» 2008 » December

  • Dec
    31

    By Geoff Lepper
    48minutes.net

    In 18 months as an NBA player, Marco Belinelli’s stock has gone through more roles than a TV character actor: Summer League star, Jason Richardson replacement, defensive sieve, bench ornament, unhappy camper, trade bait.

    So is Belinelli’s latest turn — reborn playmaker — just another phase, destined to vanish like the next full moon?

    It’s still too early to tell for certain, but in the 13 games since Don Nelson refocused the Warriors’ attack, Belinelli has already weathered one dip and ridden it out. I figured that after back-to-back poor performances in Florida — combined 7-for-24 shooting with four turnovers against five assists in Orlando and Miami — Belinelli’s run was at an end, and that he would go back to being a pumpkin, metaphorically speaking.

    Instead, he had one of his two best games of the season in the Warriors’ 117-111 win over Toronto on Monday: 23 points, 6-12 FG, 5-8 3FG, 6-6 FT, 6 AST, 2 TO.

    After that game, Warriors coach Don Nelson said Belinelli was succeeding in the team’s revamped, Euro-style offense — 47.5 FG, 40.0 3FG, 16.0 PPG, 3.3 APG — because “he’s a much better shooter on the move than he is stationary.”

    I disagree. Belinelli has tamed the wild leg kick that used to punctuate his shooting motion, but he still often twists his lower body to the left when he fires while moving, both off the dribble and situations where he catches and shoots on a cut.

    In the Toronto game, for example, Belinelli was 1-for-6 off dribble-drives, 1-for-2 while catching on the move, and 4-for-4 (three of those from deep) on standing shots. All three of those treys came on plays that began with Stephen Jackson driving and drawing multiple defenders, then kicking out, either directly to Belinelli or through an intermediary.

    The bigger surprise on offense has been Belinelli’s emergence as a passer. He’s never going to be a straight point guard in the NBA, not unless he significantly upgrades his open-court ballhandling, but as a half-court initiator, he’s just a half-step behind Jackson and Jamal Crawford in terms of finding open shooters.

    The style of Belinelli’s passing makes it seem as though he’s cavalierly throwing the ball around. Just as many Italians would find speech without the punctuation provided by their hand gestures to be unacceptably bland, Belinelli seems to use a two-handed chest pass only as a means of last resort. Witness Belinelli’s behind-the-back…

    9 Comments
  • Dec
    29

    FOURTH QUARTER:

    ** Marco’s living right with that 3-pointer rolling in.

    ** Not only did Turiaf play that S/R light years better than Biedrins has been doing it, he forced an ugly turnover out of Jose Calderon, who coughs those up about once every 10 days or so.

    ** Holy crap: I didn’t see which referee it was, but that was a spectacular no-call on their part, allowing Turiaf and Joey Graham to come together without feeling the need to parse which one was 51 percent in the right and which was only 49.

    ** Raptors are already in the bonus, while having committed no fouls of their own. (Make that one now.) That could prove to be critical.

    ** Too funny: Stephen Jackson, who’s been demolished more times than I can count by Nelson for his lack of rebounding, sneaks in for the critcal putback.

    ** Biedrins is coming in for Turiaf at the 5:25 mark, a trade of superior post defense (Turiaf) for increased rebounding (AB has 12 of the W’s 26 defensive boards).

    ** Bosh overpowers Jackson in the right block, leaving the captain to look to the bench with his arms open in a “now what?” pose.

    ** Terrible, dreadful possession: Crawford dribbles out the shot clock, hoists a no-hope 3-pointer, then Watson fouls Calderon while going for the rebound.

    ** Hey, Marc Davis, way to try to insert yourself into the outcome of the game.

    ** Two good looks at go-ahead treys that the Warriors survived, followed by a Biedrins putback to make it a two-possession game once again.

    ** Closing out a game is about four times as hard as it should be when you can’t defensive board worth a damn.

    ** That’s some cojones for Watson to take that 16-footer over Bosh.

    ** The Warriors are lucky Graham fouled Belinelli in the backcourt , because he was only a couple of seconds from taking an 8-second call, and there was nobody in the front court available to help him.

    ** Hey, an inbounds play that worked as drawn up!

    ** Double hey, an inbounds play that didn’t work — only this time it’s the opposition with the turnover, not the Warriors.

    THIRD QUARTER:

    ** Smallball opens the third, and Chris Bosh taps home an easy bucket in celebration.

    ** And for once, the scrub of the night belongs to the Warriors rather than the opposition (C.J. Watson, come on down!)

    ** Jose Calderon: You haven’t missed a free throw all season, you’ve…

    17 Comments
  • Dec
    29

    By Geoff Lepper
    48minutes.net

    By now, you’ve undoubtedly read Marcus Thompson’s blog item regarding the report from Stephen Jackson that Baron Davis wants to be traded back to the Bay less than six months after bolting to go back home.

    Aside from the usual eye-rolling that comes with most Baron pronouncements, there’s a very specific and immoveable obstacle to this scenario: BD can’t seriously think that the Warriors (i.e., team president Robert Rowell) — who didn’t want to be on the hook for four fully guaranteed years because of concerns about Davis’ health and motivation — are suddenly going to be willing to pay for FIVE seasons.

    Here, then, is a helpful guide to 30 things more likely to happen than Baron Davis coming back to the Bay:

    1) Barack Obama arrives at the White House on the afternoon of Jan. 20, spots George Bush ducking out the back door, tosses him the keys and says, “You can keep it. I just got Hank Paulson’s last report, and I’m outta here.”

    2) Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter each play 82 games — in the same season.

    3) Clay Bennett goes bankrupt and the City of Seattle picks up the Thunder for $42,598 plus court costs in an Oklahoma City repo auction.

    4) Warrior fans make it through a broadcast without being reminded that they’re missing (insert number here) points per game.

    5) Larry Brown quits the Bobcats out of sheer frustration with Sean May.

    (Wait, that one could actually happen.)

    6) The L wakes up to the fact that Kevin Garnett has crossed the line from “hard-nosed” to “wantonly overaggressive” and finally takes some punitive action.

    7) Allen Iverson takes two weeks off from the Pistons, undergoes 274 laser treatments and comes back without any tattoos.

    8 ) Jose Calderon misses a free throw. But only one.

    9) Gilbert Arenas announces that he’s quitting the NBA to switch to blogging full-time.

    10) Jamal Crawford starts to play lockdown defense.

    11) Barry Bonds is named the San Francisco Giants’ new strength and conditioning coach.

    12) Kobe Bryant drops 71 on the Suns, then tells a live ABC audience: “Shaq, your ass taste like chicken. At least, that’s what Steve Nash said.”

    13) Al Harrington tells Jackson that he’d like to come back to the Warriors, too.

    14) Erick Dampier acknowledges that he hasn’t played up to the seven-year, $73 million deal he signed in 2004 and gives Mark Cuban an oversized posterboard check for $30 million in a halftime ceremony at a Mavericks home game.

    15) Cuban’s attorneys immediately take half as a retainer.

    16) The San Jose Sharks…

    19 Comments
  • Dec
    28

    FOURTH QUARTER:

    ** C.J. Watson is making his bid to avoid falling out of the rotation altogether . . . although not closing out on Derek Fisher probably isn’t a good way to do it.

    ** The Lakers launch 3s like the ‘06-’07 Warriors used to.

    ** I would call this a revenge game for Fisher except for the fact that he never played well enough when he a Warrior to take umbrage at being dealt.

    ** They’re allowing Nate Robinson back in the dunk contest? Will he get 27 tries this time?

    ** Honestly, is Robinson’s inclusion needed to meet ADA requirements?

    ** I kid, I kid.

    ** Josh Powell. DJ Mbenga. Are there any other failed Warriors lurking on the Lakers’ bench? Are we sure Chris Porter isn’t over there?

    THIRD QUARTER:

    ** Easy floater, easy 3, then a poke-check steal: This may be the best you can expect from Belinelli on Kobe.

    ** If Andrew Bynum’s going to knock down 15-footers with regularity, the Western Conference is already a wrap.

    ** Important shot from Jackson to keep it down to 10 points, but then a horrible waste of a transition chance.

    ** You think the rest of the West wishes Mitch Kupchak had listened to Kobe and shipped Bynum out for Kidd?

    ** More time for the Turiaf-Biedrins combo, which didn’t fare well during its first-half stint.

    ** It’s getting about time to start checking out that Broncos-Chargers game . . .

    ** Too many turnovers. Way, way too many.

    ** I hate that get-a-guy-in-the-air-and-earn-a-cheap-foul play. It just feels like so much off-brand offense.

    ** It’ll be interesting to see if/when Nelson pulls the plug on this one in order to save guys for a more winnable game tomorrow night.

    SECOND QUARTER:

    ** Ronny Turiaf, hands of stone.

    ** The intent was good, but Kelenna Azubuike going into the teeth of the defense in the lane is not going to end well, typically.

    ** Is anyone else worried that Bob Delaney’s about to have a heart attack? Or is the color balance on my TV just off?

    ** Azubuike continues to make a living from that curl around the right wing to the top of the key.

    ** Jr Honda: In answer to No. 2 . . . ummmmmmmmmmm, no.

    ** Do we think that Derek Fisher blocking call is a makeup from Delaney for last season’s flopping debacle?

    ** I think, emotionally speaking, missing two free throws hurts more than bricking even the simplest of jumpers.

    ** The Lakers are jumping all…

    11 Comments
  • Dec
    27

    By Geoff Lepper
    48minutes.net

    OAKLAND — Warriors coach Don Nelson knew what other teams thought when they came into Oracle Arena.

    “Not being able to win and not being able to do what we want in the fourth quarter . . . good teams figure they can beat us,” Nelson said.

    With Stephen Jackson back, that no longer can be considered a safe assumption for Warriors opponents. Just ask the Boston Celtics after Jackson dropped 15 of his game-high 28 points on them in the fourth quarter of Golden State’s 99-89 win on Friday.

    As mentioned in the live thread, this was the perfect setup for an underdog to knock off the Celtics: Not only was it the second half of an all-road back-to-back for Boston, but the Warriors also had 72 hours between games.

    What tipped the scales, however, was Jackson’s return from a four-game absence to allow his sprained left hand — an injury that coincided with a brutal 26.9 percent shooting stretch (21-for-78) — to finally heal.

    More specifically, it was Jackson’s fourth-quarter presence that made the difference. After a first-quarter individual showdown with Paul Pierce that ended in pretty much a draw (Jackson had 11 points, Pierce 13), Jackson disappeared in the second and third periods, shooting a combined 1-for-5 and committing five turnovers.

    But there were signs of a recovery in the third. Jackson didn’t cough the ball up once in the final 17:45 of the second half. His one make came with the shot clock in single digits and against some tight defense from Pierce [3, 3:19]. And his specialty, the touch pass, led to an open 3-pointer for Marco Belinelli [3, 0:55.7].

    When Jackson launched an ill-conceived drive down the lane, was blocked by Leon Powe and unleashed a frustration foul on Brian Scalabrine in the scramble for the rebound [4, 9:15], it seemed like Friday’s top storyline would be how the captain was still not fit for duty.

    A layup off a crisp entry pass from Anthony Morrow got Jackson rolling [4, 8:42], and he didn’t stop the rest of the way.

    The Warriors trailed by five before that bucket; they led by nine a little less than 4 1/2 minutes later, with Jackson scoring 13 of Golden State’s 18 points and assisting on three more — a trey from Kelenna Azubuike [4, 7:46].

    Jackson drained a pair of 3-pointers of his own in that stretch, one with Pierce’s hand in his face on…

    7 Comments
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