Short Corner: Greg Oden's playoff impact, stat-padding and more NBA observations
Welcome to the Short Corner, a celebration of the NBA in the pithiest form possible. Below are a collection of notebook-style items, laid out for your buffet-style enjoyment.
• My primary concern with projecting Heat center Greg Oden's postseason value at this point: He still has a lot of trouble playing in physical matchups. That he's a big body and a fairly intuitive defender allows him to make up for certain deficits, but I can't help but wonder if he has the stability and strength in his lower body to really battle opponents on the block.
• Stat-padding is a fact of NBA life. Box score stats matter too much in the realms of coaching and contract negotiation for players to leave them on the table. It can be entertaining to a point. The shamelessness with which some players chase numbers is endearing in a way, honest if not honorable. Of all the ways to goose the numbers, though, none is more entertaining than the all-out abandon of free-throw rebounding. Nowhere else will you see defensive players go to such great lengths to compete with teammates for an otherwise uncontested board. A swingman might soar in from the perimeter to help build his all-around statistical profile. A power forward criticized for his lack of rebounding might look to pick up a freebie. The motivations are many and the result so often enjoyable, particularly when players on the same team engage in a war of tips to wrap up what should be an easy rebound.
• The Sixers are not constructed to win basketball games, but it's still odd that Philadelphia has shot 50 percent (29-for-58) from the free-throw line over its past three games. It's been a true team effort, too, rather than a case of one high-volume free-throw shooter sandbagging the percentages. The top five players by attempts have all shot worse than 56 percent in that span. Oy.
• What a freaking pass this is:
Any LeBron season is destined to have dozens of assists more spectacular than this one, but to make that feed at that angle with such perfect placement is bonkers.
• Western Conference playoff teams should be a little terrified to learn that Durant shoots 45.4 percent from three-point range at home (compared to 35.1 percent on the road). The Thunder are contending for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
• I, for one, am thankful that Philadelphia's Tony Wroten has enough crazy in his game to try for this kind of play:
• It's a too bad that Lou Williams has slipped out of the Hawks' rotation, and even more of a bummer that the move is wholly justifiable. Here's hoping that Williams -- a creative, engaging scorer who returned in November from ACL surgery -- finds his way back to form.
• A few weeks ago, I noted Nicolas Batum's power-rebounding turn, in which the Blazers' small forward grabbed a combined 49 boards over three games. He followed that up with another trio of astounding performances, registering 46 against the Spurs, Warriors and Pelicans while Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge missed two and a half of those games. Batum was rebounding in bulk even before Aldridge's latest absence, but Batum has essentially matched Anthony Davis as a defensive rebounder by percentage when Aldridge sits.
• For a team with a reputation for "Right Way" fundamentals, the Spurs are well-stocked with stylistic weirdos. There's a know-your-role, move-the-ball mentality shared throughout the roster, but the stylings of Boris Diaw? The gunslinging of Manu Ginobili? The scampering of Patty Mills? Even the bait-and-switch driving style of Tony Parker? This is a funky team down to its very core, camouflaged in black and silver.
• Roy Hibbert and Joakim Noah will both draw plenty of deserved buzz for the Defensive Player of the Year award, but let's not forget that Dwight Howard -- just by being so consistently present and intimidating -- forces sequences like this one on a regular basis. Note the Dwyane Wade pump fakes: