By Rob Mahoney
• Cross-sport analogies can be dicey territory, but HoopSpeak's Beckley Mason sensibly compares Peyton Manning's mastery of a simple, flexible offense to the widely successful spread pick and roll:
Just as keeping personnel groupings and routes simple made for better communication between Manning and his receivers, spreading the floor by moving the non-screening big man to the perimeter has the effect of removing defensive clutter from the paint. Though there are a number of different passes the ballhandler can make, really he just has to pressure to paint off the dribble — a task aided by a good ball screen — then either shoot or pass to the guy who is open when a defender comes to help.
Depending on where [Steve] Nash roams with his dribble, he can manipulate the defense into a few predictable responses. And because they ran the same look on possession-after-possession, game-after-game, they got really, really good at running it. Especially Nash, who got to make the same reads over-and-over. And because he happens to be a phenomenal shooter with great vision, he was able to run the best offense in the league.
• In light of the news that certain special edition variants of the LeBron X shoes carry a $300 price tag, four Wall Street Journal staffers bought similarly priced shoes (including these beauties) to play out a one-on-one "tournament". (via Kirk Henderson)
• On a much more somber note, Tom Ziller exposes the underpinnings of the Kings' potential move to Seattle, and why that relocation would be as unfair as it is imprudent. (Also: A great rallying cry from Ziller on the Kings-centric blog, Sactown Royalty. I've never much understood the reasoning for anyone to tell Kings fans when they should give up on their team and go home, but some apparently feel that need. Pay them no mind, Sacramento faithful; what you've done and what you're doing is noble as hell and intelligently executed, and you should only stop when you feel so compelled.)
• Flip to page 84 in the digital version of the latest HOOP magazine, and let Holly MacKenzie regale you with the experiences of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the experience of watching Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
• In his debut for SB Nation, James Herbert focuses in on Evan Turner and his battle against expectation:
"My patience is coming," Turner said. "At the same time, I think what makes me who I am is wanting it more. I could be too laid back and that could hurt me the same. I think the most important thing is finding a balance. Growing up and becoming a man and playing in a sports atmosphere is finding balance and understanding sometimes you're going to have good moments, sometimes you're going to have bad moments."
The perception is that premium prospects are the most prepared for the pros, but Turner's story shows something: pressure can be paralyzing.
"When you try to please people, you end up just running yourself into a wall," said Turner.
• When LeBron James didn't pick up a single foul in 254 straight minutes, the feat registered on the NBA radar as a bit of trivia. It was wrapped and delivered as a Twitter curiosity or a "Did You Know?" broadcast segment, and ultimately swept under the rug along with all of the other statistical footnotes that occur during a standard NBA season. Yet Jim Cavan took pause to consider the record, and all that it represents, in a terrific piece for The Classical:
With LeBron’s record, the guilt is a little closer to the surface. There was and remains a psychic undercurrent of staged nepotism to this record’s fall – here’s proof, if we want it, that “star treatment” in the NBA has hit an absurd zenith. This was less a record to laud than a fraud best forgotten, something like Mark McGwire’s wince-inducing home run tally, which voters for Baseball’s Hall of Fame seem quite happy to continue ignoring.
But the principle is largely the same: No one is that good, or this good in this way for this long. Even the best baller on the planet – and that’s LeBron right now, who may arguably be the best that ever lived by the time he’s done – is human, though his brand of rinse-and-repeat greatness and stunning feats seem always to suggest otherwise. Even being the most fundamentally sound defender in the world does not and cannot negate the fact that your 400-plus colleagues and not-quite-peers are also incredibly good at what they do. They’re the quickest, the fastest, the strongest, and if LeBron is the best they’re mostly close enough to, say, draw a charge or a block or a reach-in from him at least once a game, let alone once every two weeks.
• So much to enjoy in Kelly Dwyer's Beyond the Box Score, including the use of Atlanta's no-show on Wednesday night as a justification for a particular phrase of basketball writer-speak:
It’s a cliché you’ll hear us use in July during the offseason, in October as we ready our season previews, or in June as we celebrate the end of the playoffs. “A random Wednesday in January in Cleveland,” in reference to those anonymous one in eighty-twos that are hard to get up for. The Hawks, in Cleveland on Wednesday, gave us the go-ahead to use that cliché for another year at least.
• Peachtree Hoops posted a nice Q&A with Al Horford regarding his overall development and play this season. • If you're of the opinion that Amar'e Stoudemire is even passable defensively, I'd implore you to read/watch this.