Friday, August 26, 2011

Game Changers: Undersized players left big mark on league

Game Changers: Undersized players left big mark on league
It was one of those remarks that most people thought was absurd at the time, but not so much nowadays.

Allan Bristow, former coach of the then-Charlotte Hornets, said: "Everyone talks about how we'll never see another Michael Jordan and we'll never see another Larry Bird. But truth is, we'll never see another Muggsy Bogues."

You could say a lot of folks sold Bristow short. While we are indeed waiting for the next Jordan, and perhaps we saw the next Bird during the 2011 NBA Finals, our great-grandchildren might be the only witnesses the next time a 5-foot-3 player darts around the floor like a pinball and carves out a very productive NBA career.

Plain and simple, NBA teams just aren't big on little guys anymore. Not that they ever were. But you just don't see an abundance of players under 6-feet on rosters, and definitely none in All-Star Games.

That makes Muggsy, Spud Webb and Calvin Murphy before both of them, Game Changers who paved the way for the little man -- even though the NBA still practices size discrimination.

Only three sub-6-footers were on active rosters last season. None was what you'd consider a star, or even close. And none was selected in the first round of the most recent Draft. Which means there's no Muggsy in the works. (He was the 12th pick of the 1987 Draft, in case you forgot.)

The game at the highest level remains a near-impossible goal for anyone who measures up to Yao Ming's kneecaps. And those who happen to squeeze through the cracks are mainly role players or gimmicks who don't last very long or change the minds of NBA general managers.

The reasons are obvious and numerous. Lack of size translates into big issues, mainly on the defensive end, where they're posted up more than a yellow sticky memo. And they're stuck playing only one position. And they must be exceptional athletes, or extraordinarily good at shooting and/or dribbling, to have a chance.

Webb once said: "I see myself as a basketball player, just like anyone else in the league," but not everyone else in the league could jump almost two feet over his own height. An unmatched vertical leap kept Webb (5-foot-7) in a uniform, although he was also a very efficient passer and could hit the jumper if left open. Like most short players, he compensated for, or covered up, his weaknesses very well; anything less would've been fatal to his career.

Bogues was a freak of nature. He had no business lasting 14 seasons in the NBA, or being selected in the first round, because he had no tremendous skill. He wasn't a terrific outside shooter, nor was he a leaper (and even if he were, it wasn't going to help) and as a passer he was solid but not Stockton-like. His gifts were amazing quickness, both with his feet and hands; a low center of gravity that gave him great balance and assisted him defensively; and anticipation. He was also very smart at knowing how players would try to exploit him; he'd been trained for that his entire basketball life.

The gold standard, of course was Murphy, the shortest player in the Hall of Fame at 5-foot-9. He was the purest basketball player of any little man who ever made the NBA. Murphy could shoot with range, had a tight dribble and could spot the open man (when he decided to pass the ball, anyway). He was listed as a point guard, but in truth Murphy was an undersized shooter who averaged 20-plus points five times and finished with a career scoring average of 17.9 points. And he was feisty, willing and able to challenge taller and heavier players who dared to impose their physical strength on him.

Beyond those three players, the little man has mainly been short on impact and numbers, with only a few exceptions.

Michael Adams made himself a dangerous 3-point specialist in the Doug Moe system with the Nuggets in the late 1980s. Avery Johnson, the Little General, had a decent run with the Spurs in the 1990s. Terrell Brandon was a two-time All-Star and was solid for the Cavs and Wolves in the 1990s. Damon Stoudamire, the 1996 Rookie of the Year, gradually faded as the years went on.

Allen Iverson was slightly built (160 pounds after dessert) but listed at 6-feet, whether anyone believed it or not. Isiah Thomas was 6-foot-1. In fact, there has been a host of players in the low 6-foot range who had good and even great careers. Some are still active.

But sub-6-footers? Only a small number. So to speak.

Friday, July 8, 2011

NBA announces D-League affiliation system for 2011-12 season

NEW YORK -- The National Basketball Association and the NBA Development League, the official minor league of the NBA, today announced the affiliation system for the 2011-12 season. An all-time high nine NBA teams will have single NBA D-League affiliates -- more than double last season's total of four -- including first-year partnerships between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Canton, the Golden State Warriors and Dakota Wizards, the New Jersey Nets and Springfield Armor and the New York Knicks and Erie BayHawks, along with the return of the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the Los Angeles Lakers' single affiliate.

For the seventh consecutive year, each NBA team has one NBA D-League team to which it may assign players. During the 2010-11 season, the NBA D-League saw all-time highs in NBA player assignments (56), individual players assigned (39) and NBA teams assigning a player (25), while last season marked the first time every NBA D-League team was assigned an NBA player.

"We're very excited that an all-time-high nine NBA teams will have exclusive, 'one-to-one' relationships with their NBA D-League affiliates this coming season," said NBA D-League President Dan Reed. "This clear trend of NBA teams buying into the NBA D-League is not only a testament to our past success, but also the sign of a very promising future."

The NBA D-League will again have 16 teams playing in 2011-12, including Canton, which will play its first year in Canton, Ohio, under the ownership of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Los Angeles D-Fenders, who resume operation under the ownership of the Los Angeles Lakers after taking a one-year hiatus.

Friday, June 10, 2011

NBA At 2: Jet Psyching Out LeBron?

Jason Terry

The NBA Finals are truly where legends are born, and after getting off to a slow start in the series Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry is starting to look like something of a legend.

After being stifled by the defense of Miami's LeBron James in the first three games of the Finals, Terry started running his mouth, more to get himself charged up than anything else. It worked, too. After saying he didn't believe LeBron could contain him for seven games "The Jet" scored 17 points in Game 4, including the two free throws that iced an 86-83 win for Dallas. He also scored eight of the Mavs' final 17 points, he was just getting warmed up.

Game 5 saw more of the same from Jet, who looked to upstage LeBron at every turn. Despite James' tough defense Jet again came up big in the fourth quarter, scoring eight of his 21 points in the final frame. None were bigger than the three he scored on a trey he somehow managed to drill while LeBron flew in his face, a shot that put Dallas up 108-101 with 33 seconds left and assured them of a 3-2 series lead as the Finals shift back to Miami.

"He played great," said Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle after the game. "He played great. During period where Dirk was out of the game, we were going to him, and he was delivering. Those are critical stretches because it's tough when Dirk is out of the game. But it's the total game that we've been preaching to Jet really since the playoffs began and tonight he did a terrific job."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Bulls are next

NBANow comes the hard part for the Bucks.

With two victories over the reeling New York Knicks and their gaffe against Sacramento behind them, the Bucks will close out the week against the Chicago Bulls, who have emerged as one of the elite teams in the league, Saturday night at the Bradley Center.

The Bucks are 0-3 against Chicago this season.

There is a limited supply of tickets available for tonight’s game.

With their 102-96 victory over the Knicks Friday at Madison Square Garden, the Bucks picked up a game in the playoff race on Indiana which lost at home to Sacramento. The Bucks lost to the Kings Wednesday in the Bradley Center.

“We don’t worry about (the Pacers) but we want to keep trying to win,” said center Andrew Bogut. “We have a tough schedule. (Tonight) is going to be a real battle and hopefully we can steal one against one of the best teams in the NBA. We did ourselves no favors (in losing to Sacramento) so we have our work cut out for us.”

Said point guard Brandon Jennings, “We have to take care of business. Now we play against Chicago, a team that’s No. 1. They’ve got the MVP of the NBA on their team (in Derrick Rose) and we have to go and take care of business. We’re trying to make that push for the playoffs.”

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NHL, NBA Playoff and Michael Buble tickets on sale this weekend


NHL Playoff tickets and NBA Playoff tickets for certain teams, as well as tickets to several upcoming concert dates from Michael Buble are on sale throughout the weekend ending March 28 as compiled by TicketNews.

Starting off this weekend's onsales are tickets to the upcoming NHL and NBA playoff season. Tickets go on sale this morning for the upcoming first and possible second round Chicago Bulls playoff games. Currently in possession of first place in the NBA's Eastern Conference, the Bulls would clinch home court advantage should they maintain their position until the end of the regular season.

Also among today's onsales are tickets to the NHL's Dallas Stars first round home games, while Saturday morning offers tickets to first round Detroit Red Wings playoff games. While the Red Wings appear to be in a solid position to clinch a playoff spot, the Stars are currently one point shy of qualifying for a playoff spot.

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NBA: Warriors rout of Raptors 138-100

Oakland, CA - Monta Ellis scored 27 points and led seven Golden State players in double figures in a 138-100 rout of the Toronto Raptors.

The Warriors set an NBA season-high with 84 points in the first half. Dorell Wright tallied 26 points, Stephen Curry 23 and David Lee 21, including the first made three-pointer of his career.

Everything seemed to be falling for the Warriors. They scored 45 in the opening quarter, ended the game shooting 61.4 percent and snapped a six-game slide.

"I wanted to send a message to our team that we are building," Warriors head coach Keith Smart said. "This is a process. The way we have always done it at this time of year, to sit back and not play, you've got your better players on your team who want to play and will play, and that's a good thing."

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L.A. Lakers: Are Gasol, Bynum, and Odom the NBA's Top Postseason Advantage?

Kobe Bryant may lead the Los Angeles Lakers to the 2010-11 NBA Finals, but if the team hopes to capture their 3rd consecutive title it will be because of the play of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom.

Gasol, Odom, and Bynum give the Lakers one of the biggest, most talented, and productive front lines in the NBA, and it may be an advantage that no other team can match in the postseason.

The only other trio that even comes close to matching the production of Gasol, Bynum, and Odom is the Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and Taj Gibson.

The Lakers' players average 44.8 points per game and 27 rebounds, while the Bulls' trio averages 37 points and 25.3 rebounds.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Matthews powers Portland past Philadelphia

PORTLAND, Ore. – Wesley Matthews had 17 of his 28 points in the first quarter, helping the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Philadelphia 76ers 110-101 Saturday night.

Gerald Wallace added 25 points and a season-high eight assists for the Blazers (40-29), who won for the seventh time in nine games to move within a half-game of Denver for the fifth playoff spot in the Western Conference. LaMarcus Aldridge had 18 points and Nicolas Batum finished with 16.

Lou Williams had 24 points, part of a 59-point night for Philadelphia's reserves. Thaddeus Young had 19 points and Jodie Meeks added 17.

The Sixers (36-34) played without Andre Igoudala, who has been bothered by knee tendinitis. Leading scorer Elton Brand was held to 10 points.

The Blazers led the whole way. Philadelphia was as close as 92-89 with 9:11 remaining after Brand hit three straight shots, but Portland responded with a 9-0 run.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bynum may be NBA's biggest big man

Others are taller and some weigh more, but is there a bigger big man than Andrew Bynum in the NBA? Bynum, officially listed at 7-foot and 285 pounds, certainly measured up against the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard, who's 6-11, 275.

"He's a big guy, man," Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson said of Bynum after the Lakers rallied to defeat the Magic 97-84 on Monday night at Staples Center for their 10th victory in 11 games since the All-Star break.

"He's a handful," Nelson continued. "It's like he's out there and you think you've got the ball, and he has it in his hands. You're jumping for the ball, but he's just standing there tipping it to himself to get those extra shots."

Bynum scored 10 points and matched his career high with 18 rebounds Monday, his fourth consecutive game with 10 or more points and his sixth straight with 12 or more rebounds. He's had a big impact on the Lakers' winning ways since the All-Star break.

After rounding into form slowly following offseason right knee surgery that sidelined him for the first 24 games of 2010-11, Bynum has become a force in the paint for the Lakers. His season averages have risen to 11.6 points and 8.8 rebounds.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Impressive Lakers roll past Orlando in 2nd half

LOS ANGELES – By the time Kobe Bryant talked himself into a little confidence in his swollen ankle in the second half, Andrew Bynum and the Los Angeles Lakers' reserves had already taken care of Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic.

Pau Gasol scored 23 points, Bryant added 16 while playing on a sprained left ankle, and the Lakers roared away in the second half for their 10th win in 11 games, 97-84 Monday night.

Bynum had 10 points, a career high-tying 18 rebounds and four blocks while hounding Howard into nine turnovers — four more than the entire Lakers squad — in another eye-catching low-post game for the Lakers' young center.

It all added up to a rather easy night of work for Bryant, who decided to play despite seriously rolling his ankle during the third quarter of Saturday's win at Dallas.

"It was more mental," said Bryant, who went 7 for 19 and missed eight shots in the first half. "It affected my bounce a little bit just because of the trust factor, just trusting it in the first half. Then at halftime, I just gave it a little pep talk."

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bryant struggles and still leads Lakers over Mavs

DALLAS – Kobe Bryant overcame a sore ankle to score 16 points, helping the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Dallas Mavericks 96-91 on Saturday night.

Bryant shot just 6 of 20, but scored six points and assisted on the other basket in a 9-0 run by the Lakers late in the second quarter. That snapped a tie and put them ahead to stay.

After Bryant came down awkwardly on his left ankle late in the third quarter and left the game for a bit, the Lakers immediately scored eight consecutive points to stretch the lead to 10.

The Mavericks (47-19) are only a half-game ahead of Los Angeles (47-20) for second place in the Western Conference.

Friday, February 25, 2011

After topping the Heat yet again, this Rose is in full bloom


Within the larger confines of The Race To The MVP, a dash to the More Valuable Player Award broke out Thursday night at Chicago's United Center.

That's More Valuable, rather than Most, because in this case it was a comparative competition rather than a superlative. The Race is a generous form, with spots for 10 MVP candidates even though the NBA's official ballot allows for only five. But with Derrick Rose and LeBron James running 1-2 -- in that order -- atop The Race for weeks now, it seemed appropriate that the showdown of their teams, the Chicago Bulls vs. the Miami Heat, might narrow the MVP focus in laser-like fashion.

Members of the committee, all of whom were in the house, weren't the only ones who saw it that way.

"So would it be safe to say that the result of tonight's big matchup between Miami vs. Chicago (in Chicago) will determine who the #1 ranked guy on the Race is tomorrow?" e-mailer "Yoon Mi" wrote. "I can't wait cause it is going to be an awesome game and a possible playoff preview. "Personally I agree with ESPN's award watch that LeBron is the MVP right now but I agree with you on the other 2-10 rankings. Hopefully LBJ can prove me right tonight with a big road win and send Chicago to a second consecutive loss. Cheers!"

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cavaliers Target Guard Baron Davis Ahead of Today's NBA Trade Deadline

The Cleveland Cavaliers may join the New Jersey Nets and Atlanta Hawks in adding new point guards ahead of today’s National Basketball Association trade deadline.

The Cavaliers reached an agreement in principle to acquire Baron Davis and a 2011 first-round draft pick from the Los Angeles Clippers for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon, Yahoo Sports reports, citing unidentified league officials.

Davis has averaged 16.5 points and 7.3 rebounds over his 12-year NBA career.

The Nets acquired point guard Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz yesterday, while the Hawks last night got Kirk Hinrich from Washington in a five-player trade that sent Mike Bibby to the Wizards.

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