Archives For Indiana Pacers

Playing small to be big

Zach Harper —  February 1, 2012 — 3 Comments

Size matters. Size doesn’t matter. It’s not the size but how you use it.

These all may be hilarious euphemisms we like to throw around like cackling adolescents whenever we talk about wingspan, height, and the overall height charting of various frontcourts but in the NBA, the size you have and the way you use it couldn’t be more prevalent. This isn’t to take anything away from Kobe Bryant and his accomplishments over the last five seasons, but I don’t think we’d see a return to Laker glory without Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom being bigger and longer than every other frontcourt they faced in the NBA. Continue Reading…

Photo by etchasketchist

It’s strange to see Lazar Hayward standing on the court next to other NBA players. The slightly stiff, deliberate way he moves and his modestly preportioned body make him appear to be an emissary from the world of normal people, a world of reasonably sized arms and recognizably human leaping ability. (None of this holds true when you’re standing next to him though; then he looks much more like a professional basketball player than any normal people I know).

So it’s been edifying to see him, over the last few games, make actually meaningful contributions to the team’s effort. Hayward will probably never be confused with a slashing, dynamic finisher; he still looks a little overwhelmed by the awesome size and speed that reigns in traffic and around the basket. But recently, Hayward has also been showing off his crisp, clean shooting stroke and, much like Wayne Ellington and Anthony Tolliver, has played with a hunger and exuberance typical of the Wolves’ second unit during this recent shorthanded stretch.

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If the Wolves do not become the world champions of the NBA pre-season, they will have the Indiana Pacers–who just dropped our Pups for the second time this exhibition year–to blame. And by “the Indiana Pacers” I, of course, mean some maundering, semi-NBA-ish group that does not include Danny Granger or Dahntay Jones, and that allowed Josh McRoberts and Solomon Jones onto the floor for a combined 42:41. Its a damn shame too; I was really looking forward to that parade.

Easy Pieces

Last week we wondered aloud whether and how Michael Beasley’s goofy temperament would affect his play–specifically, whether the young fella’s sweet, almost child-like nature would lead to, let’s say, unwise shot selection.  Now, things are clearly too fresh and new to know anything definitive, but I’d say the early signs are a little troubling.

Beasley started the game cold, missing a couple of jumpers and getting hit with an offensive foul. And this is obviously fine, except that Beasley’s way of understanding this problem was not to focus on defense, move the ball, play with maximum effort, let the offense come to him, maybe try to get to the line a little.  What he did instead was to take ever more contested, ever more wrong-footed, ever more ball-stopping jumpers. He finished with 14 scuffling points on 16 shots, which–I don’t have my calculator handy or anything but–is bad.

To his credit, once Beasley came out of the game for a long second-half rest, he manfully played the supportive teammate, shouting advice and encouragement from his perch on an end-of-the-bench exercise ball. From what I could hear, the content of his patter wasn’t exactly earth-shattering but, y’know, positive jams are positive jams.

Except that when he finally returned to the court in the fourth quarter he looked as lost as a baby deer. First airballing a contested jumper, then losing Mike Dunleavy on a back-cut and finally, allowing Roy Hibbert of all people to walk past him to the hoop like he (Beaz) was suddenly in ponderous thought about the sad fate of the cap-and-trade bill–this was not what you might call an inspiring performance. Did I mention that he hit five of his 16 shots?

Still Waters

Kurt Rambis has said that the Wolves’ offense is not yet where he’d like it to be; this was evident in the second-half on Tuesday, when things became terribly stagnant. It would be wrong to blame Beasley for all of this, although his off-balance performance certainly disrupted the continuity something awful. In fact, Wes Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Sebastian Telfair, Anthony Tolliver and even Kevin Love all took turns forcing shots in the second half. And Bassie was certainly reminiscent of his very own self of two seasons ago with his macho overdribbling and pristinely confident gunning (can he possibly not know that he shoots only 37% from the floor for his career?)

But the offensive problems seemed to stem, not from any one player, but from simple unfamiliarity and indecision. Especially without Luke Ridnour and Martell Webster on the floor, the Wolves looked tentative in executing the complex matrix of reads, reactions, cuts and passes required by Rambis’ offense.  It’s plain that these young players still don’t really know each other, don’t yet really understand themselves and their places within the team.

St. Vitus’ Dance

I’m loving me some Nikola Pekovic. I realize he fouled out of this game with seven points and two rebounds after just 12 minutes and 37 seconds. But this guy is  battling for boards with a righteous fervor (this is where he picked up most of those fouls); he’s showing like a maniac on pick-and-roll; he’s straight crushing people at both ends of the court. Poor, skinny Solomon Jones; all he ever wanted to do was jump really high and play basketball. Now he has to deal with a mouthful of this swarthy hunk of man:

And on top of that, after receiving his sixth foul, Pekovic returned to the bench, walked up to Darko Milicic, extended his ample rear end, flexed his arms, thrust his hips and smilingly performed an instantly recognizable “they did me in the butt” pantomime. I wonder when he’ll figure out that there are TV cameras at NBA games.

Finally, Big Pek has some truly astounding tattoos. On his shoulder is a caped, spear-and-shield wielding medieval warrior standing on…a pile of skulls! Spanning his back is the scene of, like, an ancient burning church with the superimposed face of a bearded wise man. Is Pek a member of a black metal band that I’m not aware of? Is this some epic Vidovdan homage? I’ve got to figure this out.

Photo by Tucia

The Wolves’ 98-86 loss to the Pacers on Wednesday night was seen by almost nobody. Nonetheless, we know that the Wolves seemed to play solid defense but shot only 32% from the floor. Kurt Rambis wrote it off to “fatigue.” That’s gonna happen, I guess. All I know is I’m glad I didn’t have to see Kevin Love brick a dunk. Here’s some other stuff:

  • I’m surprised that this one was committed to video by anyone anywhere, but highlights do exist. They’re right here.
  • And a recap of the whole affair is here. After getting lit up for 30 points by Danny Granger, Michael Beasley gave us a taste of his defensive philosophy (via the Strib):

I love the challenge, I don’t like the matchup. I mean, a perfect world for me is to play all offense and no defense, but that’s every player. I love the head-to-head matchup. I’m a competitor, that’s what I do.

Really Mike? “Every player”?

Ultimately, this policy is a good thing for the time being, but not because players shouldn’t be able to question the officiating. It’s a good thing because it forces us (and yes, this includes the NBA and David Stern as well) to discuss the state of officiating. Even if the players have to be mum on the subject, the subject is still out there to be debated.  Just debate it in a calm and mature manner. Otherwise, you’ll probably be ejected.

I’d say I agree with Zach’s essential point that the policy is useful if it forces us to actually face up to the state of officiating, and the dark essential question: even if the NBA is really poorly officiated, is that simply because the pro game is just too fast and complex to actually officiate well? On the other hand, while there are quite a few NBA players who really seem to relish a really good toddler-esque tantrum, this policy does seem to smack of David Stern’s vaunted paternalism. This league seems to really like telling grown men how to dress, when and how to talk, just what variety of facial contortion is the appropriate kind.