Building an NBA Frankenstein

February 2, 2012

By Jack Maidment

I am a big comic book fan. Marvel, DC; I don’t care. If there are super powers and freaky scientific experiments a-happening I am there with lycra-clad bells on.

Every night we see unbelievable athletes in the NBA doing things with their bodies which 99.9% of the rest of us can only experience in the third person.

The average NBA player is an otherworldy specimen of humanity, but some of them are positively mutant. Freakish even.

Blake Griffin’s latest dunk got me thinking: If I was an evil genius (think more Dr Doom/Magneto than Kim Kardashian) hell bent on stealing the attributes of others to create my very own Deadpool, who would I want to pickpocket?

We are basically walking the Space Jam path. Come with me, position by position.

PG.

Fast don’t lie and my mutant has got to be fast. This was a tough decision, but I’m taking Derrick Rose’s Power Speed over Ty Lawson’s Jet Speed (Russell Westbrook was also in the mix too). I want a guy who has gears and nobody can change up and down like Rose.

SG.

Call it quickness or elusiveness, whatever, I want my guy to be slippery, and for that I am abducting Dwyane Wade. Nobody does Now-You-See-Me-Now-You-Don’t like Wade. If he was unavailable I would have no qualms about picking up Steve Nash or Manu Ginobli here.

SF.

Like there was any doubt which small forward I would be stealing from. Whatever LeBron James has I want for my player, but since I’m taking one thing per player, I’m taking LeBron’s mental toughness…. Just checking you were paying attention. I want no part of LeBron’s mental faculties, but I will gladly take his juggernaut-ness. It’s a word. And it roughly translates as wanting people to get the hell out of the way of my evil-genius player because they are scared he will trample them to death. Like this guy.

PF.

I want Blake’s legs and his elevation. As seen here. Here. And here. Best leaper in the game, and I am only stealing from the best.

C.

If this was the 1960s I am calling Wilt, inviting him to a Hollywood starlet’s party, then chloroforming him and stealing his physique but since Chamberlain is off the table, I’m taking Dwight Howard and his strength.

My mutant’s name? LeLake Wightrose

Got better?


NBA Keys: Chicago Bulls visit the Miami Heat

January 29, 2012

By Jack Maidment

The Chicago Bulls will take to the floor against the Miami Heat in little over an hour. They are the two best teams in the East with Chicago atop the conference at 17-4 and Miami trailing at 14-5.

Between them they have three of the best four players in basketball and they are both struggling with injuries.

Here are some things to think about:

@Who will guard Derrick Rose? In the playoffs last year it was LeBron when it mattered and Rose had an extremely tough time of it. LeBron’s length caused all sorts of problems. For Chicago to win they need Rose to be at his MVP best, the question will be if he has figured out how to do his thing while staring at someone half a foot taller, stronger and almost as quick.

@How will Chicago make up for the loss of Luol Deng? Deng is the player that makes the Bulls tick on offense and defense. If there is a job needs doing the man from Sudan is usually the guy to do it. His wrist injury presents the Bulls with a number of problems. Firstly, who will guard LeBron? Secondly, who will provide the scoring punch off the bench if Kyle Korver starts? And thirdly, who will pick up Deng’s 16 points a game? The answer should be Boozer and the bench. The reality may be something different.

@How will LeBron James assert himself down the stretch now that Dwyane Wade has returned? It is a tired discussion but a discussion nonetheless. I see Wade closing with LeBron facilitating.

@Who will win the duel at power forward, Boozer or Bosh? Last season it was no contest as Boozer struggled and played with a lack of explosiveness while Bosh took advantage (most of the time) of the open looks thrown his way courtesy of James and Wade. The wings may belong to the Heat, but the paint is usually Bulls territory. It’s up to Boozer to make sure that’s the case against the Heat.

Check back tomorrow for a post-game breakdown.

Enjoy the game.


The Art of the Miami Heat

January 28, 2012

By Jack Maidment

I cannot stand people who are addicted to their cameras. If I go the aquarium I don’t want you in my face taking pictures. If I’m drinking at the club I don’t want you bothering me for a snap.

Why can’t people just enjoy the now, the real thing, instead of interrupting the moment to create a pale imitation?

Why take a picture of a Lichtenstein original when you can take in its genius with your own eyes in the present?

The same can be applied to sports.

Basketball is such a unique blend of power and poetry that the game can explode into life at any moment. Why miss the explosion or interrupt the oh-shit-this-is-about-to-happen feeling trying to grab a photo?

I just don’t understand it. Watch the game.

The Miami Heat are the reason I bring this up.

They beat the New York Knicks last night 99-89 and they put on a show so exciting it was enough to shake me from my severe dislike of The Decision. No mean feat.

The first quarter was an absolute dunkfest and the entire game was one long highlight reel.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had five dunks each, running the floor and punishing the Knicks for every sloppy turnover.

Two especially stood out.

1.LeBron James dribbles his way down court off a Knick miss, backing into the paint with Bill Walker trying to guard him. LeBron feints slightly to his left shoulder as if looking for the turnaround jumper before powering to his right as the Knicks clear out. One dribble, two steps and LeBron elevates off his left foot before powering the ball through the hoop with his right hand, the wrong hand.

2. Wade receives the outlet pass off another New York miss just before half court on the near side. Two Knicks race back and Landry Fields meets Wade at the three point line. Wade takes one dribble before executing a perfect euro step, evading Fields, and elevates, jams. No other guard in the league is physically able do this. When you thought he would reach his ceiling and have to lay it up Wade carried on rising. Unbelievable.

Why the hell would you want to miss this?

(For the record I love photography, especially Ansell Adams and Weegee. Check them out.)


Kobe Bryant or LeBron James: Is there more to performing in the ‘clutch’ than simply shooting?

January 15, 2012

Kobe shoots. But LeBron?

By Jack Maidment

The term ‘clutch’ is a funny thing. It’s just a word but its meaning when applied to sports can be profound.

Depending on the context in which it is used it can be the highest of compliments, ‘he’s a great clutch player’, or the strongest of condemnations, ‘he doesn’t get it done in the clutch’.

Effectively it’s a label and the label can be hard to shake once it’s attached, especially if it’s being used negatively.

Kobe Bryant is a clutch player. LeBron James is not. That’s the prevailing wisdom. But is it accurate?

This season LeBron has played in 11 games, 6 of which qualify for clutch analysis (games where the score margin is within 5 points in the last 5 minutes).

Unlike just about every other superstar in the NBA LeBron James’ field goal attempts don’t go up in the clutch, in fact they go down, albeit marginally so.

Compare that to Kobe Bryant who takes 23.9 shots per 36 minutes in regular play but with a shooting pace of more than 30 in the clutch. That’s a big leap.

So Kobe takes a lot more shots than LeBron down the stretch but he is the only player who can create his own shot on the Lakers while LeBron has Dwyane Wade to share the ball with.

But regardless of who gets the ball for the Heat, when it is LeBron he is shooting just 33% from the field in the final 5 minutes, down from an otherworldly 58% for the rest of the game. That’s an unreal drop.

That’s not the only problem with LeBron this year who is also struggling at the free throw line in the last 5 minutes.

He gets there a lot more at the end of the game, as you would imagine, but once on the stripe he is hitting just 58%, down from the 73% that he normally shoots.

Kobe, in contrast, has played in 10 games this year that qualify for clutch analysis and while his field goal % goes down about 10% to 35% down the stretch, his free throw shooting actually increases, from 84% from the line to 88% – In short he makes you pay when it matters most.

It’s also worth considering that Kobe’s usage rate goes up 10% in the clutch to 56.2% (‘takeover mode’) while LeBron’s goes up just 3% to 38.3%.

Much of that can be attributed to the make-up of their respective teams: the Heat don’t necessarily need to go through James to get a bucket, the Lakers are much more reliant on Kobe.

But it doesn’t stop there. Or at least it shouldn’t.

Historically, performing in the clutch has been associated with scoring the ball, but there should be more consideration to other intangibles, as LeBron’s assist rating shows.

His assist % in the clutch (an estimate of the % of teammate field goals assisted while he is on the floor) sky rockets in the last five minutes from 35.5% to a staggering 66.7%.

While Kobe, and the rest of his fellow stars, usually shoot the ball in the clutch, LeBron is often compelled to pass.

Different wiring I guess.


Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh Miami Heat bound

July 8, 2010

Miami: two for three, one day to go

by Jack Maidment

Dwyane Wade has agreed to re-sign with the Miami Heat – and he is bringing the most coveted big man in this year’s free agent class with him.

Chris Bosh will make his long anticipated departure from the Toronto Raptors to head for the sunshine and tax breaks of South Beach.

Details of each player’s respective contracts have yet to be discussed, with one eye on LeBron James and his announcement on ESPN this evening at 9pm, ET.

Should James decide to join Wade and Bosh in Miami the three of them would be setting an unrivalled precedent in the NBA: taking a significant pay cut to play together in the name of a championship, or championships.

It seems at this stage that James is more likely to re-sign with his home town Cleveland Cavaliers because of his stated desire to be a global icon and billionaire.

Leaving Ohio without delivering a championship would be a serious smudge on his legacy and winning with two other All-NBA talents in Miami would not bring the same benefits and respect that winning with himself as the main man would.

The other problem with Wade, Bosh and James playing on the same team, aside from whose team it will be in crunch time, will be signing other players to fill out the rest of the roster, with the Heat only being offer to offer the veteran minimum of $1 million after taking care of the Big Three.

Can three players win a championship with little help?

A tandem of Wade and Bosh with money to fill out the roster might almost be the better option with plenty complimentary talent and no question over who gets the last shot of the game.


Dwyane Wade over Anderson Varejao: Dunk of the Season?

November 13, 2009

wade

by Jack Maidment

Dunk of the Season?

So you’ve just got your 6 year, $40 million dollar contract. You’re feeling pretty good because the Cleveland Cavaliers have elected to pay you more money than just about anybody had anticipated. To be honest, you can’t quite believe that you’ve got this lucky.

Not only do you have no financial worries, but you’re also in the enviable position of playing on one of the NBA’s elite teams alongside basketball’s best player, LeBron James.

You remind yourself everyday that life as Anderson Varejao is pretty damn good.

It appears that the bubble of tranquility that you live in is impenetrable. Sure, you may lose a few games and not start the season as hot as last year, but you are safe in the knowledge that everything will be alright in the end.

Unfortunately, on the night that you and Cavs role into Miami, Dwyane Wade has had a bad day.

His General Manager still wont commit to new players to actually help him.

He is still only the 3rd best player in the NBA despite an individual effort last year that was unrivalled.

The more he thinks about it, Dwyane Wade starts to get angry. Real angry. Like Hulk Smash angry.

He doesn’t talk to his teammates before the game, he just sits, growling, whilst ripping phone books in half with his bare hands.

He hits the court and sees Varejao and his ‘life is good’ grin. ‘Oh hell no’. That’s the match to the lighting paper. Wade steals the ball, drives down the floor and elevates over the Brazilian, finishing with so much ferocity that you can actually see Varejao’s world start to crumble before totally disintegrating by the time his frame hits the floor.

Suddenly the world is not so rosy.

Being the victim of the dunk of the season can do that to a man.