View Full Version : 5-12-04 (Added Insider Special Cooling off Wade)

05-12-2004, 03:09 PM
Garnett validating MVP honors

By Terry Brown
NBA Insider
Wednesday, May 12
Updated: May 12
12:22 PM ET

Power forwards aren't made nowadays in the NBA.

They're born with frames that extend to 7-feet in length, to shoot 3-point jumpers while still grabbing 10 or so boards a game and square up to guard someone just like them on the other team.

This year's MVP is a power forward. Last year's MVP was a power forward. This year's top-seeded team in the West is led by a power forward. This year's top-seeded team in the East is lead by a power forward.

So what happens when we strip away all the extraneous point guards, shooting guards, centers and swingmen?

We come up with a list of the top power forwards remaining in the NBA when compared in head-to-head statistical competition with their counterparts.

In this special edition of Playoff Power Outage, we took the starting power forward from each active team, compiled his stats and then lined him up with the opposing team's power forward. We then found the difference and ranked them.

If your favorite power forward scored 20 points per game and the power forward on the team he was playing scored 10 points per game, then your guy had a +10 and so on with rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and triples.

Here's how they stand midway through the second round:

1. Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves
Numbers: +13.9 ppg, +8.7 rpg, +2.8 apg, +0.1 spg, +2.2 bpg, 0 3pg
If you thought Da Kid was tough during the regular season, you should see the MVP during the playoffs. He has boosted his numbers in every one of these statistical categories against what is supposed to be superior competition. Of course, the current list of victims includes the young Nene Hilario of the Denver Nuggets and the hobbled Chris Webber of the Sacramento Kings. But 14 points? Nearly nine boards? Every time he steps on the floor and, at some point, lets loose that primordial scream, Garnett ups the ante that few are willing and even less are able to match.

2. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Numbers: +9.3 ppg, +3.5 rpg, +0.3 apg, 0 spg, +1.1 bpg, 0 3pg
Duncan averaged 22.3 points per game during the regular season. He's averaged 22.8 points per game over his career. So far in the playoffs, he's averaging 22.5 points per game. The monotony is his magnificence. He doesn't win one NBA title. He doesn't win one MVP trophy. He consistently does the same thing game in and game out . . . but you've heard all of this already ad nauseum. So we'll slip in the new names and be done. Last year, Bruce Bowen sank 101 3-pointers at 44 percent. This year, Hedo Turkoglu made 262 3-pointers on 42 percent shooting after making 165 last year for the Kings at 37 percent. We're not talking about guys like Ray Allen or Peja Stojakovic. The former has shot 55 percent from the free-throw line over his career. The latter has shot 41 percent from the field over his career. But with Duncan in the middle, they have become equally marvelous in their roles and we wonder how the Spurs are still so good when the only name and numbers we can come up with are Tim Duncan and 22 points per game.

3. Kenyon Martin, New Jersey Nets
Numbers: +7.8 ppg, +3.8 rpg, +0.2 apg, +0.7 spg, +0.2 bpg, -0.3 3pg
Say something about his momma. Make fun of his haircut or his shoes or even his red-headed coach. Call him a name. OK, the guy needs motivation here and there. But he's been in the playoffs a total of three times and been to two NBA Finals with a chance to make it three. Let's just say he's inspired. He went toe-to-toe with the rough and tumble Kurt Thomas and shot 64 percent against him. He's playing mind games with the enigmatic Rasheed Wallace and winning hands down. On Tuesday night, some unsuspecting Detroit Piston lobbed an innocent finger roll towards the basket with the game already decided. K-mart didn't foul him. K-Mart didn't block him. He waited until the ball clearly peaked and started on its downward motion towards two irrelevant points. K-Mart then snatched it out of the air and tucked it under his arm as if insulted by the gesture. Most likely, he was.

4. Jermaine O'Neal, Indiana Pacers
Numbers: +8.9 ppg, +1.2 rpg, -0.5 apg, +0.1 spg, +1.7 bpg, -1.0 3pg
Shame on Jermaine. If he wants to be a true MVP candidate . . . If he wants to be a member of the All-NBA first team . . . If he wants to be considered one of the best players in the NBA, much less his position, then he's going to have to do a lot better than this against the likes of wafer-thin Walter McCarty of the Boston Celtics and Lamar Odom in decoy (see below). He began the playoffs by shooting 44 percent against the Celtics. He is now shooting 35 percent against the Heat. He has yet to score more than 29 in a game or grab more than 11 boards. And yet to make us think this team doesn't belong to Ron Artest.

5. Lamar Odom, Miami Heat
Numbers: +4 ppg, -1 rpg, +1.3 apg, +0.7 apg, -0.9 bpg, +0.6 3pg
Not bad for a small forward shouldering point guard duties and franchise aspirations. He is playing the undersized power forward because the team's regular power forward, Brian Grant, is playing the undersized center. That makes these numbers stand out even more. Odom can be seen leading his team on the break against Jermaine O'Neal and the Pacers. He can be seen hitting big 3-pointers against P.J. Brown and the Hornets. He can be seen creating matchup problems against almost any team in the league while having to endure the repercussions on the other end of the court. He is not a pure power forward. But the fact that the Heat have a rebounding edge on both the offensive and defensive ends in both the first and second rounds proves that Odom will more than do in a pinch, push and shove.

6. Karl Malone, Los Angeles Lakers
Numbers: +2.6 ppg, +1.1 rpg, +2.5 apg, +0.3 spg, -0.9 bpg, 0 3pg
Don't make me use names like A.C. Green and Samaki Walker to impart the significance of these numbers. Malone may rank seventh on this list, but in playoff runs past, Laker powerless forwards have fallen right off the bottom of this chart. Currently, he is in the process of holding Duncan to 50 percent shooting on 14.5 shots per game after the two-timer shot 59 percent from the field on 17 shots per game against the Grizzlies and 50 percent shooting on 17.1 shots per game during the regular season. At 40 years of age he is averaging 40 minutes per playoff game at the same position played by Garnett and Duncan. The fact that the Lakers can even submit a name in that previous sentence says it all.

7. Rasheed Wallace, Detroit Pistons
Numbers: +1.6 ppg, +1.2 rpg, +0.8 apg, -1.2 spg, +0.9 bpg, +0.6 3pg
They're calling it a bruised left arch. But the Pistons better add ego, turnaround jumper and any hope of getting out of the second round to that list of supposed black and blue parts. What's worse, the six points he scored Tuesday night, the two rebounds he grabbed the game before or the three feet he demanded of reporters in the locker room while being interviewed? Just imagine how ornery he'd be if he didn't get to bully Keith Van Horn around in the first series. But believe it or not, this guy is better when he's tired and grouchy and surrounded by men in dark suits and sunglasses who want to take away his Bill of Rights. Wallace is more dangerous to opponents getting technicals with his back against the wall and obscenities spewing out of his mouth. He is focused and explosive and even 20 minutes of unbridled passion followed by an ejection is better than what we're seeing presently. As it stands now, he is sitting on the bench for an average of 14 minutes per game pre-occupied with plantar fasciatis and whether it is some kind of conspiracy or new calling for the spiritually enhanced.

8. Chris Webber, Sacramento Kings
Numbers: -7 ppg, -4 rpg, +1.4 apg, -0.3 spg, -2 bpg, -0.8 3pg
Webber coulda, shoulda, woulda been the MVP once upon a time, but now he's left wondering how to guard the actual article now that he's walking with a limp and his head is still spinning after Dirk Nowitzki became the top scorer in the playoffs last round. And the question, instead, is coulda, shoulda, woulda he sat out these playoffs for the good of the team resulting in a different, more dynamic hierarchy on the floor. Logic says the Kings are still better with an injured Webber in the lineup. Individual stats and team standings say otherwise.

05-12-2004, 03:20 PM
I've been convinced for a long time that Terry Brown has never watched an NBA game. He's just good at dumping some stats into Excel and twisting them into whatever story he wants to tell.

I certainly hope people don't read his stats-based nonsense and take it literally.

He's an idiot.

05-12-2004, 04:44 PM
InsiderSpecial: Cooling Off Wade
#49386 - 05/12/04 03:32 PM Edit Reply Quote

Something had to give. Indiana had won six consecutive playoff games by double-digit margins. But Miami had won 16 straight home games. Behind Dwyane Wade's 14 fourth-quarter points, the Miami Heat won Game 3 and have hope to now tie the series before heading back to Indiana.

Throughout the playoffs, the rookie Wade has played like anything but. In fact, he has been Miami's best player in the clutch. Remember, Wade hit two game-winning shots in the New Orleans series.

Let's break down some reasons why Miami has a chance to get back in the series and what both teams' adjustments might be.

What has worked?
Miami got just enough fastbreak points to survive in Game 3. Even though Wade and Lamar Odom have turned into superb players when it comes to creating their own shot, Miami knows that in a half-court game it has no chance to win this series. The Heat have to continue to attack and create a quicker offensive tempo before Indiana can lock into its defense. Miami has done a great job of getting offensive rebounds, and Indiana's inability to protect the defensive boards has to be a concern at this point.

Indiana still has had success posting up a variety of players -- Jermaine O'Neal, Ron Artest, Al Harrington and even Jonathan Bender.

Eddie Jones
Shooting Guard
Miami Heat

Gm 1 4 2 2 1-3 1-2
Gm 2 9 2 2 2-6 1-3
Gm 3 12 2 3 4-12 2-5
Defensively, Indiana has done a good job of taking Eddie Jones out of this series. It looks as if Eddie's confidence is a little shaky, with the Pacers doing a great job of staying attached when Jones comes off screens. Eddie has adjusted somewhat and picked some nice assists by catching the pass and immediately hitting the big man stepping out or rolling to the basket. Indiana's big men are doing a nice job of stepping out to help with the pin-downs, not letting Jones get into the lane with his tight curls. Artest has also done his usual great job of not letting Caron Butler get off.

What hasn't worked?
Indiana has made a concentrated effort to get O'Neal going offensively. Even though Jermaine had 29 points in a great effort in Game 3, it has been a struggle to get easy looks at the rim.

First of all, Miami has been prepared on O'Neal's tendencies in the half court and where Jermaine wants to catch the ball in the Pacers' sets. Brian Grant has played him extremely physical, fronting him up to the free-throw line at times and not letting him back down after he catches the ball. If he does get by Grant, there is help from Odom, Udonis Haslem or now Malik Allen.

Offensively, the Heat just can't get Jones going. Possibly Eddie is wearing down somewhat, exerting so much energy shutting down Reggie Miller. Miller only got two shot attempts in Game 3 after hitting the Heat for 19 points in Game 2.

What adjustments have been made?

Jamaal Tinsley
Point Guard
Indiana Pacers

Gm 1 17 5 2 6-7 5-6
Gm 2 1 9 2 0-1 0-1
Gm 3 16 5 3 6-8 4-5
Coach Rick Carlisle has done a good job of getting Jamaal Tinsley into areas where he's ready to take the open shot when his man leaves to help double the post. Tinsley has had two huge games knocking down the outside shot. I still expect coach Stan Van Gundy to keep testing Jamaal, making him do it again and again as the games become even more important.

Miami has found that Allen can contribute and is giving him important minutes backing up the front line. Malik hit five consecutive shots to help the Heat stay in front in the first half Monday. Along with Rasual Butler, the Heat have increased its rotation to as many as nine players, and that is giving the starters some help since the Pacers are playing 10 men with success.

Rafer Alston is playing nicely as a point, allowing Wade to look to score even more as an off guard. Look for this to continue as Jones searches for points.

What adjustments still need to be made?
I don't know how much adjusting can be done at this point, since they know each other so well. But the team that straightens out the following will have a huge edge in capturing Wednesday night's Game 4.

# As much as Miami loves to play extremely aggressive and physical on defense by rotating and trapping, its must find a way to play without fouling so much. Indiana has been able to get to the line far too much. The Pacers had nine straight free throws in the fourth quarter Monday night to take the lead, although the lead didn't hold up. Plus, the Heat's depth is not as good, and Miami needs its best players playing, not sitting due to foul problems.

# Miami must also try to limit the one big Indiana spurt somewhere in each game. The Pacers capitalize on at least one big run to give them an edge in each game. Miami has played them even if you take away the one outburst.

# The Pacers have to do a better job of building a wall on Wade and do everything they can to keep him out of the lane. Dwyane made seven field goals Monday night, almost exclusively driving the ball to the basket or receiving a pass on a backdoor cut. The Pacers have to shut down his drives and make him make jump shots.

05-12-2004, 04:45 PM
Insider Special: Scouting SAC/Wolves
#49387 - 05/12/04 03:33 PM Edit Reply Quote

The Kings could be up 3-0 in this series if they had just made their free throws down the stretch in Games 2 and 3. Doug Christie and Chris Webber both missed key free throws late in Game 2, and Peja Stojakovic, the regular-season NBA leader in FT percentage, missed one each in the fourth quarter and in overtime that possibly could have won either game.

Instead, Minnesota took back home-court advantage, and Sacramento faces a must-win situation in Game 4. Sacramento has lost only eight home games this season, but the Timberwolves are responsible for three of them.

Stars win games, and Sam Cassell and Kevin Garnett have made the winning shots thus far.

What has worked?

Kevin Garnett
Minnesota Timberwolves

Gm 1 16 7 18 6-21 4-4
Gm 2 28 4 11 8-16 12-14
Gm 3 30 3 15 11-23 8-9
Minnesota improved its postseason record to 6-1 in games in which it takes at least 20 free throws. In Game 3, Minnesota shot 29 free throws, with KG going 8-for-9. This has been a problem for the Timberwolves in previous games, because they shoot so many jump shots. In Game 1, KG had only four free-throw attempts and the team only 12, and the team lost. In Game 2, the Wolves shot 28 free throws, with KG getting 14, and Minnesota came from behind to win. See a trend?

What hasn't worked?
Sacramento has not made big plays at the end of the games. It could change in Game 4, as the Kings are loaded with clutch players, but they are running out of time.

Webber's first step has been very quick, but he has had trouble finishing around the basket over KG's long, outstretched arms. Webber has had to jackknife or try to finish below the rim on many of his drives, and he hasn't made the shots.

The Kings also have shortened their bench to seven players, with Brad Miller and Anthony Peeler the only subs getting much time. Darius Songaila has not played yet in this series, and Bobby Jackson has not suited up due to his abdominal injury. This lack of depth has really hurt the Kings.

Minnesota's "big three" combined for 62 points in Game 2 and for 64 in Game 3. Though they haven't really had all three blow up together in the same game, they've had great games from two of the three in each victory.

Sacramento has done a good job of stopping Sam Cassell since his 40 points in Game 1. But because of the attention the Kings are giving Cassell, Trenton Hassell and Fred Hoiberg have had three great games and may be the difference thus far. The two had 50 points combined in the first two games and combined for 30 in Game 3.

What adjustments have been made?

Mike Bibby
Point Guard
Sacramento Kings

Gm 1 33 7 7 10-21 3-8
Gm 2 10 8 2 4-17 0-2
Gm 3 19 10 5 7-15 2-4
The guards are cross-matching with each other. Like in the Detroit-New Jersey series, whenever possible the guards take their opposite number on defense -- the one guards the two, and vice versa. You can only do this after scores and on dead-ball possessions, but Christie often will guard Cassell to put a bigger player on Sam. Minnesota likewise has put Sprewell on Mike Bibby as much as possible for the same reason, and Latrell puts more pressure on Bibby than Cassell can.

Hassell and Hoiberg have gotten shots in the half-court offense due to the "wild switching" Sacramento is doing on top from the weak side in defending Cassell in the wing screen-roll action. The defender on top comes over from the weak side to take Cassell, and the person starting on him runs to take the man on top. The Kings do this because their big men aren't mobile enough to stop Sam in screen-roll plays.

The Kings are also doubling KG whenever possible in the post, then having to scramble out of their rotation.

What adjustments still need to be made?
Minnesota now has captured the mental edge in this series by outplaying the Kings twice. Sacramento must have confidence it can extend this series and win it down the stretch.

The Kings have done a great job of getting Cassell under control, but now they need to buckle down on Sprewell and try to stop him from getting hot at the start. But it is hard to help on him when you are concentrating on the other two stars.

Sacramento needs to play with energy from the start, feeding off the home crowd. They know the series essentially could be over with one more loss. The Kings need to make the Wolves a jump-shooting team and keep them off the free-throw line. Offensively, they must continue cutting and passing in the half court.

05-12-2004, 04:46 PM
Wednesday Insider
#49388 - 05/12/04 03:34 PM Edit Reply Quote

Walker trying to regain elite status

By Terry Brown
NBA Insider
Tuesday, May 11
Updated: May 11
1:56 PM ET

While Shaquille O'Neal was diving after that loose ball in the most important game of the year for his team, Antoine Walker was watching on TV.

When Ben Wallace grabbed 24 playoff rebounds for the Pistons, Walker must have shook his head in disbelief.

The former all-star, former all-rookie selection and national champion at Kentucky is sitting on the couch these days, watching the NBA playoffs and wondering if there is still a place in this league for a long-range shooting point-forward.

"Somebody had to take the blame in Dallas," said an Eastern Conference scout who happens to be in the same room. "So they pointed to the new guy with the biggest contract and blamed Antoine."

There are more than 350 players in the NBA, and more than 250 of them are spectators right now. Walker is one of them.

He began the 2004 regular season 20 pounds lighter than the previous year, because the Celtics wanted him thinner. They wanted him quicker. They wanted the old Antoine Walker.

Then, all of a sudden, they wanted him gone, and he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks.

The Mavericks finished the 2002-03 regular season with three all-star-caliber players in Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Finley and Steve Nash. On Aug. 18, 2003, they added another in Antawn Jamison. On Oct. 20, they added another in Walker.

On April 29, 2004, after being eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, the Mavericks wondered if they had added too much.

Antoine Walker
Dallas Mavericks

82 14.0 8.3 4.5 .428 .554

"It was not the year he thought it was going to be," said the scout, one of Walker's close friends. "He came into the year in the best shape of his life, and everything just fell apart. It was nothing Antoine did wrong. It was just that the rookies played well, they already had a lot of players and the chemistry never developed.

"They were never going to win 60 games again like the year before. Not in this Western Conference. Not with any team."

That's the price for being a professional in the NBA. Owners lose lots of money. Coaches get fired. And Walker, a player who once averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds a game and made $12.5 million this season, has no idea where he's going to be living next year.

"He loves Dallas," says the scout. "He loves the organization. He loves his teammates."

But most of all, he loves the game. Not only does he play basketball, he coaches an AAU team, he goes three or four hours in a row with his video game (starring himself). He is, like the rest of us, watching these games with intent.

"I can remember taking him to Bulls' games when he was just a kid," said the scout. "He'd be calling for double teams at certain times. He knew when to go 2 for 1 in the closing seconds. He is a fan of the game."

Right now, that is all he can be.

In his last nine playoff games, four last season with Boston and five last month with Dallas, Walker has averaged a meager 11.6 points and 10.1 rebounds on 35 percent shooting. He has 28 assists and 25 turnovers.

He shoots too many 3s. He doesn't play enough defense. He doesn't score enough points. He gets paid too much money. He is a trading card in our fantasy leagues, a combination of statistics and standings, a toy for grown men behind on their mortgages with no one else to blame.

"He started shooting a lot of 3s because coach [Rick] Pitino told him to shoot lots of 3s," says the scout. "Coach [Jim] O'Brien used the same philosophy. And now everybody's mad at him because he grew to like shooting 3s."

Then he was traded to Dallas, where everybody likes shooting 3s. So he started rebounding, too, and passing like the old days. Two years ago, he played 41.5 minutes per game and averaged 7.4 3-point attempts, 7.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists. Last season -- yes, it's already last season for him -- he played fewer minutes (34.6 per game) and took half as many 3-point attempts (3.7 per game) while increasing his rebounds (8.3) and maintaining his assists (4.5 ).

He started shooting a lot of 3s because coach [Rick] Pitino told him to shoot lots of 3s," says the scout. "Coach [Jim] O'Brien used the same philosophy. And now everybody's mad at him because he grew to like shooting 3s.
NBA scout on Antoine Walker
In the playoffs, he averaged 10 rebounds per game in only 28 minutes, but all we remember is the 1-for-10 shooting from 3-point range.

"He wants to play like he used to," says the scout. "Look at him. We're eating fried chicken and yams, and he's over there eating peanuts and popcorn."

He has gone from being one of the best players in the game to being a salary-cap figure. His value is determined by the length of his contract. He is a commodity now, not because of his points or rebounds or assists, but because he has one year left on his contract.

The most recent rumor has the Orlando Magic trading their lottery pick and a grounded Grant Hill to Dallas for Walker.

As a free agent in about 12 months, he could end up playing for four teams in a little more than two years after having played his first seven seasons in one place.

He actually called an old friend to see what it was like to play in Orlando.

And it seems like an eternity ago that he was wrapped up in the playoffs himself, hoping to repeat the 3-point magic of 2001-02, when the Celtics made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.

He pops another peanut in his mouth and waits for the next game to start, unsure of who his future teammates will be.