Friday, December 19, 2008
Anybody that has ever played basketball at any level knows that you will have your share of great days and your share of forgettable ones. Sometimes you head out on the court and the bucket is the size of an ocean; you can't miss. Other days, that rim might as well be covered with an immovable lid because you can't buy a bucket. But what separates me and the other gym rats out there from the men playing in the NBA is that their bad days are much more infrequent. Sure, those guys go cold every now and then. Five games in seven nights...limited rest...even an elite NBA scorer might hit a rough patch. But you can pretty much guarantee that this player will bounce back in a big way soon after. Something like 12 of 17 from the floor, with a few treys, for 34 points. Even a solid ballgame, maybe 7 of 13 from the field, is the norm on a lot of nights for those in the Association. When I look at an NBA box score to see who shot the ball well and who didn't, usually the invisible benchmark is the tried and true 50%. Did you make more than you missed? It's what the game comes down to. Which is what makes the following streak all the more astonishing...and downright embarrassing, especially for a so-called "Superstar" player. Spanning the end of last season and ALL 24 games this season, Baron Davis has yet to shoot over 50% in 43 straight games!! He of the 5 year, $65 million dollar off-season contract with the Los Angeles Clippers. He of the deceiving 18.4 points per game. He of the 7-18 Clippers. The Detroit Lions might be getting all the headlines as the current "loser" of the sports world. But Baron Davis is just as deserving...or undeserving, however you want to look at it.
Just to make sure this "streak" was in a class of its own, I did a little digging. I dug, I dug, and I dug some more. Nobody could match this run of ineptitude on a nightly basis. Of all the players qualifying for the league leaders in scoring this year, meaning on pace to play in 70 games or score 1,400 points, Mr. Baron Davis was the only man yet to sniff the plus-50 mark for a night. To find a guy that is in the same company as Davis this season, you have to go alllll the way down the NBA scoring list (of every player, not just those who qualify) to #273, Desmon Farmer of the Spurs. Only thing is, Farmer has played in just 3 games. Come back to me when you've struggled in 40 more.
How can a player so celebrated and so highly thought of in NBA circles go 43 consecutive games shooting under 50%?? Every self-respecting NBA ballplayer is going to find his stroke in one game and knock down some shots. They are all so talented that it is nearly impossible for any extended cold streak to occur for very long. And we're not asking for a 17-19 performance, or anything out of the stratosphere. Just give me a 6 for 11, a 9 of 17...put the ball in the bucket for one night more than you clang it off the iron. Even Ryan Bowen, the guy my Dad has long considered to be the worst player in the NBA, managed a 2-3 shooting night this season! And there are no excuses for Davis, either. I do not want to hear that he's on a terrible team, forced to take contested shots, has nobody around him. Look at guys like O.J. Mayo in Memphis, Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City. Same situation, but you do not see them getting targeted in this piece. I know Baron Davis is an extremely talented guy. He can get to the bucket most anytime he wants. Has the capability of posting up smaller point guards. Outside shot leaves a lot to be desired, but he can get hot from deep on occasion...or so I thought. It's been 43 games, and it hasn't happened yet.
The signs for Baron's struggles were there a long time ago. I remember a few years back, when Davis was with the Hornets, him letting the media and the rest of the NBA world know that he did not enjoy being called "B-Diddy" as some had begun calling him. He would prefer the more mature "B-Dizzle." Real superstars allow nicknames to find them...not the other way around.
For all I know, this little streak that I've discovered will never get the media's attention. They look at a guy like Baron Davis, and say, "Hey, the guy is averaging 18 and 8 for a terrible team...what more do you want from the guy?" I want ONE NIGHT where he can go home after the game, call up his mom on the phone, and when she asks how he shot the ball that night, reply honestly, "I shot the ball well." A glance at his numbers shows a disturbing trend. Davis is shooting his usual 30% from the 3-point line this year, par for the course for this below average shooter from distance. But why is a guy shooting so badly from deep also jacking up the 3rd most 3's in the NBA? Is it possible that the burly point guard from L.A. is also aware of this streak, and is doing everything in his power to keep it alive? His shot selection has become much more "Air Bud" than "Air Jordan," and that dog never passed the rock.
With each 6 for 23 and 11 for 29, with countless 3-balls going wayward at the basket, it becomes more and more of a possibility that Baron Davis could go the whole year without breaking through that 50% barrier. In all likelihood, however, the dream will end sometime soon, because after all, the man is extremely due. But it's fun while it lasts, and if anything, it gives you another reason to check a Clippers box score besides "I wanted to see how many times Paul Davis got dunked on." In the meantime, I hope Baron's mom isn't waiting by the phone...it might not be ringin' for a long time.
A Night of Basketball
Went to see my cousin Mayer hoop it up for his high school basketball team. Had a "funny" exchange while sitting courtside. The ref came up, and trying to be part official, part comedian, commented that we were like celebrities at an NBA game. So he points to my uncle, "Oh, hello Jack," as in Jack Nicholson. Then moving on to the next guy, but clearly stumped to think of another high-profile NBA fan, says again, "Nice to see ya, Jack!" You can't pay for that kind of quality entertainment, and thankfully, I didn't! Mayer's guys were outsized in a big way, and the final score reflected it. But damn, that game was so physical that it could have taken place at San Quentin and nobody would have batted an eye. I'm talkin NO EASY BASKETS, NO EASY BASKETS!! Very proud of my younger cousin, though. Handled himself extremely well on the court, grabbing an offensive board, drawing some fouls, and delivering a clean, while vicious, body block to an opposing player while the guy was in mid-air that resulted in a turnover and a perfectly ruled no-call on Mayer! Gotta love it.
Watched a good part of the 2nd half of the Suns-Blazers tilt on TNT. Blazers won it late in what was probably the best NBA game I've watched this season. Brandon Roy put on a ridiculous show, pouring in 52 points and receiving numerous "MVP" chants at the line from the Portland faithful in the 2nd Half. (Hmm, little early for that) He was absolutely unstoppable in the 2nd half, culminating in a memorable exchange that led to his go-ahead three in the final minute. Roy was bringing the ball up in a semi fast-break and got it ahead to Steve Blake on the left wing. Blake, without so much as a thought of attacking the basket, dropped it right back to him. Roy, almost insisting that Blake take advantage of the space being given to him, moved it ahead to his point guard a second time. Blake's decision was the exact same. Snaps it right back to Roy, while thinking in his head, "Stop giving me the ball!! You have 47 points and if you haven't forgotten, I am Steve Blake!! SHOOT THE BALL!" Roy did just that, dropping in the long 3 to give him a 50-spot, and sending the Rose Garden crowd into a frenzy. A brilliant performance from one of the league's best players.
Couple other quick thoughts on this excellent game.
-Interesting little coaching staff out there in Phoenix. Like a flashback to all complementary players in the NBA Finals of the early 90's. Terry Porter coaching the squad, Bill Cartwright and Dan Majerle serving as assistants. I bet somewhere, Terry Teagle feels very left out right now.
-Jason Richardson has become a glorified Hubert Davis. He seems content to camp out on the 3-point line with the rest of the Suns, forgoing his old formula of attacking the rim and throwing it down. Not that he can't help the Suns by canning some bombs and providing a few highlights here and there, but he's not the same guy I remember on Golden State and in East Lansing. Maybe it's the injuries he's dealt with, maybe he's finding his way with a new team, but he did not look to have the same bounce as the old J-Rich. Travis Outlaw practically skied over him for an offensive rebound towards the end of the game, preventing the Suns a chance to tie on the other end. Doesn't happen to the Jason Richardson of 3-4 years ago.
-I know the Blazers fans were lauding Brandon Roy with the "MVP" chants throughout the 2nd half...but where were those same chants for my man Joel Pryzbilla? If you haven't noticed, the big fella is quietly shooting an eye-popping, anti Baron Davis, 79% from the field. And do not think he's skating by on like 12 shots this year to attain that percentage. Pryzbilla has attempted 89 field-goals this year...and canned 70 of them! Sure, most of them are because other guys did all the work by penetrating and setting him up under the rim for an easy dunk, but that's insignificant! The man is shooting 79% from the floor, and if there was an MVP ballot in my mailbox tomorrow morning, he would have my vote.
And on that disturbing note...
Let me know how you feel about Joel Pryzbilla at firstname.lastname@example.org