The Starting Lineup: Surging Pistons Fall Victim To Irving And Gee

The Pistons, who had won 7 of their last 9, appeared to be well on their way to making it 8 of 10.  I told you all that I planned to watch this game in hopes of figuring out what exactly Detroit is doing to win all of these basketball games, and in the process of doing so maybe catch a little Kyrie Irving sighting.  Well, folks, I got everything I bargained for and more.  The Pistons began the game aggressively seeking out baskets in the paint.  When they weren’t able to find a look, they kicked the ball to the outside.  That’s textbook basketball, and based on the 47.4 paint points they’ve been scoring over this 10-game stretch I’d say the inside-out style of play is precisely what’s behind the sudden turnaround.  Just to give that number a little more meaning, consider this: if Detroit averaged 47.4 paint points on the season they’d rank third in the league in that category.  Oh, and Greg Monroe is second amongst all centers in assists per game (another 7 dimes tonight).  Yup, Lawrence Frank has these young Pistons playing the right way, and his young center has the capability to take this team places… probably not this year, but in the not-so-distant future.  I mean, they’ve got this 21-year-old big man dishing all these dimes and a 20-year-old point guard leading all rookies in three-point makes.  Sounds like a dynamic duo to me.  If not for Kyrie Irving having a Rose-like fourth quarter, the Pistons come up with another impressive win in which they racked up 22 assists on 37 field goals.

As for Kyrie Irving’s Rose-like fourth quarter… yeah, he dropped 17 of his 25 points.  Also deserving of a ton of credit is Alonzo Gee, who stepped up and scored 13 of his 16 in the final period.  That’s a total of 30 points between the two of ‘em… 30 of the 35 Cleveland scored to make their 17-point comeback possible.  Although it was Irving who scored 8 of his team’s final 14 as he nailed long threes and switched hands in mid air during spectacular forays to the basket, it was Gee who scored the go-ahead bucket with 25 seconds left.  In typical Alonzo Gee fashion, he dunked it with two hands.  Ain’t nothin’ but a Gee thang, baaaaabay!

As the Pacers beat the Hornets in OT, Chris Kaveman scored 10 first-quarter points.  Antawn Jamison one-upped him by dropping 11 in the first quarter of Cleveland’s win over Detroit.  While Kaman calmed down a little bit, finishing with just 17, Jamison continued to dominate, going for 32 on the night.  The reason I’ve chosen to bring this up is because the trade deadline is just over the horizon… and these two players absolutely need to be dealt.  It’s not that they’re troublemakers, or that they’re taking playing time from some young stud… it’s just that they aren’t part of their respective teams’ future plans.  Both of these guys still have a lot of game left, and they’re the type of dudes who could help lift a contending team over that final hurdle.  Jamison is still an excellent scorer both inside and out, and Chris Kaman is quite a bit better at everything than some folks (including myself, ’cause I’ve been a hater) make him out to be.  Both Jamison and Kaman are playing out the final year of their contracts, so they’re gone come season’s end.  May as well get a young prospect or a couple of picks out of ‘em, right?  The size of their contracts does make the task of dealing them a little more daunting, but I’ve seen Hedo Turkoglu get traded… twice.  I’m 100% sure Antawn Jamison and Chris Kaman can be dealt.

Roy Hibbert dropped a career-high 30 points in that aforementioned Pacer victory.  He and Darren Collison played some excellent basketball down the stretch.  Collison did miss a big freethrow that allowed Trevor Ariza to extend the game an extra five minutes, but aside from that little blemish the both of ‘em were damn near flawless… they scored 8 of Indiana’s 17 in an explosive OT, and they collaborated on a huge pick-and-roll bucket that gave the Pacers a 93-91 lead with 2:31 to go in regulation.  The clutch P&R involved one of three Collison assists that came in the final three minutes on the fourth, and that’s not to mention the pair of big buckets he had just knocked down in the previous couple of minutes.  Both Hibbert and Collison stepped up on the defensive end as well.  Collison didn’t allow Jarrett Jack to get loose for any clean looks, forcing lesser offensive players to take big shots.  Hibbert had a big block on my dude Gustavo Ayon, who was ballin’ down the stretch (three straight buckets late in the fourth), as well as 13 boards on the night.  Collison actually had 8 boards of his own to go along with his 18 points and 6 assists.  He only missed three shots and turned the ball over just once.  Great games from both players, and a career night for Big Hibbs.  Christ, there’s so much to say about these two… I didn’t even mention Roy’s string of three straight dunks in the first quarter.  That was pretty boss.

If someone offered you a million bucks to attend to a few Chinese basketball practices, would you show up?  If so, you aren’t JR Smith.  Via

With his off-court drama and on-court offensive explosions, J.R. Smith gave Chinese Basketball Association officials, coaches, teammates and fans a lot to remember this year and more.

As in, much more.

According to a report published by NetEase, Smith had US $1.06 million deducted from his salary over the course of the season for missing practices. Most of the missed practices came during pre-season while his team, Zhejiang Chouzhou, was getting ready for the start of the regular season. The sum was deducted from his salary, a final number that represented about one-third of his total salary.

Zhejiang Chouzhou general manager, Zhao Bing, said that the team was simply enforcing a clause in Smith’s signed contract and that the team gave him ample warning throughout.

“This was the arrangement when he came to the team,” said Zhao. “Every practice we let him know. If he expressed to us that he wasn’t going to come to practice, we’d tell him that in accordance with our contract, we’re deducting money from your salary. And he’d always get back to us with, ‘Whatever. If you’re going to take it, then just take it.’”

If I remember correctly, it was reported that JR skipped a practice or two to go shopping.  Could’ve done a lot more of that in the offseason had you simply shown up at the damn gym, JR.  Seriously, I don’t care how much money you make, a million dollars isn’t anything to scoff at.  How irresponsible does one have to be to skip practice knowing that there’s this amount of money on the line?  I’m sorry, but if I ever read a story about the financial downfall of one JR Smith… I’m going to have an awfully hard f@cking time feeling sorry for the guy.  Multiple times I’ve written about how this whole Chinese experience could’ve been such an eye-opening one for JR, but I think I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s never gonna “get it.”  It’s too bad, because he’s insanely talented.

Isiah Thomas says f@ck a 23-point game... I’m about to drop 24 on the Heat! Last summer’s 60th overall draft pick did just that, and although the Kings lost their sixth in a row, I can’t help but be impressed by what this little guy is doing.  Since being named the starter he’s scored 13, 23, and 24, and he’s done it on 50+ percent from the floor.  Not bad for a guy who was picked dead last in his draft.  It got me thinking, how many 60th overall picks have ever even started an NBA game?  Well, here’s a list of all the 60th (or 58th prior to ’04/Bobcats) picks from 2010 back to 1995: Dwayne Collins, Robert Dozier, Semih Erden, Milovan Rakovic, Will Blalock, Alex Acker, Rashad Wright, Andreas Glyniadakis, Corsley Edwards, Bryan Bracey, Pete Mickael, Eddie Lucas, Maceo Baston, Roberto Duenas, Darnell Robinson, and the great Don Reid.  Well… Semih Erden has started a game or two.  I’m not even going to check on the others seeing as I’ve only heard of four of them.  I suppose my underwhelming list goes to show that what Isiah Thomas is doing is special already, even that this extremely early stage.  Keep in mind his 5’9 stature… that makes him even more of a long shot.

I normally don’t care about sh!t like this, but Udonis Haslem has passed Rony Seikaly on the Miami Heat’s all-time rebounding list.  That makes Haslem #2, and the reason I’m bringing it up is because he’s an undrafted player, and because he’s going to pass Alonzo Mourning for #1 pretty soon (needs fewer than 300 more).  How many undrafted players go on to rank first in franchise history in any category?  That’s a pretty awesome accomplishment that Haslem will soon be able to claim.

DeMarcus Cousins should probably join the AND1 Mixtape Tour. They wouldn’t mind his habitual eating of three pre-game pizzas, he’d have no real coaches to deal with, he could shoot all the jumpers he wants, and he’d get to showcase his streetball handles on a nightly basis.  Look what he did to Mario Chalmers…

That would’ve drawn at least five Oh Baby!s from Duke Tango.  It drew one from me, and I can’t stand the fat sh!t.  Sick move.

Team USA will be wearing some cooler-than-average jerseys in the 2012 Olympics.  Check them out…

A simple, normally-shaped, not-WNBA-looking basketball jersey featuring a big, bold font?  Thank you, basketball gods!

If you watch a Memphis Grizzlies game you’re bound to hear some goofy southern rap song from a one-hit wonder that was all the rage back in 2005.  The Fed Ex Forum DJ used to OD on Kia Shine’s “So Krispy,” and now he’s all about Crime Mob’s “Knuck If You Buck.”  Instead of that whole Memphis Tams ABA sh!t, I think they should expand on the hip-hop era theme.  Wear the black and teal unis, call up Stromile Swift and Bonzi Wells, fire what’s his name and replace him with Hubie Brown… etc.  I mean, sh!t, it can’t be any worse than yellow tops and green bottoms.

Box Score Observations: San Antonio’s 11-game win streak came to a 40-point end at the Rose Garden.  Nobody you’ve ever heard of suited up for the Spurs as they gave up 137 points.  Thirteen Blazers took the court, and the only one who couldn’t manage to get a basket was Marcus Camby.  The old man didn’t even take a shot.  Marc Gasol had 15/14/7 as the Grizzlies defeated the Sixers in the Marreese Speights revenge game.  Speights had just 2 rebounds, which is kinda funny ’cause the Sixers traded him on account of his disinterest in doing anything but scoring.  Philly has lost four in a row now… they’re really struggling to put points on the board.  The Heat beat the Kings by 12.  Eddy Curry is on a two-game DNPCD streak.

Highlight Recap, Elliot Williams Edition:

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