HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The playoffs are here. And to get you ready, we’ve got statistical nuggets for each series, courtesy of NBA.com/Stats.
Western Conference basketball was faster and more efficient than Eastern Conference hoops. We’re sure to see three high-paced series in the first round, because six of the eight West playoff teams ranked in the top 10 in pace, with the only exceptions being the Clippers and Grizzlies, who will face each other.
Pace won’t be the only reason scoring will be higher in the West. Seven of the eight West playoff teams ranked in the top 10 in offensive efficiency.
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank) OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank) DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank) NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank) The league averaged 94.4 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.1 points scored per 100 possessions.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson has been a believer in his team all season and that faith has been realized now in the form of a team that won six of its past eight games to strut into the playoffs, as opposed to slipping through the back door.
“We celebrated, and rightfully so,” Jackson told reporters afterwards, fighting back the tears that flowed in a reportedly emotional and raucous postgame locker room celebration. “People questioned us, and they should have. People doubted us, and they should have. But they underestimated the heart, the desire, the work ethic, the determination, the willingness to put in the time and then the favor of God.”
Much like fellow Tuesday night playoff clincher Houston, the Warriors have arrived to the surprise of many. They’ve done it without the hype-train that has accompanied the Rockets’ rise. There’s no James Harden or Jeremy Lin headliner on this Warriors team (although an All-Star like David Lee and shooting star like Stephen Curry certainly deserve whatever plaudits come their way).
The Warriors’ front office doesn’t have a figure like Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, the Wizard of Advanced Metrics Oz,to point to. Warriors general manager Bob Myers has gone about his business without a ton of fanfare. He’s plotting the course properly. The Warriors roster is sound. And they are built not just for a momentary playoff flash this time, but for a sustained period of playoff contention that Warriors fans have not experienced before.
“We should enjoy this,” Lacob said after Tuesday’s playoff-clinching win. “We’ve got to celebrate the little moments, too. Every step counts. This is an important first step for this franchise and this ownership group and for all of these guys and the coaches.”
How soon the Warriors take that second step remains to be seen. The playoffs provide all sort of opportunities for upstarts to attempt to “shock the world.”
One thing seems certain, though, and that is the Warriors shouldn’t have to endure another six-year wait between playoff trips.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: When a player has 90 points over his last two games, it’s a sure bet his game is the must-watch recap of the morning. That being said, what Carmelo Anthony did against the Hawks last night in Atlanta was a thing of beauty (unless, of course, you’re a Hawks fan). ‘Melo systematically picked apart the Hawks’ defense with some nice passes and since Atlanta opted to not double team one of the NBA’s best scorers (and a man on a hot streak of late), he torched them for 40 points for good measure. The Hang Time Podcast crew gets into a good debate/discussion about what all this regular-season scoring means for a player who has yet to have more than one deep playoff run. It’s a worthy discussion to listen to, but if you don’t have time, just watch the Knicks’ No. 1 option go to work on the Hawks.
Report: Williams plans to forsake more cortisone shots — Deron Williams‘ season can basically be broken into two categories: the pre-platelet-rich plasma injections portion and the post-PRP portion. The former occurred up until mid-February, which is when Williams decided to have the PRP treatment done on his bothersome ankles and since then has looked more and more like the All-Star/superstar guard he has been throughout his career. While there was a notion that Williams would need cortisone shots for his ankles just before the playoffs begin, D-Will is scrapping those plans, writes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
When the playoffs roll around, Deron Williams says he won’t need the high dosage pain killers that helped salvage his season.
The point guard plans to ride this out cortisone-free.
Having braced himself for continued ankle pain and a fourth round of shots just before the playoffs started, Deron Williams told the Daily News on Wednesday that his treatments in February were so successful that injections aren’t necessary prior to the postseason in late April.
It’s a welcome development for Williams, who is aware of the longterm dangers of injecting too much cortisone – a hormone steroid which, used liberally as an anti-inflammatory, can weaken cartilage in the joints, leaving it susceptible to damage or ruptured tendons.
Doctors typically recommend athletes don’t take more than four injections per year, and Williams is happy he doesn’t have to test the limits with a fourth round.
“That’s a good thing,” said Williams, who indicated in February that he “probably” will receive injections before the playoffs.
Williams originally injured his left ankle during training camp for the Olympics, just after signing a five-year, $98 million contract with the Nets. At some point he injured his other ankle, and underwent his first round of cortisone shots in October.
By the time he received his third round in February, Williams was hobbling around the court and undergoing his worst season as a professional. His last cortisone shots were preceded by PRP injections to both ankles about a week prior.
Not coincidentally, Williams’ season turned around after the All-Star break. He’s also 20 pounds lighter, quicker, averaging more points, more assists, less turnovers and shooting at a better percentage.
Williams has said his latest cortisone injections were “finally in the right spot.”
Clippers’ Hill might retire after season — When the Suns decided to embark on their (somewhat puzzling) rebuilding plan, it meant bringing back Grant Hill for a sixth season in Phoenix was a long-shot-at-best proposition. Hill didn’t sit on the summer’s free-agent market for long once he and Phoenix couldn’t reach a deal, as he signed a two-year deal with the Clippers and looked like a piece that would bolster an up-and-coming squad. However, a bone bruise on his right knee kept Hill off the court until Jan. 12 and, since finally playing, he’s averaging career lows across the board. With the injury problems in mind and given Hill’s age (40), the former Rookie of the Year winner tells Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic he might hang it up after this season:
Hill expected to return to Phoenix for a sixth Suns season when he stayed in the Valley to train last summer. The Suns made a one-year, minimum-salary offer of $1.35 million and the Clippers came with a two-year, $4 million one while Oklahoma City and Chicago also pursued him.
Hill, 40, joined the Clippers, began the season on the inactive list after suffering a bone bruise to his right knee, the one which underwent two arthroscopies since 2011 in Phoenix, and did not play until Jan. 12. Hill likely will not make it to that second contract year and opt to retire this summer.
“Strong chance,” Hill said. “I’m leaning toward it. I want to get to the end of the year and off-season and think about it but I’m pretty confident that’s where my mind is right now. I’ve enjoyed it.”
Except for a brief 2008 experiment under then-Suns coach Terry Porter, Hill always had started in his career until this season, when he often is not in the 10-man rotation.
“That knee injury (bone bruise) set me back a bit in terms of staying healthy and getting in the rotation so that hasn’t been good,” Hill said. “But I wouldn’t change it one bit other than to be hurt early in the year. I like the situation. I like my teammates. We’ve had an up-and-down season. We’ve experienced every emotion you can. We’re still battling for that third spot. We haven’t played well of late but we still have a chance to correct it. We have the ability and the talent to beat anybody. I have no regrets. It’s been a great experience.”
Much like with friend Steve Nash’s summer departure from Phoenix to Los Angeles, Hill did not receive the interest he expected or wanted from Phoenix and chose Los Angeles to stay competitive and close to his kids in the Valley. Hill takes trips home on off-days and will return to the Valley when the season is over.
There have long been hopes by many in the Suns organization that Hill would return in a front-office role when he retires.
“I’ve really just focused on enjoying the last year, if this is the last year, and not focusing on the future,” Hill said. “We’ll get to the end and once the end’s over, I’ll start worrying about what I’m going to do from there.”
Warriors make their own beard pact — In case you’ve been living on another planet for a few months, you might have been oblivious to the much-reported fact the Dallas Mavericks started growing beards as a show of unity that they pledged to keep until they reached .500. The Warriors, who are well above .500 and headed for their first playoff berth since 2007, are also growing beards themselves — even if everyone isn’t on board with the plan. Marcus Thompson IIof The Oakland Tribune has the details:
The Warriors have made a pact that everyone will grow beards until they clinch a playoff spot. No shaving. No trimming.
“The worse it looks, the better it is for the team,” David Lee said.
From the looks of it, though, Andris Biedrins isn’t on board. He looked cleanly shaven Wednesday. And the patch on rookie Harrison Barnes‘ chin looked well groomed.
Coach Mark Jackson is even in on it. His shadow was turning into some rough real estate at practice, highlighted by some gray strands. But he had his facial mane neatened.
There was talk about extended the beard pact through the playoffs. But Stephen Curry wasn’t a fan of that idea.
“This thing,” he said at Wednesday’s shootaround, scratching his grizzled neck. “I’ve already got lint all in it.”
Garcia has empathy for Kings’ supporters — Rockets swingman Francisco Garcia has played 473 games over eight seasons in the NBA, with 462 of those games played coming as a member of the Sacramento Kings. As a rookie, he was a member of the last Sacramento squad to make the postseason and spent the bulk of his younger years in the NBA in California’s capital city as the Kings trudged through losing season after losing season. He also hasn’t been oblivious to the potential sale of the Kings to a Chris Hansen and a Seattle-based group that wants to buy the team and rebrand them as the Seattle SuperSonics. Yesterday, groups from both Sacramento and Seattle presented their proposed bids to Commissioner David Stern and other league officials and although no decision on the Kings’ future is expected for a while (our own David Aldridgehas the full details), Garcia is watching and feels for Kings fans, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
He could have anticipated he would return to Sacramento for the first time with another team. He never could have imagined the possibility it could be his last time as well.
“My first years were great,” Garcia said. “There was a sellout every game. There’s not a lot of cities that were like we were when I first got there.”
While Garcia and the Rockets prepared to go against the Kings on Wednesday night, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson was in New York to present the offer of a local group to purchase the Kings from the Maloof family and prevent the sale to a group that would move the team to Seattle.
After spending most of the last two seasons in the heart of the battle, from the near move to Anaheim through the handshake deal to remain in Sacramento and finally the Seattle-Sacramento tug of war to be decided by the Board of Governors meeting April 18 and 19, Garcia can’t begin to handicap how the competition will end.
On Wednesday, the groups vying for the Kings — Steve Ballmer and Chris Hansen are seeking to buy them and move them to Seattle; Ron Burkle, Mark Mastrov and Vivek Ranadive are bidding to buy them and keep them in Sacramento — made the presentation to a Board of Governors sub-committee, which later will make its recommendation.
Garcia could not help but feel empathy for the fans who supported the Kings so faithfully through much of his career.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “One guy is saying this; another guy is saying that. I don’t know. I’d be sad (if the Kings leave Sacramento). It’s such a great city. They’re great fans. They’ve been supporting the team for a long time.
“It’s great. It’s a great city. I have nothing but good things to say about Sacramento. I had a great eight years there.”
ICYMI of the night: Trevor Ariza shows the kids at home why the pivot foot is important … and that having a little luck is important, too… :
Continuing through March 4, the NBA family – led by Hoops for St. Jude ambassadors – will engage fans through this unique relationship, designed to advance cancer research and patient care benefitting children and families battling pediatric cancer. One hundred percent of donations to The V Foundation from this campaign will go directly toward cancer research benefitting St. Jude patients. Together they form a powerful force in pediatric cancer research.
March 4 marks the 20th anniversary of The V Foundation, which was founded in 1993 by ESPN and legendary N.C. State basketball coach and ESPN commentator, the late Jim Valvano. As a cancer patient, Valvano worked to eradicate the disease by championing investment in promising young cancer researchers. To date, The V Foundation has helped carry his dream forward by awarding more than $100-million in cancer research grants. This new endeavor will allow the organizations to work together to help make the shared vision of a world free of pediatric cancer a reality.
St. Jude treats some of the toughest cases of children battling cancer and no family ever pays St. Jude for anything.
Center Marc Gasol of the Grizzlies has been a strong supporter of St. Jude since his arrival in Memphis in 2008 and this year has become an official St. Jude Ambassador along with NBA players and coaches Pau Gasol, David Lee, Kevin Love, Lionel Hollins, and George Karl.
After a recent visit to St. Jude, Marc Gasol shared his thoughts on the program:
Question: What made you want to get involved and become a St. Jude Ambassador?
Answer: That’s easy. The kids. To be able to walk through those doors, be able to spend time with them and play with them is one of the best parts of my life. I think I’m very lucky to live here in Memphis where I can get to St. Jude often. It’s a place where you maybe think at first that you’re going to cheer them up by playing with them. But what I find is that they play with me and it makes me happy. One day we might read a book or do drawings. Another day it’s making cupcakes with different toppings. We even have tea parties and, yeah, I get right down there at the those little tables. Sometimes I get to hear the older kids tell their stories. All the time I spend with them is very special.
Q: Has there been an influence from your family?
A: My Mom is a doctor. My father was a nurse administrator in Spain. Pau went to medical school before he focused on a career in basketball. So there has always been a tie to the medical community and an awareness that there was work to be done and opportunities for everyone to do their part. I believe our parents gave Pau and me a great education and a sense of how the real world is. They have never pushed us to do anything, whether it was basketball or our studies. But if we chose something, they have always encouraged us to make a full commitment. Sure, our family has been touched by cancer, like most families. My grandfather and my aunt both passed away from cancer. But that is not the reason for my interest or involvement. I just like to like to be with the kids and to help them and get the message across the world. Any research or discoveries at St. Jude are spread to hospitals everywhere. We have similar research hospitals in Spain and they all share information, discoveries, treatments. I also like to stress that once a child and their family comes through the doors of St. Jude they do not have to worry about money. No one ever pays. It’s only about taking care of the kids. When you see what that means to families who come here, you understand how special this is to so many people.
Q: What was your first visit to St. Jude like and how have the visits affected you personally?
A: I was only about 17 or 18 the first time that I came out with Pau. I can’t say that I have a specific memory of one thing or one person, but what stays with me is that the first time you come through those doors you get a sense of hope and happiness. Of course, when anyone moves to Memphis I think your awareness goes up and it becomes a bigger part of you. You learn and you find out what makes St. Jude different. It’s not a hospital. At least, not the way that you usually think of a hospital. You come here and you see happiness and colors and kids playing and learning and teaching each other. You see a place that is filled with smiles and hope. It’s a place of fun.
Q: What is the reaction of your teammates and fellow NBA players to what you do for St. Jude?
A: I’m not pushy. I don’t try to convince people. I’ll recruit if I have to. But I think once players do come, you don’t have to convince anyone. I tell them how they can help, what they can do. I just had a visit with some of the new guys on our team — Austin Daye, Ed Davis, Dexter Pittman, Jon Leuer – and it always has an effect.
Q: Do you have favorite memories of your St. Jude experiences?
A: I have a lot of memories. I been here living in Memphis now five years. Sadly, some of those memories are of kids who are not here anymore, times when there are not happy endings. But I’ve had those relationships with them and the relationships and experiences will never go away. I’ve had so many experiences of watching kids get better. A lot of them are basketball fans and they love to watch our games and give us their opinions on how we do. We played in Brooklyn the other night and won and a lot of them watched on TV. We had a halftime segment with Coach Hollins that we did at St. Jude. They loved that. They loved seeing themselves. It’s just great to see them so excited, so happy.
Q: What is the message you want to get out from this campaign?
A: The message should be St. Jude. It’s a place of hope. Anything is possible and we need your help. You and your entire family. For the kids.
Which playoff-bound team do you see slipping after the break?
Steve Aschburner: I’m still mourning Memphis for two trades that weren’t driven by the pursuit of a championship this spring, which is what the Grizzlies were poised to do. But I’m even more alarmed by the Golden State Warriors, who returned from the break the way they went into it: losing. With their bad start and poor finish at Utah Tuesday, the Warriors have dropped six in a row and are 8-13 over the past seven weeks. They have sputtered while trying to acclimate to center Andrew Bogut‘s participation, the defense has been porous and, after the setback in Salt Lake City, forward David Lee cited a drip-drip-drip of small mistakes adding up to a big problem. Golden State played just well enough through the first two months to demand that it be taken seriously — so seeking its level now comes as a legit disappointment. It could have finished eighth — or (gulp) ninth — without getting folks’ hopes up.
Fran Blinebury: Despite their 8-1 start in life without Rajon Rondo, I think it’s going to be difficult for the Celtics aging pair of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to handle the added burden, so they could drop as far as the No. 8 spot in the East. The Celtics are just fortunate that, barring a stunning and miraculous return by Andrew Bynum in Philly, there’s nobody below that can knock them out of the playoffs.
Jeff Caplan: The Bucks started their swoon pre-All-Star break and they might just slip right out of the playoffs if Philadelphia can ever get hot — or if Toronto can stay hot. However, the Bucks aren’t my choice. Hellooooo Atlanta. We’ll see by Thursday if Josh Smith has a new home. Even if he stays, I still say, look out below. The Hawks have the misfortune of opening the post-All-Star break season with eight road games within a brutal 12-game stretch that starts at home Wednesday against the Heat and ends March 12 at the Heat. The stretch includes a season-long six-game trip that starts on the second night of back-to-back at Milwaukee (Saturday) and includes a stop at Utah followed by a back-to-back at the Los Angeles Lakers and at mile-high Denver. The dirty dozen ends with this challenging three-pack: a back-to-back at Boston and home against Brooklyn, then three nights later at Miami. The Hawks are 29-22. Let’s see where they are in 20 days.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Ask me again Thursday afternoon. For now, based on the rosters of the moment, the Grizzlies will take a dip. Not all the way out of the playoff pack, but enough of a slip in a post-Rudy Gay world. Taking a three-game winning streak into the All-Star break was a nice bit of momentum building. The three were against the Kings, the Timberwolves and the slumping Warriors, though.
John Schuhmann:Milwaukee is a prime candidate. The Bucks have a tough remaining schedule that includes nine back-to-backs (the first of which they’re in the middle of). And if you look at point differential, their record is a little inflated in the first place. Of course, if they manage to trade Monta Ellis, they would become a better team (addition by subtraction) and maybe make up for the tough schedule. Also, if the Bucks do slip, I’m not sure there’s another Eastern Conference team with the chops to take their place in the playoff picture. If you’re looking for a higher seed that could slip, I’ll go with Brooklyn, who has six more road games than home games remaining and a league-high 10 post-break back-to-backs.
Sekou Smith: Depending on what transpires between now and 3 p.m. Thursday, I could see the Atlanta Hawks struggling to the finish line if they do indeed trade Josh Smith. I don’t see a Celtics-like surge coming from the Hawks if they lose their best player (to trade this time and not to injury, as Boston did with Rajon Rondo). The Hawks already have fragile chemistry and the fact that 85 percent of the roster (and the coaching staff) will be finishing up their contracts at the end of this season doesn’t bode well for some miraculous finish. If you’re going into rebuild mode this summer, and everyone in the locker room knows it, where is the incentive to claw your way to the finish?
HOUSTON – Traditionally, All-Star Saturday calls to mind images of dunkers, marksmen and practitioners of the pebble-grain arts in a night filled with hoopla and hoops. This weekend, though, All-Star Saturday will be a call to order — a call to arms, even — with the bonus imagery of grim-faced NBA stars in street clothes emerging from hotel meeting rooms.
Those sort of lockout flashbacks could be in play given the busy agenda for the NBA players’ union in its mid-winter meeting Saturday afternoon. Billy Hunter, embattled executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, could be ousted by a players vote if the findings of an independent business review animate and carry the day. Or, Hunter’s paid leave of absence – imposed on Feb. 1 amid charges that he engaged in nepotism, conflicts of interest and other improper business practices – could continue indefinitely while the NBPA explores its tactical and legal options.
“To be honest, I don’t know that much about it,” Chicago center Joakim Noah said during All-Star media availability Friday. “But the things that I hear are kind of alarming. It doesn’t feel clean. It’s not a good feeling to feel that way. We should feel comfortable, if he’s representing us, as players.”
Noah’s reaction is typical of a lot of union members – he happens to be one of Chicago’s player reps – who pay attention mostly to the big stuff: elections, lockouts and alleged violations of trust. That’s why the report in late January by law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison — commissioned by the players out of a rift between Hunter and NBPA president Derek Fisher – is grabbing their attention.
Hunter was criticized in the report for hiring two daughters, for directing NBPA financial business to an investment firm (Prim Capital) that employed his son, for using union funds for personal expenses and for allegedly working on a contract – which pays him an annual salary of about $3 million – that was improperly ratified. He was not cited for any criminal infractions, he defended his conduct and, after the report was released, Hunter recommended policy reforms to prevent similar abuses in the future.
The chances of Hunter hanging onto his job have worsened over the past two weeks. Several NBA players, including Boston’s Paul Pierce and Brooklyn’s Jerry Stackhouse, called for his removal as one of several union changes. Arn Tellem, one of the league’s most powerful player agents, wrote a letter to his clients urging them to vote for Hunter’s termination.
His plan to explain to and persuade the players by attending their meeting Saturday ended when they opted not to invite him. Instead, Hunter and a team of attorneys posted statements of his position – and the PowerPoint presentation he had intended to show the players – on a “blog” Friday. Hunter, 70, has held his position since 1996, steering the union through two major lockouts and presiding over an increase in the average player salary to $5 million.
“Billy Hunter’s always been, in my eyes, an honest person and I support him,” Memphis forward Zach Randolph said. “Whatever he does, I don’t have no problem with it. I read some of the report that came out and I didn’t see him doing anything wrong.”
Randolph said he “might be at the meeting” and that, if the opportunity arises, he “definitely would” speak up on Hunter’s behalf. Others sounded more non-committal, seeking details before passing judgment.
“Part of why I’ll be at the meeting, I want to know exactly what’s going on,” Bulls forward Luol Deng said. “I can’t speak out for something I’m not 100 percent about. I know Billy Hunter’s a good guy. Everything that’s happened? I don’t know.”
Said Golden State forward David Lee: “The most important thing is, we need to all be united in whatever we decide. Right now, it looks like there’s some indecision and some things we need sorted out. Whatever we decide, whatever direction we go in, we all need to be on the same page.”
Getting this fixed – Hunter has a reported $10.5 million left on his contract and will sue to be paid in full, sources said – represents a challenge to the NBPA. Like a lot of similar associations, apathy can take hold and member involvement often slackens until the next crisis.
“But it’s very important,” said L.A. Clippers guard Chris Paul, a member of the interim executive committee. “Players are the union. We want to make sure we have a strong union, everybody believes in what’s going on and we move on.”
San Antonio reserve Matt Bonner, also on the five-man committee of union vice presidents, said this can be an opportunity for the NBPA, as well. Having its business put out in the street like this is a public relations blow, he acknowledged. But a greater good could follow.
“Players reps will be here, additional players will be here, and we can have a really productive discussion on how we’re going to move this thing forward,” Bonner said. “The more player involvement we have, the better.
HOUSTON – Before the season, he had health concerns over a series of ankle injuries. Then, he got a $44-million vote of confidence from management in the form of an extension. Once the ball actually dropped, he nearly made the All-Star team as one of the standouts from a successful early-season run by the Warriors.
There is now new affirmation of the return to prominence for Stephen Curry.
Curry, a member of Team USA for the 2010 world championships before being disappointed at being left off the roster for the 2012 Olympics, is back in contention for a spot with USA Basketball heading toward the 2014 World Cup (the former world championships). He is expected to receive an invitation to a July mini-camp in Las Vegas with approximately two dozen players, some who have been in the program before and some newcomers, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo told NBA.com. The United States will not be in any tournaments this summer.
“He definitely is,” Colangelo said of Curry being back on the radar. “He’s never really been off the radar. It’s always been about injuries with him. I think he continues to develop as a player and I plan to invite him this summer.”
Curry’s Warriors teammate David Lee, a Western Conference reserve for Sunday’s All-Star game at the Toyota Center, will likely get an invitation as well. Paul George of the Pacers, an Eastern Conference reserve and one of the rising young stars of the game, is also expected to be asked to play. It’s a formula that should help merge prospects for the program with some returning players.
Curry in some ways is an ideal player for the international game. He’s a shooter to help beat the zones Team USA sees regularly; not a great athlete, but able to play an up-tempo game the Americans like to use to beat slower opponents in transition. He also, importantly, comes with a great attitude that fits Colangelo’s desire for a drama-free squad devoid of ego issues.
HOUSTON – NBA All-Star weekend is upon us and it’s time to take a break from the condensed schedule to celebrate the best basketball players in the world. Before we get to Sunday’s game (8 p.m. ET, TNT), we’ll dig deep into each All-Star’s first-half statistics.
You already know the basics (scoring, rebounding, etc). So here are some noteworthy, below-the-surface numbers regarding each of the 13 Eastern Conference All-Stars, coming from the new NBA.com/stats site. Click on the nuggets below to go even more in-depth.
All stats are through Wednesday, Feb. 13. Minimum requirements were set at 100 field-goal attempts for shooting stats, 500 minutes for non-shooting stats, and 100 minutes for lineup data, unless otherwise noted.
Has assisted Blake Griffin on 135 baskets. Russell Westbrook has more assists (149) to Kevin Durant, but the Paul-Griffin combination has more on a per-minute basis: 5.1 vs. 4.2 per 48 minutes played together.
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Golden State Warriors were the feel-good story of the first half of the season. Mark Jackson was a Coach of the Year candidate, David Lee and Stephen Curry looked like All-Stars, and the Dubs had a top-10 defense … without Andrew Bogut.
As the Warriors prep to host the Rockets tonight (10:30 ET, NBA TV), they still have a four-game lead over Houston in the loss column. But they’ve been passed by the Denver Nuggets for fifth place and they’ve lost sight of the Grizzlies, who haven’t exactly been tearing it up of late.
So what happened? Well, that top-10 defense turned into a bottom-five defense.
Through Jan. 2
Since Jan. 2
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
For the season, the Warriors now rank 16th defensively, allowing 103.2 points per 100 possessions. And a deeper look at the defensive numbers shows that they’ve basically regressed across the board …
Through Jan. 2
Since Jan. 2
DREB% = Percentage of available defensive rebounds obtained
OppTOV% = Opponent turnovers per 100 possessions
OppFTA Rate = Opponent FTA/FGA
Curry (five games) and Jarrett Jack (three games) have each missed some time in the last month, but not enough to really affect things too much. Bogut has returned, but hasn’t yet played many more minutes than he played at the start of the season.
The regression does seem to be somewhat schedule-related. Just nine of the Warriors’ first 32 games were against top-10 offensive teams. Of the last 19, another nine have been against those same top-10 offensive teams, with six of those coming on the road.
And on the road is really where the issues have been. In fact, the Warriors have allowed less than a point per possession in home games since Jan. 2. They’ve just turned into an absolutely atrocious defensive team away from Oracle Arena.
Home through Jan. 2
Road through Jan. 2
Home since Jan. 2
Road since Jan. 2
Those 12 road games in January and February have included visits to the Clippers, Nuggets, Spurs and Thunder. And another four have been the second night of a road-road back-to-back. But the Warriors have been blown out in a handful of games (they’ve actually been outscored by three points for the season) and the contrast between their 2012 road defense and their 2013 road defense is too stark to dismiss as just a schedule thing.
The good news is that the Warriors are home for 19 of their final 31 games, and that they’ve got Bogut back to help stabilize the D. The bad news is that they’re probably going to start the playoffs on the road, and will have to figure some things out in the next two months.
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Only the Portland Trail Blazers’ Rookie of the Year frontrunner Damian Lillard has started as many games in his first season as Golden State Warriors rookie forward Harrison Barnes.
The No. 7 overall pick out of North Carolina has proved invaluable to the Warriors’ surge this season considering they’ve been without injured swingman Brandon Rush and until just a few nights ago, Andrew Bogut.
“Coach has done a great job of setting a standard of what we need to come in and do every single day, playing hard and we have a lot of guys that want to win,” Barnes said last week during a phone interview with NBA.com. “Guys like David Lee, Steph Curry, veteran guys that really want to win and that filters down to everybody else.”
After Barnes put up 12 points, four rebounds and five assists in 39 minutes during Thursday’s 100-97 win over the Dallas Mavericks, Golden State improved to 29-17, just one-half game behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the coveted No. 4 spot in the West standings. Two nights earlier, Barnes threw down a massive, right-hand jam on Raptors center Aaron Gray as part of a 14-point, five-rebound night.
So why does it seem like the 6-foot-8, 210-pound Barnes has been buried under the rookie hype machine during the first half of the season?
“I think I’ve been playing pretty well,” Barnes said. “I’m starting on a team that is fifth in the West, so there’s really no complaints.”
In two weeks, the nation will get a better look at the incredibly athletic, intrinsically low-key Barnes as he’ll participate in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge that kicks off All-Star Weekend in Houston.
The 2012 rookie crop is turning out to be pretty stout. While Lillard, the No. 6 overall pick, is having an absolutely mammoth season as Portland’s starting point guard and is a major reason why the Blazers remain in playoff contention this late into the season, Barnes is showing to have been a deft pick by the Warriors.
Barnes, 20, has provided athleticism and tough, physical play on both ends while instantly being inserted into the starting lineup with Curry, Klay Thompson and Lee. Barnes ranks in the top 10 among the rookie class in most key statistical categories. Against Dallas on Thursday, he posted up O.J. Mayo, spun around him and got to the rim and buried a pretty turnaround jumper over Vince Carter.
(Of course, Carter taught Harrison a rookie lesson at the end of the first half when Carter faked an injury in the corner. Barnes left him alone and Carter broke to the basket wide open and got the pass for a dunk. Lesson learned.)
Barnes is averaging 9.0 ppg (seventh among rookies), 4.3 rpg (eighth) and 25.5 mpg (ninth). His 3-point percentage (35.9) ranks fifth, his overall shooting percentage (43.1) is 11th and he ranks eighth in made free throws (71).
The Warriors look to keep getting better when Phoenix visits Saturday night. Then it’s a tough, four-game road trip through Houston, Oklahoma City, Memphis and Dallas.
“We’re going to continue to stay humble and continue to play with that edge,” Barnes said. “We never want to get complacent, never want to just be happy with where are. We’re going to continue to work every single day continue to get better.”