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Friday, February 10, 2006

Mavericks Burn Heat

The Dallas Mavericks annihilated the Miami Heat 112-76 in the first game of TNT's Thursday doubleheader. As Dallas took a 70-45 lead in the third quarter on an uncontested Dirk Nowitzki layup, TNT commentator Doug Collins observed, "I don't like what I see from Miami...I've never seen a Miami team concede." Blowouts happen even to great teams in the course of the 82 game NBA season (the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team that set a record by going 72-10 lost 104-72 to the Knicks on March 10--you can look it up) but there is no denying that this Miami team looks old, slow and tired. Miami has not shown that it can beat good teams, particularly on the road. Shaquille O'Neal had 23 points and eight rebounds, while Dwyane Wade contributed 16 points and eight assists. No other Heat player scored in double figures. Miami's plan to buy a championship by acquiring Shaquille O'Neal, Antoine Walker, Gary Payton, James Posey and Jason Williams to play with rising star Dwyane Wade is looking like a fading dream. As George Clinton might say, their future is behind them.

Dallas' future, to paraphrase a different artist, is so bright that the Mavs might have to wear shades. Nowitzki led Dallas with 27 points and Jason Terry had a strong performance--16 points on 6-10 field goal shooting, seven assists and no turnovers. Dallas has now won 13 straight games, the longest streak in the NBA this season and one victory short of the franchise record. TNT's Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith have belittled the Mavericks all year, but look at the standings: the Mavs are 39-10, a half game ahead of San Antonio for the best record in the Western Conference and only two losses behind the Detroit Pistons (40-8) for the best record in the NBA. That means that the Mavericks are absolutely legitimate title contenders. Avery Johnson has done a tremendous job, reaching 50 wins faster than any coach in NBA history.

By the way, Detroit would have to go 30-4 to win 70 games, so can we have a moratorium on talk that the Pistons have any chance to do this? For one thing, 70 is a nice round number, but it is not even the record: the aforementioned '96 Bulls won 72 games, showed that it wasn't a fluke by winning the championship and then followed that up with 69 wins (tying the old record) and another title in '97 (62 wins and a three-peat came in '98, followed by Jerry Krause's wrecking ball; the Bulls have not won 72 games in any two consecutive seasons since then, a streak that will end with four more Chicago wins this season). Add that up and that's 141-23 in a two year stretch and 203-43 during the Bulls' second three-peat; that Bulls squad is the most focused, committed team that I have seen in any sport and it will be a long time before an NBA team seriously threatens the 72 win mark. The best NBA team often wins 60-62 games, but the extra 10-12 wins to get to 72 came by triumphing during the dog days of the season and by not giving in to fatigue on the road after playing four games in five nights; the Jordan-Pippen-Rodman Bulls are the only team that I've ever seen treat those games like the seventh game of the NBA Finals.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:26 AM

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Bob McAdoo: The Numbers Don't Lie

Bob McAdoo won three scoring titles and one MVP in the mid 1970s. He became the youngest player to score 10,000 points, a record that stood for over 20 years until Kobe Bryant broke it during the 2002-03 season. By the end of McAdoo's sixth season he had the third highest regular season scoring average and second highest playoff scoring average in NBA history. McAdoo was a key contributor to the Showtime Lakers teams that made four straight Finals appearances and won two titles between 1982 and 1985; Coach Pat Riley has flatly stated that the Lakers would not have won those championships without McAdoo's clutch scoring, rebounding and shot blocking. McAdoo is a Hall of Famer but he was not included on the NBA's 50 Greatest Players List that was selected in 1996. He is the only MVP winner who did not make the cut. Check out my HoopsHype article for more information about McAdoo's tremendous career:

http://www.hoopshype.com/articles/mcadoo_friedman.htm

Here is some bonus McAdoo material that is not included in the article:

***
Asked which current player is most similar to him, McAdoo says, “When I see Nowitzki, he reminds me of me. He’s so tall that he can get off a shot any time he wants. His range is deeper than mine; I would go out to 20 feet. He just stands behind the three point line on a regular basis and his range is amazing for a guy that size. It just seems like he gets off a good shot any time he wants. Nobody can guard him.”

***
Pacers CEO/President Donnie Walsh says of McAdoo, “He was toward the end of his career when I got into the league. He was a great scorer and he could block shots. He was probably the first combination of that—he could shoot the ball great and was a great jumper and rebounder and shot blocker. So, he was what you call a stat-filler—he filled up the whole stat sheet.”

Walsh disagrees with the Nowitzki comparison, citing McAdoo’s superior all around game: “Nowitzki to me is more of a perimeter player.” He actually sees some similarities between Pacers star Jermaine O’Neal and McAdoo: “I mean, he (O'Neal) can shoot the ball—he can do a lot of things--he can rebound and he’s a shot blocker. But McAdoo was a better scorer.” Walsh adds that McAdoo had greater range on his shot than O’Neal.

***
McAdoo played for two of the game’s most prominent coaches, Dean Smith and Pat Riley. He notes, “They are similar in that they believe in working to get to where you want to go. They know that there is no perfection in basketball; there is no perfection in anything. You are going to see missed free throws and turnovers but you want to get to the point that you are the best that you can be so that you eliminate some of those things. The work gives you confidence a lot of times. That’s the similarity that I see.”

I asked McAdoo, “Would you agree that a hallmark of great coaches is that the emphasis is on preparation, so that by the time you get to the court you already know what you need to do to win the game? People talk about coaching in game—and that might happen in special situations—but a lot of the coaching is the practice and the preparation and getting people ready to perform as opposed to trying to micromanage every little thing during the game.”

He replied, “Exactly. Exactly. You said it. You’re right. It’s about preparation and that’s what those two guys are about. Once you get on the court, your players have to take over. You did so much detailed prep work with those two guys that if you got beat it was usually because the other team just had superior talent."

McAdoo says that the main difference between the two legends is simple: “Riley yells more. He’ll show his anger. I never really saw Dean Smith angry. He is really calm in all different types of situations.”

***
McAdoo replied quickly when I asked, “What player during your career was the most difficult or most challenging matchup for you individually?”

McAdoo: “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kareem was impossible to guard because he had the unstoppable skyhook. You knew that he was going to get 30 or 40 on you if you didn’t get some help. He was so tall and agile that there was just no way you were going to stop him.”

When I said, “So that was another advantage of going to the Lakers, right? You only had to guard him in practice,” McAdoo quickly retorted, “Well, he was lucky too because he didn’t have to guard me.” (laughs)



posted by David Friedman @ 9:15 PM

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