By Rob Mahoney
• For The New York Times' Off the Dribble blog, Beckley Mason tackles the bizarre decline of Eric Bledsoe:
Recently, virtually every relevant Bledsoe metric has been in sharp decline. His shooting is down from about 50 percent through the first 20 games to 32.7 percent in the last 10 games, and his assists and turnover rates have both headed in the wrong direction over that same period.
What’s worse is that he looks disinterested, unengaged, bored. A lower percentage of his shots come at the rim, his defense has been erratic and one no longer senses in his body language the coiled potential of a crouched panther. There have been multiple episodes of Bledsoe, after a bad play or two, sulking on the bench, unresponsive to his teammates’ encouragement.
Strangely, this downturn came during his team’s astonishing 17-game win streak. Of course, this stretch also saw Bledsoe’s minutes and role decrease, through no fault of his own. Sure, he has battled a minor hip injury, but, more than anything, he seems to be battling his reduced role on a team that until the New Year had been blowing teams out whether he contributed or not.
Without drifting too far into armchair sports psychology, is it possible that Bledsoe -- who has always been one of the highest rated players for his age class going back to high school -- is like the brilliant teenager who gets a B-minus in remedial math because he’s bored?
• A belated round of applause for Aaron McGuire of Gothic Ginobili, who pulled off the impossible task of writing a "capsule" on every single NBA player. The archives are filled with interesting accounts and reflections of all kinds, and well worth an afternoon's (or week's? month's?) diversion.
• In Ronnie Brewer and Steve Novak, the Knicks have two very different options at small forward -- neither of which is working very well. Joe Flynn of Posting and Toasting penned an excellent post on that very subject, so exhaustive in its analysis that no block quote is going to do it justice. Check it out in its entirety to fully understand the positional ripples that come from moving Carmelo Anthony to power forward.
• In his riff on the Avery Johnson firing, professional gambler (and data collector) Haralabos Voulgaris made a great point about the Warriors' historic upset of the 67-win Mavs back in 2007:
You aren’t going to win a lot of game against a transition team like GSW if you aren’t scoring in transition as well -- especially when your half-court offense consists of jumpshots. Dirk was (and is) an amazing offensive player, but he’s a jump-shooting big man.
It’s okay to want to slow the game down and pound the ball inside the immediate basket area. But it’s extremely difficult to have proper floor spacing when your power forward is 15 to 17 feet from the basket, and your point guards and wings are below the free throw line extended. This type of offense leads to easy fast breaks the other way, even off of makes.
During that playoff series, Dallas averaged 13.28 seconds per offensive possession compared to GSW’s 10.92 seconds. That explains the average fast break points per game:
Good luck winning 4 out of 7 when you’re gifting the other team 11+ fast break points per game.
• I'm really enjoying this recurring series in which Ethan Sherwood Strauss pesters Steph Curry about various bits of shooting data.
• A wise call for patience among Bobcats fans, who are understandably weary of losing streaks but are starting to see their team lose in a fundamentally more constructive manner.
• Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo!'s Ball Don't Lie attempts to untangle Bryan Colangelo's odd tenure as the general manager of the Toronto Raptors -- a team that hired him for his golden touch and saw its prospects wither away:
Despite the turnaround, though, it’s clear that it’s Colangelo that is the millstone. Drafting Bargnani in the first place wasn’t his biggest mistake – all of us were on board with that decision back in 2006 – it was the 2009 extension that Colangelo bid against himself to sign Bargnani to that haunts the team to this day. No other team would have offered Bargnani anywhere near the five years and $50 million that Colangelo handed him a year before he would have hit the market as a restricted free agent, and yet Colangelo thought it necessary to make a star out of his non-star by paying him like a star (along with an awful contract given to an already-30 Hedo Turkoglu). Clueless Raptor ownership didn’t help, and here we are -- Bargs is due to make over $22 million in two years after this miserable season.
There’s your root cause: Colangelo’s personnel moves and the influence he still somehow wields over Raptor ownership. It’s probably true that a heavy-handed touch from Mitchell wouldn’t have resulted in Bargnani becoming a better player, Sam was a bit of a nutter and even he admits that Andrea “just doesn't seem like he has the passion for the game.” Yelling and screaming at people in attempts to get them to love things just doesn’t work out. Take it from a guy with rage issues who loves all sorts of terrible bands and wants you to hear a mix CD he just made.
• Mark Deeks (of ShamSports fame) has herded all of the most viable NBA cast-offs into a single post for your reading pleasure. • That Tim Duncan guy is pretty good.