Vag gets smack talk
I tend to think she's saying "I'm more of a woman than you!"
but feel free to add your own caption in the comments.

The Orlando Magic: First, the Magic went down 0-3 in their best of seven series with the Celtics and everybody was talking sweep. Then Orlando won the next two games and suddenly Boston was old again and in real danger of becoming the first team to ever lose a playoff series after building a 3-0 lead.

Uh huh.

Look, here's the deal. In Game 4, the Celts were a little too full of themselves and the Magic were able to play free and loose because they had absolutely nothing to lose. In Game 5, the officials basically put away the whistles and instituted martial law...which is something that typically benefits the home team facing elimination. Over my 25+ years watching NBA playoff basketball, I've seen this scenario play out many times.

That's not to say I wasn't nervous, but I could kind of see what was coming in Game 6. After all, the Celts were easily the better team in Games 1-3 and came within a terrible possession of winning Game 4 despite playing like shit. In all honestly, I figured they'd come home for Game 6 and take care of business.

And they did.

This game did have a little of the unexpected, tho'. Near the end of the first quarter, the Magic were already down 28-19 when Rajon Rondo -- the dude who was killing them early -- was on the receiving end of a little boom boom pow from (you guessed it!) Dwight Howard.

With Rondo out, it should have been advantage Orlando, right? Wrong. That's when U-Dub alum Nate Robsinson -- the teeniest man on the floor -- took the fuck over.

During and after the game, a lot was made out of the fact that Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers kept insisting that Nate Robinson was going to win a playoff game this year. I can only assume they originally meant "for the other team." But Nate -- with help from the Magic -- made Danny and Doc look like junior Nostradamuses. And that spark pushed momentum irrevocably in Boston's favor.

Orlando would end up shooting 43 percent for the game, missing 16 of their 22 treys, shanking 11 freebies and falling behind by 24 before exiting the playoffs with a whimper. But what can you say? The Boston Stranglers put on a defensive exhibition during the last two rounds of the playoffs.

Said Stan Van Gundy: "They beat two very good teams, and made us look like we weren't very good teams. When you go through two series like that, I think you have to be fair and say a lot has to do with them."

Rashard Lewis: The 118 Million Dollar Man sucked all series long. He played so poorly through the first three games that someone finally leaked that he was suffering a viral infection, that he had been "feeling weak" and "tired" during games and hadn't been able to hold food down.

It's possible, I guess. Far be it from me to question how a professional athlete feels. I can only comment on what I saw, and what I saw was this: The Celtics shut Lewis down by...putting a hand in his face.

That's it.

And really, that's all you have to do to stop Rashard Lewis. My buddy Statbuster referred to Lewis as "a 6'10" Steve Kerr," and he was right. Rashard spots up and shoots. That's pretty much his skill set. When the Celtics opted to stay at home on Dwight Howard, that meant they could minimize Lewis' open looks. After his 3-for-11 stink bomb in Game 6, Rashard's series shooting stats were 19-for-56 from the field (33 percent) and 4-for-23 from downtown (17 percent). And he certainly didn't offset his shooting by taking it strong to the hole: Lewis earned only 10 foul shots all series long, which includes his single trip to the line in Game 6.

His series average for PPG was 8.2.

Vince Carter: His Game 6 was classic Vince Carter. The stats -- 17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists -- were good enough that you can't accuse him of flat out quitting. But his shooting (6-for-15 from the field, 1-for-4 from beyond the arc) and his inability to swing a single game in Orlando's favor highlight the fact that Vag is only difference maker for the opposing team. Remember: Carter was supposed to push the Magic over the hump. Instead, he helped push them into an early playoff grave.

I mean, it says something that his two worst games of the series -- 3 points on 1-for-9 shooting in Game 4 and 8 points on 3-for-10 shooting in Game 5 -- were the only two games the Magic actually won.

Look, on paper, Carter is better than Hedo Turkoglu. Much better, even. But Turk worked for the Magic in ways Vinsanity could not and will not. For instance, during last season's run to the NBA Finals, Orlando's money play was Hedo's pick-and-roll with Howard. That was the play that Orlando went to when nothing else was working. Guess what? Carter can't run that was effectively replaced by Vag isolating and pulling up for a long, contested jumper.

And we see how that worked out.

Jameer Nelson: The line: 32 minutes, 5-for-14 from the field, 1-for-5 from three-point range, 11 points, 4 assists, 5 turnovers, 5 fouls, and a game-worst plus-minus score of -23. More than anybody else, even Dwight, Nelson was the motor for the Magic's boat, and he didn't have it in Game 6. Hell, he couldn't even take advantage of Nate Robinson. In fact, Kryto-Nate basically shut Nelson down while Rondo was massaging his back on the sideline.

Kevin Garnett: You know, in an alternate universe, KG could have been one of my favorite players of all time. I love so many facets of his game: His desire, his intensity, his defense, the way he used to attack the boards like a hungry dog during his days with the Timberpoops. Garnett is also a willing passer, a reluctant scorer who can drop 25 points a game on 52 percent shooting but has always seemed more interested in setting up his teammates.

How many 20+/10+/4+ seasons did he have? Nine straight, baby.

And yet...during his Minnesota days stories kept surfacing. Stories about how he used to pick fights with teammates, how he once sucker-punched Wally Szczerbiak after practice. Nothing was ever totally concrete, but it sure seemed strange how these little tidbits kept coming up. Kind of like how Dwight Howard's elbows keep "accidentally" taking people out. Things that happen once or twice are accidents. Things that happen repeatedly are trends.

Then KG came to Boston and his habits were put on a more public display. Turns out all the ugliness that was hidden by the fact that the T-Wolves aren't on national TV was suddenly being broadcast two or three times a week. KG talking smack, KG popping his jersey, KG going after guards and whistling elbows past faces.

The thing is, despite what his critics will tell you, this stuff doesn't happen all the time. There are long stretches of games where Garnett will be silent as the grave, when he lets his game do the talking. But then...SNAP. See, Ron Artest, he's like Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs. He's always crazy and it's obvious. KG is more like Hannibal Lecter. He's intelligent and articulate most of the time, which makes it that much more shocking when he starts eating faces.

Which is what happened in Game 6:

I mean...who does that? Not one but two close-fisted punches to an opponent's arm. NBA players dole out plenty of karate chops when guys are grabbing and holding onto them. But what Garnett did was more like something you see in a street fight.

Sadly, that crazy, cruel streak is probably what makes Garnett the competitor he is. It's also why I can't count him among my all-time faves.

sad Suns bench
The sad bench plus double facepalm equals painful playoff elimination.

The Phoenix Suns: You know how I said I've seen what happened to the Magic happen many times before? Same can be said of the Suns. They played pretty free and loose in Game 5. After all, they had nothing to lose, right? They were guaranteed another home game and even if they didn't win Game 5, they'd still get another shot to steal one in L.A. in Game 7. Of course, the presumes they would win Game 6.

Which didn't seem like a huge leap, right? After all, conventional wisdom says that if the Suns played the way they did in Game 5, only they were at home, then assuming a Phoenix victory was entirely reasonable.

Here's the rub: The Suns were now facing an elimination game. There came a point in the second quarter when Phoenix players seemed to get a case of the yips. Several of their misses were of the in-and-out or roll-off-the-rim variety. Suddenly, guys were hesitating ever so slightly or trying to guide the ball into the rim instead of using their standard follow through. It was as if once the Lakers showed they could break the zone, the Suns felt like they had to score on every possession.

Next thing you know, L.A. was up by 10. Then 15. Then 20.

Let me make one thing clear. This situation isn't the same as a team's will being broken. That's what some Lakers fans thought was going on entering the game. The Suns believed they could win. But when the Lakers withstood their initial offensive onslaught and infact maintained a small lead, nerves kicked in and things snowballed. The game might have ended in a blowout if not for...

Sasha Vujacic: When you're on the road and have the home team on the ropes, the one thing you cannot do is give that team and their home crowd a rallying point. But...that's exactly what Sasha did.

Did Dragic sell that foul to the point of ridiculousness? Hell yeah, he did...just as he should have. If your opponent is going to be that stupid in that big of a situation, it's your right and civil duty to use his stupidity against him.

Unfortunately, that wasn't quite enough...

The Suns' end-of-game defense: Let me start off by saying this: Kobe Bryant hit three of the most amazing, crazy-ass crap shots I've ever seen in an NBA playoff game: A 21-footer with 4:33 left to put L.A. up 97-90; a 21-footer with 1:59 remaining to bump the Laker lead to 101-96; and a 23-footer with 35 seconds to go to make it 107-100 bad guys. Make no mistake: Incredible though they were, those are the shots the Suns wanted Mamba to take: long two-point jumpers that were hotly contested.

But let's face it: Nobody has made -- or, for that matter, even attempted -- more crap shots in league history than Kobe Bryant. In fact, one could make the argument that taking crap shots is his favorite thing in the world next to winning and anal rampage (although not necessarily in that order). You could even say that a lifetime of taking crap shots led to this moment, the single greatest crap shot sequence in living memory. Predictably, those three shots had Alvin Gentry and Steve Nash gushing over Kobe after the game, using all sorts of "best player" hyperbole.

Here's my take. They were tough shots and it was astounding that he hit them. However, as noted, Kobe takes those shots, and he's made an awful lot of them. And he had been zeroing in all series. How many clean looks had Kobe gotten against the Suns' zone? Lots. In the NBA, made shots beget more made shots. Some people don't believe in the "hot hand," but I'm here to tell you it exists. When a player, especially a great one like Bryant, keeps getting clean looks, he gets a "feel" for where the bucket is. Kobe got into a zone against the zone.

As ESPN's John Hollinger noted: "Bryant just kept facing up and shooting contested long J's off the dribble. Normally, forcing such a shot is a huge victory for the defense, but Bryant made a mind-blowing 58.0 percent of his long 2-pointers against Phoenix (hat tip to TrueHoop Network's painted area for that one); usually players shoot in the high 30s from this range. Additionally, the threat of his J was strong enough that he drew several fouls on shot fakes."

Speaking of The Painted Area, here's an extended look at what Mr. Haubs had to say:

In Game 6, Bryant hit on 6-11 "long 2-pointers" (shots from 16-23 feet, inside the 3pt line) along with 3-8 three-pointers, continuing a series-long trend of excellent outside shooting by Kobe.

The Suns actually executed their game plan of forcing Kobe to shoot contested long 2's, but Bryant vastly outshot his normal numbers on long 2's in the series.

In the regular season, Kobe shot .415 on long 2's, and in the first two playoff series, he was down to just .353 from 16-23 feet. However, against Phoenix, Bryant was a remarkable .580 on long 2's, connecting on 29-50.

On top of that, Bryant also made 19-44 (.432) threes for the series, dwarfing his regular-season numbers not only in percentage (.329), but also in makes (3.2 per game, vs. 1.2 in the season).

Whether Kobe can keep his hot shooting going could be a key to The Finals. A linchpin of Boston's defensive strategy is to force Bryant into long 2's, and Kobe hit on just 14-39 (.358) of long 2's in the 2008 Finals.
But again, the Suns' D against those three big shots was solid, and that's the shot you want Kobe taking. No, here's where defense failed Phoenix. First, at the 3:27 mark, Derek Fisher got loose for a tough jumper (99-92). On L.A.'s next possession, Pau Gasol missed a short jumper, but Lamar Odom grabbed the offensive board. Odom missed the layup, got the ball back and missed again before Grant Hill snared the board. An "empty" possession for the Lakers? Not really, because it highlighted the fact that they could own the boards down the stretch...

...sure enough, with 1:14 left and the Suns trailing 103-98, Gasol swooped in for an offensive board and put back off another missed layup by Odom.

Kobe's shots were daggers. But that Fisher shot and the put back by Gasol were the backbreakers. Which brings me to this point: The Lakers outrebounded the Suns 41-31, including 14-8 on the offensive glass. They also dominated in second-chance points. Clutch shots get all the attention, but dirty work wins games. The Lakers won the battle in the trenches and slowed the game down, holding the Suns to a measley two fast break points. Mamba's jumpers make great fodder for Sports Center, but rebounding and transition defense won the day for the Lakers.

Which brings me to...

Amar''''''e Stoudemire: STATUE was the Suns' offensive "leader" during the Western Confernece Finals. He scored 25.0 PPG on 52 percent shooting while earning almost 12 free throw attempts per game. Phoenix would not have been in this series without his ability to put the ball in the basket.

That said, his efforts were as one-dimensional as the characters in a Michael Bay movie.

Amar''''''e is the biggest, strongest, most athletic member of the Suns, but he averaged only 6.0 RPG versus L.A. In the Suns' four losses, he grabbed 3, 6, 4 and 4 rebounds. In Game 6, at home, facing postseason elimination and possibly the end of his career in Phoenix, Stoudemire finished with 2 defensive rebounds. Mind you, this was the biggest game in the biggest series of his life.

What's more, Stoudemire dished out only 3 assists (versus 16 turnovers) in the series, including zero assists over the final four games. The only thing he had eyes for was the rim. To a certain extent, that's understandable. After all, scoring is his primary duty. But Stoudemire faced or dribbled into an awful lot of double and triple coverage over those six games. When that happened, he was thinking "MUST SHOOT" and not "Hey, maybe one of my teammates is open now."

And so my love-hate with STATUE ended in just hate.

The tears of Steve Nash: And there you have it:

Watching this -- what probably should have been a private moment -- hurt me more than anything else, even more than seeing a team I hate beat a team I love. Nash finished with 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting to go along with 5 defensive rebounds -- 3 more than Stoudemire! -- and 9 assists (with only 2 turnovers). Once again, he gave his all. Once again, it wasn't enough. He is still the person who has appeared in the most playoff games in NBA history without making the NBA Finals.

Ignorant, petty people will continue to use this as a slight against him, even now, after a season in which he led the Suns much, much farther than anybody thought he could...perhaps farther than they ever should have gotten. I mean, really, who thought the Suns could replace Shaq with Channing Frye and lean so heavily on guys like Jared Dudley, Goran Dragic and Louis Amundson and still come within a crazy offensive rebound by Ron Artest from maybe taking this series.

Don't laugh. It could have happened.

But it didn't. Early in the season, there was a great post on ESPN's Daily Dime that dissected Nash's decision to re-sign with the Suns rather than chase a championship elsewhere. His response to questions was that, for him, the journey is more important than the destination. That the chance to lead and teach young players is more important than chasing around a championship.

Someone related this to Kobe and his response was "Fuck that. Better him than me." No, really. That's what he said. Because chasing a championship is the only thing that matters to Kobe.

This might lead you to think that a title means nothing to Nash. Well, those tears say differently. It matters. Nash has sacrificed an awful lot. I always bring up the fact that he plays -- and in fact has played well enough to take his place among history's great point guards -- despite a chronic, incurable back ailment. He's had teeth knocked out, his face mangled on multiple occasions, and yet he never complains, goes out, gives his all, plays great against whatever odds...with relatively little fanfare. (I say "relatively" because, if Kobe or LeBron broke and reset their nose mid-game, minstrels would be singing about it for the next hundred years.)

There are people who are going to dis and mock him because he's never won a championship, never made the Finals. Those people are ignorant. How far do you suppose Kobe would have made with this year's Suns team? Do you think he would have inspired guys like Frye, Dudley and Amundson, or do you think he would have threatened and intimidated him, maybe even demanded a trade? Would LeBron have led this squad to a title?

Heck, even Nash's talented teams had flaws. Bad coaching (D'Antoni not trusting his bench comes to mind). Teammates who looked a helluva lot better alongside Nash than they do on their own (look at what guys like Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson, Quentin Richardson have "accomplished" on their own, and that's what Amar''''''e is in store for if and when he leaves Phoenix). Remember back when the Lakers pushed the Suns to seven games in 2006 and everybody was freaking out about how Kobe led a squad of scrubs against this amazingly talented Suns team that featured a starting lineup of Nash, Marion, Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and James Jones? When STATUE wasn't even playing and Tim Thomas was one of their most important bench players?

How that those players have migrated elsewhere and we've gotten additional evidence, tell me again how "talented" that team was. Go on. Tell me. Nash turns shit into salsa...but will probably forever be the whipping boy of people who can't see beyond titles even though those are team and organizational accomplishments.

But whatever. Am I disappointed the Suns lost? Yep. Am I bitter? Nope. A year ago, I might have been. But, like Nash says, the journey is more important than the destination. Heck, the dude is even teaching me.

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Anonymous The Other Chris said...
Guys, I think I'm in love. An attractive woman, who likes basketball and has a passionate, burning hatred for Vince Carter?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blogger 49er16 said...
Is that Maria Menounos from Access Hollywood?

Blogger Paul said...
But, like Nash says, the journey is more important than the destination. Heck, the dude is even teaching me.

Oh come on Bawful! got to give Aerozmith some credit for that one.

Blogger Mr. Shrimp said...
Good wrap-up, great words about Nash. He is an amazing player. And it will be funny to see what happens to Amar'''e after he no longer is running pick and rolls with Nash.

Blogger XForce23 said...
The only people who don't believe in the hot hand are people who have not played basketball and experienced it for themselves.

Anyone that's played and gotten there, they know the feeling. The feeling of whenever you go up to put up a shot, everything just feels perfect and you pretty much know that it's going in. And when you're a player like Kobe Bryant, there is very little that can be done.

Did you notice how many times during the series he pulled up for a 3-ball like 4-6 behind the line and drain it like nothing? It was pretty amazing and disgusting at the same time.

Anonymous Mr. Anonymous said...
I still fail to realize why Garnett's action weren't techs or even flagrant-1s... Oh well.

For all the Steve Nash love on this particular blog, Nash, in Game 5, pretty much did the same thing that Kobe did in Game 6--made a long contested jumpers down the stretch. When a great player makes those shots, you just have to shake your head and move on. The Suns were only in Game 5 because of Nash's big shots. I think the Lakers were comfortable living with Nash's shots; however, it almost killed them. And while I agree that the Suns were okay with Kobe hitting those 'crappy shots', don't minimize the psychological impact of those shots Kobe hit in Game 6. Gasol and Fisher's shots were big, but give Kobe his due. He dined on their souls...

I always thought Nash was a little overrated. But dude's got the heart of champion and as a Laker fan, he's got a new fan.

And lastly, while Nash's story is inspirational, those "talented" Suns teams were talented. The concentration of talent in 2005-2007 was in Phoenix, SA and Dallas. And maybe Utah and GS. There were one-man shows in LA, Portland, New Orleans, etc. Don't make Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw and Raja Bell seems like Kwame Brown and Smush Parker. The former has or had success on other teams (Bell in Philly, Johnson in ATL and Diaw in Charlotte). Brown and Parker are basically out of the league.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Steve Nash does pretty much everything asked of him. He's an amazing player, the true definition of "making your teammates better".

But he doesn't, hasn't, and never will play good defense. That's why he'll not get to the promised land. When it comes to getting stops, he's useless.

This is where Kobe outshines him. As did GP, Stockton, Kidd, etc...

Anonymous The Other Chris said...
@Kevin: Amen. It's more than just putting up a shot and knowing it's going in. The hotter you get, the more you have this feeling that there's nothing the defense can do to stop you, that you're just invincible. I remember one pickup game in particular, I was throwing up heavily contested, turnaround jumpers off crossover dribbles that just splashed nothing but net. Guys were shaking their head in disgust/disbelief.. You get into a place where you're playing with such confidence and with such a natural instinct, you *almost* can't miss.

Anyways, thanks for putting into words my disgust at the stat geeks going "there's no such thing as a hot hand!!". There most, assuredly, is.

Anonymous UpA said...
This was an incredible post! Truly awesome, it was worth the wait, you set the bar high for the WOTN for the Finals.

You failed to mention that Nash is also a natural comedian, shit, this is the kind of guy that most of us wish to be, I'm sure that he is a great neighbor and a great father, I dig so much this guy! And yes it is shit to look at him crying, but it even shows more of him as a human being.

Will he ever win a ring? Maybe, maybe even crawl for it Payton style, but what he've done is truly what us as fans appreciate the most, he will forever be my favorite guard of the 2000's and beyond.

There are so many jewels on this post that it's soo hard to comment about all of them! I just wanna add that Vujacic gave me the best reason to laugh today! How stupid can this guy be? Will he even come back to LA after this season?

Last, I suggest you to include the pic of Celt girl vs Vag in the banner, this guy deserves it for years of bawfulness! I heard the girl is KG Karate instructor

Blogger Dan B. said...
Paul -- And I just can't tell just what tomorrow brings. (Damn, I forgot how awesomely dated and ridiculous this video is)

Blogger Siddarth Sharma said...
Kobe's pat on a pimp patting a ho saying I own that ass...I love that Alvin's a classy guy who placed his trust in scrubs off the bench but COME ON! I don't care what the score was at that point, Gentry had a legit reason to go after Kobe. And since Kobe started it wouldn't that be a tech on him??

Anonymous UpA said...

What about further reading....

Anonymous Joytee said...
I love your section about Steve Nash. He's one of the players I really admire in the NBA, and what you said about him made me feel a little bit better. I am still sad about their defeat, and my heart broke when he cried. But thanks to this post, I feel a lot better.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Mr. Bawful - I hate to disagree with you but Nash does deserve all the scrutiny he gets for never being able to get any of his extremely talented teams a chance to play for the title, and it's not just because he's always been an absolute matador on defense. Instead I think it's because the guy has so rarely ever shown the killer instinct necessary down the stretch of playoff games to push his teams to that next level. 

I told you last week that IMO Nash probably could have been considered one of the all time clutch players in the game, except that it was so rare for him to try to play that way. The dude is probably one of the top five shooters in league history (maybe even THE best shooter), but what good is that when he rarely shoots down the stretch in close games?  

People went crazy over Kobe's shooting in Game 6, as they have in many other games he's had in his career, just as they did with Jordan, Bird, Magic, etc. Even though those shots were crazily contested, the thing that separates players like Kobe from someone like Nash is the willingness and desire to take his team on his back and will them to a tough fought victory by taking those key shots. When the game is on the line, you want your best player taking those shots. That is the time in the game for the superstar to be greedy and selfish, and it's the time to take over games.  

Too many times in his career Nash has come to that same point in games and instead been content to defer to his teammates; and while it typically is smart to pass to an open player to get a good shot up, when it comes to crunch time scoring, that should first and foremost be the responsibility of the team's best clutch scorer, and all along that should have been Steve Nash. 

If Nash had ever displayed that kind of ferocious, fearless killer instinct with any consistency, I guarantee he'd have taken at least one of his teams to the championship round. But he never has, and IMO that's his failure as a player. 

Anonymous avoozl said...
The KG play was crazy, but it wasn't just random. I don't know why people are acting like it was. It seems pretty obvious that KG was full of rage towards Howard.

Blogger Silva said...
I was never rooting so bad for a sports team to win as I was for this Suns team. I was closing my fist in every basket Nash and company scored. Nash is a fantastic player.

Gentry should have let those reserves play longer at the end of the game. Dudley was playing great defense on Kobe. Dragic had energy.

Amare without Nash will still score 20 something points. He is a good player. Rebounds are not all about size and will. Some people have a natural feel for where the ball is going to end, some don't. In my silly pickup games I always get more rebounds than guys much bigger than me. Even when I'm not playing hard.

Fuck Kobe and his crazy shots. I was not expecting to see Nash cry like that. He always seemed calm and in control. I guess he really wanted to win.

No rings for Nash and probably a ring for crazy pills. That's life right there.

Blogger Cortez said...
"I mean...who does that? Not one but two close-fisted punches to an opponent's arm."

When I was in school, I would see that all the time during games. In fact, the coaches teach that 'technique' as The Hammer.

The only abnormal thing about it was that he did it in plain view of the ref. It's usually taught as a move with the inside arm, out of the line of sight of any officials.

"That's what he said. Because chasing a championship is the only thing that matters to Kobe."


"His response to questions was that, for him, the journey is more important than the destination."

These statements sum up why I like these players equally despite the obvious and striking contrast in these two philosophies.

Just as I was typing, I realized that I like Nash even more than Bryant. The character it takes to roll with your team and try to improve or make them better though your play is much greater than the act of assembling a team of 'super friends' and mauling your competition through brute force like Kosmo Krammer in a 5th grade karate class.

"But he doesn't, hasn't, and never will play good defense."

Irrelevant (almost). Every so-called defensive guard on that list got his head handed to him on a plate when it mattered.

Nash's primary defensive problem (when it comes to playing in the league) is that the guys playing behind him have about the usefulness as a dam made from chicken wire.

Blogger -Josh said...
Hey, thanks for the B-WOTN. Made my morning! Seriously, I cleaned out my RSS feed reader recently and basketbawful is the only hoops blog that made the cut. Always great posts.

Blogger Cortez said...
"and it's not just because he's always been an absolute matador on defense."

That's not true. There's a difference between playing to your physical limitations (which Nash has plenty) and simply ignoring the defensive end by allowing your man to fly by you (Ben Gordon style) while transitioning to offense or gambling for low probability steal attempts (Iverson style)

"The dude is probably one of the top five shooters in league history"

This isn't meant as an insult but you must be really young.

To your point though, Nash IS a great shooter.

"When the game is on the line, you want your best player taking those shots."

When the game is on the line you want the guy who has the ability to get off a shot in the closing seconds while the entire defense is keyed in on stopping him. This player also needs the ability to finish strong in traffic in the rare event of a strong close out.

Nash's innate physical limitations dictate that he is beat as a facilitator at the end of games rather than the Big Time Closer.

Coaches are probably praying every night that he tries one of those cute-ass layups in a game seven with :03 seconds left.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Just as I was typing, I realized that I like Nash even more than Bryant. The character it takes to roll with your team and try to improve or make them better though your play is much greater than the act of assembling a team of 'super friends' and mauling your competition through brute force like Kosmo Krammer in a 5th grade karate class.

See, and that's why -- well, part of why -- Nash recently leapfrogged Larry Legend as my favorite player of all time.

Yeah, I know, I know. Evil Ted has been giving me a load of shit for this. But what it comes down to me is: Would I rather be Larry Bird or Steve Nash the basketball player? I'd want to be Bird.

But as far as would I want to be Larry Bird or Steve Nash the basketball player and human being? I'd want to be Nash any day of the week. Nash combines the desire and heart of a champion with the integrity of a true leader and the inner peace of a Buddhist. Plus, he's a genuinely funny guy, which also means something to me.

When the epitaphs of, say, Kobe and Nash are written, Kobe's will say he did whatever it took to win, regardless of the circumstances. Nash's will say he did whatever it took to take his teammates to a better place, regardless of the circumstances.

You can pick your poison, but I know which of those two things means more to me personally.

Anonymous Sorbo said...
I like how Garnett basically drops two elbows off the top rope and only gets a foul called, while Vujachick lifts his arms, giving Dragic a piece a bicep, and gets a Flagrant 1. But I'm not complaining against the subjective nature of refing or anything, Mr. Stern.

Look, I like Nash, but much like you don't want people to compare Nash to all-time greats because he has no championships, don't compare him to Kobe/Lebron in imaginary stats like "will lift his team to greater heights."

Even in your own argument, you talk about the 2006 Lakers-Suns series, where Kobe willed a starting five of Smush/Kwame/Odom/George. Smush AND Kwame starting! That's just horrible, yet Kobe led them to a seven-seed and took them to Game 7 before they collapsed, just like Nash took this year's team to Game 6...before the Suns collapsed. Both of their teams overachieved, but with different styles. Just because Kobe isn't a passing machine, doesn't mean he doesn't make his team better by shooting (a strange concept...better by shooting).

Here's Kobe's role: keep the game close, play defense, keep his teammates involved for three quarters, close the game out. So what if he's a dick, I'd play with an asshole if he helped win games, just like I'd play with Nash because he wants to win.

Blogger Murcy said...
I'd marry the Nash part of the post if I could

Anonymous UpA said...
Yams, I think people like me, by definition "Good Guys", bond to other Good guys, we are not the kind of Playa that scores with all the chicks, nor the kind of guy who likes shine instead of practicality, we, like Nash, like to go out, do our jobs and create team success and trust in others to do their part, we are the ones in which this society relies, because we are the ones that don't step over others rights to accomplish a goal, we, like Nash, think that a Sports team is a group of guys looking out to certain goal, whereas, guys like Kobe or LeBron, see a Team as a group of guys helping their respectful superstar to shine and get the world attention.

So, Yams, guys like Nash are our heroes, the good guy that according to us, should be getting all the honors and if it was on my call, he will be MVP every single year...

How many point guards are THE superstar in championship teams? Magic? nah, when Kareem was gone so were his chances for the ring; Isaiah? nope, MJ was at SG, Duncan at PF, Shaq in C, The Dream in C too, Wade on SG, Kobe on SG, just to name the last 10 or 12 champions superstars, so, genetically, at PG superstars do not have a tendency for ball hoagery like SG, nor the in-the-paint supremacy as PF's or C's, they are there to share the ball, not to shoot it, and so is what Nash does better than anyone on the last 5 years or so...

You try to compare apples and pears, SG's with PG's, theres no reason there.

Anonymous Heretic said...
Part 2

As far as Kobe's "crap" shots go, the guy makes them, if not him then who?. Gasol can't even make free throws when the game gets tight. The guy makes incredible shoots all season not only is he clutch but the psychological damage he does with those shots is immeasurable. Regular players thought process is 1 shot like that is lucky, 2 is skilled, 3 this bastard is unguardable. Those kind of shots strip confidence and can lead to bad defensive rotations. Its kind of odd that those "crap" shots fall for Kobe when his team don't seem to be making their shots it or when they need to stop the bleeding. No matter how you slice it, that's just clutch. He is a brilliant ruthless player that has the ability to will his team to win. Before people start yammering on about how he has Pau, the Spanish cotton candy was non existent in that game, it was artest in the first half and Kobe and Fisher in the second. Pau, Odom and Bynum made some shots but they were mostly background scenery.

I'm not saying Nash has to suddenly turn into the terminator. I doubt that he has that in him, he's canadian and he's going to remain a nice guy. But the suns do need a KG or Kobe like person that will play the bad guy to give them an edge.

One other point I'd like to make about Nash is that he really shouldn't have been given those MVPs. Back to back MVPs, really? The NBA saw Nash as this clean cut nice guy and figured "This is what the NBA should be like" and gave him that award twice. Don't get me wrong Nash is a hell of a player but there is no way he should have gotten back to back MVPs. 1 MVP i can stomach as an "atta boy" prize but back to back? Bullshit.

In the end, game 6 was a realistic version of the Karate kid (the original one). In the movie a soft kid took karate for a couple of weeks, went into a championship fight and beat down a physically fitter, vicious asshole who had already won championships before and had been taking karate since he could crawl. In real life they would be would be scraping up pieces of Daniel San off of the mat with a shovel as Mr Miyagi realizes what a horrible mistake he's made and hoping the mom doesn't sue him for turning her son into giblets. So go Kobra Kai...I mean Lakers.

Anonymous Heretic said...
Part 1

Steve Nash is a great player, but I doubt him and the suns as a team singing koombaya will ever win a championship. I get that the Suns (mostly Nash)are basically Rudy. They're the scrappy team that tries to persevere no matter what experts tell them. Very admirable. But even Rudy played for like 2 minutes. He didn't help his team with a game winning play, the guy just had heart and everyone felt good about themselves by cheering for him.

As much as people enjoy watching a genuinely nice guy win championships in the NBA, it rarely happens. Why? Because to be a champion you need to be a ruthless bastard. Its sad but true. Guys like Jordan, Magic, and Russell were pretty ruthless but hid it well with charisma. Bird was also a border line sociopath but he disguised it brilliantly with that goofy mustache.

You can win regular season games with pats on the backs and "go get em tiger" speeches but when the chips are down you need a bad guy. A guy that will demand perfection and accept nothing else, a guy who will impose his will on the game and lead by example regardless of what people think of him.

The whole the suns were so close argument is bullshit. For game 5 and 6 being inches away from a suns victory is the same as saying games 3 and 4 the Lakers were inches away from a sweep. If only suns rebounded better and made some crucial stops down the stretch is the same line of thinking as if only someone else had stepped up in game 3 and 4. Its complete bullshit. The suns were no closer to winning games 5 and 6 than the lakers were of sweeping the suns. Another "what if" scenario is if the Sasha hadn't elbowed Mr flops in the throat, the suns would have gone out with a whimper. Then everyone would say "oh they had no heart to fight" etc etc.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The woman is screaming "Wake UP Vag! You are making women every look bad!"

"Sadly, that crazy, cruel streak is probably what makes Garnett the competitor he is. It's also why I can't count him among my all-time faves."

Ah, so you weren't a Bird fan, I take it.

Blogger Cortez said...
I completely forgot why I originally decided to comment on this post.

...the (useless) I told you so rant.

Cortez said...

Any team led by Pumaman with a sidekick of either...

a) Vag Carter
b) A 6'10" guy with a pharaoh beard

Can only be counted on to LOSE, period.

Things got so ridiculous at some point that the back up plan was...brace yourself for this nugget of basketball wisdom...


In the immortal words of Rudy Ray Moore (a.k.a. Dolomite)

"Bitch, are you for real?!?!?!?"

Almost as insane (but not quite) was the idea that Grant Hill was going to "slow Kobe down" in any meaningful way whatsoever.


Only if I was as confident in my predictions as I pretend to be on this site, I'd head down to Vegas and get on some Sam Rothstein type shit but, alas, I'm just a local idiot wasting time at work. Stuck in food and beverage.

Blogger Wormboy said...
@ Wild Yams: Yup, Kobe is the killer scorer. That's his game. Nash is a killer pacemaker and handler. That's his game. Nash plays his game: he's one of the game's best point guards, and he facilitates others. That's how he impacts the game. Yeah, he's a high percentage scorer, but because he mainly takes high percentage shots. If he tried to be Kobe, he'd suck at it (and vice versa).

So, let's not diss Nash for not being Kobe any more than we won't diss Kobe for not being Nash. Nash has competed against the toughest conference in NBA history, and he did so with a non-franchise sidekick (Stoudemire, whose referendum move will be coming up). Kobe has won championships with a second franchise player present (Shaq and Gasol, the latter being the true 2009 Finals MVP). What happened to Kobe without a franchise sidekick? He fell short. Sounds familiar.

There are plenty of hall of fame players who never had the teammates to get a ring. It happens. It's not a reflection of the player. Nash does have the killer instinct, but he doesn't get the glory because his game isn't in hitting big shots.

Just made it to the Nash section, and interestingly, the word "defense" never showed up.

He's fatally-flawed. One helluva on offensive player and fully capable of letting Derek Fisher go off.

Blogger chris said...

The reasons you (and most normal folks) can't stand Angry Garnett...are why he is so incredibly fascinating.

Though I totally see what you mean in the character study of Bird vs. Nash...particularly considering Bird's odd relationship with his daughter, IIRC.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
BTW, Game 6 was really, really easy to call simply by looking at the refs for the game. I'm still looking for more referee stat websites beyond and if anyone knows of any!

I'm going to really enjoy following Nash post-basketball career. I think he's got enough wits to make some impact with funny films.

STATue, go away.

Blogger Ash said...
"How many point guards are THE superstar in championship teams? Magic? nah, when Kareem was gone so were his chances for the ring;"

I seem to remember Magic winning a championship while he played every position on the floor. But... maybe I'm crazy.

Anonymous Mr. Anonymous said...

Spare the Stoudemire/Gasol comparisons. They both have holes in their games. Gasol came up just a small as Stoudemire did in the 08 Boston series. And when Kobe didn't have a non-franchise player, he also didn't have an All Star player on his roster, Stoudemire (with all his deficiencies) is an All Star level player. You can't find another big man who was deserving of his All Star spots in the years he's made the team.

And re: Nash's glory, Magic Johnson's entire portfolio is filled with clutch and/or timely passes. To say Nash doesn't get the glory b/c he's a PG is disingenuious.

Anonymous Czernobog said...
Regarding Vujacic: I emailed Basketbawful some of the details, which can be found on wikipedia and on Barkley was right to wonder why he isn't on the national team. With Sani Becirovic out due to injuries, he's probably their best 2/3 guy except maybe for Nachbar. Everyone else is either horrendously bad or geologically old.

I'm guessing he didn't make the cut for the simple reason that everyone else hates him.

Anonymous AK Dave said...
It's pointless to argue about whether a person deserved an MVP or whether a point guard is as good as a shooting guard. The arguments never change and reasonable minds can and do disagree all day about subjective considerations like "killer instinct" and "clutch" and the like.

The fact is this: Nash impacts the game so greatly that he commands entire blog entries, passionate comments on both sides, and is without question the face of his franchise.

The man will likely hang around for a few more years as a player and will probably continue to contribute significantly, all the while padding his numbers and giving himself a chance to get a championship someday.

At the end of his career, he will probably be a HOF'er because he was a 2-time MVP, and led the league for years in assists, wow-ing fans and putting up highly efficient stats (turnovers notwithstanding).

Maybe he never wins a championship, but neither did Barkley, Ewing, Malone, Stockton and a host of other characters who were clearly all-world players. If winning a championship is all that matters, then I guess Mark Madsen is better than Patrick Ewing.

The point is this: the fact that we are having this conversation just proves that Nash IS one of the greatest players of today and yesterday. Not the best, but one of the best. In that conversation.

But what makes him REALLY great is that, unlike many other players of his caliber, he is unselfish, genuine, and level-headed. No scandals, no F-ed up personal stories, no history of elbows...

In a word: integrity. That is what makes Nash my favorite.

Blogger Viscant said...
AnacondaHL: has a ref section with fairly comprehensive stats on all refs. I don't think the section is as good and complete as it used to be before the Donaghy thing broke. Around that time some of the archived stats mysteriously disappeared. You can still find them through the magic of internet archiving, it'll just be significantly more work to find. Still, you'll probably find what you're looking for here.

Interesting fact, Eddie F. Rush making a fool of himself in the Perkins incident probably had Lakers fans coast to coast pumping their fists. While the Lakers have a decent W-L record with Rush doing their games, Kobe has a pretty startling streak of stinkers in Rush reffed games.

Anonymous gebwel said...
reading the post and all the comments about nash really make me wish we had a time machine. what if horry hadn't hipchecked him in those unforgettable 2007 series (resulting in suspensions for amare and diaw)? what if nash had played in a different conference? surely, he had a better chance of going to the finals in the east, no?
and to those who say you have to be a badass type to win championship, what about hakeem and tim duncan? i'd consider them good-guy types. sure, duncan whines a lot on the court, but we rarely (if ever) heard him complaining about teammates, his minutes, not getting enough shots, etc.

Anonymous Fundefined said...
The Nash isn't clutch argument doesn't agree with me. It's simply that his team isn't good enough. In the 2008 round 1 game 1 against SA, everyone remembers the Duncan 3, Forgetting Nash hits a ridiculous leaning running 3 to make it 115 all before Manu gets his game winner over slow Shaq. In Game 5 of this series, he was the entire Suns offensive for the 4th quarter. Almost every bucket was made or assisted by him. Nash's teams always over achieve and unfortunately Nash gets blamed when the clock strikes midnight and the illusion fades. The better team wins almost always in a 7 game series. The Lakers are the better team, that's all that happened.

Anonymous Fundefined said...
Also check Fisher's stats in the other two series. It's not like he had trouble scoring on Westbrook or Williams either, though less turnovers in this series.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
One helluva on offensive player and fully capable of letting Derek Fisher go off.

Weird how the "Fisher lit Nash" argument has come up more than once despite the fact that the Suns were playing a zone. Weird.

Also, seriously, give me a list of point guards who were lock down defenders? Magic was turrible, but people forget this because of a) championships and b) Kareem was standing behind him. Ditto for Tony Parker. Even Jason Kidd, one of the better defensive PGs of my lifetime, wasn't locking people down. PGs have and always will rely on big men to back them up.

Blogger Will said...
"give me a list of point guards who were lock down defenders"
I was too young to remember him playing, but what about Isaiah Thomas? I know the Bad Boys had their thuggish rep, but I thought that was contained mainly to Laimbeer and Rodman.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Nash's lack of D is less of an issue for me, because as others have said PGs are generally poor defensively. Also, some people in this thread seem to have confused what I said above to mean that I think Nash should just play like Kobe, which is incorrect. I'm only talking about the very ends of games, and even then only in close games in the playoffs. 

Playoff basketball is all about execution down the stretch, because usually playoff games are pretty tightly contested till the end (in blowouts it doesn't really matter, cause there's no chance for clutch performances). Look at how Nash played to close the game in Game 5, and that is how he should always be playing in these games. It didn't work in that game because Phoenix spotted LA an 18 point lead they had to come back from, and because the Lakers have Kobe. 

How many times over the years did Nash teams end up losing close games in the playoffs?  Lots, from what I recall. You rarely saw these Nash-led Suns get drilled in games and quickly ushered into the offseason. Now in all that time can you think of lots of game-winning Nash heroics?  I can't. This is his shortcoming and it's why he's never been in The Finals. He could have taken and made a lot of those shots, but he almost always instead deferred to worse players to try to make the clutch plays (even if those plays came off of beautiful passes from Nash). 

Remember when LeBron scored 48 on Detroit back in 2007?  Remember how in Game 1 of that series LeBron drove for the winning basket, but instead of taking the shot he passed to a wide open teammate (Donyell Marshall?) to take the game winning shot?  LeBron was criticized after that play (Marshall missed), and rigtly so, because everyone said HE should be taking the game winning shot attempt. It was right to criticize LeBron for that mistake, just as it's right to criticize Nash for the same thing. 

A point guard absolutely can be a clutch scorer while also being the distributor for his teammates. Magic Johnson was such a player, as was Isiah Thomas. I have every confidence that Nash could score like that in the clutch if he had the mindset to do so, but the reason he's probably the better person than someone like Jordan (as Mr. Bawful says above) is the reason he doesn't take games over like that. Nash is too nice to be selfish enough to want to take the game over himself, and while that makes him a great person who is more easily relatable, it makes him less succesful as a basketball player. 

That's why if someone asks me who my all time favorite player is, I'd go with someone who played the game to the best of their ability in a way that brought the most success. Asking who I think the best person is that ever happened to be a basketball player is a different question with a different answer. Nash is a great person who also happens to be an incredibly talented ballplayer, but he doesn't win because, quite frankly, borderline sociopaths like Kobe simply want it more - probably to the point of really being almost insane about how much they want to win. Nash is almost surely the healthier, more stable person, but you know what they say about how nice guys finish.  

Anonymous TransINSANO said...
Apparently it goes beyond defense, Steve Nash is such a one way player, he's only responsible for his team at the winning end of the court.

Unfortunately, that's a two-way game as well, and like any superstar, Steve Nash deserves criticism as well as credit for his and his team's playoff performances.

Is it petty and ignorant when people hold Kobe's, and now even LeBron's, shortcomings against them? Holding Nash to a lower standard is the slight, intimating he's not on the same level.

If Nash gets the credit for the Suns winning ways the past six seasons, very good teams that at times won over 60 games, had the league's best record, multiple All-Stars, the two time MVP, and home court in the playoffs, then he also deserves scrutiny for coming up short.

Nash's game translates into a lot of winning, but has never gone all the way in postseason. Those two facts go hand in hand, you can't just pick one and ignore the other.

Anonymous grifter_tm said...
I loved the piece about Nash. Poignant and heartfelt. I sincerely hope he gets one ring next year. Nash gets a lot of hate for not being able to win a ring and people overlook the fact that he's a great floor leader, very disciplined and incredibly tough.

I can think of maybe two or three PGs who can probably lock down an opposing PG: Eric Snow, John Stockton and Rajon Rondo. Of course two them are retired, so yeah.

Anonymous Istvan said...
Hey, Mr. McHale,

thank you for your summary of both the final games of the Conference finals.

I'm not able to see the games here in Germany (well, except small videos on ESPN or youtube), but every time I read your summaries I have the feeling as if I was there. Hm ... know what I mean?
Please keep up your good job. Don't loose your fire. Kudos to you. And so on ;-)

Blogger Basketbawful said...
As an aside to all this defense talk... 2006, Steve Nash won his second consecutive MVP award. A lot of people bitched and moaned about this -- and they're still doing it, really -- because of Nash's defensive inadequacies. His Defensive Rating that year was 109.

In 2007, Kobe Bryant was once again named to the NBA All Defensive First Team. His D-Rating? 109.

I'm just sayin'.

Anonymous AK Dave said...
How can we talk about defensive point guards without mentioning "the Glove"? GP in his prime was the best defensive guard I've ever seen.

No love for the glove? Come on guys: YOU'RE BETTER THAN THAT!

Anonymous TransINSANO said...
Much love for The Glove! They say you shouldn't hang around too long trying to get a ring... but ask GP, and I bet he doesn't regret it as much as Malone turning down the Spurs.

Anyway, if anyone's interested in hearing Steve Nash in his own words, he just did an interview on Simmons' podcast:

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Best part on Garnett's e-blows: he whiffs on the second one.