Pacers have nice guys, bad team
GAME TIME: Grizzlies 107, Pacers 94
It took Larry Bird a
few years to get rid of the Pacers’ “bad” guys
— Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington. Jamaal Tinsley, and Ron
Artest. Presumably the roster is now stocked only with
But just how good are the members of this latest edition of
Mike Dunleavy is a terrific one-on-none shooter
with excellent range. He also moves extremely well without the
ball, particularly on backdoor cuts after being presented with back
But his defense is still awful. Indeed, the Grizzlies went at
Dunleavy at every opportunity — in the low post and on wing
isos. Because he lacks strength, Dunleavy has to give ground on
defense and must rely on help being sent his way ASAP.
good enough to be a valuable sixth man on a better
team than Indiana.
Troy Murphy is a less than adequate defender with
poor lateral movement. He was late on several rotations, was easily
lifted by fakes, and was abused by Zach Randolph. To compensate for
his paltry defense, Murphy has to rebound (he did pull down eight
of these) and, most importantly, hit his perimeter shots. His 3-12
shooting performance in Memphis made him a liability at both ends
of the floor.
Because of his limited athleticism, Murphy would also best
be employed as a
fairly good player off the bench.
T. J. Ford is a scorer not-so-cleverly disguised
as a point guard. He took 13 shots in 23 minutes, while recording
three assists — but all of his assists came on
drives-and-kick-outs. The point being that he usually looks for his
shot, and passes only when he can’t see the basket well
enough to put one up. He did hustle on defense but was thoroughly
outplayed by Mike Conley.
Ford would do
good work as a backup playing about 15 minutes per
game — a role that he has always resisted.
Roy Hibbert is a foul waiting to happen.
Otherwise, he has no defensive presence whatsoever. He did convert
a clumsy, but effective lunging layup from the left box, and
managed to stuff home a cookie-pass from Earl Watson. Hibbert moves
as stiffly as a man on stilts, and handles the ball as though it
was twice as big as it really is.
Hibbert is definitely
no good as a starter, and at best should be the
fifth big in a four-man rotation.
Brandon Rush has talent to spare — as
evidenced by a sensational put-back and also by an even more
sensational spin and pull-up jumper in the lane. However, like
Murphy, Rush must hit his jumpers to justify his court time.
Overall, Rush was only 3-10, but even worse, was 1-6 from the
Since he’s only a second-year player, Rush is
good enough to warrant his apprenticeship being
extended through the 2010-11 season.
Dahntay Jones is the team’s best defender
— strong, forceful, and blessed with quick reflexes. On one
second-quarter play, Jones was guarding O. J. Mayo, and after
battling his way through multiple screens still managed to be in
position to draw a charge on Mayo. Jones can also drop open jumpers
and power his way to the rim. All he lacks is sufficient vision to
be comfortable in a team-oriented offense.
Even so, Jones is
Earl Watson did a much better job of running the
offense than did Ford. Watson is also stronger and is finishing
much better than he ever did before. Sometimes, however, he tries
to do too much with the ball and is out of control, e.g., the
third-quarter floater he was forced to airmail in heavy traffic.
Watson’s strength was evident in the eight rebounds he
snared. He plays earnest defense on the ball and also plays the
Watson is a
d backup, a tough, aggressive player who can
change the tempo of a ball game.
Jeff Foster makes up for his lack of mass by
playing smart, quick-handed defense, and using his sticky hands and
exquisite timing to clean the glass. His defensive rotations are
also well-timed. Too bad a chronically painful back has limited his
Foster is not
nearly as good as he once was and, as his 33rd
birthday rapidly approaches, this season may indeed be his last.
Solomon Jones is physically weak, is routinely out
of position on defense, and demonstrated his profound
ineffectiveness when he found himself alone with the ball under the
basket and shot a self-induced air-ball.
no good and, in fact, just might be the worst big
man in the league.
Tyler Hansbrough, of course, was Indiana’s
No. 1 draft pick last June, and has been universally celebrated as
being an All-American good guy. His numbers in the game at hand
were interesting — 4-13, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and
14 points in 23 minutes. But his total performance was erratic.
The rookie made a couple of nifty moves in the low post
— a tight spin for a layup, and then a 3-point play after a
triple-fake finally got Randolph airborne. But, on a fourth-quarter
sequence, Hansbrough also had two interior shots blocked by
Randolph in quick succession. Still, Hanbrough seemed to be much
more comfortable playing in the vicinity of the hoop than he was on
the perimeter. He set a solid screen on a handoff, but was also
slow to get himself in the proper position to set several weak-side
He delivered one clever assist pass to a dive-cutting
teammate (his other assist came when Dunleavy received the ball and
buried a jumper), but was generally a mite too slow in deciding
what to do with the ball when facing the basket.
Hansbrough attempted (and missed) a total of six mid-range
jumpers — three bounced off the front rim, one caromed off
the heel of the rim, and one was an air-ball. No wonder the young
man is only shooting 37.8 percent.
Hansbrough’s initial defensive stance was wide and
strong, and he showed good anticipation along with quick hands. But
his relatively slow lateral movement made him extremely vulnerable
to spins. Although he did manage to snatch a dribble away from
Randolph, the veteran big man had his way with the rook.
Hansbrough is indeed a rookie: On one play he tried fronting
Randolph, but they were both too far from the basket for this
tactic to be successful — an easy lob pass led to an
It’s quite understandable that Hansbrough is more
effective on offense — because his teammates’ moves are
familiar to him and he can easily react to the overall choreography
of whatever play is called. But his lack of quickness is a
detriment on defense, where he necessarily has to be more reactive
To his credit, the youngster never stopped hustling. This
admirable quality, along with his evident intelligence will
eventually combine to make Hansbrough a
fairly good role player.
Conspicuously missing from the active list is
Danny Granger, the Pacers’ ace point-maker. Even
with Granger in uniform, though, Indiana sorely lacks someone who
can create his own scoring opportunities. They also are in dire
need of a shot-blocker, and a pivotal scorer who must be
However, since the lower realm of the Eastern Conference is
bad, the Pacers just might be
barely good enough to sneak into the eighth
In honor of Kobe’s most recent buzzer-beating winners,
here’s a list of the best current and all-time clutch
Jerry West certainly qualifies — although he largely
fashioned his reputation as Mr. Clutch by scoring big numbers (from
30.8 ppg in 1968 to 40.6 ppg in 1965) while his Lakers repeatedly
failed to win championships. In fact, when they did finally succeed
in 1972, West had the worst playoff outings in his career —
scoring a “mere” 22.9 and shooting only 37.6 percent.
That’s why many of his peers believe that West was not the
dominating force in the clutch as he was — and still is
— reputed to be.
Reggie Miller’s rep as a wondrous clutch shooter is
likewise inflated simply because many of his heroics occurred
against the Knicks.
Larry Bird and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were legitimate
top-of-the-list closers. As were Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, John
Havlick, Sam Jones, George Mikan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bob Pettit,
Oscar Robertson, James Worthy, Robert Horry and, of course, the
incomparable Michael Jordan.
Among today’s players, the qualifiers include Ray
Allen, Chauncey Billups, Tim Duncan, Michael Finley, Derek Fisher,
Ben Gordon, Richard Hamilton, LeBron James, Steve Nash, Jameer
Nelson, Paul Pierce and the almost equally incomparable Kobe
Overall, the three most reliable clutch shooters in NBA
history are (in alphabetical order) Bird, Bryant and Jordan.
David Stern says women could play in the NBA within 10
years. I say it’ll never happen due to the extreme physical
differences. What’s your take? –
Neil Perry, La Mirada, CA
For sure, a woman could possess the necessary quickness,
speed, court vision, work ethic and basketball IQ — as well
as being tall enough to play either of the backcourt positions. But
it’s hard to imagine she would have the strength, muscle mass
and hops to compete with resident NBAers.
An even more insurmountable problem would be the size of her
hands. Not nearly big enough to palm and easily handle a
Several years ago, Carol Blazejowski was undoubtedly the
best woman’s hooper in the known universe, and much was made
of her playing with a team in the summertime USBL. In private, her
all-male teammates were unanimous in believing that — except
for hitting an occasional 3-pointer — Blazejowski would
routinely get humiliated in practice sessions and was on the roster
strictly as a publicity ploy.
It’s impossible that Stern truly believes his public
statement in this regard. He’s just being politically
TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY
Saul Kent is a self-proclaimed futurist and author of The
Life-Extension Revolution. For many years he was a fixture on the
various basketball courts in Woodstock, NY.
Here is his testimony:
“My short-range goal is to live forever in paradise,
which is not necessarily a specific location. It’s more like
the option to do whatever you want, whenever and wherever you want.
It’s freedom without any limitations. My philosophy is the
direct opposite of what Red Holzman preached when he coached the
Knicks. Holzman said that he always concentrated on the possible
and he never worried about the impossible. But I worry only about
“Right now I only have three problems in my life.
Number one — growing old and dying. Number two — I hate
gravity. Gravity is a very strict limitation and it’s very
hard to escape it. You could lessen the effects by submerging
yourself in water, but who wants to be in water all the time? And
the third problem is that I can only be in one place at one time.
“One of my favorite places to be, however, is playing
basketball somewhere in Woodstock. I’ve played basketball in
at least 35 states and several foreign countries. I’m only
6’1″, and a natural center, so I tried to get a game together in
Japan. I figured I could dominate. But when I was there nobody
played hoops in Japan.
“They do play in Russia, and when I was in Moscow I
asked the In-Tourist Bureau about playing in some local game, but
they didn’t know how to handle my request. A lot of guys in
Woodstock don’t have normal jobs so there’s usually a
game going on somewhere. The regulars have sufficient skills for
the games to be challenging, and they’re laid back enough to
preserve what’s left of my sanity.
“In New York City, most players are more concerned
with winning arguments than with winning ballgames. They’re
always looking for an edge. There are still arguments during the
games in Woodstock, but they’re more eccentric and more
quaint. For example, there’s one guy who always claims
he’s being fouled in the act of shooting before he gets the
“My goal is to be the oldest active basketball player
in the history of the planet. In the future, I hope to dunk. In 25
years there’ll be an NBA franchise at L-5, a space settlement
equidistant between the moon and Woodstock. Aliens will be let into
the league, unless they have a considerable advantage like being
15-feet tall and having 10 arms. The NBA will become the new CBA,
the Cosmic Basketball Association.
“And I have two mottos that govern my life… If
at first you don’t succeed, you’ll never get to second.
… And this one … Give me immortality or give me