what was then known as Gund Arena (the basketball team was not doing much to warrant cheers at that time). Saturday night's Cavs-Heat game supplied an interesting and very unexpected chant: "Fire Millen," which was accompanied by several fans toting signs expressing the same sentiment about the architect of the debacle that is Detroit Lions football. Millen's "fan club" seems to be determined to make its feelings known throughout the sports world.

My second random NFL musing does not even tangentially relate to basketball, but I just want to throw it out there: has anyone else considered the possibility that the Indianapolis Colts might go 16-0 and then lose to the resurgent New England Patriots in the playoffs? If that happens and the Patriots go on to win an unprecedented third straight Super Bowl, where would the Patriots rank in NFL history? Where would the Colts' "perfect season" rank if the Patriots spoil it in the playoffs?

posted by David Friedman @ 1:30 AM

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LeBron Cools off the Heat at the Q

LeBron James scored 41 points--including 16 in the fourth quarter--as the Cleveland Cavaliers led by as many as 23 points en route to a 115-107 win over the Miami Heat at Quicken Loans Arena. James tied a season-high with 10 assists while shooting 12-19 from the field and 15-16 from the free throw line.

Cavaliers' Coach Mike Brown cooked up the perfect recipe to fry the Heat: (1) involve Shaquille O'Neal in pick and roll defense, which forces O'Neal away from the basket and leads to easy scoring opportunities; (2) play with tremendous energy at the defensive end of the court and push the ball up the court on offense, taking full advantage of the fact that Miami was playing its fourth game in five days. These two ingredients, sprinkled with a liberal dose of highlight reel plays supplied primarily by James and Larry Hughes, enabled the Cavs to jump out to a seven point lead in the first quarter and then, after the Heat tied the game at 29, to close the first half on a 32-15 run. Four first half plays stood out: James' Stocktonesque one hand bounce pass to a cutting Hughes, center Zydrunas Ilgauskas' one hand bounce pass around O'Neal to James for a soaring dunk, Hughes' crossover move followed by a left handed dunk and Hughes' drive on the left baseline past Wade for a dunk. Hughes had 19 of his 20 points in the first half.

Miami made a valiant run in the second half, with Wade scoring 17 of his 33 points and Alonzo Mourning contributing 10 of his 14 points and four of his six rebounds. Antoine Walker chipped in with five rebounds and five assists in the second half, finishing with 10 points, a team-high seven rebounds and a team-high (tied with Wade) seven assists. Walker also blocked Ilgauskas' layup attempt with 1:41 left in the game and the Cavs clinging to a 108-103 lead.

This was the first loss for the Heat since Pat Riley took over as head coach. In his postgame standup, Riley identified the reason for the defeat: "Obviously, we didn't play the game with a lot of focused energy in the first half. I thought we were a little slow, we looked tired and they (Cavaliers) looked sharp and they were good...We made a run at them, we had an opportunity, but we were one or two possessions away...we had to get that thing tied or two or three (points) away...We could never get there." Riley knows about great players, having coached Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy--and now O'Neal and Wade--and he was impressed by James: "At times, you're helpless. When he's raising on you and freezing you with the dribble, and making four or five in a row, it's sort of a helpless feeling. This is really the first time I've coached against him, the first time we've coached against Cleveland this year, and I'm sure the next time we'll be a lot more prepared."

O'Neal had a quiet night--10 points, six rebounds and no blocked shots in only 27 minutes of action--and after the game he offered this assessment of the Heat's 3-1 road trip: "We would have liked to come away 4-0, but they had more energy than we did and they hit a lot of shots. But, we had a lot of fight in us and if we could just keep it going and develop some type of consistency we're going to be fine."

Brown praised James' extraordinary stat line: "I do not know how you score 41 points on 12 of 19 shooting and get 10 assists. His rebound total was not high, but he was a man when he got that last one. That was a big rebound for us between two big bodies."

The Cavaliers also have to be encouraged by the performance of Donyell Marshall, who grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds and set a season-high with 25 points, including 5-11 shooting on three pointers. The only down notes for Cleveland were two injuries: near the end of the first half, starting power forward Drew Gooden reinjured the ankle that he hurt recently against Minnesota and in the last minute of the game Ilgauskas banged his head against Wade while going after a loose ball. Neither player returned to action.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:00 AM

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