There Are No Grown Ups Here

I must admit, the current drama unfolding in the halls of Madison Square Garden is entertaining in a guilty pleasure sort of way. Even though I know this cannot have a happy ending I can?t wait to see what insanity turns up in each day?s sports section. But, after reading yet another tale filled with blaming, speculation, dysfunction, and non-denial denials I feel like my soul needs a shower; the way I feel after one of those really bizarre episodes of Law and Order. You know the kind, where the murderer on trial turns out to be the least depraved of the central characters. Well, at this point the Knicks and their meager win total (23) have become the least depraved of the central characters in this drama. Despite the players? flaws and faults I feel some sympathy for them. They?re playing for a gaggle of immature, image-obsessed kids, not grownups.

I wanted to wait until KB weighed in on the still-rumored Brown buyout/firing before adding anything. At the risk of repeating any of his points about the current drama I?ll add a couple of my own in no particular order.

1. The lack of accountability is really what makes this all so disheartening, and so unlikely to change.

The notion that ?saying everyone is responsible is a lot like saying no one is responsible,? is the worst kind of truism. Sometimes, everyone really is responsible. In those times, unless everyone is held to account then some get off scott free and delude themselves into thinking that they must therefore have been right all along.

It appears as if Larry Brown will be forced out soon, following what is likely the worst coaching season of his career. What is most sad is that at virtually every major crossroads this season Dolan, Thomas, and Brown simply would not get past their egos in order to work together. Rather, they all chose at various points to actively undermine one another. As a result we have the current mess, aptly described by Adrian Wojnarowski, the fine beat writer for the Bergen County Record:

[T]hese Knicks have turned into the league’s crazy uncle who keeps showing up at the family picnic, getting loaded and falling face first into the potato salad.

Only the Knick ?family? is lucky enough to have three such uncles laying face deep in potato salad, each having passed out trying to out-drink the other two. No amount of sensible advice can convince them to give up these childish games, especially since none can hear past the sound of his own slogans muffled by potato salad.

We need to get younger and more athletic!

No!! We need to play the game the right way!!

Fiscal restraint!!! We don?t need no stinkin? fiscal restraint!!!


2. Although Larry Brown?s performance and antics are grounds for dismissal, forcing him out after one year says far more disparaging things about the Knicks than it does about Brown.

I have read in multiple outlets now that the thinking behind forcing Brown out is that it is cheaper to simply buy him out than trade for so-called Brown-type players. Sigh. Before addressing why this kind of delusion?if these reports are accurate?is precisely why the Knicks are laughingstocks let me first address the merits of forcing Brown out. In my opinion, ?losing a team? is (and should be) grounds for firing an NBA coach. The overall talent league wide is so close that the marginal value of even a great coach is probably quite low. Truly great coaching pays off in very specific situations; namely after the first round of the playoffs. Otherwise, it?s about talent and execution. So when the star(s) won?t play for the coach in pro sports it is almost always wisest to side with the star. That?s why you hope your star is not selfish or a moron.

Brown was truly wretched this season. Winning coaches in the NBA have been forced out for far less than his sub-25 win total, brutal public spats with players, and reports of widespread player revolt. (Ask Paul Westphal, or more recently Stan Van Gundy and Rick Adelman.) The cat-fighting began early and never stopped. I think Brown had ?gone fishin,?? to use the parlance of Kenny Smith, somewhere around three-quarters of the way through the season. Further, losing Brown may not be any huge tragedy. I am not sure any amount of coaching can mold this roster into a legit title contender. So, this could be as good a time as any for Brown to exit. The important question for me is where would that leave the Knicks? For starters it leaves them looking for the 4th coach of the Thomas regime (i.e., Wilkins, Williams, Brown, and whoever is next), a coach who may in fact be Thomas.

Before pulling the trigger on our current diva-coach for a different diva-coach though, Camp Cablevision should consider this. They appeared to have hired Brown for the wrong reason in the first place. They hired Brown to get NY to the Eastern Conference playoffs and then see what happened; probably figuring that where Don Chaney got swept Brown might have actually won such a series or at least a couple games. They thought, and I believe still think, they are another scorer and a few defensive drills away from being a contender in the East. This remains the central delusion of the Thomas regime, confirmed by the leaks claiming that it?s ?cheaper? to fire Brown than reconstruct the roster.

There is a right reason and a wrong reason to force Brown out now. The right reason: he has irretrievably lost the team. We know for a fact that he has played games with players and alienated them. For example, though much ink has been spilled over his dustup with Marbury, the way he savaged Trevor Ariza in the press was far more distasteful. I didn?t see ?tough love? or development anywhere in that interaction. I saw Brown mostly flexing his ego. So it may very well be that Brown cannot undo the considerable damage he has done. The wrong reason to fire Brown: he should have gotten more out of this team. The current roster has a 35-45 win ceiling, regardless who coaches it. In fact Brown?s public disparaging of the roster, though tacky and unproductive, was pretty much spot on. The guards really don?t defend. Nobody blocks shots. The roster is filled to the brim with one-dimensional, high turnover players, who had been so long before Brown and his unstable rotations showed up. Eddy Curry likely will never be more than a modest rebounder and will never block shots. Marbury, despite his protests, was not unduly shackled in Brown?s post-and-cut offense. It just isn?t based on Steph?s pet play, the screen-roll. (I?m not so sure that?s such a bad thing long term.) None of that is any less true just because Brown was being a self-righteous windbag by airing it publicly. Those problems must still all be addressed Brown or no Brown. If he must go, force him out because he can no longer help address them, not because he pointed them out in a way that embarrassed. Thomas’s sensitivity on this matter is more than a little hypocritical, given the shameful way he treated Don Chaney. Chaney, along with Lenny Wilkins and Herb Williams, all basically sang the same song Brown is singing now, only to a softer tune. They were ignored.

Six Games Of Stinking

 

I’m a big fan of all sorts of games like casino games that can be played at 666casino and sports, and I really like the thrill of playing these games and watching all kinds of sports. Just a few days ago I thought there was going to be some exciting action in the NBA. Saturday had two game 7s to finalize the first round, while the next two days would be filled with the initial offerings of the second round. It was reasonable to consider given those matchups, there would be at least a few exciting games out of those six.

Boy was I mistaken.

The Pacer-Celtics game was 35-32 at the half, which should have triggered some flashbacks of my freshman English teacher instructing me on the definition of foreshadowing. While the game required an offenisve shot in the arm, it appears that only the Pacers were innoculated. They were up by 14 by the start of the fourth, where they outscored the New Englanders by 13 more. The Celtics failed to score more than 20 in any quarter, and the luck of the Irish were with them as they shot 39.7% eFG. The luck of the 1840s Irish, that is.

At least the first game was close at the half. The final deciding game of the first round was a 116-76 snoozer. The Mavs were up by 15 by mid game, and it got so out of control in the second half, that Jeff Van Gundy sat Tracy McGrady in the early 4th. Watching this game you might have forgotten that after the first two games, Houston was heading home up 2-0. Did the players forget their coach was slapped with a house-sized fine for over-zealously campaigning for a few extra whistles to benefit his team? Or maybe that was on their minds, instead of stopping the Mavs from putting the pretty orange ball in the hoop. Visit this weblink and play your favorite games of this season.

As for Sunday, despite the Heat turning over the ball 15 times, their best player fouling out (Shaq), and 48 points from Washington’s backcourt, the Wizards still lost by 19. The tale of the tape was the bench, as the Miami reserves outscored their Washington counterparts 46-5. In the second half of the doubleheader, Ray Allen’s injury in the second quarter meant doom for the Emerald City. The Sonics didn’t regroup until the third quarter, but by that time the Spurs already had a commanding 27 point advantage.

The song goes “whenever Monday comes you can find me cryin’ all of the time,” which accurately described my basketball life by Monday night. After opening a can of whuppass against the Celtics, the Pacers were on the back-end of the humiliation as they failed to outscore Detroit in any quarter. When Ben Wallace drops a blackjack on you, you know you’ve been Punk’d. Finally, the Nash-Nowitzki, high-powered, octane-fueled, nitro-charged Mavs-Suns game was highlighted by Avery Johnson’s one man Three’s Company tribute. In the third quarter, with the game already out of hand, the Lil’ General stepped on the court protesting a non-call against his team during play, and proceeded to fall on his ass in a way that would have made John Ritter proud. Johnson got up and went into an angry Mr Furley berating the ref, which earned him an early trip to the showers. In an ode to the 5th season of Threes Company, Johnson exited stage left ala Suzanne Somers.

Six games, three nights, six stinkers. Tomorrow night doesn’t seem to offer any solace. While I’m not a gambler, I doubt even Pete Rose is desperate enough to take Washington or Seattle for even money. The NBA could easily extend this streak to eight for eight. What Tuesday night viewers need is a little magic from the Wiz, and a healthy dose of a Ray Allen.

Carnival: A to Z

If you don’t know what a Carnival is, click here. Otherwise welcome to KnickerBlogger’s NBA Carnival. I dedicate this to the Pixies who in the late 80s did their concerts A to Z. Meaning they took all the songs they wanted to play that night, and arranged their setlist in alphabetical order.

We’ll start with All That Jazz who features a bunch of Gleeman-length blogs, the latest being “Jazz Ride Rollercoaster to Victory“. Moving midwest, Bulls Blog climbs out of his sick bed long enough to check out what swingmen might be available this offseason. Stopping his division winning shimmy long enough to rate the Boston rookies is Celtics Blog. They’re not bloggers, but Kelly Dwyer previews the final week of the season, and Eric Neel proves the West Coast bias that my coworkers and I bitch about while staring at the Atlantic Ocean. Continuing with a West Coast flava, Forum Blue and Gold defends Kobe’s bad grades

HoopInion is the place you want to go if you want to scout out some second rounders. While he’s no John Hollinger (but who is), Father KnickerBocker discusses the Knicks bad defense. Lovin’ the NBA, non-sports blogger Make Me Some Cocoa covers both the East & West. Maybe he can guest write for NBA Fan Blog, who is resting himself for the playoffs.

While Steve Francis sheds his self-serving image on Orlando Magic Fan’s blog, the APQRmetrics group discusses Kobe’s selfishness. Oh typo, I mean APBRmetrics. Further down emotional lane, RaptorBlog.com talks about Wimpsanity’s return to Canada, and SuperSonicSoul feels bad for KG & the Wolves.

The Pistons, representing the East, talks about LeBron bolting after 2007, while the San Antonio SpUrs Blog bemoans the disparity between East & West. I’m sure LeBron leaving isn’t something The CaValier Act wants to consider. Warriors in the City is probably hoping there is a change in the power out West, and hoping eXactlY the same happens in the East is CraZy for the Heat.

Three Days

Only three days left in the NBA’s regular season!

* The best race left is in the East, with the 76ers, Nets, and Cleveland fighting for the final two spots. If the three teams were high school seniors, New Jersey would be the guy who decided to straighten himself out so that he could graduate. The Nets have done everything they can to make the big dance, by taking 8 of their last 10, including beating Philly on Sunday.

Meanwhile the Cavs are like the B+ student that suddenly started to run with the wrong crowd. LeBron James went from valedictorian candidate (MVP) to summer school applicant. They have dropped 8 of their last 11, and have decided to work on their ping pong game instead of studying for the finals.

Philly is the average kid that decided to work harder, but got sick and missed a bunch of classes anyway. Getting a tutor (Chris Webber) didn’t help the Sixers as much as they would have hoped. However they’ll make the cut because New Jersey started off bad, and Cleveland is ending bad.

* The only serious battle left in the West is the 5th spot. The Rockets and Kings are tied, but according to Yahoo!’s standings, Houston has the tie breaking edge. I believe that they have the edge in schedule as well. Houston’s last two games are at home against the Clippers and Sonics. Although Sacramento plays the easy to beat Utah, they have to head to Salt Lake to do so, and then the Kings go home to face the top seeded Suns.

Honestly I don’t think there is a huge disparity between the two spots. Thanks to David Stern’s three division alignment, the “winner” gets to face the tougher Mavericks and the “loser” plays the Sonics, despite Dallas’ 50 point lead in win percentage.

* I can’t think of the words “Three Days” without thinking of the Jane’s Addiction song. The song is about weekend filled with drugs & group sex. If you’ve never heard of Jane’s Addiction, just wait for a Coors commercial to come around, and you’ll hear the “Mountain Song.” I guess I shouldn’t be too shocked with Perry Ferrell selling off his songs, especially the one with the lyric “cash in” repeated about 20 times. Additionally Pete Coors next Senate run should be interesting, considering the conservative’s “family values” and anti-gay marriage stance not exactly falling in line with his company’s purchasing Ferrell’s music to sell beer.

* Seven teams have clinched in the West, leaving just Minnesota and Memphis to fight for the final spot. The Timberwolves could have pulled within one game, but lost at home to the Sonics by 15 points yesterday. Just one Grizzlies win or Timberwolves loss in their combined four remaining games clinches the 8th spot for Memphis.

* In the Final playoff battle, Washington kept the hope alive that they could beat out Chicago for the coveted home court advantage in their series. The description from the AP wire read:

With Larry Hughes racing the length of the court and the clocking running down, Charlotte’s Brevin Knight knocked the ball away from behind — and right to Jamison, who put it off the glass and into the basket with 1.3 seconds remaining to give the Washington Wizards a 106-104 comeback victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday.

The Wizards luck is going to end there, as they have to win two on the road, while the Bulls get to work from home for their final pair of games. Ironically both teams face the Knicks, so my team gets a chance to play spoiler. From my perspective it’s Chicago and Washington that get to play spoilers. The Knicks are tied with Golden State and Toronto for the 7th draft spot. If both teams happen to win against New York, it could mean two spots in the draft, depending on how the Raptors & Warriors do.

Gleeman’s iPod Shuffle

The first blog I ever came across was Aaron Gleeman’s Baseball Blog. I’ve been a regular for at least 2 years, but to this day I’m not sure how I ran across his page. Most likely I found it either through Rob Neyer’s message board (when he was still free & the board more or less fanboy free) or baseballprimer (when you didn’t have to register).

Aaron’s blog is not only one of the longest running sports blogs, but very likely the best. He’s working on many different side projects from Insiderbaseball.com to Rotoworld.com to his own coalition of bloggers at the Hardball Times, and probably a few that I’m missing. Aaron is so well known that even his name has become part of the vernacular. Gleeman-length refers to an article that’s extraordinarily long.

Just yesterday A.G. wrote a column called the The iPod Shuffle

…I thought it might be kind of interesting to put my (generic) iPod on shuffle and see what the first, I don’t know, let’s say 40 songs are that come up.

Keep in mind now that this sort of exercise can really only lead to you guys mocking me for my musical taste (or lack of), so it takes some guts to do it. Music is one of those things where you’re bound to say you like a song that someone else thinks is complete crap. And I also fully admit to liking a wide variety of complete crap.

Also, I realize 99% of you couldn’t care less, but oh well …

So here is my wide variety of complete crap:

1 Firehose Epoxy, For Example
2 Lauryn Hill Final Hour
3 Pixies Wave Of Mutilation
4 Depeche Mode Master And Servant
5 TMBG Shoehorn With Teeth
6 Dead Milkmen Big Lizard
7 REM 9
8 Dead Milkmen Rastabilly
9 The 2 Tone Collection Ylang Ylang
10 U2 The Ocean
11 Smoking Popes Pretty Pathetic
12 Belle & Sebastian Mary Jo
13 U2 A Sort Of Homecoming
14 Belle & Sebastian Roy Walker
15 Barcelona 1980
16 Galaxie 500 Decomposing Trees
17 Sundays So Much
18 TMBG Chess Piece Face
19 Elvis Costello Man Out Of Time
20 The Whole Fantastic World Under Red Umbrellas
21 REM So. Central Rain
22 TMBG Hotel Detective
23 Beatles Mother Nature’s Sun
24 Dead Milkmen (Theme From) Blood Orgy Of the Atomic Fern
25 Pavement Hit The Plane Down
26 Barcelona The Power Of Jen
27 Less Than Jake She’s Gonna Break Soon
28 Firehose Makin’ the Freeway
29 Pavement Stereo
30 Paul Simon Hearts & Bones
31 Elvis Costello What’s So Funny Bout Peace Love & Understandin
32 Dead Milkmen Serrated Edge
33 Ween She Fucks Me
34 REM Pretty Persuasion
35 Pavement AT&T
36 Weezer Glorious Day
37 Lauryn Hill Superstar
38 RHCP Suck My Kiss
39 TMBG My Evil Twin
40 Belle & Sebastian Dear Catastrophe Waitress
41* Ocean Blue It Never Just Might
42 B-52s There’s a Moon In the Sky
43 Rx Bandits Babylon
44 Apples In Stereo Go
45 Skankin’ Pickle Toothless & Grey
46 Planet Smashers It’s Over
47 Modest Mouse Dog Paddle
48 Who See me, Feel Me
49 Sonic Youth Screaming Skull
50 Beautiful South Woman In the Wall

Since my iPOD is filled with every album from about 5-10 bands, the randomizer isn’t a true cross section of what I listen to. Quite honestly I don’t listen to those bands as often, they’re just a safety blanket on my iPOD. After I was done with the top 40, I forwarded through until I got 10 songs by artists that weren’t in the original list to give a wider view. If you can’t tell, I’m heavily influenced by 80s/90s/00s new wave/modern rock/college radio or whatever they call it these days. I have the feeling I’ll have the most songs that aren’t on any of the other bloggers that decided to participate in Aaron’s game.

Notables:
#1 fIREHOSE – If you can stand bad punk singing and love the bass, you should own fIREHOSE.

#6 Dead Milkmen – The Sex Pistols had the attitude, the Dead Kennedys were anarchists, the Ramones were cool, but no one could combine punk and witty sarcasm like DM. The most under-appreciated band of all time. 8 original albums (plus live albums & compilations) and they’re only remembered for Punk Rock Girl?

#10 By #2, my top 5 bands, of which I own nearly every album (and of course which take up considerable space on my iPOD) show up. I’m guessing they take up 1/3-1/2 of my iPOD. In no particular order: REM, U2, TMBG, the Pixies, and the Dead Milkmen.

#11 Smoking Popes – Saw a video of theirs on Much Music in college. The only had 3 albums, and then the lead singer decided to do Christian Rock. Reason #581 on why I try to keep my theistic/political views out of my blog. There is no reason to narrow my audience to anything other than the main focus.

#15 Barcelona – They caught my eye by writing a song about the Commodore 64, which is what I use to run the stat page. Just imagine if New Order were computer nerds. I saw them live twice, and they put on a great show & the keyboardist was really nice. No longer together.

#20 Whole Fantastic World – Mark my words, they’re going to be big. Probably the best “find” I’ve had in the last 5 years. Thank you WOXY.

#27 Less Than Jake – LTJ is the recess peanut butter cup of punk & ska. Not crazy about the last few albums, but Hello Rockview is one of my favorite albums both in song content and CD layout.

#33 Ween – Great song title that the randomizer picked, very appropriate for Ween. I wonder how my Google ranking will increase with this one. Welcome pr0n searchers!

And now for open season on KnickerBlogger’s musical tastes in the comments section…

Sixers Win Webber Deal In Name Only

[Tomorrow morning I will analyze the Knicks’ two trades completed this afternoon.]

Anytime a trade includes only one big name, the immediate opinion is the team receiving that player is getting the better of the deal. It’s because in most sports the best players are most likely to turn a team into a winner. Just ask the L.A. Lakers or the Toronto Raptors. So when Philadelphia received mega-star Matt Barnes in a trade yesterday, the quick opinion was the Sixers made out on the deal. In a Yahoo poll, 75% of the readers selected “The Kings Blew it” (and yes that was an actual option).

Upon further inspection of the deal, I don’t think it’s as clear cut as everyone has made it out to be. The crux of the deal is of course Chris Webber (21.4, 19.9, -4.5 what do these numbers mean?). Although C-Webb was one of the best in the league at the beginning of the millennium, he’s no longer among the cream of the crop. Check out his numbers since 2001

Year PER. .eFG PTS/40
2001 24.7 48.1 26.8
2002 24.4 49.7 25.5
2003 20.9 46.3 23.5
2004 17.2 41.4 20.7
2005 21.4 45.5 23.5

All of his stats are down since 2001, and his PER puts him outside of the elite range but still in the very good category. In addition to his declining production, Webber hasn’t been very healthy. The Former Fab Five has averaged only 57 games per year (strike year excluded) over his entire career. The last three years have been even worse, as Webber has missed a total of 99 games. He’s only topped 75 games twice in his career, the last time back in 2000. With that in mind, take a look at his contract:

.2005 .2006 .2007 .2008
$17.5 $19.1 $20.7 $22.3
[Numbers in millions]

Having that much money tied into a single player with deteriorating numbers and a bad history of missing games isn’t a good place to be in. Just ask Knick fans how they feel about Allan Houston, who coincidentally had the same microfracture surgery as Chris Webber.

Now you why the Kings wanted something a little more stable. In the deal, Sacramento obviously lost on talent, but they got a younger more resilient crew. Webber makes the least healthy of the players they received, Brian Skinner, look like A.C. Green. In the same span that Webber played in 144 games (2002-2004), the trio sent to the West Coast averaged 217 games. While it’s hard to argue that any combination of the three are as good as Webber when they’re on the court, 73 games of no production is easy to beat.

On the other hand, Kenny Thomas (13.5, 17.2, -3.1), Brian Skinner (6.1, 11.9, -7.0), and Corliss Williamson (14.5, 14.4, -0.0) aren’t going to catapult Sacramento over the Suns, Sonics, or Spurs. What’s more baffling is that the Kings didn’t take the opportunity to make a major dent in their cap space.

Player... Age .2005 .2006 .2007 .2008 .2009 .2010
Thomas.... 27 $ 4.8 $ 5.3 $ 5.8 $ 6.4 $ 6.9 $ 7.4
Skinner... 28 $ 4.5 $ 5.0 $ 5.4 $ 5.9* ---- -----
Williamson 31 $ 5.5 $ 6.0 $ 6.5 ----- ----- -----
-------------------------------------------------
Webber.... 31 $17.5 $19.1 $20.7 $22.3 ----- -----
Barnes.... 23 $ 6.2 ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
*=Team Option

The Kings opted to get under the cap just a year earlier. The knock on their end of the trade is not who they got, but rather who they didn’t get. Glenn Robinson’s $12.1M expiring contract would have been a good move if they wanted to clear the cap quickly. Or Sacramento could have gone with a youth movement by asking for Iguodala, Dalembert, or Ashton Korver.

Judging by who they got in return, it’s clear that Sacramento decided instead to stay competitive now with their core of Bibby, Peja, Miller, and Jackson. The Kings helped their poor offensive rebounding (22nd) because Thomas, Williamson, and Skinner average nearly 3 per 40 minutes. According to 82games.com, opposing power forwards and centers have hurt the Kings the most. It’s likely that they’ll see an improvement with the combination of Darius Songaila (14.2, 15.7, +4.3) and the trio they received.

To sum it up, this is a trade where each team saw the grass greener on the other side. Sacramento got tired of Webber’s on-again-off-again act and longed for some stability. On the other hand Iverson has never played with a person of C-Webb’s offensive ability. Sacramento is an offensive team that could some defenders (20th), while Philly was struggling to put points on the board (22nd). Quite honestly I think both teams have the possibility to benefit from the transaction. The East is wide open, and a healthy Webber gives the Sixers a formidable starting 5 of Iverson, Iguodala, Korver, Webber, and Jackson/Dalembert. While the Kings still have plenty of firepower and they’ve improved their defense enough to go a few rounds in the playoffs.


I use three stats to get a general overall value of a player, PER, oPER, and Roland Rating. If you have any doubts that PER is a good measure of offensive ability, the last two years the top 5 PER belonged to Garnett, Duncan, Shaq, Kobe and McGrady, which passes my litmus test. oPER (opposition PER) is less accurate because of how defense is played in the NBA (switched defensive assignments, help defense, zone defense, double teams, etc.), but can still be valuable up to a point. According to 82games.com, Roland Rating “represents a player’s value to a particular team and are not intended to be an accurate gauge of the ability and talent of the player away from the specific team.” To make it easier to read, I’m going to use it with these colors: (offensive PER, defensive PER, +/-Roland Rating).

What A Difference A Game Makes

In an earlier column about the Timberwolves, I said that Minnesota improved their team on the defensive end. This is exactly how that they beat the Lakers last night. In game 1, LA had a field day, having an effective field goal percentage of 51%. Last night their eFG% dropped 10 points, to 41%. To put these numbers in perspective, 51% would have been an average night for league leading Sacramento, while game two would have looked bad even for this year’s Bulls (44.5%).

Only Derek Fisher (1-2, 1 3PT) and Luke Walton (1-1, 1 3PT), had an eFG% of 50% or better. Karl Malone went from a robust 8 of 13 in game 1 to a meager 2 for 5. Malone also had a dubious distinction of getting called for traveling by getting run into by his own teammate during the act of shooting. Gary Payton’s game 2 eFG% (40%), while better than his game 1 (36%), still leaves much to be desired. Kobe still scored a lot of points, but his 10-24 night lacked any hits from beyond the arc (0-4 3PT). Even the Timberwolves brand of hack-a-Shaq worked like Kryptonite against the Laker center, as Shaq went 4-10 from the field and 6-14 from the line.

The other thing that is radically different between games 1 and 2 in the box scores is the offensive rebounding. Minnesota only had 3 offensive boards (7% oREB%) in the first game, but more than tripled that amount in the next game with 10 (18% oREB%). It was a combined team effort as no Timberwolf had more than 2.

The Timberwolves may have more problems coming up. In addition to losing the home court advantage in the series, and heading to L.A. for the next two games, they might have to deal with the loss of Sam Cassell. Cassell has been fighting back problems, and had to leave game 2 after a few seconds. To make matters worse, he’s not Minnesota’s only injured PG, as Troy Hudson is out with a bad ankle. Journeyman Darrick Martin filled in nicely enough on the stat sheet (37 minutes, 4-11, 1 3PT, 6 AST & 0 TO). However the T-Wolves’ chances have to be decreased without their second best scorer. Cassell and Martin couldn’t be more different. Going from one player with a 52% eFG% that scored just under 20PPG this year, to a player who hasn’t played regularly in 4 seasons, with a career 44% eFG% will hurt their offense.

They will need someone or a group of players to pick up the slack. Latrell Sprewell shouldn’t be the one, since his 43% eFG% isn’t suited for the task. Even baseball guru Aaron Gleeman knows that Minnesota had more of a Big 2, than a Big 3. Of their top eFG% players, you can eliminate defensive specialists Ervin Johnson, Mark Madsen & Oliver Miller. (Did I just call Oliver Miller a defensive specialist? I guess that’s what happens when you have 6 fouls to give against Shaq). This means Minnesoters should be rooting for Hoiberg (56%) and Szczerbiak (49% in limited time, 52% last year) to shoot the rock more often. If there is anyone that should be picking up the scoring it’s Wally, whose role was reduced this year by the acquisition of Sprewell.