Under Steve Clifford, Charlotte has ranked sixth in points allowed per possession. (Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)
• Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling and CBSSports.com's Matt Moore unwittingly wrote terrific companion pieces on Bobcats head coach Steve Clifford -- the basketball lifer who has Charlotte defending at a borderline top-five level. Between the two pieces you'll get as full a view of Clifford's style and strategy as you could hope for, including perspective from Bobcats owner Michael Jordan and president of basketball operations Rod Higgins. Here's a small taste of from Clifford himself (via Zwerling):
"If you look at the teams that win it, which is the only way you're going to get a lot of credit, they're good at offense and defense, and they rebound. If you even look at last year, all the guys that coached in the quarterfinals were excellent coaches. But if you want to look at it statistically, the two teams that end up playing in the championship are both top 10 in offense and defense.
"So I don't think you can have a real weakness if you want to have a career like (Gregg) Popovich or somebody like that. You're going to have to be able to coach everything. For us, we can't start worrying about the playoffs. I just think it's way too early for us. I will be most pleased with my team in the second half of the season if we consistently play better."
• Looks like someone saw Blackfish.
• This isn't just a slick visualization of the Sport VU leaderboards in various categories, but a great source of NBA trivia. To wit: "[Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Anthony Morrow, and Nikola Pekovic] score more points per touch than Andre Drummond does per free throw attempt."
• Somebody put Amir Johnson on ice, please.
One of the actual benefits of NBA nerd-dom is a deep understanding of the players and teams that populate it. Maybe this is why anyone becomes obsessed with anything: It is satisfying in a hard-to-pin-down way to become attuned to something, to watch an event unfold just as you know in your bones it’s going to. And it is even more satisfying to be surprised, for an event to unfold at first as you know it will, then suddenly in an unexpected way. It feels good to know and occasionally be reminded you don’t know everything. The NBA is predictable enough that it’s possible to learn its rhythms, and its athletes are intuitive and skilled enough to spectacularly upset them.
Also: McGowan's characterization of Tayshaun Prince as having a "noble great dane vibe" is completely perfect in every way.
• This is a good, global look at all kinds of NBA shooting trends over time and between franchises. Any guess on which was the worst-shooting season of the past 25 years?
• Over 35 percent of John Henson's field goal attempts this season have been hook shots. Just a shade more than 10 percent of Ersan Ilyasova's tip-in attempts have actually gone through the hoop. The more you know.
• In his missive on the firing of Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks and the pressure mounting on team president Joe Dumars, Grantland's Zach Lowe parses Detroit's relationship with Greg Monroe:
The Pistons are right in their belief that Monroe is not worthy of a max contract, not even of the smaller “max” players get after their rookie deals expire. A big man who is a net-minus defender and lacks shooting range is a tricky piece that needs just the right context in order to thrive. He’s like a plant with picky climate requirements. The Pistons should hold the line, even though they — and the entire NBA world — know Monroe’s agent, David Falk, has made a career of finding the one suitor willing to make that max bid. Nearly a dozen teams will have max-level cap space, or something close to it, this summer.
The Falk factor, plus Dumars’s accurate view of Monroe’s limits, has the Pistons and Monroe at something of a standoff. That’s fine. That’s how this stuff works. That does not mean you trade Monroe just to do it, or to clear up the big-man logjam, if the return is insufficient.
• Another day in the season of a young, growing team.