Web Site: http://www.alltimehoops.com
Bio: Ian Parfrey is the author of Ten Thousand Minutes: Pro Player Rankings 1952-2012. His next project is a history of Brooklyn basketball. He's also an avid rec softball player who gets at least 500 at bats a year. He was born in East Flushing, Queens, and now lives in Greenpoint with his wife and daughter.
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By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
The Toronto Raptors are worthy of our respect, certainly. They’re a good basketball team, well disciplined and well coached. They have a pretty good defense and a better-than-average offense. They have a point guard, Kyle Lowry, in the midst of a lights-out season, and a young scorer in DeMar DeRozan who’s coming into his own. Their starting big men, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas, are anonymous but effective. They are good at not beating themselves. Even in last night’s loss to the Nets, they were in the game until the final shot clock. If Andray Blatche doesn’t make a tough layup and Paul Pierce doesn’t make a contested three, they come away with the win.
At the same time, there is an enormous dropoff between the second and third seeds in the East. The Heat’s star power, and the Pacers’ suffocating defense, are both things that are nearly impossible to gameplan for. You don’t think about the Raptors and wonder how you’re going to stop Kyle Lowry from picking apart your defense, or how you’re possibly going to get any inside game going at all on Jonas Valanciunas. The Raptors are beatable.
One thing they might not be is catchable. The Nets trail by only three games in the division right now, but Toronto has a schedule of cupcakes the rest of the way. They face six teams with a winning record in their final 20 games. The Nets’ schedule isn’t that much tougher, but it’s hard to see where Toronto is going to lose enough games to allow the Nets to overtake them.
And really, so what? The Nets have played this entire season as if the playoffs were all that mattered, and I see no reason to change that approach now.
Having looked at the Raptors’ strengths, let’s examine their flaws. Last night’s Nets win was largely due to DeMar DeRozan being shut down by the Brooklyn defense, and attempting only 9 shots and scoring 14 points. With top reserve Patrick Patterson sidelined, the Raptors couldn’t replace those points. Jonas Valanciunas was quiet. Terrence Ross scored 12 points in the game’s first seven minutes, and finished with 12. Ross is a fine three-point shooter, but when you stick close to him, his game is mostly neutralized. On the Raptors’ next to last possession, Ross got the ball behind the arc with no room to shoot. He drove, and turned it over. The Nets were clinging to a 1-point lead at the time.
I’m perfectly fine with Terrence Ross having to make tough decisions against the Nets in a playoff game, and you should be too.
The Raptors, even with a healthy Patterson, don’t have much of a bench. Tyler Hansbrough scored 16 last night, but that’s an atypical performance. The bench features way too much John Salmons to be taken seriously. I’m fine with John Salmons playing 20 minutes against the Nets in a playoff game.
Better the Raptors than another tussle with the Bulls, or the Wizards with their speedy point guard and their gonzo European center.
Don’t fear the Raptors.
By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
The Nets made 4 of 30 three-pointers tonight in a 91-84 loss to the Celtics that may have been the ugliest 48 minutes of basketball two teams played all year. The Celtics won rather easily despite committing 25 turnovers and 28 fouls. The Nets shot 36% and got destroyed, 51-28, on the boards.
Brooklyn almost battled their way out of a 17-point hole, closing the gap to 2 points at 70-68 near the end of the third quarter. As is often the case with big comebacks, the Nets didn’t have enough in the tank to finish it, and went more than 7 minutes without a field goal immediately afterwards.
Jerryd Bayless (14 points) slammed the door on the Nets with a three-pointer that put Boston up 91-79 with 2:24 left. The Nets turned it over on each of their next two possessions, and a late Joe Johnson three made the final score seem closer than it was.
Joe Johnson led the Nets with 21 points (9-21 FG) and 7 rebounds. Deron Williams added 20. The Nets were once again without Kevin Garnett (back spasms), and Miles Plumlee started in his place, to mixed results (10 points, 5 turnovers).
Marcus Thornton has been very all-or-nothing in his Nets career so far, and tonight he had nothing, scoring 4 points on 1-of-9 shooting, and missing all six of his threes.
The Celtics got a very strange stat line from their star player, Rajon Rondo, who had 20 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists, and 7 turnovers. Rondo also knocked down three triples (one fewer than the entire Nets team), despite not being known for his deep shooting.
The loss drops the Nets back to .500 (30-30). They remain in sixth place in the East, 1.5 games behind the Washington Wizards. The Toronto Raptors won tonight, and increased their division lead to 4 games.
By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
I was watching this horror movie many years ago. A bunch of kids were on a boat out on a lake, and some evil force under the water was picking them off one by one. At the end, one kid made it to the shore. He turned around and looked back and yelled, “I beat you!”
Then a giant wave swallowed him up. Do you see how this is exactly like being a Knick fan?
Last year, the Knicks won 54 games and the division title and a round of playoffs. It seemed like the stench of the Isiah Thomas era was finally fading away. Then, with almost the same roster this season, they’re 19 games under .500 and nearly out of playoff contention. What the hell happened?
Let’s round up the main culprits:
1. James Dolan
Apparently there is going to be a fan protest against Dolan’s ownership scheduled for March 19. While I doubt this will accomplish anything, except having a few Knick fans spend a night in jail, I wish there was a way for a team to fire an owner. This Dolan guy is completely delusional. He thinks he’s B.B. King and Red Holzman all rolled up into one. Worst owner in the league, by far. He’s got Dan Gilbert and Donald Sterling beat by a mile, though I think Sterling should get some kind of lifetime achievement award.
Hire smart basketball people and give them free rein. How hard is that?
2. J.R. Smith
Here’s what you shouldn’t do when you sign a big contract. Insist that the team also sign your very untalented younger brother, then decide to have patellar tendon surgery, then get suspended by the league for marijuana, then come back from your knee surgery too fast and suck completely, then get fined by the league for untying opponents’ shoelaces at the free throw line, then continue to suck completely, then point fingers at your teammates for “not having heart.” J.R. Smith is the cancer of this team. No one player has done more to sink the Knicks than he has.
3. Raymond Felton and the other point guards
Felton claims to be in the best shape of his life, though he’s playing even worse than he did two years ago in Portland, when he got fat during the lockout, and then decided to get Nate McMillan fired. In his defense (which is funny, because he doesn’t play defense), his personal life is a mess. His ex-wife set him up on a gun charge, and is now insisting that their pre-nup is invalid and he should pay her way through law school.
Felton has either been bad or injured most of the year, so we’ve seen far too much Pablo Prigioni, more Toure’ Murry than is good for a “contending” team, and… Beno Udrih. What a weird story that is.
Udrih, who is a veteran and by now a well-known commodity (he has a great mid-range jump shot, and can’t guard anyone), started the year out of the rotation. When Felton and Prigioni were hurt at the same time, he was handed the keys, and played decently. Certainly no worse than Felton does most nights. Mike Woodson decided Beno was the problem with the team, all but said so publicly, and then the Knicks waived him. Then the Memphis Grizzlies, a much better team, claimed Beno off of waivers. When you stink, and other teams are going through your garbage and finding players, that’s a terrible sign, isn’t it?
4. Mike Woodson
He’s overmatched, and he’s lost the team.
5. Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert
The only guys on this team capable of guarding anyone. They don’t care anymore. Can you blame them?
6. Carmelo Anthony
Melo has attempted 25% of the team’s shots, and 34% of their free throws. Michael Jordan eventually learned to trust lesser teammates like Bill Wennington, and get them the ball in good positions to score. Melo doesn’t trust, and Melo doesn’t pass. It’s hard to blame him, since the rest of the team is so awful, but it’s also worth remembering that the Knicks started most of their offensive sequences last year with a Felton-Chandler pick and roll.
By the way, Melo has never played on a team that had a losing record, or missed the playoffs. Until now. You think he’s staying? On the bright side, the Knicks need to get worse before they can get better, and Melo leaving in free agency will certainly accomplish that.
By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
You could forgive me for wondering, two unremarkable games into his Nets career, what Billy King saw in Sacramento Kings guard Marcus Thornton.
Tonight, the 26-year old Thornton broke out of a season-long shooting slump by dropping 25 points off the bench, including 12 in the fourth quarter, and the Nets won, 107-98.
Andray Blatche added 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Shaun Livingston had 14 points, including several impressive dunks.
The Nets led by the slim margin of 55-53 at halftime, and it was beginning to look like a trap game in the making. The first half’s fast pace and lack of defense favored the hapless Bucks, but the Nets succeeded in slowing down the game, and getting the shots and stops they needed. Still, this was a ballgame for 47 and a half minutes, until the Nets rebounded a Shaun Livingston miss with 44 seconds left and a 6-point lead.
The Nets improve to 28-29 on the season, and remain in sole possession of sixth place in the East. The Bucks, who got 16 points each from Khris Middleton and Ramon Sessions, fell to a league-worst 11-47.
Guard Gary Neal, who was traded to the Bobcats last week, ripped his former team yesterday, saying he was “excited to be playing meaningful basketball again.” Losing to the Bucks (like the Knicks managed to do a few weeks ago) would have been difficult to excuse; instead the Nets took care of business and concluded their road trip in strong fashion.
By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
The Nets made history tonight as the first NBA team to employ an openly gay player, and did so while gaining in the standings, as they held off the Lakers, 108-102, in Los Angeles.
This version of the Lakers, with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash on the sidelines, and some guy named Kent Bazemore in the starting lineup, plays at a frenetic pace, and that pace suited Deron Williams just fine. Williams, enjoying his second consecutive post-All-Star renaissance, stuffed the stat box with 30 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, and 6 steals, and scored on a drive with a little over a minute left that all but sealed the win.
Paul Pierce scored 14 in the first quarter, and finished with 25 points. The Nets were without two starters, as Kevin Garnett got a night off, and Shaun Livingston sat (uncomfortably, we assume) with a bruised tailbone. Andrei Kirilenko (10 points, 10 rebounds), and Mason Plumlee took their places in the starting lineup.
The Nets raced off to a 31-12 lead, and never trailed. The Lakers made a few comeback attempts, getting within 6 points near the end of the third before Mirza Teletovic knocked down back-to-back threes; and closing the gap to 4 points near the midway point of the fourth. Jason Collins had a huge hustle play then, rebounding a missed FT by Kirilenko, which resulted in a three for Paul Pierce.
Collins entered the game with 10:28 left in the second quarter to polite applause from the Laker crowd. He played 11 minutes, and had 2 rebounds and 1 steal, while also racking up 5 fouls and 2 turnovers. Collins’ contributions, throughout his career, have always been defense and intangibles, and tonight was no different.
Considering that the Nets spent half the season wasting roster spots on Tyshawn and Toko, it can’t hurt to see if Collins can make life difficult for Joakim Noah or Roy Hibbert come playoff time.
With this win, the Nets moved to within 2 games of .500 at 26-28, and passed the plummeting Atlanta Hawks to take over 7th place in the East.
Pau Gasol led the Lakers with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Ex-Net MarShon Brooks scored 7 points off the bench, in his second game as a Laker following Wednesday’s trade.
By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
The biggest deals at this year’s trade deadline were the ones that didn’t happen. The Celtics didn’t trade Rajon Rondo, the Lakers didn’t move Pau Gasol, and the Knicks weren’t able to find a serious taker for Iman Shumpert. The 76ers’ fire sale continued, with Evan Turner heading to the Pacers in the deadline’s biggest deal, and Spencer Hawes going to Cleveland.
Somewhat meaningful deals:
Pacers get forwards Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen; 76ers get forward Danny Granger. Indiana was able to turn nothing into something, as they got former #2 pick Turner and bench big Allen in exchange for the corpse of Danny Granger. It’s not as big a deal as it seems. Turner is a jack of all trades and a master of none, though he should fit in well enough with the Pacers’ offense, where the wing players do most of the ball handling. Allen has a few limited skills– he can rebound, and knock down a jumper once in awhile. Indiana’s starters are strong enough that Turner probably won’t see big minutes, and Allen definitely won’t. Granger is a candidate to get bought out by Philly.
Cavaliers get center Spencer Hawes; 76ers get forward Earl Clark, center Henry Sims, and two second-round picks. The Cavs’ suicidal push for the 8 seed in the East continues. Hawes, a free agent at the end of the year, was averaging 13 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists. He’s a versatile offensive player with three-point range and good passing skills. He’s a good insurance policy for the always-injured Anderson Varejao. The Cavs might be better off getting themselves into the lottery for the loaded 2014 draft, but they’ve already gone all-in on this season… at 11 games under .500. Brilliant.
Wizards get point guard Andre Miller; Nuggets get forward Jan Vesely; 76ers get point guard Eric Maynor and two second-round picks. Miller, who will turn 38 in a month, had been suspended indefinitely by the Nuggets after an altercation with coach Brian Shaw. Miller will back up John Wall in Washington. The Nuggets get Vesely, one of the biggest draft busts in recent years. He’ll threaten Darrell Arthur and Anthony Randolph for bench minutes.
Bucks get guard Ramon Sessions; Bobcats get guards Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal. This one’s a bit puzzling, since the Bobcats added payroll and gave up the “best” player in the deal. However, Ridnour and Neal are both better shooters than Sessions. In fact, both were lethal mid-range jump shooters last season, before landing on the vortex of suckitude that is the 2014 Milwaukee Bucks.
Warriors get Steve Blake; Lakers get MarShon Brooks and Kent Bazemore. The Warriors get a solid backup point guard– Jordan Crawford wasn’t cutting it– and the Lakers are the most recent winners at the game of MarShon Brooks Hot Potato. Mike D’Antoni’s already resurrected the careers of Kendall Marshall, Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, and Shawne Williams– this year alone– and maybe Brooks can get what he had in Newark a few season ago: a green light to shoot on a team going nowhere.
Shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic:
Looking to reduce their luxury tax bill, the Clippers sent deep-bench pieces to the Hawks (Antawn Jamison) and the 76ers (Byron Mullens).
The Heat sent Roger Mason to the Kings for cash considerations. The Kings then waived Mason.
The Rockets acquired forward Jordan Hamilton from the Nuggets for guard Aaron Brooks.
The Raptors acquired guard Nando DeColo from the Spurs for forward Austin Daye.
By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
I can’t figure out the Chicago Bulls. That’s all right, because neither can the Nets.
Here’s the thing. The Bulls aren’t the most talented squad out there, more so than ever with Derrick Rose back on the shelf and Luol Deng toiling away in Cleveland. But they play with a disciplined ferocity on the defensive end, and they have a quality big man trio in Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and Taj Gibson. Some nights you wonder how they ever lose, and some nights you wonder how they ever win.
That puts them in about the same boat the Nets (24-27) are in, and the Bulls now lead them in the standings by 2.5 games after dispatching them, 92-76, in Chicago tonight.
The Nets trailed throughout, but they cut the Bulls’ lead to 75-72 midway through the fourth on Andrei Kirilenko’s first three-pointer of the season. The Nets made one basket the rest of the way, and their defense crumbled as well, and the Bulls finished the game on a 17-4 run.
The Nets’ small ball attack is vulnerable to teams like Chicago. The Bulls owned the boards, 45-27. Joakim Noah, as usual, was everywhere, chipping in 14 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 assists. Carlos Boozer added 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Taj Gibson had a game-high 16 points off the bench. This was more than a bit reminiscent of the Nets’ recent loss in Detroit, when they failed to contain Detroit’s giant Drummond-Monroe-Smith front line.
On the offensive end, Jason Kidd’s mix and match lineups didn’t have it today. Deron Williams played an uncharacteristic 42 minutes, and Joe Johnson played 38, but they both, to put it uncharitably, stunk. Williams and Johnson each shot 4-of-14, and combined for 9 turnovers. Paul Pierce led the Nets with 15 points.
While it’s undoubtedly impressive that the Nets have found a way to win without big performances from their supposed stars, and with a minutes rotation that could drive a fantasy player crazy, they need to solve big lineups, or they’ll find themselves seeing a lot of them. Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko played well enough, but the Nets got nothing from Andray Blatche (8 points, 1 rebound in 23 minutes), and Mason Plumlee and Mirza Teletovic each made brief, ineffective appearances.
Reggie Evans, who wasn’t with the team for personal reasons, might have been able to help. The much-maligned Evans can at least provide some rebounding and toughness that the other Nets’ reserve bigs couldn’t tonight.
Last year, the All-Star break played a pivotal role in Deron Williams’s season, as he regained his health and returned to dominate in the second half. The Nets will need another “resurrection” from D-Will if they have any playoff hopes besides being the Pacers’ first-round chew toy.