Posts Tagged ‘Dirk Nowitzki’

Morning shootaround — Dec. 21


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Dec. 20

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Ellis steals show in Rondo’s debut | Rockets can’t keep pace with red-hot Hawks | No such thing as fatigue in Portland

No. 1: Monta Ellis steals the show in Rajon Rondo’s debut — Rajon Rondo’s big night in a Dallas Mavericks uniform turned into a showcase and reminder that Monta Ellis has been and is the key to the season for the new-look  Western Conference contender. Rondo was solid but hardly spectacular in his Dallas debut. Ellis, on the other hand, was off the charts. Tim McMahon of ESPNDallas.com sets the scene:

So much for the theory that the addition of Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericksbackcourt would disrupt Monta Ellis’ rhythm and detract from the go-to guy’s game.

OK, one game certainly isn’t a big enough sample size to draw any grand conclusions, but the guard duo’s debut together was pretty encouraging, even though it came against the San Antonio Spurs’ junior varsity squad.

“He scored 38 points, so I didn’t hold him back too much,” Rondo said after the Mavs pulled out a 99-93 victory the day after he arrived in Dallas as the headliner in a blockbuster deal with theBoston Celtics. “We both like to dominate the ball, but I think we played well off each other tonight.”

There is ample statistical ammunition, traditional and advanced, for questioning how well Rondo and Ellis can co-exist offensively. Start with Rondo’s poor shooting percentages and the impact that has on the space Ellis will have to create on the pick-and-rolls that are the meat and potatoes of the Mavs’ magnificent offense.

You can dive deeper into the data to make the case, citing usage percentages and Synergy stats. Just make sure to include the basketball IQs of Rondo and Mavs coach Rick Carlisle in the conversation, too.

Geniuses tend to figure out how to put puzzles together pretty well.

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Morning shootaround — Dec. 4


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Dec. 3

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Deng suffers hand injury | ‘Melo was truly torn over Bulls and Knicks | MJ wasn’t sole influence on Kobe’s game | Dirk starts All-Star campaigning for Ellis

No. 1: Heat’s Deng suffers hand injury – The Miami Heat face their first prolonged road trip of the season as a five-game stretch looms, and they may very well tipoff that trip without their starting small forward. Luol Deng suffered a hand injury in last night’s 112-102 home loss to the Atlanta Hawks and his status for the road trip is unknown, writes Michael Wallace of ESPN.com:

Heat starting forward Luol Deng is considered questionable heading into the team’s five-game road trip after he sustained a right hand injury during Wednesday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Deng was hurt when he landed on his right hand as he fell to the court while attempting to draw a charge in the second quarter. Deng did not play in the second half of the 112-102 loss, and an X-ray taken after the game was negative.

The injury was diagnosed as a bone bruise to the area near Deng’s right thumb and index finger, and the 11-year veteran will be re-evaluated again Thursday to determine if further tests are necessary.

“We’re going to just wait and see,” said Deng, who finished with five points and three rebounds in just under 17 minutes. “We’re going to monitor it the next couple of days. I tried to (keep playing). I came back in and I just had trouble passing and shooting the ball, so we made the decision to sit out.”

Deng’s status is uncertain for at least the initial games of a trip that starts Friday against Milwaukee and continues with games against Memphis, Phoenix, Denver and Utah.

The setback is the latest in a number of recent struggles for the Heat (9-9), who were already coping with the absences of starting point guard Norris Cole (illness) and reserve center Chris Andersen (ankle).


VIDEO: Luol Deng talks about the Heat’s loss and his wrist injury

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Nowitzki walks back ‘dumb’ Hinrich quote


VIDEO: Monte Ellis is fouted by Kirk Hinrich and makes three free throws to force overtime

MILWAUKEE – Dirk Nowitzki felt bad 24 hours later for calling Kirk Hinrich‘s play on Dallas’ Monta Ellis late in regulation Tuesday “one of the dumbest fouls I’ve ever seen.”

It wasn’t as if Nowitzki was revealing any secrets after the Mavericks’ double-overtime victory at United Center – Hinrich owned the mistake and called it “bonehead play” for fouling Ellis at a point when the Mavericks shooting guard was able to go into his shooting motion. The foul – with 1.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Bulls up 108-105, out of a timeout with 4.5 seconds left – sent Ellis to the line for three free throws. He hit all of them to force overtime and, on his way to a game-high 38 points, scored seven of Dallas’ 11 in the second overtime.

Afterward, in a grateful Mavs’ locker room, Nowitzki merely said what thousands in the arena or viewing on TV were thinking. But he felt a little sheepish a day later, given the play his “dumbest” comment got on the Internet.

“I didn’t mean to put my man Kirk on the spot like that,” he said before Dallas’ game at Milwaukee Wednesday. Nowitzki was held out of the Bucks game more for rest than for a sore back that bothered him Tuesday. The veteran 7-footer also sat out Saturday at Philadelphia for rest.

“Kirk’s actually my guy,” Nowitzki said. “We went to dinners before. … It was just an unfortunate play. It was just way too late. They had a chance to foul [Richard Jefferson] when he caught the ball. And they had a chance to foul Monta when he dribbled two or three times up the floor. The situation was just a bad one. It was fortunate for us.

“He’s a good dude. A hard-nosed player. He made two great 3’s right before that to put ‘em in position to win. I have nothing but respect for Kirk Hinrich.”

Morning shootaround — Nov. 23


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 22

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Cavs have glass jaw | Even grudges are big in Texas | Different gold-bricked roads for Kobe, Dirk

No. 1: Cavs have glass jaw — We’re not sure what rock-bottom is yet for a team projected to be a solid NBA championship contender if not the favorite, but judging from the somber words of LeBron James, the Cavs are pretty close. He used the word “fragile” to describe the 5-7, underachieving team after a 17-point thumping at home Saturday to the — look out, now — East-leading Raptors. The Cavs were up 18 points and then blew it, which pretty much fits the description of fragile. LeBron was careful not to reveal any signs of cracking himself, because as he correctly suspects, his team will then follow his lead. But all in all, it’s been a disastrous start for the Cavs. They’ve dealt with a bit of everything: surprisingly docile play from James, accusations of ball-hogging from Kyrie Irving, complaining from Kevin Love about his role in the offense and a murmur of discontent in Cleveland about new coach David Blatt and whether the Cavs could waste a season while trying to sort it out. Here’s Chris Fedor of the Northeast Ohio Media Group training a critical eye toward LeBron:

King without a crown – One week after being named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, LeBron James has played the biggest role in his team losing four straight.

He’s the best player in the NBA and he hasn’t played like it. If James plays like he is capable of the Cavs don’t have as many questions.

He’s the leader of the team and his actions and discouraging body language are not setting a good example. He has said the right things before and after games, but the words are hollow when James doesn’t follow through when the game starts.

It’s his team. Everything starts and ends with him. In the four-game losing skid, James is averaging 18.5 points, shooting 41 percent (28-68) from the field and 66 percent (12-18) from the free throw line. He also is averaging 5.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 4.5 turnovers. Those numbers aren’t bad…until you remember we are talking about the game’s most talented player and a four-time MVP.

The Cavs, in spurts, can play well without James. On Wednesday against San Antonio, the team outscored the Spurs 31-30 while James was resting. But few teams can play to that level consistently when the best player is not himself.

The Cavs need more from James and will continue to struggle if he doesn’t pick up his play. When James plays well the Cavs tend to win. When he doesn’t they struggle.

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No. 2: Even grudges are big in TexasChandler Parsons returned to Houston on Saturday and booed every time he touched the ball. That’s a big switch from a year ago this time when he was a very popular player for the Rockets. As you know, things happened: He took Mark Cuban’s $15 million a season, went to a rival, and when asked about the difference between Dallas and his former city, Parsons described Houston as “dirty.” As they say, don’t mess with Texas. Anyway, it got a bit rough for Parsons, who was whistled for a few key fourth-quarter fouls and was late with a potential game-tying jumper at the buzzer. Parsons hasn’t had a terrific start for the Mavs; he’s a third option (as he was in Houston) and still trying to mesh. Jenny Creech of the Houston Chronicle caught up with Parsons after the loss:

Last week, Mavs owner Mark Cuban joked Parsons would be cheered by the women and booed by the men.

“I told him I knew a few girls who would boo, too,” Parsons said.

But he took it all in stride. Parsons’ focus has nothing to do with fan reaction these days. He is trying to earn his large paycheck on a team with championship aspirations.

Entering Saturday, when he scored only eight points, Parsons was averaging 14.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He had a rough start but has grown into his role and is happy.

“I didn’t fit in too quickly,” he said. “I struggled a little bit early, and you are going to have off nights, trying to get used to everybody.

“It’s a different city, different team, different coaching staff, different terminology. It’s all pretty foreign. It’s going to take a little bit, but these guys make it easy and coach (Rick) Carlisle’s system is perfect, I think, for the way I play, and I am happy.”

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No. 3: Different gold-bricked roads for Kobe, Dirk — This might have gotten lost in the last few days but there was an interesting exchange of financial philosophies shared by Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki, two of the league’s most important players of the last decade. Both have been free agents recently — twice for Dirk — and neither left the only team they’ve ever known. The difference is Kobe has remained among the game’s highest-paid players, to which he has made no apologies for, while Dirk was willing to take a pay cut. This season Kobe is the game’s highest-paid player at $23 million while Dirk is fourth-highest on his team at $7.8 million. Kobe thought it was silly for Dirk to play for such a pittance and took another swipe at the owners and the salary cap system. Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com tried to sort it out:

“Did I take a discount? Yeah,” Bryant said after a morning shootaround here, when he discussed his contract more than at any point since signing it.

“Did I take as big a discount as some of you fans would want me to? No.

“Is it a big enough discount to help us be a contender? Yeah.

“So what we try to do is be in a situation where they take care of the player and the player takes care of the organization enough to put us in a championship predicament eventually.”

Bryant almost certainly didn’t mean to use the phrase “championship predicament.” But if it was a Freudian slip, well, it sure was fitting.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stated the obvious about his squad: Nowitzki’s deal made a huge impact in helping shape the roster, giving them the financial flexibility to add the high-profile and, more important, promising young free agent in Chandler Parsons that they had been chasing for so long.

“To me, it’s not about money, it’s about winning,” Cuban said. “Different players have different attitudes.”

Could a player make $24 million in the NBA’s current punitive financial climate (as Bryant does this season) and legitimately say they’re interested in winning?

“Yeah, of course, as long as you can convince everybody else that you need to come play for the minimum,” Cuban said with a laugh.

Cuban has long been poking fun at the Lakers on this topic, once calling them Shaq, Kobe and the “band of merry minimum [-salaried players]” in 2000 during Cuban’s first season as an owner.

Nowitzki echoed Cuban’s point that his deal was about winning, not money.

“I wanted to be on a good team,” Nowitzki said. “I wanted to compete my last couple of years at the highest level. Ever since after the championship, we had a couple of rough years. We missed the playoffs one year, were the eighth seed twice I think, so that was really the main decision. I wanted to play at a high level my last couple years, and it kind of worked out with getting Parsons, with getting Tyson [Chandler] back here. We feel like we’ve got a good group, and hopefully we can make it work.”

Bryant argued that Nowitzki’s deal meant the German forward “wasn’t playing in Los Angeles,” and that difference matters.

After all, the Lakers have a 20-year, $3 billion deal with Time Warner Cable that hinges on ratings. They need Bryant, not only for that, but to justify ticket prices, to keep interest high during lost seasons. His value goes far beyond the court.

Yet the high cost of paying their cash cow what he legitimately might be worth ultimately hurts the Lakers’ efforts to build around him, to be a contender.

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One Stat, One Play: Drives, Rolls & Space


VIDEO: One Stat, One Play: Drives, rolls and space

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Dallas Mavericks ranked third in offensive efficiency last season, scoring 109.0 points per 100 possessions, with a near-impossible-to-guard duo of Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki.

Ellis led the league in drives, while Nowitzki was arguably the best mid-range shooter in the league. Only three guys shot better than 50 percent or better on at least 100 mid-range attempts last season, and Nowitzki had a lot more attempts than the other two (Courtney Lee and Greivis Vasquez).

This season, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle has more weapons at his disposal. Tyson Chandler, returning to Dallas after three years, is one of the best roll men in the league. He can set a good screen, roll hard to the basket, get up high, catch and finish. Chandler Parsons and Jameer Nelson, meanwhile, are two more guys who handle the ball and shoot from the perimeter. The Mavs take this season’s No. 1 offense (by a wide margin) into Portland for the second game of TNT’s Thursday double-header (10:30 p.m. ET).

The video above is our second installment of “One Stat, One Play,” a look at the position the Mavs put opposing defenses in when Ellis has the ball in his hands and Chandler is rolling to the basket with three shooting threats on the perimeter.

Barea continues Mavs’ reunion

One piece at a time, the Mavericks seem to be getting the old gang back together.

First Tyson Chandler. Now point guard J.J. Barea returns to reminisce and help their buddy Dirk Nowitzki try to get back that championship spark from 2011.

To a roster that already includes Jameer Nelson, Devin Harris and Raymond Felton, Dallas now brings back the point guard who started the last three games of the NBA Finals win over Miami.

The Mavs cut Gal Mekel and will have to pay him $1.76 million and signed Barea to a $1.31 million deal.

Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News caught up to Donnie Nelson:

“We could not be more excited to have J.J. back in a Mavericks’ uniform,” president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “He was a key contributor in bringing a championship to Dallas. A player with his experience and leadership will be a great addition to our team.”

Nash’s greatness found in the numbers


VIDEO: Steve Nash Will Miss The 2014-15 NBA Season

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Mike D’Antoni, Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns changed NBA offense forever. They showed us what can be accomplished with a simple pick-and-roll, floor spacing and a willingness to share the ball.

Elements of D’Antoni’s “Seven seconds or less” offense are seen throughout the league today. But Nash was running the NBA’s best offense long before D’Antoni was. In his last three years as the starting point guard in Dallas, the Mavericks ranked No. 1 in offensive efficiency.

Nash took that streak to Phoenix and continued it for another six years. He ran the No. 1 offense with Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley, even with Antoine Walker shooting 82-for-305 (27 percent) from 3-point range in 2003-04. In fact, when you compare teams’ offensive efficiency with the league average, that Mavs team had the No. 1 offense of the last 37 years (since the league started counting turnovers in 1977).

In Phoenix, Nash ran the No 1. offense with Amar’e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson, and kept it at No. 1 when Johnson left for Atlanta and Stoudemire missed all but three games in 2005-06. Even when Shaquille O’Neal arrived and supposedly bogged down the Suns’ attack, they had the most efficient offense in the league.

The Suns played at a fast pace, but we’re not looking at points per game, here. We’re looking at points per possession. And not only did Nash run the No. 1 offense of the last 37 years, he’s run each of the top five offenses of the last 37 years.

20141024_nash

Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain each led the league in scoring for seven straight seasons. Steve Nash ran the league’s best offense for nine straight, a run that started when Shaq and Kobe Bryant were at their best and ended when LeBron James was winning multiple MVPs.

Nash hasn’t said whether his career is over now that he’s been ruled out for the entire 2014-15 season, but it’s reasonable to guess that it is. It’s also reasonable to believe that we’ll never see another streak like the one he had between 2001 and 2010.

You can debate the merit Nash’s MVP awards or his place in the NBA’s all-time point guard rankings. But there’s no debating that he was one of the best offensive players of his generation. The numbers speak for themselves.

Believe it Dirk, No. 7 all-time coming soon

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Nowitzki optimistic about upcoming season in Big D

DALLAS – When the NBA season opens next Tuesday night with the Dallas Mavericks taking on the defending champion San Antonio Spurs on TNT, two of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game will resume their more than a decade-and-a-half-old rivalry.

San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, 38, enters his 18th season, all with the Spurs. Dirk Nowitzki, 36, begins his 17th season, all with the Mavs. Both players have won titles in the last four years and both accepted  significant pay cuts to help keep their teams competitive. And both will continue to climb multiple all-time lists on their way to enshrinement in The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

When it comes to the latter, all eyes will focus on the 7-foot German’s rapid ascension up the NBA’s most coveted list of all — the game’s all-time greatest scorers.

Nowitzki enters the 2014-15 season at No. 10 with 26,786 career points, a number that just doesn’t seem possible to the Wurzburg, Germany native no matter how many times he hears it.

“Not really. That is still weird to me,” Nowitzki said. “All these guys on that list I admired and watched, so that’s weird. That’s weird.”

Thing is, Dirk, it’s going to get weirder. Fast.

Nowitzki is 161 points away from passing No. 9 Hakeem Olajuwon, arguably the league’s greatest foreign-born player. He’s 528 points from passing No. 8 Elvin Hayes and 624 away from passing No. 7 Moses Malone. If Nowitzki averages 20 points a game, he’ll assume No. 7 all-time just 32 games into the season, his first under a new three-year contract.

At that point, he’ll only be about 1,170 points shy of No. 6 Shaquille O’Neal, a takeover that ultimately might have to wait until next season, but it will happen. Nowitzki would need to average around 24 points if he were to play in no fewer than 75 games to do it this season.

He averaged 21.7 points last season and totaled 1,735 points, the most points he’s scored in a season since topping 2,000 in 2009-10. What Nowitzki will average this season will be intriguing. He’s surrounded by the most potent supporting cast since the 2011 title team.

During that championship season, Nowitzki scored 1,681 points. He missed nine consecutive games with a knee injury and struggled for a time after admittedly returning too early as the team fell apart without him. He played 62 games during the lockout season, struggled with knee issues early, and finished with 1,342 points, and followed that with 917 points in 53 games following knee surgery prior to the start of the season 2012-13 season.

Now, with Chandler Parsons adding scoring pop at small forward in place of Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler back at center and Monta Ellis capable of dropping 20 a night, owner Mark Cuban has said he doesn’t expect Nowitzki to average 20 a game. In fact, Cuban said he doesn’t want anyone to average 20 because if that happens it will mean coach Rick Carlisle‘s movement-based offense will be getting everybody involved.

Even if his scoring takes an expected dip (just as his minutes are expected to once again), Nowitzki, assuming good health, will pass Shaq no later than early next season. And by the time he’s closing out his contract, No. 5 Wilt Chamberlain (31,419 points) will likely be making room for Dirk, who now says he might even entertain another couple of years once he reaches that point.

“I think that’ll sink in once my career is over and as I get older and more time goes by, I think that’ll be sweet then,” Nowitzki said. “Right now I’m still so worried about winning games, staying in shape, competing with the young guys that come into the league every year. I think stuff like that is going to be way sweeter once my career is over, and then maybe I show my kids and grandkids. That will be unbelievable.”

Duncan begins the season at No. 19 with 24,904 points. He will also continue up the charts with No. 17 Jerry West (25,192), No. 16 Reggie Miller (25,279) and No. 15 Alex English (25,613) all in striking distance before the All-Star break.

However, how high Duncan moves up depends on how two more still-chugging future Hall of Famers do. No. 18 Paul Pierce (25,031) begins his 17th season and first with the Wizards, and No. 14 Kevin Garnett (25,626) is looking for a bounce-back with the Nets in his 20th season.

Morning shootaround — Oct. 16


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played Oct. 15

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Players support shorter season; MJ mystified by such talk | Report: C-Webb joins group looking to buy Hawks | Smith, Van Gundy talk 3-pointers

No. 1: Nowitzki, James support shortening season, not games; Jordan puzzled by such talk — This Sunday, the NBA will experiment with a shorter-than-usual game as the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics will take part in a 44-minute preseason contest. News of that upcoming game has led to debate all over the internet (and on this very site) about whether a shorter game would be beneficial to the NBA as a whole or not. Two prominent stars in the game — LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki — think shortening the length of the season, not games, would be the most beneficial change that could happen. ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin and Tim McMahon have more:

“I think you don’t need 82 games to determine the best eight in each conference,” Nowitzki said Wednesday. “That could be done a lot quicker, but I always understand that it’s about money, and every missed game means missed money for both parties, for the league, for the owners, for the players. I understand all that, and that’s why I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon.”

James, speaking before the Cavs hosted a preseason game against the Indiana Pacers, was adamant the length of games isn’t what should be at stake. And he said most of his fellow players are in agreement.

“No. It’s not the minutes, it’s the games,” James said. “The minutes doesn’t mean anything. We can play 50-minute games if we had to. It’s just the games. We all as players think it’s too many games. In our season, 82 games is a lot. But it’s not the minutes. Taking away minutes from the game is not going to shorten the game at all.

“Once you go out and play on the floor, it don’t matter if you play 22 minutes — like I may be playing tonight — or you’re playing 40 minutes,” James added. “Once you play, it takes a toll on your body. So it’s not lessening the minutes, I think it’s the games.”

Nowitzki and James were piggybacking on the point made by Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra when asked about the league’s experiment with a 44-minute game, which will be played by the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics on Sunday.

…”Honestly, I never was a big fan of back-to-backs even when I was 20 years old,” said Nowitzki, a 36-year-old entering his 17th NBA season. “I think that you should never have to play at the highest level there is two consecutive nights and flying in between. You obviously make it work. We have the best athletes in the world, we feel, but I think it hurts the product some. Last year, some teams get here for the fourth game in five nights and we’ve been sitting here on rest and just blow them out.

“I don’t think it’s good for the product, but I also understand that 82 games is where it’s at. It’s a business, and everybody’s got to live with it.”

James said more analysis on the potential impact to the business side seemed to be in order.

“It’s something that we definitely will have to sit down and try figure out if that’s the case, that may happen,” James said. “Obviously I don’t know the numbers right off the top of my head, but that would create less revenue. We all know that without even seeing the books that less games, less concession stands and less selling of tickets and all of that.

“But at the end of the day, we want to protect the prize and the prize is the players. We have to continue to promote the game, and if guys are being injured because there are so many games, we can’t promote it at a high level.”

Nowitzki would like the league to look at the possibility of allowing fewer timeouts, especially at the end of games.

“It’s such a fun, fast game,” Nowitzki said. “Then there’s one action and they score, OK, there’s a timeout and you sit for two minutes. There’s another action, they score, tie it up [and another timeout is called].

“There’s no other sport where it’s interrupted so much at the end. That’s something that I would look at. Both teams are like, ‘They have another timeout? Are you kidding me?’ That’s a little much, but other than that, I think the game’s great.”

After the NBA’s best and brightest of today had that to say about the schedule, the greatest player of the NBA’s last era, Michael Jordan, said he was shocked that superstars would want to play less games. ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard has more:

“I love both of those guys, but as an owner who played the game, I loved playing,” Jordan, who owns the Charlotte Hornets, told ESPN.com during a telephone interview. “If I wasn’t playing 82 games, I still would’ve been playing somewhere else because that’s the love for the game I had. As a player, I never thought 82 games was an issue.

“But if that’s what they want to do, we as owners and players can evaluate it and talk about it. But we’d make less money as partners. Are they ready to give up money to play fewer games? That’s the question, because you can’t make the same amount of money playing fewer games.”

Jordan also didn’t see the point in shortening games by four minutes.

He said the league informed its clubs of its intention to play a 44-minute game but that it was not presented as something the league is seriously considering instituting in the regular season.

“I would never shorten the game by four minutes,” Jordan said, “unless guys were having physical issues.”

Jordan said basketball players generally don’t incur the same long-term physical ailments as football players so he can’t understand the talk of a shorter season or shorter games.

“It’s not like football,” he said. “We don’t really have to worry about concussions and some of the physical damage that football players deal with after they retire. I can understand football players wanting to play fewer games from a physical standpoint. But basketball’s not the same. I’m not diminishing the fact that we go through a grueling season. But I wouldn’t want to shorten the game or play 15-20 fewer games.”


VIDEO: Dirk Nowitzki explains why the NBA should think about a shorter season

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Showing up is part of NBA skill set

John Stockton (here in 2002) played in every game in 17 of his 19 years with the Jazz. (Sam Forencich/NBAE)

John Stockton (here in 2002) played in every game in 17 of his 19 years with the Jazz. (Sam Forencich/NBAE)

Regardless of how many tools your go-to handyman has in his belt, no matter his craftsmanship and creativity, it doesn’t mean much if he doesn’t show up to work. The same holds true for chefs, pilots, cubicle drones and, yes, NBA players.

“Staying healthy is a skill” is the way some old-school types have put it, and while that might be too broad – neglecting simple ingredients such as luck and good genes – there is no doubt that durability is an asset. To a player and to his team.

Injuries are back in the headlines due to Kevin Durant’s foot fracture, Bradley Beal’s wrist, Rajon Rondo’s hand, Paul George’s leg and assorted dings, bruises and sidelining setbacks around the league. The key word, unfortunately, is back.

In the first few months of 2013-14, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Steve Nash, Marc Gasol, Brook Lopez, Al Horford and Russell Westbrook were ailing. The toll across several seasons before that included Rose, Horford, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Andrew Bynum, Chris Paul, David West and the sad arcs of Brandon Roy’s and Yao Ming’s careers.

Despite heavy media coverage, the NBA’s analysis suggested that the injury rate remained largely unchanged across multiple years. Numerous theories were floated in search of an explanation for what injuries there were. Too much year-round basketball at a young age, some said. Too many games in the NBA season, from pre- through regular right onto post-, argued others. Shoe technology, court size, strength training, nutrition — all were factors examined by some, ignored by others, without much consensus, never mind solutions.

And maybe that’s all the explanation we’ll ever get: Athletes get hurt.

“It’s not like they just started happening,” Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Monday, before his team’s preseason home game against Denver. “This is the way it’s been. If you look at anyone who’s played 10 years in this league, they usually have dealt with something. They had to get past something. Whether it was a knee injury, an ankle injury, a shoulder injury, wrist, finger, something. OK? So it’s all part of it.

“Hopefully you have the mental toughness to get through adversity. Most of these guys have it – you can’t get here without having that. But the injuries, it’s not like all of a sudden … we react like, we collect more data and injuries all of a sudden are something new. No, they’ve been a part of this league for a long time.”

How much a part? One way to gauge the durability of players is to check the rate at which they “showed up” for their teams on a given night. Call it a player’s “availability average,” as determined by his appearances as a percentage of his team’s total games during the same period.

Using regular-season games only, here are the availability averages for 25 NBA greats, all enshrined or likely to be in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame:

  • 98.6%: John Stockton (1,504 of 1,526)
  • 98.0%: Gary Payton (1,335 of 1,362)
  • 97.5%: John Havlicek (1,270 of 1,303)
  • 97.2%: Bill Russell (963 of 991)
  • 96.7%: Karl Malone (1,476 of 1,526)
  • 96.2%: Reggie Miller (1,389 of 1,444)
  • 95.1%: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560 of 1,640)
  • 93.4%: Michael Jordan (1,072 of 1,148)
  • 92.7%: Wilt Chamberlain (1,045 of 1,17)
  • 92.1%: Jason Kidd (1,391 of 1,510)
  • 92.1%: Magic Johnson (906 of 984)
  • 91.8%: Isiah Thomas (979 of 1,066)
  • 91.7%: Oscar Robertson (1,040 of 1,134)
  • 89.6%: Dominique Wilkins (1,074 of 1,198)
  • 86.5%: Scottie Pippen (1,178 of 1,362)
  • 85.7%: Hakeem Olajuwon (1,238 of 1,444)
  • 85.3%: Moses Malone (1,329 of 1,558)
  • 84.1%: Larry Bird (897 of 1,066)
  • 82.2%: Jerry West (932 of 1,134)
  • 81.9%: Allen Iverson (914 of 1,116)
  • 79.4%: Tracy McGrady (938 of 1,182)
  • 79.1%: Shaquille O’Neal (1,207 of 1,526)
  • 78.8%: Charles Barkley (1,073 of 1,362)
  • 75.7%: Elgin Baylor (846 of 1,117)
  • 67.9%: Grant Hill (1,026 of 1,510)

Here, for comparison’s sake, are 25 of the league’s top active players (we’re assuming Ray Allen signs with someone) and their rate for “showing up:”

  • 97.1%: Kevin Durant (542 of 558)
  • 95.5%: Dwight Howard (768 of 804)
  • 95.0%: LeBron James (842 of 886)
  • 94.0%: Dirk Nowitzki (1,188 of 1,264)
  • 93.2%: Tim Duncan (1,254 of 1,346)
  • 93.1%: Paul Pierce (1,177 of 1,264)
  • 92.4%: Russell Westbrook (440 of 476)
  • 91.2%: Kevin Garnett (1,377 of 1,510)
  • 91.0%: Ray Allen (1,300 of 1,428)
  • 90.8%: Vince Carter (1,148 of 1,264)
  • 90.2%: LaMarcus Aldridge (577 of 640)
  • 89.5%: Tony Parker (940 of 1,050)
  • 89.2%: Carmelo Anthony (790 of 886)
  • 87.2%: Kobe Bryant (1,245 of 1,426)
  • 86.2%: Pau Gasol (905 of 1,050)
  • 85.5%: Chris Paul (617 of 722)
  • 85.3%: Steph Curry (336 of 394)
  • 85.2%: Steve Nash (1,217 of 1,428)
  • 82.1%: Manu Ginobili (795 of 968)
  • 81.2%: Dwyane Wade (719 of 886)
  • 78.9%: Rajon Rondo (505 of 640)
  • 78.2%: Blake Griffin (308 of 394)
  • 76.5%: Kevin Love (364 of 476)
  • 75.9%: Amar’e Stoudemire (735 of 968)
  • 60.7% Derrick Rose (289 of 476)

Durant’s average is going to take a hit as soon as Oklahoma City’s schedule begins without him in two weeks. His sidekick Westbrook will have to pick up slack for the Thunder – and Westbrook’s rate actually might be better than you expected, since his most notable breakdown came in the 2013 postseason.

Rose will be trying to boost a number that, historically, has him well below one of the NBA’s poster guys for bad luck, Grant Hill. Meanwhile, LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan — even if they never reach Stockton’s or Payton’s mad numbers — probably don’t get enough acclaim for enduring the rigors of their work as well as they do.

“I think your mindset has to be right,” Thibodeau said. “They say Duncan never leaves the gym. And when you look at great players, that’s usually when you read about guys who have achieved something great. It’s usually them getting past adversity, then making great effort, and their readiness to accept the challenge.”

Asked whether good fortune or good genetics plays the greater role in good NBA health, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy said: “Both. There’s also work that goes into it. The more you take care of your body year round, offseason and in-season, it directly affects your health, how many games you’re able to play and how many games you miss. But you can do the best job of that in the world and you can still get hurt.”

Nuggets coach Brian Shaw subscribes to the AAU-crazed, overuse theory and won’t let his kids play just one sport all year long because of that. He and his team are back after a 2013-14 season beset by injuries (Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee, Nate Robinson and others).

Shaw sees more attention focused on injury prevention and body maintenance, even if that gets circumvented by one awkward move or fluke moment. An NBA point guard for 14 seasons, Shaw said: “Before we kind of just did some jumping jacks, went down and touched your toes a few times, and went out and played. Now there’s a 15- or 20-minute period every day where the strength and conditioning coach activates the players’ muscles and warms them up.

“It takes some discipline to do those things that are monotonous to warm yourself up properly and cool yourself down after a practice, to ice and do all the things that are necessary for you to come back the next day.”

Thibodeau talked of two competing “schools of thought” for coping physically in the NBA. One loads up players with minutes and practices almost like weighting a baseball bat in the on-deck circle, so they’re in peak condition for what the schedules throws at them. The other preaches rest, recuperation and easing through the preseason and even the regular season to be as healthy as possible for the playoffs.

It’s no secret which school Thibodeau graduated from.

“The only way you can guarantee a guy not getting hurt is, don’t play him,” the Bulls coach said. “Don’t practice him, don’t play him. Don’t play him in the preseason, don’t play him in the regular season. Just don’t play him and he won’t get hurt.”