Tag Archives: Miami Heat

Danny Granger gives Indiana new possibilities, but also tough decisions (Part 2)

This is the second of a two-part series about the return of Danny Granger. For part one, click here.

In an hour or so the Celtics will tip off against the Pacers, who recently got back Danny Granger after he missed the first 25 games with a calf strain. Indiana seemed just fine without their small forward who started 423 of 510 games from 2006 to 2012, but he can provide a major boost off the bench and allow Frank Vogel to experiment with some new lineups.

Granger looked better on Friday night than his numbers might indicate. He shot 1-for-7 from the field but the attempts were open and in rhythm, ones that will fall in time. There were also five turnovers, but a few of them were typical of a player in their first game of the season, turnovers everyone else (hopefully) got out of their system in the pre-season. It seemed like he has yet to get his legs fully under him, which is understandable. He blocked Dwight Howard from behind but there were also times when he didn’t elevate well. Overall, it seemed like a typical night for someone playing in their very first game of the season.

If he can stay healthy and work out the kinks, Granger can bolster an already improved bench. Their offensive efficiency is still in the bottom-10 among NBA benches, according to NBA.com, scoring 96.7 points per 100 possessions, but the shooting is much improved, up from 39.4 percent last year to 43.8. The bench’s defensive rating has remained top notch too, going from 97.2 points allowed per 100 possessions to 96.6. Granger’s a solid defender when healthy, so the Pacers shouldn’t take a hit on that end of the court.

Offensively, Granger’s certainly an upgrade over someone like Orlando Johnson, and the second unit already features key cogs with the likes of C.J. Watson, Luis Scola, Ian Mahimni, and sometimes Lance Stephenson. Without Granger, that’s still miles ahead of what the Pacers had to work with last year with D.J. Augustin, Sam Young, and Gerald Green, among others. With Granger as the sixth man, Indiana shouldn’t miss a beat when the most of the starters get their breathers.

Note: I should add that I’m expecting Granger to come off the bench because their starting lineup has a plus-minus differential of +5.3 per game. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.

Aside from being a sixth man, Granger could provide for some interesting lineups. This is especially when he’s paired with Paul George, who at times can run the point or move to shooting guard where he started his first two seasons. Vogel has already experimented with that super tall wing duo, pairing Granger and George with Hill, Scola, and Roy Hibbert for a few minutes as well as using the same starting lineup from 2012. Granger and George logged six minutes together on Friday night, according to NBA.com. The plus-minus differential was zero.

Along with going tall, a healthy Granger also makes for some small ball units. In 2012, Vogel used 17 of those lineups that placed George and Granger with only one power forward or center, according to NBA.com. The results were hot and cold, posting a plus-minus differential of plus-22 in just 59 minutes but shooting just 40 percent from the field. Of the time Granger was on the floor in 2012, three percent of it was at power forward, according to Basketball-Reference.

Houston, with the likes of Terrence Jones and Omri Casspi at power forward, provided an opportunity for Vogel to go small on Friday night, but only Granger played with those kinds of lineups when the game was well out of hand. Going forward, small lineups against New York and Miami, for example (especially when Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James play power forward), could be possible. Miami’s crunch time lineups often consist of consist of LeBron with Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, and Chris Bosh, but it’s unlikely Vogel would show that kind of card to Miami during the regular season.

Besides, going big is why Indiana does so well against Miami, among other teams. It’s obvious, but experimenting with Granger at power forward with the starters would mean sitting one of David West and Roy Hibbert. West would seem like the odd man out, unless Indiana wanted to gamble without one of the best rim protectors in the league. In that case, going small with George and Granger at small forward and power forward, respectively, might be better with the second unit and Ian Mahinmi at center.

Regardless, Miami’s preparing Greg Oden for the playoffs but Indiana has their own ace up their sleeve in Danny Granger. If he doesn’t get traded Frank Vogel has four months to find the best situations for him, and as long as he can stay healthy he could make an already great Pacers team even better.

For part one of this series about the cloud hanging over Danny Granger’s expiring contract, click here.

LeBron James and the Heat look young again while I age myself

Sometimes aging is smooth and graceful, like realizing I’m only 24 and have plenty of life left in me. Other times it’s a rude awakening, like stressing out over crazy things like responsibilities while being reminded of more enjoyable times, like the first time I watched a basketball team chasing a three-peat make their stop in Minneapolis.

There’s very little I remember about the time the 1998 Bulls came to Minnesota, likely because I was playing basketball with a five-foot hoop, one with an oval-shaped cardboard backboard and an Orlando Magic logo slapped on it my dad squeezed into the basement a couple years earlier. The space to chuck bricks at it to the point it looked like I was trying to mash a hole was something like 10 feet wide and 15 feet long. To the left of the hoop were the house’s furnace and firewood which represented out of bounds along with wherever the carpet near it ended. The right right side of the basement featured a couple steps leading to a worn out couch and a television I watched basketball from when I wasn’t bouncing off the walls with energy, which was basically never.  

That’s probably why I remember very little from that game 16 years ago between the Bulls and Timberwolves. Outside of watching basketball, roughly 99% of my freezing Minnesota winters from 1996 to 1999 – first grade through fourth for me – were spent shooting hoops in the basement or playing NBA Live 95, 97, or 98 after school. Having the flu didn’t stop me from any of those hobbies, and especially not after Michael Jordan’s ‘Flu Game’ during the ’97 Finals. I still remember the times I labored from my bed to the basement, humming the theme song of NBA on NBC only for my legs to feel like Jell-O a few minutes later. It was never a good idea to create my own flu game, but I couldn’t help it.

The little I remember from the time the Timberwolves beat the Bulls, though, like Stephon Marbury celebrating by heaving the ball into the stands, will stick with me for as long as I’ll live. Marbury and the fans acted like they won the NBA Finals that night, but I can’t blame them. After that game, Eight-Year-Old Me thought Minnesota escaped the cellar of the West for good and became a contender.

Here are some highlights of that game:

Even though this season’s Wolves and the one of ’98 were looking to put years of rebuilding behind them, not much was alike in regards to what actually happened during their games. The crowd last night was mostly dead and so was I. The gravitational pull of recliner left me with no urge whatsoever to stand up and pass time between dull moments by exercising. I chose instead to stare blankly at what appeared to be a payment plan for college loans, while other times I scrolled Twitter and online discussion forums about visual snow. It even took me midway through the second quarter to realize the last time I saw Minnesota host a team chasing its third championship was when I was four feet tall. In 2002 I was glued to the PlayStation 2 when the Lakers paid themselves a visit, and I was playing online poker both times the 2011 Lakers won at the Target Center.

Like the enthusiasm, the result of the game wasn’t close to what it was like in ’98. A youthful Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury had the luck of playing a Bulls squad missing Scottie Pippen while last night’s Heat were at full strength and Minnesota was missing Kevin Love. If that sounds like a recipe for a blowout, you would be right. LeBron and Dwyane Wade ended the Heat’s two-game losing streak by doing LeBron and Wade things. After their 21-point victory, Wade video bombed LeBron, giving an accurate summary of the game:

That’s what I’ll remember most about last night. Neither lasting memory from the Timberwolves playing host to the ’98 Bulls or ’14 Heat were highlights from the actual games.

After watching Stephon Marbury celebrate Minnesota’s victory over Chicago by heaving the ball into the stands, I celebrated by shooting hoops in my basement and pretended I was Kevin Garnett with my newfound energy, banging a ball against my head and pretending to be a seven-foot freak of nature. 16 years later, 24 Year-Old Me lounged in the recliner long after the Heat mopped the floor with the Love-less Timberwolves. The time I should’ve spent trying to get back into shape, or anything really, was instead wasted wondering if Wade would ever videobomb LeBron while dressed as an elf. I dozed off shortly after, waking up four hours later and tweeting in my foggy, half-asleep daze about the need for an all-you-can-eat French fry buffet.

For more Timberwolves memories, check this out.

2014: The season of comebacks

Maybe it’s because this will be my first basketball season without worrying about school, but the 2013 offseason was the slowest that I can remember, even topping (or in this case, bottoming?) the 2011 lockout.

The preseason, now what I call the weird season after watching Andray Blatche hoist six threes against the Celtics, didn’t help my NBA withdrawals either. There was this gem, however:

But just when it was tempting to resort to swallowing Halloween candy whole to cure my boredom, the NBA season arrived. There are the usual storylines coming into 2014: the off-season acquisitions we have to wait and see on whether they work out or not, the youthful players we hope evolve into franchise cornerstones, lottery-bound teams last season looking to get back into contention, and so much more.

If I had to pick a working title for this season right now though, it would be “The Season of Comebacks”, starring Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo, among others, who are returning after suffering devastating injuries a season or two ago. We’ll get to see one of those comebacks tonight in Rose, and what a bang he should start the season off with.

But the returns of Kobe and Rondo are still up in the air thanks to another unique element playing into this season: the 2014 NBA Draft. We may witness as much terrible basketball, thanks to tankapalooza, as much as we will witness great play with so many teams having a fighter’s chance at making this season’s Finals.

Whatever the dream matchup for the 2014 Finals may be, it’ll be quite a challenge to outperform what was a battle for the ages between the Spurs and Heat. It feels like that happened forever ago, yet somehow only four months have passed since its conclusion. I just remember wanting more after Game 7 but, after looking back at all that took place, feeling satisfied at the same time. It was like an ending to a great, season-long story.

How will we remember 2014? It’s time for its story to begin. 

Things I’ve done during Jimmy Butler’s 144 consecutive minutes streak

In a recent post about statistics on NBA names, among other things, I brought up Jimmy Butler’s consecutive minute streak. What was at 96 minutes when I last wrote about it has now extended to…(taking out calculator)…144 after helping Chicago steal Game 1 at Miami.

Playing 144 consecutive minutes is plenty more amazing than the things I’ve done during that same timeframe, which is five days. Here’s what I did. Read ‘em and Wheat.

During Butler’s consecutive minutes streak started, I:

  • Worked out zero times, but I’d still be more effective on the court than Sam Young.
  • Ate a 12-pack of string cheese on Saturday and one whole pizza on Sunday (chicken, cheese, and garlic-flavored).
  • Slept until noon four out of five days. I’m just assuming I’ll sleep in today.
  • Drank coffee after 6 p.m. four out of five days. No final exams until Thursday, so yeah.
  • Drove my Jeep Grand Cherokee twice, got hit and run by an uninsured driver once.
  • Thought about biking twice. Ate Fiber One bars instead.
  • Logged out of Facebook once.
  • Tweeted exactly 100 times.
  • Deleted four tweets that either sucked or were spelt wrong.
  • Took one picture of my cat eating a leaf. She was a trapeze artist in another life.
  • Haven’t shaved, but searched for gray hairs on my hair every morning.
  • Yawned six times while writing this.

Goodnight.

  • Said goodnight at 6 a.m.
  • Slowly turned into a vampire.

Does Cleveland want LeBron James back?

Anger towards LeBron James’ departure from Cleveland has slowly died down since the summer of 2010.

Maybe the excessive coverage last season of LeBron’s failures drove fans crazy enough to gravitate toward LeBron, instead of further away. (At this time a year ago, television outlets still dissected why LeBron passed the ball in the final seconds of an ALL STAR GAME.)

Maybe it died down when LeBron won his first championship only nine months ago.

Maybe it died down last summer when LeBron, despite so much dislike towards him in the summer of 2010, suited up for the Olympics to help lead USA to a gold medal.

Or maybe it died down when he starred in a commercial where he got a haircut despite having one of the most obvious receding hairlines in the NBA since Clyde Drexler.

It’s tough to tell.

Whatever the reason, it’s hard to believe this would’ve happened in LeBron’s first game in Cleveland since “The Decision”.

It’s not just one overexcited fan that wants LeBron to return, either.

According to a poll from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 52 percent of voters said they want LeBron to return to Cleveland. 35 percent still do not want him to return and, as polarizing as LeBron has become, 13 percent are still undecided.

Over 3,000 votes have already been submitted.

The excitement comes from LeBron’s looming free agency, which could start 17 months from now if he opts out of his current contract. If that happens, the Cavaliers can make a run for the three-time MVP who spent his first seven seasons in Cleveland.

There’s a lot to look at already on why or why not LeBron should stay in Miami, but a lot of it isn’t worth it (yet).

17 months ago, the NBA was in the middle of a lockout that could’ve wiped out the 2012 season, Derrick Rose was the reigning MVP the season before, and a few all stars (Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul) were not in Los Angeles yet.

The same can be said for Cleveland which, 17 months ago, would not have wanted LeBron to return to a place he once left in flames.

Coming to a conclusion right now about where LeBron will or should go is foolish, but it’s still fun to think and talk about.

(Or act on if you’re a Cavalier fan plotting to run onto the court. Don’t be that guy.)

%d bloggers like this: