Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 1/7/18

BKN: D’Angelo Russell Has Become The Leader (from Phil Watson, Nothin’ But Nets):
BOS: The Celtics Have A Top-10 Offense Without Scoring In The Paint Or From The FT Line (from Bill Sy, Celtics Blog):
BOS: Hayward Keeps Improving (from Tom Westerholm, Mass Live):
DAL: The Mavs Key To Keeping Players Fresh: Blood Samples (from Marc Stein, NY Times):
DEN: The Contagious Passing Of Nikola Jokic Has The Nuggets On Top (from Wes Goldberg, The Step Back):
Read and watch it here:

HOU: Harden & True Shooting Charts (from Positive Residual, Nylon Calculus):
HOU: Austin Rivers Has Been A Great Addition So Far (form Michael Knight, Space City Scoop):
IND: Q & A: Myles Turner (from Sekou Smith,
LAL: Film Room: How The Lakers Have Changed Lonzo’s Role Without LBJ (from Pete Zayas, Silver Screen & Roll):
LAL: Solving Lakers’ FT Woes Will Be Difficult But Not Impossible (from Dr. Rajpal Brar, Silver Screen And Roll):
MIL: George Hill Is Doing The Little Things (from Matt Velazquez,
MIN: Questions For The Wolves Going Forward (from A Wolf Among Wolves):
MIN: The Wolves’ PG Issues (from Tyler Metcalf, Hashtag Basketball):
ORL: Isaac Is Straddling The Magic’s Present & Future (from Philip Rossman Reich, Orlando Magic Daily):
PHI: Ben Simmons Is Not Holding The Sixers Back (from Ben Detrick, The Ringer):
SAC: Bogdanovic: King’s Offensive Ace (from Jeff Siegel, Dime Mag):
SAS: Spurs’ Unlikely Starting Backcourt Finds Its Way (from Jeff McDonald, Express News):
TOR: Serge Ibaka’s Career Year At Center (from Jared Dubin, The Step Back):
TOR: Raptors Face Back-End Decisions (from Blake Murphy, The Athletic):
UTA: Here’s What Mitchell Is Seeing Differently From Defenses In Year Two (from Eric Woodyard, Deseret News):

INTERLEAGUE: History of the NBA-ABA Exhibition Series is the most comprehensive account of these forgotten games, which would serve as an anticipated proving ground for the emerging ABA talent. Containing over 150 box scores, recaps of every single game, and new stories on the game’s greats, INTERLEAGUE, a digital-only book, is a must-read. It was written with the goal of helping aid former ABA stars in financial need, with $2 from every sale through All-Star Weekend going to Dropping Dimes.

Buy + download the PDF here:


– A conversation with Hubie Brown (from Darnell Mayberry,

“In this Q & A,  Brown talked about tanking, his television style and the greatest man he’s ever known.”

Read it here:

– Scott Brooks: “Durant ‘All About the team’ ” (from Dave McMenamin,

” “Let’s face it: If he wanted to score a bunch of points or more than he’s scoring now, he really could do that,” Brooks said before the Thunder played the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. “His assist level has gone up, he impacts the game. Defensively, he impacts the game. He can guard 1 through 5. So a lot of things that he does (are) all about the team.”

Read it here:

– Nets find a way to win (from Tim Bontemps, NYPost):

Despite being outrebounded 53-27 by the Kings (and 28-27 by DeMarcus Cousins) and losing 2 more former all-stars to injuries, the Nets defeated the Sacramento Kings.

Read Tim’s game story here:

– Rockets Nip Blazers in Overtime (from Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle):

” It’s hard to think we could have any more confidence right now,” Rockets forward Chandler Parsons said. “Our confidence is sky high. We think we are the best team in the league and we are going to go and prove it every single night.”

” I could feel the guys coming together,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “Their chemistry is improving. Their belief in each other is improving. They are bonding. It’s nice to be around that because that is what makes sports special, when you get around guys who are bonding and fighting together. That’s the hook for all of us guys who have been doing this for many, many years is that belief that together we can get something accomplished and that’s fun.”

That did not happen with the comeback win. The comeback win happened because of that.”

Read it here:

Rockets Stake Claim As NBA’s Best (from Fran Blinebury,

” Right now, Dwight Howard, James Harden and their dangerous buddies are in the fast lane with the top down and passing everybody else on the freeway.”

Read it here:

– While Noah Rejoices, LeBron Bemoans Slide (from Brian Windhorst,

” ‘I love it, beating Miami,” Noah said. “I don’t care if it’s the regular season, it’s always special.’

Meanwhile, LeBron James was in full lament. Both about his last shot of regulation and his week that started so promisingly and ended with disappointment.”

Read it here:

Throwing down the Polish Hammer (from Kyle Weidie, ESPN’s TrueDC):

“Marcin Gortat is Poland’s only NBA son…Gortat sat down to talk pick-and-rolls with John Wall, aspirations to become the president of Poland, pre-game hype music, ripping towels, the difference between “Polish Machine” and “Polish Hammer,” and what it will feel like to be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.”

Read the Q & A here:

– Mavs bounce back by beating two heavyweights (from Tim MacMahon, EspnDallas):

” At the end of arguably their best weekend of the season, the Dallas Mavericks still had their miserable performance days earlier in Denver on their minds….That debacle in Denver apparently did shake up the Mavs. They responded by beating a couple of NBA heavyweights during this two-game homestand, battling for hard-earned victories over the Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers.”

Read it here:

– How the Spurs cooled down LeBron James (from J.Gomez,

” Using cohesive team defense and the great defensive talent of Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs did as good a

job of shutting down James as any team can hope to”

Read and view it here:

– Examining the Thunder’s defensive struggles since All-Star break (from Kevin Yeung,

“The Thunder are 3-5 since the All-Star break and much of it is due to defensive struggles. On that end, they’ve been plagued by not only injuries, but their own lackadaisical effort.”

Read it here:

– Trail Blazers and NBA referees: Balancing when, and how, to cry foul (from Jason Quick,

” In the NBA, everybody does it: Coaches, players, and especially the fans complain about calls made by the officials.

But how much a team complains, and how much a team dwells on the calls, could become a distraction, and ultimately have an effect on the outcome of a game.

So as the Trail Blazers head down the stretch of the season, each of their 20 games will carry more importance, more pressure, and seemingly more emotion. As a result, every referee’s call tends to be magnified, and can test the team’s discipline and focus.

Blazers coach Terry Stotts says it is an area he monitors, and has had to address on occasion this season.”

Read it here:

Heat, Knicks,Pelicans,Wizards,Asst Coaches,Clips,Rockets,D-League,Celtics

Miami Heat knows how to win; New York Knicks don’t ( from Greg Cote, Mami Herald):

” The gaping difference between the extremes of the Heat and the Knicks we’d call the Three C’s:




The Heat has each in abundance. The Knicks are bereft.”

Read it here:


Gordon Healthy, But Unfulfilled in N.O. (from Jeff Caplan,

” Friday’s game at Phoenix will be the 55th of the season for Pelicans guard Eric Gordon. That is significant because it is four more games than he managed to play in his first two injury-saddled seasons in the Big Easy.

The irony isn’t lost on him. He’s healthy, finally, but the teammates expected to lift this franchise back into the playoff hunt are not.”

Read it here:


A day in the life of an assistant coach ( from Doug Eberhardt, SBNation):

” Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be an assistant coach? Hopefully, this will give you a glimpse into that kind of life.

I’ve tried to synthesize the day of an assistant coach based on my time working with a few different teams in the league. Everyone does things a little differently, so this should not be accepted as universal. Still, hopefully this provides an overview of what kind of hours coaches put in on non-gamedays.”

Read it here:


Clippers swap Mullens and Jamison for Davis and Granger (from Steve Perrin,

“…essentially, the Clippers traded Bryon Mullens and Antawn Jamison for Big Baby Davis and Danny Granger — and reduced their

luxury tax bill a couple million dollars in the process. Wow.”

Read it here:


Daryl Morey’s D-League Plan to Do Away With Midrange Shots (from Kirk Goldsberry,

” So far this season, 25 percent of NBA field goal attempts have occurred beyond the 3-point line. As a whole, the league is making 37 percent of its 3s. And despite the dramatic rise in 3-point shooting, many of the game’s premier analytical minds suggest that even today’s rate of 3-point shooting remains too conservative. There is no more prominent member of this camp than Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets and one of the cochairs of the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, which gets under way tomorrow in Boston

” There are essentially three kinds of shots in the NBA: close-range shots, midrange shots, and 3-point shots. Altogether, the league takes 41 percent of its shots inside of eight feet and makes 55 percent of them. That means the lion’s share of NBA shot attempts comes from either midrange or 3-point attempts. So far this year, 2-point shots between the eight-foot mark and the 3-point line have succeeded 39 percent of the time. Three-point shots connect 37 percent of the time; you don’t have to be an Academic All-American to figure out that, generally speaking, 3-point shots are better offensive investments than 2-point jumpers.”

Read it here:


A Look at Four Model D-League Teams (from Adam Wilk,

“: The NBA Development League began its 13th season last November. The league has come a long way from its start in 2001. After some expected initial ups and downs, the D-League is well on its way to becoming a true minor league system for its NBA parent clubs. While many NBA teams utilize the D-League in creative and innovative ways, there are a select few that have found a way to get the most out of their market, players, coaches, and management.”

Read it here:

Assessing the Boston Celtics Pick and Roll Defense: Part One (from Kevin O’Connor,

“How do the Boston Celtics defend the pick and roll? Here, a new way of assessing defense with statistics is introduced, and the Celtics’ production defending the pick and roll in February is briefly analyzed.”

Read and view it here:

Game of the Night (Wiz 134, Raps 129, 3OTs): (from Mike Prada,

Read it here:

Bill Sharman, R.I.P., O Canada!, Advanced Analytics

A three-fer today.

-Bill Sharman, Rest in Peace.  One of the all-time greats passed away yesterday. Here is his Los Angeles times obit:,0,7649457,full.story#axzz2ikekHUyZ

– This year’s 1st overall draft pick was Canadian Anthony Bennett.  Many are predicting that next year’s #1 overall will be Andrew Wiggins, also a Canadian.  But that’s not all, not by a long shot:

– “NBA Embraces Advanced Analytics”

(Note here is our take on the above WaPo story:  While specific advanced analytical stats, as shown in this article, are proving to be quite valuable, aggregate stats that purport to rank players’ overall performance are a different story. PER, for example, is really just fancified fantasy basketball with no demonstration of validity or correlation to outcomes. Worse, when responding to criticism that it didn’t include any defensive component, its creator added blocks and steals statistics even while acknowledging that they were not good measures of defensive performance.)

The Final Game of the ABA

This post is inspired by ESPN’s recent 30-for-30 feature on Marvin Barnes and the Spirits of St. Louis and by the late Basketball Digest’s great recurring feature “The Game I’ll Never Forget”

In this  BBall Digest story from 2001, Net guard Bill Melchionni recounts the last game ever played in that league in which the Nets won the final ABA title with a thrilling come-from-behind win over the talented Denver Nuggets.

Tomorrow, we will revert to our usual best story of the day format but we plan to revisit these “Game I’ll Never Forget” stories periodcially.

The Game I’ll Never Forget: Bill Melchionni

as told to Chuck O’Donnell
Basketball Digest
January 2001

The Nets’ all-time assists leader fondly recalls the heroics of “Super” John Williamson in the 1976 ABA title game

WHEN MY TEAMMATES FROM the 1975-76 New York Nets and I reunited a few years ago to commemorate our ABA title, we all took a long stroll down memory lane.

We told our favorite stories about Brian Taylor’s brilliant outside shooting and his amazing ball-handling. We talked about the hustle and consistency Jim Eakins, Kim Hughes, Tim Bassett, and Al Skinner brought to the floor every night. We reminisced about Rich Jones’ battles under the boards and coach Kevin Loughery’s battles with the referees. And, of course, everyone played “top that” with Julius Erving dunk stories.

Eventually, the conversation turned to “Super” John Williamson and the ’76 title. We all agreed that if it weren’t for John being nothing short of super in the sixth and final game of that series, we may well not have had a rifle to reminisce about.

That night of Game 6, the sold-out crowd at the Nassau Coliseum had been somewhat lulled to sleep by our opponents, the powerful Denver Nuggets. Dan Issel, David Thompson, Bobby Jones, Ralph Simpson, Byron Beck, and company had taken a big halftime lead and then further expanded the margin in the third quarter. The Nuggets seemed crisp and on top of their game, and Thompson, in particular, was having a big night putting the ball in the hoop.

None of us really wanted to play a seventh game. When you get to a seventh game, anything can happen. Although we had taken control of the series by winning some close games, it could all be erased by a freak injury or a buzzer-beater or a bad call by the referees in a seventh game.

I guess the idea of having to play a seventh game appealed to Super John the least of all our players. He wanted to end the series now–huge deficit or not. That little thing that he had–that little thing that separates good players from great players–began to rise to the surface.

You see, Super John had confidence. I remember when he arrived at training camp as a rookie, he already had that confidence. He walked in that first day with a big leather bag emblazoned with “SUPER JOHN” on the side. We had some pretty good players such as Doc and Taylor and Billy Paultz. Everyone was looking at Super John, asking incredulously, “Who in the world does this guy think he is?”

But confidence was a big part of Williamson’s game. He thought he was one of the best players around, which you could tell by the way he carried himself. He not only wanted to take the big shot; he thought he should take the big shot.

And it wasn’t all attitude–Super John had skills. He was a very physical player, a very strong player, and always the picture of fitness. He was one of the few guards in the league that played like a power forward and wore his opponent down. He was also a good shooter. When he had an open shot, you were surprised when he didn’t make it. When he was on his game, he was a tremendous offensive talent.

Trailing at halftime, Kevin and I (I was a player-coach at the time) began to address the team. We said, “Let’s get this thing down to single digits in the third quarter and hopefully make another run in the fourth quarter. We’re giving up too many easy shots. We’re not doing the things we should be doing, the little things.”

The Nuggets came out in the second half and added to their lead. With 17 minutes left in the game, we trailed by 22 points. Things looked bleak.

That’s when Super John took over the game I’ll never forget.

John started making shots of every type from every conceivable place on the floor.

Jumper? Swish!

Layup? Yes!

Dunk? Oh yeah!

He went left, right, straight ahead. He went past defenders, through defenders, over defenders. He later said that he was upset at himself for not playing as well as he would have liked to in the first half and that he wanted to make up for it in the second half.

Then, Kevin made a bold, but ingenious strategic move. He switched defenses late in the third quarter, going to a set code-named “Yellow.” We began to unmercifully press and pressure the Nuggets. And as we began to steal the ball on almost every Nuggets possession, we also began to steal their poise.

By the end of the third, we had cut the deficit to 92-78, but we were just starting.

Soon the lead was down to single digits. Then Jones and Issel fouled out. The next thing you know, we took our first lead since early in the first quarter. I’ll give you one guess who made the shot to give us the lead. Of course it was Super John. He lofted in a jumper from the corner to make the score 106-104 with 2:19 to play.

By now, the crowd was going crazy and we could feel our momentum surging, but the Nuggets reached down and showed some resolve. They were down, 108-106, with about a minute and a half left when their young backup center, Marvin Webster, went to the line. However, Webster missed both free throws and moments later was called for goaltending on Brian Taylor’s shot, sealing our victory.

After our 112-106 win, the champagne flowed in the locker room. Dr. J, who oddly enough didn’t score a point in that incredible fourth quarter, was named the Finals MVP. Reporters huddled around Eakins, who filled in for an injured Kim Hughes and gave us a 15-point, 13-rebound effort. But, there was no doubt that Super John was Superman that night. He finished with 28 points, including 24 in the second half.

Although we had no idea at the time, that game turned out to be the last in ABA history. During the offseason, the ABA folded, and our team, along with the Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, and San Antonio Spurs, joined the NBA.

At our championship reunion years later, the only regret we former Nets had was that Super John couldn’t be there sharing the laughs with us. Sadly, John died in 1996 of a blood disorder. Knowing him and his cockiness, at the reunion he would have still taken all the credit for the last ABA title.

And you know what? I wouldn’t have argued with him.”