Starting Five: The week’s best NBA players

February 15, 2012

By Jack Maidment

The Week’s Best

@Jeremy Lin. Six straight wins, five straight starts, the most points scored in a player’s first four games as a starter in NBA history. Nothing was keeping Lin from making the Starting Five two weeks in a row. He has been surreally good (it’s a word). Like it’s been one long ever-extending dream. Will he be here next week? I hope so because he makes the world smile and if he’s not it means the dream has probably died. Bad times.

@Jose Calderon. Just when the Raptors thought they couldn’t survive without hideously overpaid and rebound-allergic 7ft tall Italians a small Spaniard decided he could in fact be The Man. Jose Calderon has had two out of body experiences/Space Jam talent snatch scenarios this week. Once, against the Lakers, when he put up a career high 30 points, and again against the New York Lins, when he had 25-7-9. Toronto lost both games, but every cloud and all that. He played great this week, but come on, he is no Jeremy Lin.

@Kobe Bryant. Deserves a spot in the Starting Five this week on the strength of the turnaround fadeaway jump shot he hit to effectively win the game for the Lakers against the Raptors on Sunday afternoon. It was vintage Kobe: Killer.

@LeBron James. Now that I am officially off The-Decision Haterade I would like to bring to your attention the most brutally efficient performance of this young season. LeBron James pounded the Milwaukee Bucks in a Heat win on Monday, returning to the paint again and again and again to assert himself. It was the ultimate bigger-better-stronger game. No one could stop him. He only played 33 minutes, but in that time he had 35 points, on 16-21 shooting. Phenomenal.

@Rajon Rondo. Best F-U game of the season by a distance. The Celtics beat the Bulls on Sunday and it was all because of Rondo, playing fresh off an All-Star snub. He stuck up 32-10-15 and shot 10-13 from the line. He did everything Boston fans wish he would do every night and showed why Danny Ainge should keep him. Or trade him, depending on your point of view. Rondo in full flight is something to behold, just a shame it doesn’t happen more regularly.


Starting Five: The week’s best NBA players

February 8, 2012

By Jack Maidment

The Week’s Best

@Jeremy Lin. How could he not make the Starting Five this week? In the space of just four days, Lin went from drawing splinters at the end of the bench to soaking up M-V-P chants at Madison Square Garden.

He powered the Knicks to an enthralling victory over the New Jersey Nets before playing the best game ever by a point guard starting his first NBA game (28-8) in a win over the Utah Jazz.

He has single-handedly reinvigorated New York and is experiencing the biggest spike in celebrity maybe ever.

Oh, and somebody wrote a song about him; it’s not half bad.

Like a few people said on Twitter, if Lin were stocks I’d be buying.

@Kobe Bryant. The simple fact is it’s not everyday you get to write about someone going fifth all time in scoring. I don’t care the Lakers lost their last two: Kobe was making the Five regardless of the beat down Los Angeles took this week.

He has 28,601 points and trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.

That’s pretty good company. Even Shaq gave him props.

@Monta Ellis. Monta was so hot on Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder I mistook him for this guy. He dropped 48 points on the Thunder in a narrow loss in what has to be one of the five best individual performances of the young season.

He took 29 shots, made 18 and went 3-6 from behind the arc. Human Torch.

@Tony Parker. The San Antonio Spurs have won five games in a row and are currently third in the West. Pretty unbelievable considering Manu Ginobli has been out injured, Tim Duncan plays 27 minutes a game and the rest of the roster is made up of bit part players and rookies.

The driving force behind their success is undeniably Parker who hung 42 on the Thunder this week in an eye-opening win.

Spurs done? Non Monsieur.

@Steve Nash. Nash celebrated his birthday last night with a win over the Bucks, the Suns’ third W in a row. Phoenix is out of the playoff spots at the moment, but what Captain Canada is doing in the desert is nothing short of spectacular. Literally everything they do that’s good is down to Nash, just watch the tape.

Without him they are probably the worst team in the NBA.

Have fun next year Phoenix.

Starting Five: The week’s best NBA players

February 1, 2012

By Jack Maidment

The Week’s Best

@Derrick Rose. His Bulls may have lost, but my goodness did the MVP earn his pay cheque against the Miami Heat last Sunday. The numbers (34-6-6) don’t do him or his importance to Chicago justice. Nor do they tell you how hard he had to work to get them, hitting all manner of bankers and floaters and generally dominating the paint.

His performance against Miami was far from a one-off surge either as he has at least 34 points in each of his last three games (two wins and a loss). Rose is better than last year and last year he was the best in the league. Math.

@Deron Williams. I feel sorry for Deron. He has nobody to play with on the Nets and the likelihood of help this season is looking remote. That said, at least he is making the most of the situation by padding his stats and putting on one hell of an audition for all of next year’s free agents.

‘Come play with me! Look what I can do with these scrubs! Imagine what I can do with someone who has a pulse!’ Winning more than one game in a row may be starting to feel like a forgotten memory for the former Jazz point guard, but he is getting his. 34-7, 24-6 and 27-10 in his last three. And that’s with Johan Petro on the floor.

@Anderson Varejao. Yes, he is overpaid. And yes, his hair is ridiculous. But the Brazilian All-NBA energy guy is still going to be drawing furtive glances from contenders across the league. His game (90% energy, 10% grit and determination) is tailor made for a good team, wasted on a bad one.

And you better believe the Cavaliers are a bad team. They are no Charlotte Bobcats, but still. Varejao submitted two great ‘come get me!’ games against Boston this week, recording his first ever 20-20 in one of them. Only problem is his contract, otherwise he’d be else where by now.

@LeBron James. He was here last week and to be honest his play of late has made me convert fully and with total conviction to the Church of LeBron. I don’t care if The Decision was a terrible idea anymore. I don’t care that he doesn’t shoot so well in the fourth quarter. I care about how he makes his teammates better, how he runs the floor like a hot-pokered rhino and finishes at the rim like he’s half-man half-Mjolnir.

I care that he is submitting one of the greatest seasons by anyone ever (29-8-7). I care that LeBron makes basketball unbelievably fun to watch. Three wins in a row this week and James was imperious in all of them.

@Brandon Rush. Wildcard! Yes. Good times. Rush is leading the NBA in 3pt% coming off the bench for the Golden State Warriors (just in case you didn’t know where he was). He is chipping in almost 10 points a game, but more than that he makes the Warriors’ second unit go. You need to see the crowd reaction when he enters the game. It is unbelievable. Brandon Rush. Who knew?

Starting Five: The week’s best NBA players

January 25, 2012

By Jack Maidment

The Week’s Best

@LeBron James. On January 19th the Miami Heat faced off on national television for a much-hyped match up with Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James used the sizeable spotlight to remind everyone just what it means to be the best basketball player in the world.

The Heat didn’t have Wade, but it’s not like anyone noticed as LeBron played the most complete game of the season. He had 31 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocks. He scored, he made his teammates better, he impacted the game defensively, he made Kobe look old. In short, he did everything. Follow that with 2 out of 3 wins this week and LeBron has served a reminder to the rest of the NBA: The king isn’t back, he never left.

@Chandler Parsons. Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets GM once said whoever invented the box score should be shot; there is more to basketball than points, rebounds and assists. Chandler Parsons, the 38th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, is doing a good job of making Morey’s point for him.

The forward out of Florida has stolen the starting small forward for the Rockets after one month in the league which is quite an achievement for a guy so under-the-radar he doesn’t even have a profile photo on the NBA website at the moment.

It is easy to see why he is enjoying early success because his energy level and I’m-going-to-make-a-play determination scream at you every time he plays. Need an offensive rebound? Parsons is crashing the boards like a mad man. Need a loose ball? Parsons doesn’t mind flinging his body around for the team. Need a steal down the stretch? Parsons. You get the idea.

If you want some help deciding who to watch on League Pass this week, I urge you to check out Minnesota-Houston. You will see what I mean.

@Rudy Gay. There is a phrase spoken often in the NFL: ‘Next Man Up’. It’s the title of a rather wonderful book and speaks to the need for other guys to fill in when their teammates go down. Rudy Gay has read this book.

After missing the playoffs last year due to injury and watching Zach Randolph power the Memphis Grizzlies to the brink in the second round, Gay is looking to return the favour as Z-Bo sits out after suffering a serious knee injury.

Gay has been the Next Man Up and the team has looked to him to be The Man. He has gladly accepted.

In the two games the Grizzlies won this week Gay was huge. His 23-9-4 and 5 stocks against the Warriors almost qualifies as art. In the game they lost against a good Portland team Gay was a little quieter and Memphis struggled. They go as Gay goes and because of that they should be just fine.

@Kyle Lowry. Kevin Martin. I know choosing two in the same slot is cheating, but given the Houston Rockets win by committee I figure their backcourt can count as one in the Starting Five. Before you say it (Three Rockets in one Starting Five?!), just hush.

This past week no team has been better than Houston and that’s official. The team with no star players is on a seven game winning streak and much of their success can be attributed to Lowry and Martin.

Lowry (hovering around triple double in his last three games) has been a revelation setting the table for everything the Rockets do, while Martin has accepted his role as the Rockets number one scorer. They both deserve to be here.

@Danilo Gallinari. The Denver Nuggets are 12-5, have won four in a row and are currently second in the Western Conference. They are another team winning by committee (like Houston and Indiana) but Gallinari is their best player. He had 37-11 against the Knicks in his last game and the night before put up 21-4-5 against the Wizards.

Starting Five: The week’s best NBA players

January 18, 2012

By Jack Maidment

The Week’s Best

@Carlos Boozer. The Chicago Bulls power forward with the fat contract scored 31 points, a season high, against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday in a 118-97 win while pulling down six rebounds. He put up 26 of them in the first half as Chicago played another game without All-World point guard Derrick Rose. It’s the kind of game the Bulls were expecting when they snatched Boozer from the Utah Jazz and the kind of game he has seldom played since moving to the Windy City. For the Bulls to keep winning without Rose and to win in June they need more games like this from Boozer.

@Louis Williams. The Philadelphia 76ers are currently in the midst of a three game winning streak and are undefeated at home (6-0) with an overall record of 10-3, good enough for tops in the Atlantic Division and second (!) overall in the Eastern Conference. No one on the Sixers scores more than 16 points a game but they have seven guys averaging double digits. Phila may be winning by committee, but Williams is their spark plug. He hasn’t started any games this year, coming off the bench 13 times, but he leads the team in scoring at 16.2 points a game in just 25 minutes. He’s also throwing in four assists and shooting .417 from three.

@Dwight Howard. The game’s best center has been going berserk in the last week, leading the Orlando Magic on a five game win streak and third place in the Eastern Conference. In his last three games he has scored 78 points as well as grabbing almost 17 rebounds a night.

@Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma City fans rejoice. The Thunder are on an NBA-best seven game win streak and possess the league’s best record while their two best players are playing so well I couldn’t choose between them for this week’s Starting Five. Westbrook has had games of 26-7-4, 21-8-8 and 22-2-7 in his last three while Durant over the same period has scored 28, 28 and 29.¬†They are the league’s best pairing at present and are starting to distance the Thunder as the best in the West.

Starting Five: The week’s best NBA players

January 11, 2012

Kobe hung 48 on the Suns this week. Face.

By Jack Maidment

The Week’s Best

@Kobe Bryant. Doing anything he can to get wins for the Lakers. Including hanging 48 points on the Phoenix Suns. He did take 31 shots but Los Angeles took the win, 99-83. Like he says, scorers gonna score.

@Evan Turner. He had 16 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesaday. His team got the win, 112-85. The Sixers are 7-2, their best start since Allen Iverson led them to The Finals in 2000-01.

@Ricky Rubio. Last three games: averaging more than 30 minutes on the floor, he has had 12, 6 and 14 assists with at least 10 points – 32 assists and 12 turnovers in total during that period. He also posted 7 steals and at least 4 rebounds each game. Regardless of the statistics he has made the Minnesota Timberwolves relevant and must watch television.

@LaMarcus Aldridge. The Portland Trailblazer’s best player has been getting it done this season, leading his team to a 7-2 record, 6-0 at home. The Blazer’s are deep but Aldridge is the man who gets things done when they really need a score. They are the best team in the West right now and a lot of that is because of Aldridge.

@Nate Robinson. Picked up by Golden State, Robinson has been a fire cracker off the bench and excellent value Stephen Curry insurance. He scored 24 against the Miami Heat on Wednesday in a Warriors OT win, 111-106. Bargain.