Archives For Chris Paul

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Taken as a whole, basketball teams can be viewed as their own living organism. People are, after all, not just one thing either, but instead made up of crisscrossing and often conflicting wants, needs, impulses, understandings and judgments. A person who can keep all these things in balance, who can understand that it’s less important to label impulses as good or bad and more important to understand where they come from and how to limit them or let them flourish, is said to be well-adjusted. At the height of their powers, people can harness their understandings — both intuitive and consciously learned — alongside both natural and hard-earned talents to create wonderful things and live happy lives.

Basketball teams aren’t so different. The Spurs are the Spurs not because of Tim Duncan, not even because of Gregg Popovich, but because they’ve developed an understanding of how the whole can be greater than the sum of their parts. They get the players they need and leverage their skillsets in ways that maximize their contribution to the whole. And they do it patiently, putting the bench players on the floor regularly and often in high-pressure situations so that over time their interactions with the other players on the floor become a seamless dance. The timings become precise, nearly instinctual; the spacing is balanced unless they want to unbalance it and tilt the floor. This idea of the team as a single larger organism is what allows us to say a team has an identity and, top to bottom, the Spurs are as close to a hive-mind as you’re going to find in today’s NBA.

The Los Angeles Clippers — who soundly thrashed the Minnesota Timberwolves last night 127-101 — are not there yet. If the Spurs as a whole are a mature organism, operating at or near the height of its powers, the Clippers remain a capable but occasionally impulsive young adult. After an inconsistent start to the season, they’ve now rattled off five consecutive wins and won seven of their last eight. Against the Wolves, things started to hum in the second quarter as plays unfolded beautifully and Chris Paul picked apart a Minnesota defense that lacked Ricky Rubio. As it was against the Trail Blazers the night before, Zach LaVine’s arrival in the game heralded the collapse of the defense as pick and roll after pick and roll freed up the ballhandler, allowing him space to dish to the diving big man or kick the ball out to the perimeter for a 3-pointer, where Los Angeles took 34 to Minnesota’s 12, making them at a 44% clip to Minnesota’s ghastly 17%.

Against the Wolves, the Clippers looked — if not exactly Spurs-ian — then at least comfortable in their element, running plays that cascaded into secondary action and got them the looks they wanted, even when they didn’t fall. Sure, the Clippers’ roster has some questionable pieces like Glen Davis, but even he managed to make a positive impact in the game by being a giant body against a Wolves team lacking in size.

As for the Wolves, well, let me talk about another organism: my nearly 3-year-old daughter. Continue Reading…

As my wife often reminds me, there are a lot of games in an NBA season and truly, this was one of them. I mean, listen: they can’t all be State of the Union-level referendums on the soul of the team. So here’s the game wrap, shorter edition: The Wolves outrebounded the Clippers 52-35 and took 9 more free throws, but shot 27% from the arc, had 10 fewer assists, and let the Clippers score 22 fast break points. Even with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in foul trouble down the stretch and players like Matt Barnes and Ronny Turiaf getting technical fouls, Minnesota couldn’t take control. I guess you could say at least this wasn’t like the games of the 5-game losing streak where they would jump out to a lead only to see it disappear in the third quarter. Although they almost established a double-digit lead in the second, they felt shaky the whole game and that it was even close towards the end is more an indication of the Clippers’ own difficulties than anything else. Continue Reading…

I was shocked to hear that Bonzi Wells has been invited to the Wolves’ training camp and even more shocked to hear that he is only 35 years old. Considering that Bonzi played serious minutes on a team that included Scottie Pippen, Arvydas Sabonis and Detlef Schrempf,  I had him pegged for at least 50. But I was wrong and right now he’s a Wolf. Come to think of it, the Wolves could use an upgrade at center; I wonder if Sabonis is still in playing shape?

Even more surprising: the Wolves are also pursuing NBA Finals hero and bona fide Small Person J.J. Barea. Anyone else thinking what I’m thinking? a three-guard lineup featuring Rubio, Ridnour, Barea? Am I right? But for real: is another primary ball handler really what the Wolves need?

Speaking of perimeter players: now that the Chris-Paul-to-the-Lakers deal is in ashes (beautifully played everybody), I’m curious whether Kevin Martin remains available. He makes a chunk of change ($11.5 million this year and $12.4 million next year), he never passes the ball and the Wolves rotten perimeter D wouldn’t be made any less rotten, but Martin is the most efficient high volume perimeter scorer in the league–and the Wolves could definitely use a little of that.

And by the way, isn’t it delicious to see the Wolves’ unprotected 1st round pick bandied about in Chris Paul trade rumors? Oh Kevin McHale, will your gifts ever stop giving?

If there’s an NBA schedule that must mean there will be a season right? right? You can check out the entire thing right here. Some notable dates:

Season Opener, Monday December 26th, vs. OKC: Hm, Derrick Williams playing the three, eh? Does that mean we’ll get to see him try to guard Kevin Durant? Or maybe Mike Beasley will get a crack at it. Shudder

Friday, December 30th-Monday, January 2nd; vs. Miami, Dallas and San Antonio: Three games in four nights in the season’s first week against some serious heavies. Could be a little ugly.

Sunday, January 10th-Tuesday, January 12th; @ Washington, @ Toronto, vs. Chicago: Three games, three nights, three flights. The first of three triple-headers for the Wolves.

Monday, March 5th; vs. LA Clippers: Will we get to see one (or many, many) Chris Paul to Blake Griffin alley-oops? Just writing that made my computer shut down.

Friday, March 30th; vs. Boston: Our boy returns, again.