By Rob Mahoney
• Zac Crain delves into Jerry Stackhouse -- the man, the idea, and the name -- as a part of The Classical's ongoing 'Why We Watch' series:
When Jerry Stackhouse leaves the game -- finally, someday -- he won't leave behind all that much. He was never given that option, not that he cared or even really noticed. His legacy probably amounts to that strange scoring title -- Allen Iverson scored more points per game in '00-01, although Stackhouse scored the most points -- and the time he changed into sweats after playing the Jazz so he could smack Kirk Snyder. Stackhouse will pop up in some arena a decade from now, singing the national anthem, and you’ll remember him, but only vaguely. There’s no signature game or play.
You’ll have forgotten him. But then, you did that a long time ago. Stackhouse will remember, though. He'll remember every slight and every bucket, little things that only he ever knew in the first place. He’ll be damn sure he could still play 20 minutes if you needed him. He'll tell you he was open on the last play. He might even be right.
• An interesting statistical ranking -- courtesy of Evan Zamir -- of player turnovers not caused by steals. Considering that the Lakers rank 29th in the league in turnover rate, it's not at all surprising to see Dwight Howard elbowing his way past the field with Kobe Bryant the closest behind.
• Danny Nowell of Portland Roundball Society considers the state of a postgame locker room within the context of the regular-season slog:
If you spend a lifetime reading sports quotes, you get sick of this stuff. But when you see Nic Batum joking about being too sore to guard Tony Parker with three quarters of a season left to play, it starts to make sense. There’s too much basketball. There are too many practices. Plane rides. Pressers. Shootarounds. You can’t just go around ascribing meaning to every event, or you’ll become too exhausted to continue.
Think of it like this: 82 games is a season’s worth of emotion stretched as thin as it can possibly be stretched. Like a weak bridge spanning October to April: there is nearly too much chasm to be traversed without trestles. So you step very gingerly on each of the 82 boards, and that way you make it to the other end. I’m starting to realize, 22 games into my first season covering a single team, that these clichés are half-truth and half-necessity, and that a season really is fueled by the mundane satisfactions and disappointments. Wins help, losses hurt, and there are always more games to be played than you have played, until there aren’t.
So when Damian Lillard is fending off reporters in front of his locker, he may be showing a stability more important than the sturdy knees Portland so desperately needs. He’s showing that he understands the fissures in the ground beneath his feet, the danger of declaring a turning point that turns out to have been just another December basketball game. Even footing, every step.
• Scott Schroeder -- who once penned the D-League blog, Ridiculous Upside -- checks in with details of his new job as Director of Basketball Operations for the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
• There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Keith Smart seemed to have a great, progressive relationship with his players and some interesting potential as an NBA head coach. Now he's playing Travis Outlaw and benching one of his most promising prospects. Was fun while it lasted, I guess.
• Avery Johnson, who has been no stranger to the odd strategic blunder this year, has bogged down his team late in games by calling for hero-ball offense. Sayeth Devin Kharpertian of The Brooklyn Game:
In critical moments in games, the Nets have stopped playing basketball, and started playing heroball. And the crux of heroball isn't to score, but to impress: give the ball to one of your best perimeter players, and let him try to create a moment. If it works? It looks awesome! Fans go home knowing they saw something special from one of the league's special players. But more often than not, teams go home the loser.
It does seem odd that Avery Johnson, former Spurs point guard and disciple of the rare and surprising Gregg Popovich, would relegate his talented roster to mostly isolation plays with the game on the line. Williams can be a great scorer, despite his current shooting, but he's even better as a distributor. Brooklyn has off-ball weapons; Wallace, Humphries, and Evans are all great screeners, Watson, Stackhouse, and Johnson are reliable threats from deep, Lopez is phenomenal at finding space near the basket for little dump-ins. The Nets have a variety of talents, one that makes Johnson's decision to shut it down late so puzzling.
• Kobe Bryant: totally a ball hog.
• With the Rockets visiting Madison Square Garden tonight to play the Knicks, today's installment of The Fundamentals focuses on how Jeremy Lin is fitting in with his new team. Tom Haberstroh -- now under the PER Diem banner over at ESPN.com -- examines the same subject, though with an even more extreme conclusion: Lin should be benched, for both the good of his game and the good of the Rockets.
• Ricky Rubio made his long-awaited return to the NBA court on Saturday, and Zach Harper of CBS Sports was there to survey the scene at the Target Center:
The production was there. In just over 18 minutes of play, Rubio managed eight points, nine assists, four rebounds and three steals. He turned the ball over twice and had eight attempts at the free throw line. He made his first jumper and then missed his other three attempts, all 3-pointers.
But the electricity was surging through him and his teammates when he had the ball. He threw a one-handed bounce pass from the right wing to a cutting J.J. Barea on the baseline that was goaltended for Rubio's first assist of the season. His second assist came on a between-the-legs bounce pass to Greg Stiemsma for a score inside. From that point forward, everybody inched to the edge of their seats whenever Ricky had the ball.
"I told him you don't have to do everything the first game; he can save things for later," Adelman joked about the between-the-legs bounce pass. "He was just making everything happen.
"I think he might have been able to just pass that easily, but that's Ricky."
• And because one can never have too much of a good thing, here's another great read on Rubio's debut from Joan Niesen of FOX Sports North:
Rubio scores 8 points and dishes 9 assists in just 18 minutes, filling a stat sheet that cannot contain him. Stat sheet, his game scoffs, I'm bigger than that. He passes the ball behind his own back, through his legs, a millimeter away from grazing Elton Brand's leg, to Greg Stiemsma, who takes it up and scores. He lobs the ball to Derrick Williams for an alley-oop. He jets a no-look pass to Andrei Kirilenko. He feeds the ball to J.J. Barea for a three.
Rick Adelman told him pregame he didn't have to do everything, and then he made everything happen. "But that's Ricky," Adelman said with a laugh and a shrug postgame. That's Ricky, who transformed the coach's talk into something of a caustic comedy routine. That's Ricky, who sets the locker room a-twitter and makes normally stoic teammates effusive. That's Ricky, who sits in his folding chair and tells us all that his teammates gave him the gift of a win. "I can't say with words," Rubio said. "It was amazing."