have fallen to pieces whenever their starters -- like John Wall
(right) and Nene -- have checked out of the game. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
• A delightful bit of frankness from John Wall regarding those playing behind him in Washington (via Truth About It):
“The main thing is we trust in those [bench] guys. And once in a blue moon they have a good game. But I think they just gotta be comfortable, they just got to be very comfortable and just find a good rotation.”
Kyle Weidie digs further into Washington's necessary reliance on its starters, and the misery that results when the team leans even slightly on its reserves. Wizards coach Randy Wittman may not be doing a perfect job, but he's in a distinctly unenviable position.
• With Anthony Davis sidelined indefinitely with a fracture in his hand, the bottom is set to fall out on the Pelicans. Zach Lowe surveys the potential damage for Grantland:
The pain is coming soon, just as Davis leaves the lineup. The Mavs, Thunder, and Grizz all come to New Orleans in the next two weeks, and the Pellies then jet off for a five-game road trip through some very tough Western Conference stops. They'll be home for the holidays, but the first week of 2014 brings a four-game roadie that includes visits to Miami and Indiana.
This is all great news for the Sixers, who own the Pelicans' first-round pick in the coming draft, so long as the pick falls outside the top five. A prolonged Davis absence increases the odds that the pick lurches up to no. 8–no. 10 territory, instead of the no. 13–no. 14 slot the Pelicans would get if they finished just outside the playoffs in the West.
And, yes, losing a second-year guy is that dire for New Orleans. Davis has been their best player, and it hasn't been all that close. He's still No. 2 overall in Player Efficiency Rating, behind only LeBron James, and it's unclear if the Pelicans can build anything close to an average defense without him. They're 23rd in points allowed per possessions as is, despite monstrous improvement from the Brow and a cupcake schedule that has been light on good offensive teams. Half of their games have come against teams ranked 21st or worse in points per possession, and their defense has fallen apart when Davis hits the bench. New Orleans has allowed 102.8 points per 100 possessions with Davis on the floor, already a below-average mark, and a disgusting 106.2 when he sits. The latter mark would rank 28th overall, and the team's defensive rebounding has cratered horribly without him, per NBA.com.
• As fun as Blake Griffin might be when airborne, I might prefer the wonders of his floor game. Bigs just don't make plays like this one.
• Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal issues a helpful bit of advice to the wayward Knicks: Stop dribbling.
• A quote (from Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com) from LeBron James regarding Dwyane Wade's free agency that has to make Heat fans a bit nervous: "D-Wade is getting that Kobe deal."
Wade is four years Bryant's junior, but already so dinged up that Miami has to carefully manage his minutes and appearances as to preserve his body for the long haul. That's not exactly the same as shelling out massive salary for a 35-year old coming off of a career-altering injury, but Wade's circumstances don't exactly make a "Kobe deal" any more preferable. To be fair to Wade, though, Windhorst's piece dives into the complexities that come with such a decision, with Wade wisely playing the middle until entering free agency.
• Rahat Huq of Red 94 on the framing of Houston's Terrence Jones, specifically as it relates to his draft spot and pre-NBA profile:
One of my pet topics is perception and the role of pedigree in polluting future forecasts. Take Jeremy Lin for instance. A guy with his size and quickness who has produced at the rate in which he has would be considered much more valuable than he is under normal circumstances. But because he was undrafted, most people view him as a fluke. It’s interesting to apply this same thought exercise to Terrence Jones. Let’s imagine he had come out in 2011, gone to the Rockets at No. 5, and was putting up the numbers right now that he is. We’d almost surely be extrapolating that production out via age and maturation and projecting him to become a 20-10 All-Star type player by his mid 20s. Since we got him at 18, we’re still not really sure if he’s the long-term answer at the '4.'
• This is a fine piece of writing structured around Vince Carter's unforgettable dunk over Frederic Weis in the 2000 Olympic Games -- the "dunk of death -- but traces the growth and decay of many more careers and the flashbulb resonance of many other moments.
• The real problem with J.J. Redick being knocked out of the Clippers lineup for 6-8 weeks with a broken hand, per Tom Ziller:
The problem with Redick's injury isn't that the Clippers lack other weapons -- they do, from Jamal Crawford to Darren Collison to Jared Dudley. It's that to keep the rotation as designed, someone like Willie Green is going to become a starter in the interim. That's ... not optimal. Crawford is one of the best reserve two-guards in the league, but he needs to remain a reserve two-guard for the Clippers bench to score at all, at least until Lamar Odom signs and we find out he can still play. Green is a veteran who's been in this spot before (like, uh, last season). But he's just not nearly as good as Redick or Crawford.
• This thoughtful contribution from Coleman Collins -- a Virginia Tech product currently playing professional basketball in Ukraine -- is more about language than hoops, but the intersection of the two seems especially pertinent given Collins' chosen profession and the recent microscope aimed to the most controversial and racially charged word in the English language.
• It wasn't too long ago that a nationally televised matchup between the Knicks and Nets was a hot ticket; the two Big Apple dwellers ground each other down through their 2012-13 season series, and another year of joint residence within the New York City limits seemed likely to only make their dynamic that much testier. Yet both teams have taken steep falls from their preseason projections, to the point that Thursday's matchup now seems like something of a chore. For the New York Times, Beckley Mason sums up the irrelevant rivalry in simple, depressing fashion:
Now, whether either New York team makes the playoffs seems besides the point. What is obvious is that neither has any business tangling with the likes of the Heat or the Indiana Pacers and that there is little reason to believe that dynamic will change in the near future. The Nets do not have a draft pick until the second round in 2017; the Knicks have one first-round pick and one second-round pick in the next three years.
• Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti opines on the Thunder identity (via The Oklahoman):
Simply put, without the character, and overall make-up of Kevin (Durant), Russell (Westbrook) and Nick (Collison), the guys that were a part of our first team in 2008, we would not be in the position we are as a team or organization. They have helped cultivate the identity of the organization, they have embraced our vision for the organization and much of it is only made possible by having people like them represent the logo day-in and day-out. We have had so many contributions from many players over the last five years, some have moved on and others, like Serge (Ibaka), Thabo (Sefolosha), Kendrick (Perkins) and Derek (Fisher) have built on the foundation and are leaving their own fingerprints. We believe we have another group of players coming through the organization that will uphold those standards in time as well. We are still building the traditions of the Thunder and we are thankful for the way each player that has worn the jersey has contributed to the program. They, along with our coaching staff, led by Scott (Brooks), have played a critical part in the building of an organization. They have true ownership of the culture and what the demands and standards are to be a Thunder player.
• Giannis Antetokounmpo
and Brandon Knight may be the only things
standing between the Bucks
and utter unwatchability. Bless them both.