Wade Joins Elite Group; Jefferson Wears Out Wrist

[This article is dedicated to the Daily Show, the Onion, theBrushback.com, sPerts, and all the sarcastic bastards out there. A special thanks goes to the New York Knicks who by unexplicably losing to the three four win Hornets, forced me to create my own reality.]

Dwayne Wade Inducted Into Sidekick Hall Of Fame

The Miami Heat’s Dwayne Wade was formally inducted into the Sidekick Hall of Fame last night. The committee elected him based on his play alongside Shaquille O’Neal. “He’s just exemplified what a sidekick is” said Burt Ward, the actor who played Robin in the Batman tv series. “With the arrival of Shaq, someone on Miami was bound to get enshrined.” Current members flocked to the home city of the SHOF, Oakland, to attend the ceremony. It was a who’s who of who’s that, as Al Gore, Chris Tucker, Art Garfunkel, Jonathan Frakes, Scottie Pippen, and Kobe Bryant all were there to welcome their new brethren.

The ceremony was not without its own controversy. Upon arrival, Kobe Bryant almost bolted when told he had to share the stage with anyone else. The event organizers had to build a separate stage for Bryant to sit upon. Scottie Pippen was upset when he found he would not be the closing speaker. “I always take the last shot,” said Pippen afterwards. When it was his turn to speak, he broodingly declined and glumly slouched in his seat.

Dwayne Wade humbly accepted the award by acknowledging the great sidekicks throughout history, namely Stan Laurel, Lou Costello, Dr. Watson, Tonto, and Chewbacca. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when he reflected on the life of Herve Villechaize, the Fantasy Island star who sadly took his own life in 1993.

Jefferson’s Uses Wrist Too Much

Richard Jefferson?s season ending wrist injury came as no surprise to his teammates. The loss of Kenyon Martin and Kerry Kittles to free agency, combined with the injury to Jason Kidd left the Nets with Richard Jefferson to take all of their shots. Jefferson performed admirably taking shot after shot for the personnel-challenged Nets. “R-Jeff gave us his all” said Nets’ flagrant fouler Jason Collins. “I remember the second game of the season” reminisced bricklayer Rodney Buford “he put up 69 shots in 57 minutes and had to put his arm in a bucket of ice after the game.”

New Jersey eventually got Kidd back & even traded for Vince Carter to relieve Jefferson of his load, but the damage was already done. “Every wrist only has so many shots” said chucker Allen Iverson. “I’ve been able to take so many shots year after year because I don’t wear it out during practice.” Jefferson declined to comment on whether he exasperated the injury filming a commercial, where Charles Barkley coerces Jefferson to shoot more. When asked by the media who would pick up the slack, Nets President Rod Thorn calmly shot back “this is why we acquired Vince Carter. His wrist has been plenty rested during his sulking in Toronto.”

Football Envy

If you’re jealous that the football playoffs are in full swing & feel that the basketball season is too long, head over to your local satellite aided sports bar on Tuesday night at 9pm. Put on your favorite summer shirt, ask your local bartender to crank up the thermostat to June, and change the chanel on the closest wide screen tv to the Heat-Suns game. There you may catch a glimpse of the NBA Finals, as the Conference’s two best teams will go at it in Phoenix.

The Miami Heat (27-9) were expected to challenge in a competetive Eastern conference since Kobe Bryant decided that he’d rather be the center of an average team rather than share the main stage with Shaq. However something happened to last year’s stallwarts the Pacers and Pistons (what it is I honestly don’t remember) that has left the field wide open. Right now the only serious challengers to the Heat’s path to the Finals are the Cavaliers, and Shaq’s big toe.

Meanwhile the Suns (30-4) were expected to merely “unseat one of the West’s top eight seeds” and “have to battle for survival in April.” However the Suns are sitting on top of the NBA, swatting away their opponents like Randy Johnson and the CBS press.

The similarity between the teams are plentiful. Both teams made major moves this offseason. Miami of course got Shaq in the deal (steal?) of the century, and Phoenix made two major additions in Nash & Richardson. Both teams are anchored by their centers, Shaq (26.7 PER), and Amare (27.7 PER). The Heat’s young player Dwayne Wade dramatically improved his PER from last year’s 17.5 to 24.7, as did the Suns Amare Stoudemire upgraded from 19.8 to 27.7. And just look at how close the team’s stats are:

1st Suns 113.3
3rd Heat 108.2

9th Heat 100.4
10th Suns 100.5

Of course the marquee matchups will be an undersized Amare versus an oversized Shaq, and the youthful Wade against the err…. Canadian Nash. If Amare gets beat-up by Shaq, then Phoenix will have to abandon their current game plan of “drain as many minutes out of the starters” (average of 37 Min/G), and use backup centers Hunter and newly activated Voskuhl. On the other hand the Suns have a third major option with Shawn Marion (23.8 PER), and their up-tempo game might wear down the Heat. However it turns out, this is a major game for this early in the season. It could establish the winner as an early Finals favorite.

So how do you think the game will turn out? Got some great insight on the two teams? Head over to the APBRmetrics forum (SABeRmetrics for basketball) and state your opinion. It’s replacing the Yahoo group APBR_analysis, and it still has that new car smell.

Christmas By Myself This Year

So deck those halls, trim those trees
Raise up cups of Christmas cheer,
I just need to catch my breath,
Christmas by myself this year.
–“Christmas Wrapping”
The Waitresses

So far the Christmas matchup between Shaq & Kobe has more stories than a good season of 24. Outside of all the drama, this is a game between two radically changed teams. After a tumultuous offseason, how do these two teams stack up against each other? SantaBlogger (a KnickerBlogger subsidiary) is giving a little stocking stuffer for good little hoopheads with a little hardwood egg nog.

Pace (Lakers 21st – Heat 19th)
California and Florida each has a team that plays an up-tempo game, but unfortunately they aren’t these two teams, so don’t expect a fast paced game. The only hurry on Christmas day will be the kids getting to the presents under the tree. The Heat, a Van Gundy? team, will wait for Shaq to lumber up the court and set himself up in the post before beginning their offense. While Jerry Buss’ dream of the purple & gold fast breakers of the ’80s returning will remain just that, a dream. That the Lakers are currently wedged between notorious plodders Utah and Indy speaks volumes on the speed of their offense.

Lakers Offense (9th, 103 pPTS) vs Heat Defense (6th, 99.1)
eFG (8th 48.6) vs (6th 45.3)
TO (26th, 17.2) vs (27th 14.3)
OREB% (26th, 27.6) vs (3rd, 26.6)
FT/FG (1st, 30.4) vs (6th 28.7)

The Lakers are a good shooting team. That’s surprised me with the combination of Kobe’s eFG% dropping faster than Santa down the chimney, while his usage is just a tad lower than the elfish (selfish?) Iverson. However, Kobe’s ability (and desire) to shoot may be taking the load off of his teammates, leaving them with higher percentage shots. Odom (52.5%), Butler (48.6%), Atkins (55.4%), Mihm (52.9%), and Jones (55.9%) are all sporting the best shooting percentage of their career, and 6 Lakers sport eFGs of over 50%. Good shooting isn’t their only offensive skill, as the Lakers combine it with the ability to get to the line. The credit almost singlehandedly goes to Kobe Bryant who leads the league with 9 free points per game. He accounts for 43% of the Lakers’ free throws, when no other teammate accounts for more than 15%, so the onus is on him to carry the Lakers in this respect.

It’s ironic that the two Laker strengths on offense, are two of the Heat’s strengths on defense. It’ll be interesting to see which side gives. The two major keys of the game will be Los Angeles’ ability to shoot well as a team, and for Kobe to get a little bit of home cooking (ie. extra free throws) on Christmas.

Miami’s Offense (5th, 104.8) vs Lakers Defense (25th, 103.1)
eFG (2nd, 51.5) vs (8th, 45.9)
TO (4th, 14.6) vs (29th, 13.6)
OREB (24th, 27.0) vs (17th, 29.2)
FT/FG (7th, 27.7) vs (25th, 22.7)

How’s this for a Dickens twist: the Los Angeles Lakers may have to use the hack-a-Shaq against Shaquille O’Neal. Miami’s is so efficient because the offense still runs through the Big Diesel (61% eFG), and the Lakers are ill suited to stop him. With Vlade “the Gingerbread Man” Divac still on the DL, Los Angeles will only have one 7 footer to throw out there against Shaq: Mihm. Between Cook, Grant, and gulp Medvedenko, the Lakers have enough hax0rs to make Shaq practice a few more free throws. At 45% he’s regressed heavily from his career best of 62% just three years ago, and makes the strategy more appealing.

Dwayne Wade has become Shaq’s third ward, and has flourished in the role. His PER of 25.7 ranks him among the league’s top 10. He’s 9th in scoring, 5th in free throws, 5th in assists, and 12th in steals. It’ll be interesting if Wade’s offense will suffer chasing around the league’s #2 scorer on the other end of the court. To make matters worse, Kobe is no slouch on the defensive end with 5 All-Defensive Team honors and 82games.com verifies his tenacity (SG 12.0 oPER).

The Lakers best option may be to try the Jeff Vandy Gundy?-Jordan defense. Don’t try to waste energy stopping the unstoppable. Let Shaq get his points, but by doing so get the rest of his team out of their rhythm early on. Concentrate on shutting down the three guards in Ward Wade, Damon Jones, and Eddie “Murphy” Jones in the first three quarters, so that they’re not mentally prepared in the fourth.

Whatever approach L.A. uses, it’s Kobe that will be under the pressure, and I’m not even considering the off the court circus. On offense Kobe is the Lakers main focal point, whereas Shaq has Wade who is producing at a near equal rate. On defense, with his team unlikely to stop Shaq, it’ll be up to Bryant to shut down their other main weapon Dwayne Wade. All Kobe on offense. All Kobe on defense. I guess it’s Christmas by himself this year.