Inside The NBA 12/14/12

Same Old Story For Mike D’Antoni
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A Mike D’Antoni coached team has talented players, but his coaching system fosters terrible, lackadaisical defense and the teams he coaches are exciting but tend to chronically underachieve no matter where he goes.

Granted, the Lakers are without two superstars in Steve Nash and Pau Gasol but those two players aren’t going to help this team play better defensively. What you see is what you’re going to get from the Lakers defensively, and that won’t be good enough to beat a team like Oklahoma City or San Antonio in the postseason, assuming LA does enough to get there.

D’Antoni also likes to talk in understatements in his calm, cool, reassuring drawl he has. “We are having a re-occurring theme that the first quarter is just not good, and then the first half is not great and in the second half we seem to turn it on, and we need to solve that problem real quick,” D’Antoni said.

The Lakers made this game a tad interesting in the fourth quarter, but they gave up 41 points in the first quarter, 22 of those to Carmelo Anthony, and LA fell to 9-14 on the season with a 116-107 loss. And it’s not just the defense that’s been atrocious. LA has the worst turnover differential in the league, their lack of depth is killing them and the team didn’t really show a sense of urgency in a nationally televised game until it was too late.

Yep, I think we’ve heard this one before…

Memphis Hauls In Hollinger
John Hollinger knows more about basketball than you do. That PER system you may know about that evaluates player efficiency? He invented that thing. So I applaud Grizzlies new owner Robert Pera for thinking outside the box, as tech billionaires must, and hiring Hollinger as his VP of basketball operations.

Statistical analysis of which players play well together and which college and overseas talent best suits your roster is the next wave of the future, and the Grizzlies ensured that they’ll be a major player in this future by hiring Hollinger. Kudos to Pera for not being afraid to make a bold move even though they’re winning ball-games.

Stats That Interest Me
-How good are the Miami Heat? Well in December, they’ve been the epitome of an average team. Miami is averaging exactly as many points as it allows, 99.5, this month and they rank next to last in rebounds per game this season. After Washington on Saturday, the Heat play the TimberWolves (with Ricky Rubio in the lineup), Dallas, Utah and Oklahoma City. There could be more mediocre basketball in Miami’s future.

-Speaking of December, three big men are having ridiculous shooting months so far. Denver’s JaVale McGee actually has more misses from the free throw line than he does from field goals this month (30-40 from the field, 13-28 from the charity stripe). New York’s Tyson Chandler is the modicum of efficiency, 36-51 this month, and San Antonio’s Tiago Splitter is emerging as a beast down low at 33-51 this month.

-It would be unfair to go this entire column without talking about the white-hot, surprising, Golden State Warriors. They’ve won five straight and eight of 10, making Mark Jackson a candidate for coach of the year. A lot of that credit has to also be given to David Lee for his improved play this season. This month, Lee is averaging 22.3 points and 12.6 rebounds per game on 55.5 percent shooting. Lee is currently 14th in the NBA in win shares, and many scribes are touting Lee as a Most Improved Player candidate. After two years Lee is finally living up to that fat contract the Warriors gave him.

-How do you know when a player is having a beastly season? Sometimes it’s as easy as looking at the numbers. Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao has 52 more rebounds than any other NBA player. He has 127 offensive rebounds and Kenneth Faried of the Nuggets is in second with 94. Varejao is a beast. That is all.

-You know how I know the Pistons are in trouble? They have two players among the top five in turnovers. Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight are fourth and fifth in total turnovers behind Kobe Bryant, Jrue Holliday and James Harden.

Sutton Excelling For D-League’s 66ers
I recently interviewed Tulsa 66ers wing man Dominique Sutton, and he’s playing quite well so far for Oklahoma City’s D-League affiliate. Good players are going up and down between the Thunder and 66ers, but Sutton has been a constant. He’s averaged 13.4 points and 6.9 rebounds on 49.3 percent shooting and he told me yesterday that he’s always striving to improve.

“I’m doing alright, working on getting better with the mechanics in my jump shot,” Sutton said over the phone.”Sutton was ranked 32nd in the D-League prospect list and is finally getting some national notice for his strong play as Tulsa’s glue guy. “The ranking will take care of itself” as he plays better, Sutton said. “It’s cool, I really don’t think about it. I just continue to get better and let everybody do their job and I’ll do my job.” Sutton hasn’t spoken to anyone with the Thunder recently about a call-up, but “when it happens it happens. Whenever that will be, I’ll be ready.”

Games Of The Week
Friday- Memphis at Denver is a super matchup on ESPN, but I have the feeling that everyone will be watching out for the Lakers when they head to Washington. A loss here for LA and the Twitterverse may explode.

Saturday- You have to watch every time hated rivals Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan go at it, which will be the Celtics-Spurs NBATV matchup. Ricky Rubio is expected to return as Minnesota hosts Dallas, Golden State faces a tough test at Atlanta and the Knicks will likely be without Carmelo Anthony as they host Cleveland.

Sunday- The Lakers at Sixers will be the game of what-ifs. What if Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash were healthy? What if the Lakers could defend? Etc…

Monday- Jeremy Lin. Madison Square Garden. Rockets-Knicks. NBATV. ‘Nuff said. Spurs-Thunder and Bulls-Grizzlies will also be tremendous games.

Tuesday- There are no great games, but a lot of very good ones. San Antonio-Denver, Boston-Chicago, Philadelphia-Dallas, Utah-Brooklyn.

Wednesday- It’s back to Madison Square Garden for ESPN’s Nets-Knicks matchup. It’s a shame their regular season meetings aren’t spaced out well this year. Thunder-Hawks will also be one to watch out for.

Thursday- Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and Minnesota get the TNT treatment as they host the Thunder, followed by Miami at Dallas.

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