Jerry Brown and Craig Morgan of the East Valley Tribune: "In a recent interview with Michael Wilbon on ESPN's 'Sunday Conversation,' Steve Nash was asked if he needed 'a championship ring for some sort of athletic validation?' 'No, I mean, I don't,' he said. 'I don't really care if it does or doesn't, you know. I'm going for it. If I don't get it, I've had a great career, worked my butt off, I've had a great place to challenge myself and be part of a team, and the rest of it is irrelevant.' Nash's response has drawn criticism because some assumed he was saying he didn't care about winning a title. On Thursday, he clarified. 'If I ever play like it doesn't mean anything to me then they can all say something,' he said. 'I think I play my butt off, I train my butt off. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone in the league who works harder than I do so if anyone thinks that it's not important enough to me I think they're mistaken.'"
The NBA tells me attendance in the second half of this season was the highest ever. (For the whole season, it was third-highest ever, after the two previous. If you look at the numbers, you can see that abnormal years from Indiana and New Orleans -- especially early in the season -- kept this season from setting a new record.) TV Ratings are up double digits or close on all three networks: TNT, ABC, and ESPN. I talked about this on American Public Media's Marketplace.
Portland is the best team in the league after timeouts, according to research from 82games.com, compiled for Jon Weinbach of the Wall Street Journal, who writes: "In the past few years, as NBA analysts paid more attention to timeouts, they noticed some teams consistently played better after a break. And this season, nobody could hold a candle to Portland. In the first two possessions after a timeout, Mr. McMillan's Blazers morphed into a different team. On defense, they held opponents to 38% shooting compared with nearly 45% overall. On offense, they were more accurate shooters (46% to 44%) and made a basket or a free throw about 10% more often on those possessions than during the rest of the game. Portland also turned the ball over less often. On the first possession after a timeout, the team committed turnovers just 12% of the time -- also a nice improvement. This skill seems to have helped Portland prevail in tough situations. The Blazers won only half their games this season, but were 11-3 in games decided by four points or less and 5-2 in overtime games. In "clutch" situations (when neither team was ahead by more than five points in the final period) the Blazers also excelled -- hitting 48% of their field goals while holding opponents to 31%."
If you're the Nuggets, squinting into the sun of your opponents #1 seed, and trying to channel the Warriors of last year, you might well be thinking about trying some unconventional things to throw the Lakers off-guard. The idea is that if you play it straight, you lose, right? The Nuggets are 0-3 against Los Angeles this season. (Good recaps of each game.) So, the most likely way to get unconventional is to deploy a zone defense, to catch the Lakers off-balance. TrueHoop reader Michael has watched all the games, between these two teams, and he has taken notes. He says: "The Lakers team changed a lot between matchups, but what jumps out is that the Denver zone works well early in the game for only a few possessions. In the 3rd and 4th quarters, the Lakers killed the zone with kickout 3's, midrange jumpers, and cuts: exactly the way you try to bust a zone in your rec league. Overall: when Denver defended with the zone, only 7 times did the possession end with them having the ball. That's 7/40. 17.5%. In terms of made baskets or trips to the free throw line, the Lakers managed 19/40. 47.5% A lot of those are 3's."
Point guards: want to see a vein pop out of your coach's forehead? Try this.
Yao Ming, saying goodbye to crutches.
Look at this big chart of team rankings from different experts and systems. Interesting how John Hollinger's numbers punish the Pistons, who are ranked behind their likely second-round matchup, the Orlando Magic.
Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star: "Coach Jim O'Brien said point guard Jamaal Tinsley probably doesn't figure into the team's future on his radio show with Mark Boyle on Thursday night. Everybody thought Tinsley and O'Brien would be the perfect match for each other. O'Brien said he wanted Tinsley to behis point guard as soon as he was hired. Talk about a relationship that soured quick."
Caron Butler is banged up, but assures everyone he will play against the Cavaliers.
Skeets and Tas from the Basketball Jones podcast get a nice feature in a Canadian newspaper.
Kevin Martin, one of the most efficient scorers in the league, and the player who makes the most free throws per game, is openly surprised that his coach doesn't think he is a go-to scorer in crunch time. Sam Amick of the Sacramento Bee says Martin made efficiency history: "This season, Martin became the first player in NBA history to make at least eight free throws per game while shooting at least 40 percent from three-point range." That means he's a slasher and a shooter, which practically never happens. Amick's research was inspired by this post from Tom Ziller.
There are a million playoff previews out there. I like this one, because it ends with Phoenix vs. Boston in the Final. That would be amazingly fun to watch. But then again, they're all fun to watch.
People who don't think Seattle wants basketball should watch this fan video from the last home game. Also, check out how this Oklahoma TV station has the Sonics listed as a local team on their website. Here the TV station explains the listing saying it's a team "of local interest."
Have too much to drink at the game? Basketbawful has just the movie for you to watch when you wake up at 4am with (brace yourself for a new word) beersomnia.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on aging gracefully as an athlete: "The one thing younger players never expect is for the older player to have greater stamina. To be able to run around the court, and keep running, while others start to slow down and drop their defenses. Although the over-forty player may have lost some quickness and power that he will never get back, he still has the ability to increase stamina. Through an exercise program that stresses cardiovascular workouts (see my blog on cardio exercises), the over-forty athlete will soon be able to outlast those younger athletes who rely on their youth rather than workouts to maintain fitness. Yes, they may be able to outrun and out shoot you for the first couple games, but after that, you will see a definite slowing down. When that happens, you'll start outrunning and out shooting them. Believe me, there are few greater rewards for the over-forty athlete than to be standing on the basketball court saying, 'Come on, let's play,' while younger players sit on the sidelines catching their breath."
PG-13 pretty hilarious imagined chat session between the four MVP candidates.
Steve Kerr lists some keys for the Suns against the Spurs. They include containing the drives of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, making Tim Duncan work hard for low percentage shots on offense, keeping Amare Stoudemire out of foul trouble, and: "Bench play. In last year's playoff series with the Spurs, Boris and Leandro were not very productive. The Spurs did a good job of controlling both of them. I think it's important for them -- and for Gordan Giricek -- to play aggressively and give our team a boost. Boris' aggressiveness in recent weeks has been fantastic. He can play a huge role for us in this series. Stay poised. The Spurs are tough. Bruce Bowen will harass Steve Nash the entire series and try to frustrate everyone. We have to fight and compete, but without losing control of our emotions. It's imperative to play through any adversity, remain confident and maintain a poised aggression throughout."
Seattle GM Sam Presti won't promise that coach P.J. Carlesimo will be back next year.
C.J. Giles -- kicked off two college teams -- is gearing up for the NBA draft. He's the ultimate example of someone who could be an NBA star in five years, or out of basketball entirely. Hope he's getting good advice. He is represented by none other than Jerome Kersey. (Kind of the opposite example: someone who will almost certainly be successful in five years.)
Michael Tillery talks to Jermaine O'Neal for SLAM: "I spoke to Ron Artest and I could genuinely tell that he misses playing with you, Jeff Foster, Stephen Jackson, and Jamaal Tinsley. He told me he messed up there by walking away from the team because he wanted to finish his career playing with you. What's your response to that? First and foremost, Ron's a tough cover. He can post it up, shoot the three and put the ball on the floor. He's like a 4 playing the wing position. The decision he made was a decision he made. He's just like anyone else in life in that we all make mistakes. I've never held it against him. We had great teams (stares off). Honest to God I wish we won a championship together. I respect him as a man because no matter what I saw him away from the basketball court. You see it Mike, but most haven't and don't. I saw him with his kids. I know what type of father he is. I respect it because I have kids. I thought we had a core that could have won for many many years, but things happen. I wish him the best of luck. I know he's having a tough time out in Sac right now. Just reading some of his comments as of late I think he's&sometimes we have to have things happen in our lives to understand what we need to do to approach life. The key thing is learning from our mistakes, make adjustments and keep it moving forward."
Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "As of Thursday afternoon, there were still close to 3,000 tickets available for Sunday's first playoff game with Toronto and about 4,500 for Tuesday's Game 2. I spent 45 minutes at the arena box office during the lunch 'rush' Thursday and I've got to be honest: It was deader than Ben Affleck's career. In all, I saw four groups of people purchasing tickets -- two women buying theater seats for Mamma Mia! at Bob Carr Auditorium, one gentleman buying tickets to next week's Predators game and, yes, two people were buying Magic tickets."
Kevin McHale expects the Timberwolves to win half their games next year. I acknowledge his young talent, but look at the competition, and would bet the under.
Is LeBron James the NBA player most identified with his home city? Is he more Cleveland than Kobe Bryant is L.A.?