By Rob Mahoney
• When watching an NBA game, most fans and analysts naturally trace the movement of the ball and the path of the ball-handler. We watch as drives are repelled, deft passes are threaded in traffic, and shots are hurled over the outstretched arms of defenders. But focusing too intently on the ball glosses over all of the work and movement that goes into a given possession from all five players on the floor, including those tasked with the dirty work of freeing up their teammates via screens. Over at Daily Thunder, Royce Young waxed on the importance of the screen in Oklahoma City's offense specifically, and the plight of the screen-setter more generally:
It’s kind of a strange thing, really. [Russell] Westbrook gets an assist for just passing the ball four feet to Durant as he curls off a Collison screen. It goes in the play-by-play, the PA guy announces it in the arena — Kevin Durant! From Russsssell — and Westbrook gets a nice little stat in the box score. Collison doesn’t get anything. But a successful set is often a three-part harmony. One part pass, one part screen, one part shot.
Now, by no means am I going to sit here and act like Durant or Westbrook would see their production destroyed if Collison or Perk weren’t on the floor. Some guys are better at screening than others, but mostly, like Collison said, it’s really just about getting in someone’s way. But what separates something as elementary as just standing in somebody’s path and somebody setting a good, solid pick that opens space is the mental part of it. The timing, knowing when and where to set it, understanding space, delivery and all that stuff. Listening to Collison describe it, it’s something he approaches as his craft, something he really attempts to understand.
“I think a big part too of screening is like how hard you run in to it, how quickly you run into it. Because how they defend the screen is going to depend on what your guy does as guarding the screener,” [Collison] said. “So if he’s playing from behind and he can’t get up in time, you’re going to get something good. If you walk into it, he’s going to be up and you’re not going to get anything good. So there’s that part of it too and I’ve learned that the last few years how important that is.”
• Grant Hill is 40 years old, and somehow where he went to college is still a big deal (and one worthy of ridiculous generalization) to some.
• The Dallas Mavericks have won four straight, but Ian Levy warns against the notion of putting too much stock in their offensive resurgence. By comparing all of Dallas' attempts to their expected points per shot, Levy finds that the Mavs have benefitted from unusually good shooting from the least efficient spots on the floor.
• An amazing bit of trivia, courtesy of Zach Lowe:
Things changed [for the Wizards] when Nenê returned and started playing more minutes; the Wiz have actually outscored opponents by about 5 points per 100 possessions with Nenê on the floor, a mark that would rank 6th overall — pretty remarkable for a 7-29 team. It's amazing how much better those semi-artful sets work with a big guy who can actually shoot, pass, and cut in smart ways — and how many more sets become possible for Randy Wittman to actually use.
• Here's a great interview with Keith Bogans, who is so far down the Brooklyn Nets media availability totem pole that he was initially skeptical of The Brooklyn Game's Devin Kharpertian wanting an on-record chat.
• Some interesting perspective here on the value of taking a practice stroke before shooting free throws.
• Brian Scalabrine shared the scary story of his multi-concussion season with TrueHoop's Beckley Mason, in which he lied to doctors in order to get clearance to play in the 2009 postseason:
I just told the doctor, Man this is great! I don’t have any issues with light, I’m sleeping better, I’m doing this, I’m doing that.
Were those things happening? Eh, not really. I wasn’t sleeping much better, I wasn’t feeling much better. But at the end of the day, there was an opportunity to play, so I played. That’s the decision I have to live with, and I’m completely fine with it.
I get a lot of heat for how I played in that playoff series. They judge me based just on that. But I’ll remind people that I couldn’t exercise, not play basketball, I couldn’t exercise for two months. Two entire months. I could walk. I couldn’t lift, I couldn’t run, I couldn’t shoot, I couldn’t do anything for literally two straight months.
I would like to see another NBA player, even a star, who has to sit there for two months then get thrown into a playoff series. I ended up shooting 50 percent from the field; I played pretty decent for what I did. But I looked terrible, my body was in awful shape. I had to wear a headband that had padding in it. People make fun of me for playing and how I looked, but at the end of the day I had no business being out there.