Posts Tagged ‘Theo Ratliff’

Where Have All The Shot-Blockers Gone?

.

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The demise of the true center is typically lamented by the dearth of low-post skill on offense, but we can’t ignore its effects at the other end, too.

You know what they say about every action: there is an equal and opposite reaction. Among other things, the evolution of the face-up, jump-shooting “big”, and the age of the drive-and-kick 3-pointer have taken a toll on the art of shot-blocking. With seemingly fewer one-on-one, low-post defensive opportunities there is an equally diminishing chance to deliver an opposite reaction.

There are tremendous shot blockers in the league. Thunder power forward/center Serge Ibaka will attempt to become the first player to lead the league in shot blocking three consecutive seasons and average at least 3.0 bpg in three straight seasons since Marcus Camby did it from 2006-08. Ibaka’s 3.65 bpg in 2011-12 was the highest since Alonzo Mourning‘s 3.7 in 1999-2000.

Bucks rim protector Larry Sanders could cross the 3.0 barrier. Indiana’s young, old-school center Roy Hibbert made a significant jump last season to 2.61 bpg, fourth in the league, from 1.97. A healthy and happy Dwight Howard could surge to 3.0 for the first time in his career.

Still, today’s drooping block numbers are eye-popping when compared to prior decades. Blocks weren’t recorded as an official statistic until the 1973-74 season. That season, five players averaged at least 3.0 bpg, led by Elmore Smith (4.8 bpg), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (3.5), Bob McAdoo (3.3), Bob Lanier (3.0) and Elvin Hayes (3.0). In the seven officially recorded seasons in the 1970s, two players averaged at least 3.0 bpg in a season five times.

In the ’80s, it was seven of 10 seasons, and at least three players averaged at least 3.0 bpg four times. Utah’s 7-foot-4 center Mark Eaton still holds the single-season record of 5.56 bpg in 1984-85. The ’90s — with shot-swatters such as David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, Shawn Bradley, Theo Ratliff, Shaquille O’Neal and Mourning — marked the salad days of shot-blocking.

Every season during the physical, hold-and-grab ’90s saw at least two players average at least 3.0 bpg. Eight times at least three players recorded 3.0 bpg or more. Four times the season leader topped 4.0 bpg, and two more times the leader finished at 3.9 bpg.

Those numbers haven’t been sniffed. Since the close of the ’90s, only four times in the last 13 seasons have at least two players finished a season averaging at least 3.0 bpg  (and largely credit Ben Wallace and Ratliff early in the 2000s for that). It hasn’t happened since 2005-06 when Camby (3.29) and long-armed small forward Andrei Kirilenko (3.19) finished one and two, respectively.

The lowest league-leading shot-block averages have all come since the turn of the century, and two of the three lowest have been posted in the past five seasons. Andrew Bogut‘s 2.58 bpg in 2010-11 is the lowest season leader of all-time. Howard’s 2.78 bpg the season before is the second-lowest and his 2.92 bpg to lead the league in 2008-09 is better than only the 2.8 bpg put up in 2000-01 by Shaq, Jermaine O’Neal and Bradley.

Could 2013-14 be the season we see one, two or even more players join Ibaka in 3.0 territory? Sanders is trending that way and Hibbert and Howard are candidates, but it’s hard to envision Tim Duncan surpassing last season’s career-high of 2.65 bpg.

Maybe 3.0 is a stretch for most. Only five players averaged between 2.45 bpg and Ibaka’s 3.03 last season.

Here are my five players that could vault into this season’s top-5 (but may not necessarily get to 3.0):

1. Derrick Favors, Jazz: The 6-foot-10 power forward is going to see his minutes jump as he moves into the starting lineup with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap gone. Favors averaged 1.7 bpg in 23.2 mpg off the bench last season. He’ll go up against more elite front-line players this season, but it’s not a reach to suggest he could average 2.5 bpg.

2. JaVale McGee, Nuggets: With Washington in 2010-11, he finished second in the league at 2.44 bpg, but his minutes dropped dramatically the past two seasons in Denver under George Karl. The 7-footer should be in for quite a change with Brian Shaw taking over for Karl and ownership wanting to see McGee earn his money on the floor. More minutes are in his future. Are more blocks?

3. Brook Lopez, Nets: Last season was the first of his young career to average more than 2.0 bpg (2.1) and that number could be on the rise this season playing next to Kevin Garnett. If KG doesn’t teach Lopez a thing or two about defending the post, he might just frighten the 7-footer into protecting the rim at all costs.

4. DeAndre Jordan, Clippers: Potential is running thin for this 6-foot-11 center from Texas A&M. Entering his sixth season, it’s time to mature and play big in the middle for a team that will need it to contend for the West crown. He took a step back last season and under Doc Rivers he’ll need to prove he’s worthy of more minutes. He can do that by swatting basketballs.

5. Anthony Davis, Pelicans: The youngster just looks like a shot-blocker with those long arms and all. He’ll head into his second season healthy, accustomed to the NBA game, smarter and stronger. He’s got great natural instinct, athleticism and a desire to dominate defensively. During his one season at Kentucky, he averaged 4.7 bpg. The 20-year-old blocked 112 shots in 64 games as a rookie. Expect more.

Rough Season For NBPA Brass

CHICAGO – More than any of their NBA peers, the nine members of the National Basketball Players Association’s executive committee gave the most – in time and effort – toward salvaging this post-lockout season. Everyone dealt with the uncertainty and inactivity of the elongated offseason prior to, finally, this hectic 2011-12 schedule. It’s just that the NBPA exec committee dealt with it in coats and ties, in hotel ballrooms, from morning to night (and sometimes on to morning again), enduring all the rhetoric that took most of five months before it distilled into true negotiating .

Too bad they’re not enjoying it more.

Washington’s Maurice Evans, one of the union VPs, had a rare upbeat night against the Bulls Monday at United Center. He scored 14 points in 26:28 off the bench to help the Wizards bag a road victory, 87-84, over the team with the NBA’s best record. It was just his 19th appearance of the season (his third over the past four weeks) and only the second time he has scored in double figures.

But it has been that way for Evans, a journeyman on a team committed to a) young players and b) lottery position. He has averaged 3.4 points and 11.4 minutes when he has participated, down from 9.7 and 27.4 in 2010-11.

He has company among the union brass. NBPA president Derek Fisher, of course, was traded from his beloved Lakers, then cut loose by Houston before landing nicely with Oklahoma City. Fisher’s stats are off a bit too: 5.5 ppg, 24.4 mpg now, 6.8 and 28.0 then.

(more…)

All-Stars show for labor meeting

BEVERLY HILLS — LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul were among the All-Star contingent arriving at a Beverly Hills hotel for Friday afternoon’s meeting between the league and the players.

The session was billed earlier in the week as an informational gathering open to any of the players or principal owners to attend. The two sides hadn’t met formally since November.

“I’m worried about the league,” Wade said. “It’s not just about myself, it’s the future of the NBA. We want to be able to be sure this game can continue to grow and  prosper. We want this game to go on for many, many years.”

The union was also represented by executive director Billy Hunter, executive committee president Derek Fisher, treasurer James Jones, and vice presidents Roger Mason, Theo Ratliff, Keyon Dooling, Etan Thomas and Paul. All-Stars in attendance included Kevin Durant, Amar’e Stoudemire, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Al Horford.

“We understand that a deal has to be done,” Wade said. “Both sides have to come to an agreement and neither side is going to agree until we meet halfway. Me being one of the ‘faces of the league,’ it’s just coming in and learning more and trying to understand what both sides are going through. That’s the biggest thing.”

The league negotiating team here is headed up by commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver and labor relations chairman Peter Holt, owner of the San Antonio Spurs. Among other owners in the room were Michael Jordan (Charlotte Bobcats), Jerry Buss (L.A. Lakers), Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks) and Donald Sterling (L.A. Clippers).

The union is expected to hold a press conference after the meeting in downtown Los Angeles. Stern will hold one Saturday.

Buss Not Worried About Heat

***

As far as Jerry Buss is concerned: Game on!

The Los Angeles Lakers’ legendary owner isn’t too worried about those who took their talents to South Beach or anywhere else this summer.

The acquisitions of Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff were made to bolster to two-time defending champs, Buss said. It wasn’t a response to LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh joining forces with the Heat.

“Our intentions were to sign those players prior to Miami coalescing all of the talent that was left over,” Buss said with a laugh. “I don’t think we reacted to them. Once the season is over, we look backwards on the season and say, ‘Were there any weaknesses? Could we do something to improve this team?’

“And we did that quite independently of Miami or Orlando or Chicago, all of who are going to be very good. I think Denver will be excellent this year. Utah is always good, always tough for us. So I think we just prepared ourselves for the general war, not specifically for anyone.”

When you’ve got Kobe Bryant leading the troops — no offense Phil — you’re going to feel good about your chances in battle and for a threepeat. Oh yeah, the Lakers still have Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum.

So how good can this version of the Lakers be?

“When I look at this team, every single individual on that team seems to me capable of playing a very important role next year and as of now, I feel there’s a good chance this could be the best team we’ve ever had,” Buss said.

Buss admitted to watching the “The Decision” and thought LeBron let a few people down. The recent Hall of Fame inductee can’t help but be juiced by the haul former employee Pat Riley pulled off in Miami.

“Suddenly there’s this juggernaut out there that we have a chance to play against and that excites me, that really excites me because, quite honestly, I think we can beat ‘em and I’m looking forward to playing them,” Buss said. “So some of it was kind of an excitement, saying, ‘Oh boy, here’s a team that everybody put together. This is our next big opponent.'”

But don’t reserve L.A. and Miami hotel rooms in June just yet. Buss expects Boston and Orlando to have plenty to say in the Eastern Conference.

“I don’t think it’s automatic that Miami will be our biggest opponent come the end,” he said, “but on the other hand, I must admit they have the world’s attention and that means we’re going to be on center stage when we get a chance to play ‘em.”

***

Friends And Foes Join Forces

***

Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The last time the Los Angeles Lakers added one of Kobe Bryant‘s agitators to their ranks, the guy played hero in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

Could Matt Barnes be this summer’s version of Ron Artest for the Lakers?

Either way, the Lakers bolstered their ranks with the acquisition of Barnes (and veteran center Theo Ratliff), finishing off a summer of two-time defending champ patch work that also included re-signing Derek Fisher and adding Steve Blake to fortify the point guard position.

Barnes, however, offers up a bit of intrigue. He didn’t back down from the challenge of going at Bryant while playing for the Orlando Magic last season, doing his best to get under Bryant’s skin at every turn:

***

***

Now they’ll join forces, much the same way Bryant and Artest did last season in helping the Lakers to the Larry O’Brien trophy.

The Lakers pursued Raja Bell, yet another well-traveled former Bryant agitator, for the same role. But he opted to sign with Utah instead.

None of this should surprise anyone. This is the new age NBA, where the line between friends and foes is blurred on the regular. Whatever problems Artest might have had with Bryant were remedied the moment they shared space in the same locker room. Barnes will probably follow the same path, though he might do so while firing a few salvos in the direction of his former team.

After all, what role player wouldn’t want to sign on with the two-time defending champs? Barnes, who starred at UCLA, took less to join the Lakers, per the Los Angeles Times:

The most the Lakers could pay Barnes next season is $1.77 million, about half of what Cleveland was offering, and Barnes has a player option in 2011-12 for almost $2 million that would allow him to test the market again in a year if he wished.

Miami was a possibility for Barnes, and Boston made a late run, but the Lakers had the extra allure of being two-time defending champions.

“It’s official,” Barnes wrote on his Twitter account Thursday night. “I am a Los Angles Laker. This is a dream come true!!!”

Barnes averaged 8.8 points and 25.9 minutes a game last season for Orlando, his seventh team since leaving UCLA in 2002. Earlier this week, he appeared to be headed to Toronto for two years and $9 million as part of a sign-and-trade transaction, but the deal fell through.

That tough break for the Cavaliers and Raptors turned into yet another summer coup for an established power. It’s been that kind of summer, where the rich get richer and in the case of a couple of teams on opposite coasts, the rich get filthy rich.

***