7 Takeaways from Wednesday Night's Emotional Action
Watch Earl Clark's return to Phoenix, Lakers vs Suns on ESPN/WatchESPN App— Andrew Bubbs Payne (@Tha_Bubbs) January 31, 2013
Oh, and a certain veteran point guard also made his return to Arizona. The Suns and Lakers have gone through dramatic transformations since meeting in the 2010 Western Conference playoffs.
In the case of the Suns, the changes have mostly been bad. Once the most thrilling team in sports, Phoenix is possibly the most boring team on League Pass.
Steve Nash got out at the right time. The problem is, as we would later be reminded, he might have gotten out and left to the wrong place.
Memphis Won Their Trade
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John Hollinger has gotten off to a good start as an executive with the Memphis Grizzlies. As ESPN's Marc Stein reported, the Grizzlies unloaded (the pricey) Rudy Gay in exchange for Ed Davis and Jose Calderon from the Toronto Raptors.
Then, via a trade with the Detroit Pistons, Memphis got floor-spacing defensive ace Tayshaun Prince. Prince and Gay are the most recognizable names, but Ed Davis is an athletic 23-year-old power forward who's currently posting a betting PER than either.
In short, the Grizzlies got better in the short term while saving a lot of money. Despite his fame, Rudy Gay was shooting terribly this season. His 47.8 true shooting percentage is worse than any team in the league averages.
You could make the argument that Rudy will thrive in Toronto. You can't possibly make the argument that he was helping Memphis at his current production level.
The Birdman Flies
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I was more struck by how Chris "Birdman" Andersen looked competent. Miami's newest addition had 5 boards and a block in 10 minutes. He also did this:
Truth be told, Andersen doesn't completely look like his old self. It might take some time to get all the way back to game shape.
If the Birdman can regain his form, though, the Miami Heat just got all the more frightening. They lack shot blockers and rebounders, and Andersen is a rebounding shot-blocker. The veteran center has the capacity to erase the team's lone weakness.
The Boston Celtics Are Playoff Favorites
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Don't bury the Boston Celtics just yet. Since losing Rajon Rondo for the season with an ACL tear, Boston is 2-0.
Small sample size to be sure, but the C's looked mighty impressive while slaughtering the visiting Sacramento Kings 99-81. The wins won't always come that easily, but the ball movement was impressive.
Rondo elevated Boston's ceiling, but also held his team back at times by stopping the ball- and assist-hunting. While the Celtics would certainly like to still have their All-Star point guard, they should remain good enough without him to at least get a lower playoff spot.
To those who declare the "end of the Kevin Garnett era," I say this: The KG era ends when KG's no longer on the team. I'm simple like that.
Let It Fly, Thaddeus Young
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A funny thing is going on in Philadelphia: Thaddeus Young is shooting threes again.
Three games ago, against the New York Knicks, Young tried only his second triple of the season. The next game, against the Grizzlies, he tried another one.
On Wednesday night, Young hit his first three-pointer of the season in a 92-84 win over the Washington Wizards. Does this mean that Doug Collins is finally relaxing, or is this Young's quiet rebellion?
I had high hopes that the athletic power forward would space the floor with a three-point shot. Young shot above 34 percent from three in two straight seasons before Doug Collins got him to focus solely on two-pointers.
Now, with Philly's offense all gummed up, it's possible that Collins sees the benefit of floor spacing. I'm appreciative of the new dimension it could add to the talented Young's game.
Amare Stoudemire Is Back
New York just got better if the latest Amare Stoudemire is the real one. With Pau Gasol complaining his way through a perceived demotion, praise should be given to Amare for embracing his bench role.
When starting alongside Carmelo Anthony, Stoudemire doesn't much help the Knicks. When coming off the bench, he can be a uniquely powerful reserve offensive weapon.
New York's defense is still questionable at this juncture of the season. But, with an increasingly good Amare, the 28-15 Knicks might have basketball's best offense.
The Nuggets Might Have That Go-to Guy
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Danilo Gallinari paced the offense in the fourth quarter and finished with 27 points on a mere 17 shots. He certainly looked like the "go-to-guy" that Denver supposedly lacks.
I believe Denver's problem to be a lack of shooting and related lack of spacing. If they can fix that problem via a trade, lacking a superstar won't matter as much. Just give Gallinari or Ty Lawson some room and they'll get the job done.
Lakers Lose, Because Dwight Howard Matters
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All the criticism of Dwight Howard took attention away from how productive an offensive player he's been, and also how the Lakers still need his presence, even in its diminished state.
That was clear against the Phoenix Suns when Dwight Howard had to leave the game after reaggravating his labrum injury:
Suns finished the game on a 19-8 run after Dwight Howard got hurt.— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) January 31, 2013
Phoenix ended up winning 92-86, as the returning Earl Clark floundered. As for the (obviously, also returning) Steve Nash, Kobe's assist-fixation froze him out of the Laker offense.
Steve Nash finished with a mere two dimes in 33 minutes of play. He was actually less effective than Michael Beasley of all people, who hit 12 of his 20 shots for the home team. It's a crushing defeat for a Laker team that's hanging by a thread.