Oh, and he raps.
Does any team want the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference? It certainly doesn’t seem like it. The Indiana Pacers are on a six-game losing streak and the Charlotte Bobcats ended their own six-game skid just the other day against the Portland Trail Blazers. Going on such streaks has turned what seemed like a two-team race into a trio of teams into competition, with the Milwaukee Bucks winning three in a row to pull within a half-game of the 8th seed. With such a close battle, who looks like they’ll be playing against the first seed in April?
Remember when Indy was promising and beat the Heat and Lakers in the same week? Well, those times are long past. The Pacers have since fallen apart, fired former head coach Jim O’Brien and recently look like a disjointed group of guys that just can’t put it all together to win games. They have a good group of young talent, but they lack effort, which is very concerning. Their schedule heading down the stretch is not easy, with about 10 games (out of 17 remaining) against playoff-caliber teams.
The Bobcats traded their most versatile player in Gerald Wallace and center Nazr Mohammed to initiate the rebuilding process that’s been needed for so long, but also got some young talent in Dante Cunningham and D.J. White for immediate compensation. If it wasn’t for injuries to Stephen Jackson and Tyrus Thomas, the Bobcats could be the team watching in their rearview mirror right now. But that’s just speculation. Whereas Indiana struggles with effort, the Bobcats simply struggle with talent. They seriously lack in the scoring department, relying on Stephen Jackson to shoulder the brunt of the challenge. Gerald Henderson has emerged as a decent offensive threat while D.J. Augustin has treaded water at the point. Now that Tyrus Thomas is back, the Bobcats improve immediately in their frontcourt defense and scoring as well. But their remaining schedule is pretty tough with a four-game road trip coming up and a good many playoff quality team to play.
The Bucks have underperformed this season, partially due to injuries, but mostly due to awfully inefficient shooting. Milwaukee is last in the league in field goal percentage, with 42.5%. They just don’t have an efficient scorer like John Salmons was last year. The Bucks struggle to get great looks and don’t shoot very well when they do. But in their recent win streak, the Bucks have found efficient offense to go with their usual stout defense built around Andrew Bogut. Their remaining regular season schedule includes ten teams expected to be in the playoffs, many of which are away games. Towards the end of the season, they play a tough three-game road trip against Orlando, Miami and Detroit that could make or break their playoff hopes.
Prediction: I’m going to go with The Bucks. The Pacers just aren’t playing with heart or as a team. I don’t see them making it to the post-season. While Milwaukee’s offense can be scary (in a bad way), so can the Bobcats’. Milwaukee has the hot hand on offense and their defense is better than Charlotte’s. The Bucks also hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Charlotte. They both have tough schedules in April, so it should be pretty close.
Anybody out there reading this who aspires to play in the NBA one day, please realize that what Chris Wilcox of the Detroit Pistons is doing in the below photo is NOT considered good defensive technique anywhere, even in rec ball or the Korean leagues!
Jon Brockman is not much of a scorer at all. He’s a situational player who you ask to go out there and get boards and set solid screens. GET BOARDS! SET SCREENS!
Well Jon Brockman, and God love him, scored 8 points (4 field goals) Tuesday night against the phenomenal Detroit Piston’s defense. 8 points being Jon’s second highest point total of the season.
(Vid via Get Banged On)
The night was so bad for the Pistons that even newly signed big man Earl Barron grabbed 5 offensive boards (9 boards total) against them. To be fair, Detroit was without 36 year old Ben Wallace for the game. Grandpa Ben would have certainly helped (I’m only sorta kinda kidding).
Actually, even the offense was pretty horrid for the Stones on Tuesday as Richard Hamilton played in his first game since Feb.5, totalling 4 makes in 17 shot attempts in 26:02 minutes.
I GUESS THAT EXTRA PRACTICE TIME IS REALLY PAYING OFF, RIP.
OH WAIT. NEVERMIND , HUN!
Sorry Pistons Fans…You’re still Stuck with Rip for what looks like the rest of the blasphemous season.
(Images via: Jeffrey Phelps AP)
Follow Ryan on Twitter @rpravato where you get to witness more fantastic jokes. Not.
Back again, dear readers! This week I’ve got the Big O, Kurt Rambis, et al on deck for you. Let’s check it out!
That’s all for this week. There’s more at NBAillustrations.tumblr.com if you want. Have a good weekend, everyone!
Cardboard Gerald is the Baby Spice of the Stacheketball writing staff and the resident Bobcats fan. You don’t need to feel sorry for him, but you can follow him on Twitter, if you’d like (@CardboardGerald).
I was in school in March of 1996 the first time I saw him play. I loved basketball, but even though my teacher had allowed us to tune the television to CBS for March Madness, I was mostly disinterested because CBS was showing Duke vs. Eastern Michigan. Though I lived in Orlando, Florida, I was a proud Marylander at heart, and a big Terrapins fan; which is to say that I hated the Duke Blue Devils; which meant that I was about to be disappointed. After all, to that point in time, Duke hadn’t lost a first round game of the NCAA tournament since 1955.
It was to my delight that 5-foot-5 Earl Boykins of the Eagles notched 23 points and five assists as they went on to shock the college basketball world in a convincing upset win of 75-60. Sharing his height (at the time) and knack for handling the rock, I became fascinated with the diminutive point guard, instantly declaring him my favorite college player. Although the Eagles weren’t on TV much, I followed Boykins’ games and stats whenever I could, and would always tell people that he would one day make the NBA.
Earl Boykins did indeed make the NBA, but not through the conventional route. Due to questions about his size and ability to effectively defend bigger NBA players, he wasn’t drafted and signed to a guaranteed contract like most college stars. So he had to prove his worth again and again through a series of 10-day deals and short-term contracts, as year after year he was signed and waived, signed and waived again. But something happened to me while Boykins was struggling to find his place in the league: I stopped caring. You could say that I outgrew my affection for small guards with big hearts, and into big guards with long wingspans and high-efficiency. I traded in Boykins and Rafer Alston – college stars I once adored – for Penny Hardaway and Kobe Bryant, NBA stars. I simply moved on.
While I would no longer trumpet his merits as an NBA player, I quietly still wanted him to succeed. I was happy, even proud, when he secured his first multi-year deal before the 2003-04 season with the Denver Nuggets, and I always smiled when he would have big games (like when he became the smallest player ever to top 30 points). I smiled, too, when he was being interviewed as a member of those Nuggets and said, “I don’t look at my height as a disadvantage. I’m unique.”
I admired the fact he viewed his stature as an advantage that set him apart in a positive way from his taller teammates and opponents. Even still, I always believed that Boykins’ time in the NBA would be, forgive me, short. Small, quick guards have historically suffered sharp declines as they approach their 30s – when their quickness leaves them, all they are left with is the small. Almost four years ago to the day, when he was traded by the Nuggets at the age of 31 and in the last year of his deal, I assumed that his time in the NBA was up.
Despite the fact that he was signed to mid-year deals in each of the next two seasons, I wrote it off as the case of an injury-depleted team (or suspension-depleted in the case of the 2009-2010 Washington Wizards) in need of bench scoring. But he performed well enough in those stints that, to my surprise, last summer the Milwaukee Bucks, a team with playoff aspirations, saw him as a solution to some of their offensive woes, and inked him for the upcoming season.
Although given only sporadic playing time early in the year, with the Bucks off to a slow start and several key back-court players either injured or under-performing, 34-year-old Boykins has again been called upon for production. And he is again finding unique ways to make an impact. Beginning with a blowout win in LA against the Lakers, he has averaged over 15 points in 25 minutes per game in the last nine games in which he has played (he was suspended for one).
On the season as a whole, he is having one of the finer seasons that a short guard in his 30s has ever had. In doing so, he has played a roll in keeping his team afloat in the race to make the playoffs. While the standings show Milwaukee on the outside-looking-in of the current playoff picture in the East, their schedule gets much easier from here (they have to date played by far the league’s toughest schedule), and they can expect Brandon Jennings and Carlos Delfino to soon return from injury. Already boasting one of the league’s best defenses, their returning players, improved health of Andrew Bogut and John Salmons, and the fact that Scott Skiles-coached teams traditionally feature slow starts and strong finishes should combine to give the Bucks a great shot to crawl up the playoff ladder.
If their playoff push is to be successful, they will need their younger, star players like Jennings and Bogut to produce, and it is unlikely that Boykins can continue to earn such a large roll. But then again, Earl Boykins’ whole career arc has followed an unlikely course. We don’t know whether the Bucks will make the playoffs this season, how large of a roll Boykins will play, or when his career will ultimately end. All we should know is that, for as long as it continues, it will be unique.
Play One On One With Michael Jordan, Right In Your Own Room
Let’s break this “Michael Jordan WallBall” commercial down on a molecular level
1. It had Michael Jordan on it, so it was awesome. This is the type of toy you wanted to open for Christmas. If you did not get it, you thought you were seriously gipped. If you did get it, you put it on your door and never played with it.
2. I love how MJ just pops his head in for .3 seconds.
3. MJ’s fashion sense is still somehow questioned. Who wears a vest? Maybe is a solid black jersey. Is this what he usually wears, or is he seriously going to play one on one with me in my bedroom?
4. The commercial’s music sounds like it was taken from “Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City“.
5. The commercial is only 11 seconds long, yet they introduced the product, demonstrated it, got a celebrity endorsement, and mentioned the famed “Ohio Arts Sports”.
6. Let’s be honest. This product sucked. You could not dunk on it unless you seriously liked fixing the breakaway rim after every dunk. You could not play one on one with someone because… because it just sucked. You did not want to make any long range shots, because you always missed and you also had to get every rebound.
7. If you have one of these in mint condition, still in the original wrapping, you might think you have $1000 sitting in your attic. Unfortunately you can still get this very product on Ebay for $9.99. With inflation, you are actually losing money on your investment.
8. I love how the front of MJ’s jersey just says “Jordan”. Maybe the Bobcats do the same. ( I keed )
As the Bucks took on the Atlanta Hawks in their first round playoff series, Bango decided he would entertain the crowd by, quite frankly, doing something completely crazy. Watch the video, as the mascot completes a reverse dunk from a 20 foot high ladder.
Editor’s Note: Today we take a look at five players who are gunnin’ hard for that number one spot. Which number one spot, you ask? The number one Most Improved Player in the NBA — that’s what. These guys have all picked up their game as compared to last season and look to legit to quit.
Trying to “hook” into the MIP race
Even though including a sophomore is unusual, Marc Gasol has increased his numbers across all major categories and is in the top five in the league in FG% (58%). His scoring has gone from just 12ppg to almost 15ppg (21% increase) , his rebounding from 7.4rpg to 9.4rpg (21%), and his minutes played from 30 to 36 per game. And all this within an offense that has gone from bottom five in the league in scoring to top five (and league leader in offensive rebounding). Besides the scoring and rebounding numbers, at 7’3″ he is a good defensive center who also is a great passer out of the post.
“Hey, Brandon, have you heard I’m second in MIP… no offense, 2nd-place ROY?”
The Milwaukee Bucks are not all about the John Salmons trade, as they have been a playoff contender thanks to Andrew Bogut. His scoring has improved by 4.2 per game to 15.9 PPG (24% increase), and his blocks are at 2.5 after just 1 per game last year, a huge 150% increase. And this is despite the main scoring threat Michael Redd being down with a season-ending injury.
Pointing towards rebounding as important in the MIP.
The Chicago Bulls improved last season with Derrick Rose, but this year’s inside game has been the “Arc of Noah“. That has him improving from 7.6 rebounds per game to 11 RPG, making him in the top 5 of the NBA’s bounders in only his second season. And unlike others like M. Gasol and A. Bogut, he is the “sole provider” of rebounds (10.7 RPG, a 35% increase) down-low as Chicago is comparably weak inside. The scoring has gone up (10.3 PPG, a 35% increase) as well, and the Bulls are still a playoff contender. Noah this year makes a strong run as a young, third-year player who averages a double-double.
“Charging” towards a strong MIP finish
Almost 26 PPG? Seriously, those numbers are MVP-type. So it’s no surprise he should be in the Most-Improved-Race. Last year 19.0, this year 25.5 PPG (21%); not to mention assists up almost 2 a game to 5.4 APG(38%). Even with a team that’s crazy-wild with offense, that’s still an improvement (Golden State Warriors were wide-open last year, too, so the numbers are a valid comparison).
Strong drive towards the finish..
The speedy “Mr. Brooks” has compiled great numbers on an injury-decimated team that was supposed to be a basement-dweller this year. With Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, both perennial all-stars, hurt this year the Rockets needed more punch and Brooks delivered. His assists numbers through the roof (5.2 APG, a 42% increase) and his scoring numbers a career high (19.7 from last years’ 11.1, 43% increase) With his speed to the hoop and great talent for finding teammates in a good spot to score, Brooks can almost single-handedly take credit for Houston’s unexpected run towards a playoff spot. He’s my choice from the combination of huge statistical increases, a depleted supporting staff, and a good record which at least contended for the playoffs.
What do you think? Do you have another candidate for Most Improved Player attention? Let us know in the comments!
All Statistics through Sunday’s (March 28) games.