While You Weren't Watching: Gasol, Harden passing wizardry on display
The NBA regular season operates at a frenzied pace, with one game and storyline bleeding into the next. Every Friday here at SI.com, we'll slow things down in While You Weren't Watching—a spotlight on the little moments in the week's slate that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle. Here's what you may have missed...
• Needlepoint passing. That Zach Randolph isn’t much of a leaper can make him tougher to feed via lob pass against the speed of defensive rotations. Marc Gasol’s solution: Thread a long bounce pass through three defenders instead.
• Peripheral vision. James Harden, a While You Weren’t Watching regular, is one of the league’s most functional no-look passers. Here he uses deep position in the post to pull in three opposing defenders before rocketing off a cross-body pass to Corey Brewer in the weak-side corner—a maneuver that catches Indiana’s Damjan Rudez off balance and allows Brewer to attack the basket.
• Squeeze. Even after multiple viewings, I haven’t the faintest clue of how Tyreke Evans manages to slide through this wall of a triple team to get a clean look at the rim.
• Near disaster. With a game against the Timberwolves in the balance, Rudy Gobert engaged in a flight of fancy. It probably wasn’t the best idea for him to push the ball up-court, given that Gobert barely dribbles at all for the Jazz, but he at least kept things under control for long enough to forward the ball to Elijah Millsap. That said, the standard broadcast angle doesn’t quite do this play justice. Only by replay do we see just how loose Gobert’s handle was on his sprint, and just how close Gobert was to losing the ball as he gathered it to pass.
• Poise. The balance and ease with which Portland’s C.J. McCollum spins his way to the rim is awfully impressive.
• Mugging. When Kawhi Leonard wants the ball, he just takes it.
• Development. Those who have watched Golden State’s Festus Ezeli at any regular interval should see this sequence for the progress it represents. While not yet capable of contributing regular offense, Ezeli has improved his awareness and hands to the point of being a more active participant and finisher.
• Strange alternatives. When running the floor with Anthony Davis for a two-on-one fast break, Dante Cunningham fakes the pass to his MVP-candidate teammate to instead attempt this funky layup that turned into a reverse dunk. It doesn’t go so well.
• Operative unselfishness. Matthew Dellavedova catches in the corner with an opportunity to shoot and then drives baseline with an opportunity to launch up a floater. He does neither, instead shoveling a perfect pass to Timofey Mozgov in stride.