Category Archives: Layup Line

Hindsight is 20/20: Rethinking Mike D’Antoni’s Decision to Join Knicks

Will Leitch has a great piece in NYMag reevaluating Mike D’Antoni’s decision to join the Knicks over the Bulls.  Even though I’ve been very critical of D’Antoni’s tenure with the Knicks, Leitch is spot on when he says:

The criticism of D’Antoni essentially seems to come down to “He’s not willing to adjust his system to fit his players,” which is another way of saying, “Hey, it’s not our fault your system requires a point guard and we gave all ours away: Figure it out.” The one constant of D’Antoni’s success has been a functioning floor general, from Nash in Phoenix to Raymond Felton and Billups last season.

D’Antoni’s offense needs a good point guard and thus far this year’s team does not have anyone approaching an NBA caliber starting point guard.  I saw them play the Wizards last month and it was surreal watching Iman Shumpert, Toney Douglass and Mike Bibby take turns bringing the ball up court.  It was almost like watching Summer League tryouts when teams are auditioning players.  What struck me is how the team’s character changed so drastically each time a different player brought the ball up.  When Bibby brought it up, Amar’e Stoudemire seemed confident that he was going to get the ball and have a decent shot of making a play.  Shumpert and Douglass almost exclusively set up on the left and right side exclusively, regardless of what defense the Wizards were in or where the Knicks go-to players Anthony and Stoudemire were posted up.  This in turn meant that once Melo or Amar’e got the ball the weak side defenders could sag into the lane because a cross court pass was unlikely to yield much of anything.

This is a stark contrast to the life that D’Antoni would have right now coaching Derrick Rose and watching him run SSOL to perfection.

Anyway, check out Leitch’s piece here, it’s worth the read

 

G- Dwyane Wade

NBA All-Star Inury Team

With NBA All-Star balloting in full swing and given that the NBA is slowly but surely turning into a league where “injuries happen,” I thought I should come up with an injured/questionable/doubtful/probable (hurt but will likely play) All-Star Team.  Since fans are unlikely to see these players, even as the league justifies its quick return through appealing to fan desires to see the game back on the court, I thought we could celebrate the greatness of the league by reflecting on their absence:

Click through the slide show below to see the starters on this NBA All-Star Injury Team.  However, a quick glance at this team’s bench gives you some insight into how potent an injury lineup has emerged a quarter of the way into this season.  Bench players: Forwards: Charlie Villanueva; Michael Beasley; Andrea Bargnani. Centers: Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett.  Guards: Jason Kidd; Jose Juan Barea, Baron Davis; Eric Maynor.  While being flippant here, it is imperative to think about how the 2011-2012 season is one where injuries happen.

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G- Stephen Curry

Curry is starting to look like his generation’s Steve Nash, another guard whose early career was plagued by nagging injuries. Nash eventually righted himself when he began playing with big men like Dirk Nowitzki and Amar’e Stoudemire who excelled in the pick and roll game. Time will tell if Curry finds his big man counterpart.

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G- Dwyane Wade

If there’s one bright spot to Wade’s recent stints on the injured list is that it will enable LeBron James and Chris Bosh to come into their own in Miami. Once Miami fans see that James and Bosh can carry this team then this trio’s “Big Three” persona might actually be chrystallized.

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F- Carmelo Anthony

Either Knick forward could have gone here. This team’s abhorrent backcourt play has put a lot of pressure on Anthony and Stoudemire. Now that he’s getting spot duty at “point forward” it will be interesting to see if Anthony has enough left come playoff time for the Knicks to make a run.

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F- Al Horford

Casual fans underestimate the pounding that low post players take. Battling the Udonis Haslem’s and Reggie Evans’ of this world is hard enough, but when you’re having to play out of position and compete against bigger players like Horford has had to for much of his career in Atlanta, injuries are inevitable.

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F- Zach Randolph

Randolph, one of the anchors to the Grizzlies' surprising playoff run last year is likely out until early March. Grizzlies fans are hoping the team can stay in contention until Z-Bo returns.

For the most-part the media has failed to reflect on the injuries, on how these injuries are the result of the money grab.  Yet, it is crucial to not only highlight the cluster of injuries, and the types of injuries that seem to point to the impact of a non-existent training camp and the wear and tear of a compressed season, but what this reveals about the NBA and the sports-industrial complex (not to mention global capitalism).  It is emblematic of the ways in which profits are put in front of people.  It is emblematic of the logic of Neoliberalism capitalism, which identifies markets, consumer needs, and profit margins as the primary compass for economic relations.  The fact that players are suffering injuries in alarming rates is a testament to the ways in which bodies, particularly bodies of color and women, are exploited and abused for sake of money within the sports industry and beyond.  As a tenet of capitalism, and reflective of cultural obsession with wealth, it is no wonder that the ideology of profits ahead of people is so visible on NBA benches.  So, if you get tired of the NBA’s new motto, “where injuries happen,” maybe we should start calling it “The NBA: profits before people”

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2011 NBA Season: Where Injuries Happen

After two days of the NBA season, it is clear that the shortened (ostensibly non-existent) training camp is having a significant impact on a myriad of teams.  The issue of injuries remains a real one, a fact that cannot be understood outside of the context of the players’ inability to prepare themselves for the season in a desired way.  For example, the Los Angeles Lakers, the only team to open the season with 3 straight games (against 3 teams who will be playing their opening game), are already battling injuries.  Kobe Bryant continues to struggle with a torn ligament in his wrist, with Pau Gasol suffering a shoulder injury and Josh McRoberts dealing with a sprained big toe.  The injuries have left three of the Lakers starters (McRoberts starting because of Andrew Bynum’s 4-game suspension) playing through injuries after two games, and a fourth, fifteen year veteran Derek Fisher, still not in regular season shape (he sat out initial preseason game because he wasn’t physically ready), it is no wonder the Lakers are off to an 0-2 start.

Like the Lakers, the Mavs are off to an 0-2 start, losing their initial two games by sizable margins. Mavericks small forward Shawn Marion broke his finger in their opening night defeat to the Miami Heat, and  following last night’s loss, Dirk Nowitzki acknowledged the impact of the lockout on their difficult start: “We look old, slow and out of shape,” he acknowledged.  “I still think this team has a lot of potential. We just need to work. … We probably needed extra weeks of training camp. But we don’t have it so the young teams, the athletic teams, look better right now than we do.” You don’t have to simply take the word of Notwitzki, as the impact of the lockout was clearly evident as Sean Williams vomited on the Mavs bench after leaving the game.  While media reports dismissed this as an afterthought in an early season blowout, it demonstrates the physical toll of the game and the overall lack of preparation afforded to NBA players.  After all, when was the last time you saw an NBA player vomit from exhaustion?  This may be a regular occurrence during pre-season workouts, but not part of the “showtime” experience David Stern and NBA officials pride themselves on exporting.   Williams’ exhaustion speaks to the poor work conditions experienced by today’s NBA player.

Other playoff contenders  are facing similar issues; whether it is the Knicks’  Baron Davis (herniated disc), Jared Jeffries (calf) and Iman Shumpert (knee injury); Eric Bledsoe of the Los Angeles Clippers (torn meniscus), or the Celtics’ Paul Pierce (toe), some of the NBA”s marquee teams scrambling to survive with make shift line-ups. Whereas the NBA has in the past marketed itself as the league where “amazing happens,” the 2011-2012 Season looks to be a year where “injuries happens.”

While the debate about the impact of the lockout (remembers players didn’t have access to treatment and team facilities throughout the summer and fall) and a shortened preseason on injuries will continue, what is indisputable is the impact of the schedule on injuries.  Beyond the demands of playing multiple nights, the compressed game and travel schedules cannot help in the recovery process.

Worse yet, the overall lack of public concern over the mental and physical strain of playing 6 games in 8 nights is revealing.  It demonstrates an overall lack of thought about NBA players as workers whose work conditions matter.   It demonstrates that the profits took precedent over the people of the NBA.  It illustrates that notwithstanding the hype over the NBA being back, mounting physical limitations confronting the greatest athletes in the world is turning the NBA into a league where “injuries happen.”

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Ty Lawson Continuing to Evolve as Nuggets Game Changer

Ty Lawson continued building on his strong play from last season with a 27-point outbreak in the Nuggets season opener against the Dallas Mavericks.

Lawson, who ESPN’s Andrew Ayres reminds us was drafted behind the beleaguered Jonny Flynn, has grown from a change of pace backup guard to one of the league’s top-10 point guards.  The former Tar Heel’s maturation is one of the main reasons that many consider the Nuggets a dark horse contender in this year’s Western Conference race.

Commenting on his team’s early season success, Lawson declared:

“We’ve been jelling real quick,” Lawson said. “I knew we’d come out strong. … That’s when we’re good, when we get out and run. It’s my job to make sure the tempo is fast and guys are running in those lanes.”

via Lawson, Nuggets cruise by defenseless Mavs 115-93 – NBA – Yahoo! Sports.

The sight of the speedy Lawson being trailed on the wings by finishers such as Chris Anderson, Nene Hilario, or dead-eye shooters Rudy Fernandez and Danilo Gallinari is bound to give coaches nightmares this upcoming season.

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Andrew Sharp on the Concord 11 Fiasco

Andrew Sharp has an interesting account of his quest for a pair of Air Jordan Concord 11s. The most fascinating part of his story is his encounter with a 60-year old man who was camping out for the shoes. For those who thought that teenagers and twenty-somethings were the only ones propelling this past weekend’s tomfoolery, Sharp’s essay offers some insight into how truly diverse this legion of sneakerheads really are.

We all realized we had no hope, but we waited anyway. “I was on the Nike site at 12 on the DOT last night,” the 60-something told me. “And it was still a no-go. Just kept gettin’ bounced off, trying again, bounced off, trying again.” He laughed and shook his head. “Just wasn’t meant to be.”

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With Baron Davis on Board, Are Knicks the Best Team in the Eastern Conference?

It’s now official, Baron Davis will join Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire,.  Talk about a change of fortune, it was only a week ago that the Knicks appeared to have a gaping hole at the point guard slot.  Now they have an all-star caliber player with a penchant for scintillating playoff performances on his resume slotted into that position.

On the court, a motivated Davis will provide this Knicks team with leadership, an occasional fourth quarter dagger, some offensive punch on nights when either Anthony or Stoudemire might be struggling, and a barrage of easy baskets for Stoudemire,  Chandler, Landry Fields, Renaldo Balkman and rookie Iman Shumpert.

Off the court, Davis fits neatly into the charismatic nouveau “Rat Pack” personas being honed by Anthony and Stoudemire.  Davis, a full on aesthete by NBA standards will have no trouble fitting in at the Tribeca Film Festival or Fashion Week for example.  In fact, the trio of Anthony, Davis and Stoudemire are easily the trendiest Knick triumvirate since the glory days of Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe and Phil Jackson/Bill Bradley.

More importantly, this Davis signing deals a costly blow to the Knicks two main challengers for Eastern Conference supremacy, Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls.  With Davis on board, the signings of Shane Battier and Richard Hamilton seem to pale in comparison, and for the first time since the Patrick Ewing era, makes the Knicks legitimate contenders in the East.