• In a piece for TrueHoop, Kevin Arnovitz riffs on the central conflict of Chris Paul's playing persona -- one that now seems materially irrelevant with Paul dominating on both sides of that dividing line:
The book on Paul is that there’s always been a tension in his game between asserting himself as a scorer and maintaining his role as the pure distributor. The case for the latter has been predicated on the idea that if he were to look for his shot as a scorer, he’d be shelving his most rarefied skill as the commander of each possession, the point guard who can get a shot for anyone -- and people should work their strengths.
Paul’s performance in the early going suggests that the scorer-facilitator debate has always been a false choice. His usage rate so far this season is a career-high 29.2, and his assist rate of 35.8 is just a scant below last season (36.9), but considerably higher than his first season with the Clippers (32.1).
What’s going on? How can Paul up his shot attempts and individual production as a scorer without diminishing his role as the team’s facilitator?
• There's great, specific insight here on John Wall's sudden proficiency from beyond the arc, but the underlying question is just as important: When should a historically errant shooter be allowed to shoot?
• With three coaches recently sent packing after winning 56-plus games in a season, the NBA's coaches are understandably a bit nervous and confused.
• In the simplest analysis, it might seem obvious that Houston should deal reserve center Omer Asik for a player more compatible with Dwight Howard. Yet in reflecting on the Rockets' loss to the Lakers on Thursday, Rahat Huq of Red 94 touches on the difficulty in making such a decision:
We’ve all probably seen enough to conclude that this ‘Twin Towers’ thing just isn’t going to work. Not much more that needs to be said there. But just when you felt safe in concluding that an Asik trade needed to be made, you saw Dwight Howard go to the bench with four fouls with Omer [Asik] coming in, late in the game, and the team losing close to nothing defensively. That replacement productivity would be a really tough luxury to lose especially when, as we saw last year with Asik off the floor, the alternatives can have disastrous consequences. At the same time, if you’re not having to fight back from a double digit deficit (inherited due to the offensive ineptitude of the Twin Towers lineup) every night in the second half, you can afford to give up something for those minutes without Dwight as you’re not fighting for your life on every possession. It remains to be the case that this Omer Asik decision will shape the Dwight Howard-James Harden era.
• Michael Kidd Gilchrist might never fill up a box score, though there's hope for his development into an NBA difference-maker with defensive performances like this one.
• On a strategic level, pushing the pace is a great equalizer. It allows lesser offensive players to avoid working against a set defense, increases the potential for efficient offense in general, and can leverage a specific strength (speed, shooting, etc.) in lieu of a more demanding, all-around approach. Yet increasing the number of possessions in a game also reduces the likelihood of fluky outcomes, which makes the Sixers' strong, dead-sprinting start all the more confounding.
• This conversation between Holly MacKenzie and Jack McCallum is littered with anecdotes -- on Steve Nash, primarily, but also Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant -- but a bit from McCallum on Magic Johnson sticks out:
Magic Johnson was a born leader. His coach and principal would say when there was racial tension in high school, Magic was a sophomore in high school, they’d bring Magic in to resolve it. Some combination of his size and personality, that guy was a leader from the word “go.” Within the small confines of a basketball team, within the architecture of a basketball team, you can’t fake it. You’ve got to be the guy.
• Selena Roberts of Sports on Earth regarding target="_blank">this charming LeBron James/Samsung commercial: "But beneath the sweet branding, there is an unscripted message that is a soulful sirens' song to the abandoned: LeBron makes fatherhood cool."
• Bucks center Zaza Pachulia is angling to buy the team's old hardwood floor once the kinks are finally worked out with the new one, intent to donate it to the gym in Tbilisi, Georgia where he first learned to play the game. • Is Raptors head coach Dwane Casey a bit too willing to move away from his team's best lineup?