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Tag:Gerald Wallace
Posted on: February 16, 2012 1:46 am
Edited on: February 16, 2012 2:41 am
 

Report Card: 'Linsanity' pulls Knicks to .500

Posted by Ben Golliver 

Everything came easy against the Sacramento Kings for Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks . (Getty Images)

Each night, Eye on Basketball brings you what you need to know about the games of the NBA. From great performances to terrible clock management the report card evaluates and eviscerates the good, the bad, and the ugly from the night that was.

Jeremy Lin No late-game heroics from the Knicks guard this time around, but he did dish out a career-high 13 assists, getting into the lane at will against Sacramento's perimeter defense. New York cruised to a 100-85 victory in front of the home crowd, and Lin's ball distribution helped New York land seven players in double figures. All five Knicks starters finished +18 or better. Dominant. Seven straight wins for the Knicks, who pulled back to .500 for the first time in a month.
Kevin Love The Timberwolves are flirting with .500, so they should handle a team as bad as the Bobcats at home with ease. But this is still the first season on the upswing for Minnesota and a good solid thumping can't always be assumed. Kevin Love put up an absurd 30 points, 18 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal night on 11-21 shooting. That's how you pound a poor team into submission. Don't look now, but Charlotte has now lost 16 straight; the next longest streak in the league is 7.
Portland Trail Blazers Portland might have needed a win as badly as any team in the league, given its recent poor play and the loss of forward LaMarcus Aldridge to injury. Winning in the Bay Area and winning close games have both been bugaboos for the Blazers, but they pulled out a late win over the Warriors thanks to solid team rebounding and a late 3-pointer by Jamal Crawford. Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby were key energy providers and the Crawford three helped make up for Portland's top-3 guards combining to shoot 13-for-40 on the night.
Nate Robinson Nate Robinson gives and Nate Robinson taketh away. With star guard Monta Ellis pinned to the bench late in the game, apparently due to illness, Warriors coach Mark Jackson effectively turned the game over to Robinson, who finished with 21 points in 21 minutes. Unfortunately, 4 turnovers and some poor shot selection on key possessions down the stretch contributed to the Warriors scoring just 37 second-half points, and Robinson bumbled the ball on the game's final possession. Endless excitement but ultimately unfulfilling. Story of his NBA career.
Washington Wizards One night after torching Portland from absolutely everywhere, shooting an unconscious 60 percent for the game as a team, the Wizards fell back to Earth against the Clippers, shooting just 5-for-22 from deep while getting killed on the glass. All five L.A. starters hit double figures, as did Mo Williams, and this one ended in an 18-point rout.
Oklahoma City Thunder The West's top team can't be happy with the slowest of slow starts, as they scored just 13 points in the first quarter at Houston, digging themselves a 16-point hole in the first frame. The Thunder charged back hard and probably should have won this one, but neither Kevin Durant (33 points) or Russell Westbrook (26 points) really found their strokes from deep. Unusual late-game shortcomings from both All-Stars added salt to the wound.



E FOR EFFORT
Tony Parker (34 points, 14 assists, 11-for-23 shooting, 12-for-12 free throws, 1 steal in a road win over the Toronto Raptors)
Gerald Wallace (24 points, 6-for-13 shooting, 4-4 from 3s, 8-8 free throws, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block in a road win over the Golden State Warriors)
Greg Monroe (22 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block in a road win over the Boston Celtics)
Ryan Anderson (27 points, 2 rebounds, 9-for-12 shooting, 7-for-10 from deep in a home win over the Philadelphia 76ers, plus a selection for the 3-point shooting contest)
Posted on: January 6, 2012 3:04 am
Edited on: January 6, 2012 5:52 am
 

Gerald Wallace key as Blazers down Lakers

Posted by Ben Golliverwallace-windmill

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Gerald Wallace has spent a full decade in the NBA now, overlooked and underrated, a favorite of basketball purists who never quite cracked into the "superstar" conversation despite two-way play and boundless energy matched by few.

It was fitting, then, that his signature performance as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers was obscured, for a half, by a television black hole that made the game unwatchable for virtually the entire country. The first game of TNT's doubleheader -- a short-handed Miami Heat team with just one of its "Big 3" active versus an Atlanta Hawks team that broadcaster Charles Barkley admitted he "couldn't stand" -- dragged into three overtimes, keeping the Blazers vs. Los Angeles Lakers nightcap off the air for the first two quarters. 

By the time the nation was able to tune into the second half, Wallace already had 17 points, matching Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant point-for-point for the first two frames. He was just getting started.

Wallace finished with a game-high 31 points plus five rebounds and two steals, and TNT managed to catch up just in time to air the highlight of his time in Portland, a tenure that began when he arrived in a trade with the Charlotte Bobcats at last year's trade deadline.

Halfway through the third quarter, Bryant missed a deep 3-point attempt with Wallace closing late to contest. Without stopping, Wallace leaked out behind the play, catching a well-timed pass from center Marcus Camby in stride. With none of the Lakers in pursuit, Wallace took a rare opportunity to add an unnecessary flourish, finishing the play with a windmill slam dunk that set the Rose Garden crowd into hysterics.

"I was down there by myself for about two minutes," Wallace joked afterwards. "I had time to get myself together and wake my legs up. I needed something to get the team off their feet. Get our defense going. I think that was a game-changer right there for us."

A game-changer for sure, the emotional key in a 32-18 third quarter that pushed Portland to a lead it wouldn't relinquish on its way to a 107-96 home victory.

"You've got to let Gerald go and allow him the freedom to play," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. "His hustle, his energy -- we feed off of that, just scrapping and making plays, rebounding the ball, starting the break as well as finishing on the break. Then defensively, disrupting, coming up with some steals. We've been good when he plays like that."

With Bryant finding a shooting touch that has escaped him in recent games -- finishing 13-for-24 for 30 points -- Wallace did his best to harass him from first touch to follow-through, through screens and in transition. The effort earned Bryant's respect. 

"I love Gerald. He's a high-energy player. He's really worked on his game. His outside shooting, his ball-handling. His defense. He's been a tremendous player. He's been kind of below the radar."

The Blazers now sit at 5-1, tops in the Western Conference despite depressed preseason expectations that had them on track for a lower-half playoff seed, at best, following the losses of guard Brandon Roy and center Greg Oden to ongoing knee issues. In their absence, Wallace has been the difference, as his pairing with new point guard Raymond Felton has combined to transform Portland from one of the slowest teams in the league for years to one of its fastest so far this season. On Thursday, Felton finished with a season-high 10 assists.

"They pushed the ball down our backs," Bryant said flatly.

Indeed, the pace was furious from the opening tip. The crowd played a big role in that, with both teams looking ready to go from the opening seconds. Crisp play matched the pre-game excitement. The lockout-shortened schedule reduced the number of Portland's home dates against Los Angeles to just one rather than the customary two. Because of that, this early season game had a "now or never" feel, with fans of both teams arriving well before the television-delayed tip and the decibel levels approaching triple digits multiple times.

"I tell you what, it seems like everybody has a rivalry against the Lakers," first-year Lakers coach Mike Brown said before the game, after maintaining for days that he wasn't aware of the level of passion Portland fans feel when the Lakers come to town. 

Brown, like Phil Jackson before him, left Portland on Thursday night looking for answers. The Blazers, meanwhile, left with their eleventh win in their last 13 times hosting the Lakers.

"It drives me crazy," was all Bryant would say about L.A.'s continued struggles in the Northwest. 

On a night when the first half was lost to television scheduling and the second half unfolded while most of the country was already asleep, we would all do well to heed the three words Brown kept repeating after the loss: "Give Portland credit."

Especially Wallace. He's gone plenty long without getting his fair share.

Posted on: December 28, 2011 2:00 am
Edited on: December 28, 2011 2:12 pm
 

Report Card 12.27.11: Lakers back on track



By Matt Moore


The Lakers get off the schneid, the Heat win by the hair on their chinny-chin-chin, and the Blazers look better than last year. All this and more in Tuesday night's report card.

A: Portland Trail Blazers: On the second night of a back-to-back, the Blazers trounced the Kings in dominant fashion, including holding them to just 14 points in the fourth quarter. There's a lot to like about this Blazers team along with the usual suspects, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby, Nicolas Batum, and Wesley Matthews. Mostly, the defense, lead by Gerald Wallace. Wallace was an absolute demon Tuesday night, covering wall-to-wall and making every play you can imagine. The Blazers blocked three shots on one possession at one point, and wound up with eight blocks and six steals. A dominant showing on a night when their guards struggled. Blazers look good early.

A: Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers played so well I'm handing out two A-grades. On the third night of a back-to-back, the Lakers came out at home and put away any talk of their losing streak stretching to 0-3 in the first quarter. The Utah Jazz looked like the worst team in the league Tuesday night, but the Lakers' dominance was great enough to overcome the challenge of a terrible opponent bending the curve. Defense was the key here. Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace were everywhere. Gasol played extremetly strong both at the rim and in space against Al Jefferson. The Jazz were a wreck, but the Lakers steered them there. Great first win for Mike Brown and company.

B: Norris Cole: The Heat rookie was the fourth quarter closer the Big 3 could not, would not be. 20 points for the rook who was aggressive at every turn. Cole not only took the game by the horns and drove the Celtics into the ground to bring back for supper when they made a furious fourth quarter run behind a zone defense, he was pivotal on defense and made good decision making. He would nail a big shot, then fist pump his way to the bench without turning around for Dwyane Wade or LeBron James' approval. So why the B? He was a bit too aggresive at times and still struggles with finishing like all rookies do. Wouldn't want the kid to get too big a head on his shoulders. The kid simply stepped up, did his job, and helped get the win for the Heat when they needed someone to step up and hit the shots. And now everyone gets to ask, "They have MORE talent?"



C: Boston's comeback: Great adjustment by Boston coach Doc Rivers to go to the zone, which the Heat will now be seeing in every game for the remainder of the season. That, combined with some great shooting, particularly from Keyon Dooling, helped the Celtics bring the Heat to the knife's edge before Cole turned it around on them. The Celtics made the push they needed to, and showed why they are still dangerous. So why the C? They lost, are 0-2, with two losses to teams they are likely to encounter in the playoffs. It was a good comeback effort, but ultimeately, it wasn't enough, and you have to wonder if it would have been that close had it not gotten so out of hand in the third so as for Erik Spoelstra to start screwing with lineups. The Celtics get a D, but the comeback is a C. 

D: Heat's composure: How many times is this team going to melt down in the fourth? They had to turn to a rookie to save them late in a key game against arguably their biggest rival. It should never have gotten that close. Oh, and Paul Pierce didn't play. The Heat won, and they played incredibly well in the third, but man alive, they need to learn to close better.

F: Utah Jazz: So, you know, this draft class, it looks great...

Other Notable Grades:

Withdraw: Heat as invulnerable: Best team in the league right now? No question. But after looking like a flying death machine in the third, the Celtics drew blood on Heat before falling to their own mortality.

E For Effort: Kevin Love: 31 points, 20 boards in a three-point loss to the Bucks. Love was a monster and gave it his all in a badly coached game by Terry Porter with Rick Adelman absent due to a death in the family. One complaint? His final shot was either badly drawn up or executed, a pull-up 35-footer a la Kevin Durant in last year's playoffs vs. the Mavericks. But that stat line is part of what we missed during the lockout.

Gold stars: Pau Gasol (5 blocks). LaMarcus Aldridge. Brandon Jennings. Jon Leuer. Chris Bosh. MarShon Brooks. Vlad Radmanovic.
Posted on: December 26, 2011 5:45 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 5:57 pm
 

Jackson: 'I really left' after Wallace trade

Posted by Ben Golliverwallace-jackson

Trade my friend? OK, cool. I'll just throw in the towel.

That was the attitude adopted last season by then Charlotte Bobcats forward Stephen Jackson. According to Jackson.

Now with the Milwaukee Bucks, Jackson admitted to Charlotte.com that he mailed in the final 25 games of the season after the Bobcats traded forward Gerald Wallace to the Portland Trail Blazers for draft picks and expiring contracts.
“When Gerald left, I really left,’’ Jackson said at morning shootaround at Time Warner Cable Arena.

“Considering what we did (getting to) the playoffs, and then all those changes. To take Gerald away really took a lot out of me. I still was trying to do my job as best I can, but it was a lot harder. When they got rid of Gerald, that let me know they didn’t want to win. I didn’t want to be part of a place like that.’’
The Bobcats were 25-32 at the time of the trade and 9-16 after the trade deadline move that brought over injured center Joel Przybilla and second-year forward Dante Cunningham from Portland.

Keep in mind, this is the same Jackson who told Milwaukee media less than three weeks ago that there is nothing that can stop him from competing, not even a gunshot. Bucksketball.com with the quotes.
“If guys come in here not focused on a championship, just making the playoffs, we need to trade them. We need to be talking about championship and nothin’ else. You can’t limit yourself to just playoffs. Who wants to do that? Playoffs is not really an achievement to me. Anybody can get to the playoffs.”

“If I’m shot, I’ma get stitched and play the next game. I got hit by a car and played two days later.”
Jackson also claimed not to know that there was a lockout because he was attending to his rap career.
“Was there a lockout? I don’t know, I wasn’t even watching the news, I wasn’t affected by the lockout, I don’t have money problems. Yeah I wasn’t playing basketball, but I can’t control that. I was doing my music stuff at the time.”
The polite way to react to these statements is to say that what you see is what you get with Jackson. No minced words or trite comments, that's for sure.

Jackson was paid $8.5 million for the 2010-2011 season and was designated a team captain, so his honesty curries no favor. Without question, the Wallace trade was a move for the future and a signal that owner Michael Jordan was headed in a different direction. It's reasonable that Jackson took the news harder than anyone else in the locker room. But he still cashed the game checks and he still donned the uniform. Acknowledging that he checked out for nearly two months of an NBA season is a slap in the face to Charlotte's fans, whether he realizes that or not.

The good news: there's absolutely no second-guessing Bobcats new GM Rich Cho, who shipped Jackson to the Bucks on the night of the 2011 NBA Draft. Charlotte is in store for a burn-it-down rebuild that could take years before the team is in contention for the playoffs again. If Jackson couldn't handle two months without Wallace, imagine how the next two seasons would have played out.

He's your problem now, Milwaukee.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 11:22 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 11:37 pm
 

Video: Jeremy Evans posterizes Gerald Wallace

Posted by Ben Golliver

Wednesday night's preseason game between the Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers was all fun and games until Jazz forward Jeremy Evans decided to start jumping over people.

Evans, 24, is a second-year player out of Western Kentucky. It won't matter If he never has a better play than this during his NBA career because this was top-shelf.

Jazz forward Josh Howard found Evans trailing in transition, dishing the ball to him just inside the free throw line. Taking a gather step, Evans sprung into the air as Blazers forward Gerald Wallace moved in to take a charge. Evans catapulted over the top of Wallace -- striking a pose reminiscent of Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard's "Superman" dunk during the Slam Dunk Contest -- and threw the ball down into the rim from outside the protected circle.

Unfortunately, this early candidate for "Dunk of the Year" was called off as the referee whistled Evans for a charge. The call erased the two points but the memories will live forever. Jiminy Christmas.

Here's the video of Utah Jazz forward Jeremy Evans posterizing Portland Trail Blazers forward Gerald Wallace.


Posted on: August 12, 2011 1:00 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2011 5:55 pm
 

The EOB Elite 100, 50-41: Hawks, beards and Bulls

Posted by Royce Young



This is the sixth segment of the CBSSports.com Eye on Basketball Elite 100, counting down the top-100 players in the NBA. 

Check out the earlier installments: 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51

Once you break the top 50, you start getting good players. Former All-Stars, solid veterans and some up-and-comers. But the top 40, that's when you start breaking into some legit talent. The all-time 3-point king. A superbeard. An overpaid "star." A blossoming star point guard and a scoring savant. There are frustrating talents, disappointing stars, aging vets and a couple young studs that could jump 20 spots by next year.

As such, we march on towards No. 1 with 50-41.

50. Tyreke Evans, SG, age 21, Sacramento Kings
2011 stats: 17.8 ppg, 5.6 apg, 4.8 rpg, 40.9 FG%, 14.46 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 69, 49, 45

After winning Rookie of the Year in 2009-10, big things were expected from Tyreke Evans. Sure, he didn't quite have a position and the Kings weren't exactly committing either way in that regard, but he was a super-talented player that could score, pass and create.

One problem for him though in 2010-11: his foot. Evans suffered through plantar fasciitis for most of the season which caused him to miss a bundle of games -- 25, in fact -- while hampering him in the 57 he did play. He was never entirely totally himself. He'd have nights where he looked like the guy that tore teams up as he walked to the Rookie of the Year, but then you could just see how the injury nagged him. A good 2010-11 and Evans is probably in our top 40, maybe even top 30. Next season will be a big chance to bounce back for him. He's likely locked into a position as Jimmer Fredette will take over point guard duties and if he gets healthy, he'll settle right back in to a scorer/creator role for the Kings. And maybe a top 40 spot.

49. Ray Allen, SG, age 36, Boston Celtics

2011 stats: 16.5 ppg, 2.7 apg, 3.4 rpg, 49.1 FG%, 44.4 3P%, 16.42 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 49, 41, 63

It feels a little funny to have the NBA's all-time 3-point shooter sitting on the back end of the top 50. But that's what tends to happen when you get to the twilight of your career.

Funny thing about Ray Allen though: He might've had one of his best seasons last year at the age of 36. He shot a career-high 44 percent from 3, averaged an extremely efficient 16.5 points a game and did his usual thing of nailing big shots and backbreaking 3s. His game changed when he went to Boston. He wasn't the gunning shooting guard going for 25 a night anymore. But that was by design. He fits into a role and a system and he's reaped the rewards of that. He doesn't have a ton of time left, but if last season was any indication, he's going to put some serious distance between himself and No. 2 on the all-time 3s list before he's done.

48. Luis Scola, PF, age 31, Houston Rockets
2011 stats: 18.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.5 apg, 50.4 FG%, 18.43 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 44, 51, 57

Did you know Luis Scola has finished in the top 12 in scoring for power forward each of the last two seasons? I realize that's kind of a specific measure, but here's my point: Scola is really a pretty solid power forward.

He's easy to forget because he doesn't do a lot of anything that's flashy. He scores with tremendous touch and footwork. Nothing is really above the rim and nothing is really that eye-catching. It's a simple game, but it's ridiculously difficult to defend. He is a routine threat to go for 20 and when that soft little midrange jumper is happening, he's a serious problem.

47. Luol Deng, SF, age 26, Chicago Bulls
2011 stats: 17.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.8 apg, 46.0 FG%, 34.5 3P%, 15.58 PER
Composite rankings (random order):
42, 64, 44

The second best player on a team that just finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference should be higher than 48th, right? Seems so, but really, this is exactly where Deng fits. He scores just enough, is a premier defender, rebounds well and just kind of fills his spot.

But the Bulls needed more from him to advance past Miami in the Eastern Finals last year. Derrick Rose was often forced into being The Option for Chicago and it was always expected of Deng to do a bit more than just wait for an open look. On some nights, he would. Others, it was a quiet 14 points on 10 shots. It's probably not fair to expect more from him because that's not who he is. Instead, he's a quality role player that can give you points on a given night, but isn't that second option. Or at least he shouldn't be.

46. James Harden, SG, age 21, Oklahoma City Thunder
2011 stats: 12.2 ppg, 2.1 apg, 3.1 rpg, 1.1 spg, 43.6 FG%, 34.9 3P%, 16.42 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 45, 63, 41

If only these were beard power rankings. Because Harden would be the cream of the crop.

But 47th isn't a bad spot for him. He just wrapped up his second season and to some, he's was a disappointment for about three-fourths of his two years, mainly because he was selected third overall. But you've got to realize what Harden walked into. He was an All-American scorer from Arizona State that stepped on to a team that went on to win 50 games in his first season. He has come off the bench virtually every game for these two seasons. He has had to figure out where he stands alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

And as he showcased after Jeff Green was dealt to Boston and in the postseason, he's definitely Oklahoma City's third member of a potentially evolving new Big 3. The idea of him is that he's a Manu Ginobili type player and really, that's pretty accurate. He passes, handles and can score. He fits into a role instead of trying to force his way into every offensive conversation. He's a wonderful compliment to Westbrook in the backcourt and with Durant on the wing. Next season he should start from day one, which could mean Harden rockets up this board 10 or 15 spots. He's trending upward and catching attention and it finally has a lot more to do with his game than the outstanding beard.

45. Josh Smith, PF, age 25, Atlanta Hawks
2011 stats: 16.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.6 bpg, 1.3 spg, 47.7 FG%, 19.31 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 32, 37, 69


Talk about an infuriating talent. Josh Smith is 6-11. He runs the floor like a guard. He leaps like he's LeBron. He has long arms, a great build and by all appearances, should be one of the most uniquely gifted players in the league.

And yet as we saw last playoffs, he loves to hover outside and launch jumpers. The audible noise from Philips Arena every time he did said it all. It was one giant collective sigh as Smith pulled the ball up to fire from 20.

Thing is, he got it under control to some degree during the 2009-10 season. He went from shooting over a 3 a game to just 0.1. The official tally was 87 attempts to seven. That's a real effort to get shot selection under control. But then last season, he took 154 3s. So much for that.

In terms of straight numbers, he had a good 2010-11, because he really did. But it's about operating efficiently and in a way that helps your team win. I'm not sure Smith did that consistently last year. He's a top 20 talent that plays like a top 60 guy. Hence the 46th overall ranking I suppose.

Here's something that might blow your mind though: Smith is still just 25.

44. Joe Johnson, SG, age 30, Atlanta Hawks
2011 stats: 18.2 ppg, 4.7 apg, 4.0 rpg, 44.3 FG%, 29.7 3P%, 16.46 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 43, 39, 54

Not too many guys making $120 million a year -- more than Dwyane Wade or LeBron James got last summer -- should find themselves on the fringes of the top 50. And I can't decide whose fault that really is. It isn't Joe Johnson's fault the Hawks overpaid drastically for him. What was he supposed to say? No thanks, I'm not worth that much?

But it's also not the Hawks fault that Johnson has never really realized his talent. Johnson seems to play his way or the highway. When he wants to isolate in the post, he's doing it. When he wants to launch a questionable 3, he's doing it. When he wants to stand harmlessly on the wing and fade into oblivion for an entire second half, he's doing it. It's a reason Johnson has always frustrated fans which led him to being booed by Hawk fans during the 2010 playoffs. Some worried if that would scare him away from Atlanta as he was to be a free agent that summer.

Nope. Because the Hawks offered him $120 million. Not too hard to endure a few boos when you're making that kind of paper.

43. Stephen Curry, G, age 23, Golden State Warriors
2011 stats: 18.6 ppg, 5.8 apg, 3.9 rpg, 48.0 FG%, 44.2 3P%, 19.46 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 38, 46, 46


I want to see Curry play a season without Monta Ellis in the backcourt next to him. I really want to see what Curry's completely capable of as a featured player. Because right now in Golden State, it's hard to figure where he fits or what his job is. I think he's the team's point guard, but I'm not really sure. Some nights he plays like he is, other nights he's the go-to scorer. Maybe that's by design or maybe it's a flaw within the roster structure.

Regardless, Curry has one of the most seamless strokes in basketball. It's just so very, very pure. When he lets a jumper fly, he's one of those guys you're convinced it's dropping through. It feels like he doesn't miss. He's undersized, sure, but that's never held him back in terms of ripping up defenses.

He's pretty overwhelmed defensively, which is one big reason he's not higher up. But in terms of offense, he's a borderline savant. He was born to score and that's exactly what he does.

42. David West, PF, age 30, New Orleans Hornets
2011 stats: 18.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.3 apg, 50.8 FG%, 20.51 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 37, 42, 51

I don't know if West's seemingly low ranking even has as much to do with last season's injury as you might be guessing. Yes, he suffered a devastating knee injury that could affect his career going forward. But that probably only dropped him 7-10 spots or so. West's a very good player, no doubt. But really when you start getting into the top 40 players, it's hard to really justify West being in front of a lot of those guys. Is he better than Lamar Odom? Better than Marc Gasol? Better than Rudy Gay?

I've always kind of had to wonder too if West simply rode the good fortune of having Chris Paul get him the ball too. How much better did Paul make West? All those 18-footers West has drilled -- how many came as a result of Paul drawing the defense and making it happen for him? Not to take anything away from West because he's a top power forward for sure, but I get the feeling people will say, "Forty-three!?! That's WAY too low!" Maybe it's the injury stuff or maybe it's just that West isn't a truly elite player.

41. John Wall, PG, age 20, Washington Wizards
2011 stats: 16.4 ppg, 8.3 apg, 4.6 rpg, 40.9 FG%, 15.85 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 50, 45, 34

I don't get the sense Wall will be staying anywhere near the 40s for long. His rookie season would've grabbed a lot more attention if it weren't for that mammoth dunking over cars out in Los Angeles. Looking at his year -- 16.4 points and 8.3 assists per game -- that's pretty darn good for a rookie point guard. Especially considering he was dealing with a mostly dysfunctional roster and teammates that may or may not have been told they were playing in the NBA.

Wall's place is temporary so really, it's more of a question of where he's going to eventually end up rather than where he sits currently. Is he going to be on the level of Rose and Westbrook? I absolutely think so. And if that's the case, in another year or two Wall will likely have carved out a spot at the table in the top 15. Point guards are making big jumps in their third seasons nowadays. And that's still another to go for Wall. Somehow he found himself overlooked a bit last year but as he progresses and trends more toward the top 20 and maybe top 10, he'll have plenty of attention.
Posted on: April 20, 2011 3:07 am
Edited on: April 20, 2011 3:33 am
 

NBA Playoffs Blazers-Mavericks: no Portland bench

The Dallas Mavericks held serve at home, and head to Portland with a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Blazers. Posted by Ben Golliver.
blazers-mavs-game-two


We said it in the series preview, and we noted it again in Tuesday's reset : the Portland Trail Blazers are not the team many thought they were and they're not the team they were as recently as a year or two ago. They're simply not deep. That point was made abundantly clear during Portland's 101-89 Game 2 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.

Depth in the NBA can vanish in the blink of an eye, and the Blazers represent that truism to the fullest. Over the last 18 months, Portland has: watched Greg Oden, Jeff Pendergraph and Elliot Williams go down to season-ending knee injuries; traded Martell Webster for a draft pick that became unused rookie Luke Babbitt; traded Jerryd Bayless for a draft pick; traded two rotations players in Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw in a consolidation trade for Marcus Camby; and traded two rotation players in Dante Cunningham and Joel Przybilla for Gerald Wallace

Add that up: eight players that saw minutes, plus Williams, are out with just two players coming back in return. That's six lost bodies -- players whose roster spots have been filled by unused rookies (Babbitt and Armon Johnson), D-Leaguers (Earl Barron and Chris Johnson) and one free agent signing (Wesley Matthews). That qualifies as an overhaul.

Portland's management can still argue that the trades improved Portland's top-end talent. Indeed, Camby and Wallace have been mainstays down the stretch for Portland, while Matthews has been a valued addition. All three are playoff starters. But the series of moves and the injuries -- including dual knee surgeries for Brandon Roy -- have decimated Portland's depth, leaving coach Nate McMillan with just one reserve player that he can regularly turn to and expect meaningful contributions from: Nicolas Batum

During Game 2, Portland's lack of depth was so tragic that it was almost comical. Aside from Batum's 10 points in 25 minutes, Brandon Roy, Rudy Fernandez and Patty Mills combined to shoot 0-4 in 23 minutes, scoring just one combined point, grabbing four combined rebounds and dishing three combined assists. This on a night when aging Mavericks forward Peja Stojakovic outscored Portland's entire bench (including Batum) by himself and added five rebounds to boot. The falloff from starters to second unit for Portland was like a Mt. Hood cliff rather than a Pacific Ocean sand dune.

The lack of bench production -- and, frankly, energy and confidence -- led McMillan to play starters LaMarcus Aldridge (44 minutes), Marcus Camby (36 minutes), Andre Miller (39 minutes) and Wesley Matthews (36 minutes) more minutes than they played in Game 1, while the only starter who didn't take on extra burn was Gerald Wallace, who still played 38 minutes (down from 39). Before the game we wondered when in this series Portland's rotation would tighten even further than it already had. Immediately was the answer.

While the Blazers didn't look tired down the stretch, they certainly weren't the aggressors and often looked overwhelmed. With the score 90-84 with 3:57 to go in the game, Dallas began an 11-5 run. Scratch that: Dirk Nowitzki began an 11-5 run, as he scored Dallas's last 11 points after Stojakovich's outside shooting and J.J. Barea's forays into the paint destroyed Portland's defensive confidence and shape earlier in the final period. 

All Portland had to show in response to Nowitzki's barrage, which included a dagger jumper and a boatload of free throws, was a pair of Andre Miller free throws and a desperation Miller three-pointer. Aldridge, who had been beaten up all night by Dallas's interior defenders, scored his last point with 5:53 left in the game, a sure sign that Portland did not do what it needed to do from a late-game execution perspective. 

McMillan corrected his one big rotation error from Game 1 -- overplaying Roy, especially in the fourth quarter -- but the result was ultimately the same. His team was badly outplayed in the final six minutes. His starters looked overwhelmed and a half-step late on defense, and alternated between "unsure" and "forcing it" on offense. That's generally what happens when a team with eight or nine quality, productive players faces a team with six or seven.

The eternal optimists in Portland -- and there are many -- can take solace in the fact that Fernandez, Mills and Roy may get a boost from the Rose Garden crowd during Games 3 and 4. Fernandez, in particular, is notorious for playing better and more energetically at home. On the season, he averaged 10 points per game, shot 39.3% from the field and 35.1% from three-point land at home. Meanwhile, he averaged 7.2 points, shot 34.6% from the field and shot 28.9% from deep on the road. 

The pessimists, though, will say that Portland's bench simply can't play worse than it did Tuesday.

The realists will conclude that Portland's bench will likely play better -- because it can't play any worse -- but that it must play much, much better if Portland is to stand a chance at making this a true series against a deep, talented, balanced and motivated Mavericks squad. 
Posted on: April 15, 2011 3:33 pm
 

Blazers-Mavericks preview: Upset special?

A preview of the first round playoff series between the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers. Posted by Ben Golliver.

aldridge-chandler

 

I. Intro: No. 6 seed Portland Trail Blazers (48-34) vs. No. 3 seed Dallas Mavericks (57-25)

The city of Portland rejoiced when the Los Angeles Lakers finally finished off the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night to claim the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed, setting up Portland, who had already clinched the No. 6 spot, for a date with the Dallas Mavericks. The consensus started building as early as March that the Blazers would prefer to play the Mavericks over any of the West’s top four. That desire is motivated in part because the Blazers lost center Greg Oden for the season -- and thus have trouble dealing with LA's length and size inside -- but also because the team has fared well against the Mavericks in the regular season and the match-ups are pretty close up and down these rosters.

With that said, the Blazers have a very good chance at pulling off an upset here, but don't rush to anoint them. Indeed, the talk from Dallas that the Mavericks are the "underdogs" is nonsense. Dallas is better on both sides of the ball, has more playoff experience, possesses homecourt advantage and its core has played together much longer than Portland's, which didn't come together until this year's trade deadline move for forward Gerald Wallace

Blazers-Mavericks should go down to the wire and compete with the Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder for best first round playoff series.   

II. What Happened: A look at the season series

The Blazers-Mavericks season series between the two teams is about as even as it gets. The teams split 2-2, with the home team winning all four games. The numbers in those games are comically close. The Blazers averaged 96.8 points while the Mavericks averaged 96.0, making for an almost invisible point differential. The Blazers averaged 37.3 rebounds while the Mavericks averaged 37 rebounds. The teams even both averaged 17 fouls per game. Really? 

There were a few differences, though. The Mavericks shot better from the field – by almost three percent – and from distance – by five percent. The Blazers closed that gap by getting to the free throw line slightly more and by grabbing more offensive rebounds. For Portland to pull the upset, that will need to continue. Dallas possesses a better overall offense (No. 8 in the league), has a higher overall rebound rate and, thanks to Jason Kidd, has the league’s highest assist rate. They’re a top-five shooting team overall and shoot better from deep than the inconsistent Blazers.

While both teams held serve at home during the regular season, it’s worth noting that the Mavericks have the league’s best road record at 28-13. The Blazers, meanwhile, were 18-23 on the road, which doesn’t bode well for a potential game seven.

III. The Easy Stuff: LaMarcus Aldridge has been huge against Dallas

Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge has made a ton of noise this season as he’s become the team’s No. 1 scoring option in the wake of Brandon Roy’s knee issues. Aldridge was the last guy cut off the Western Conference All-Star team, earned Player of the Month honors, has been floated as a Most Improved Player candidate as well as a top 10 MVP candidate and has a decent shot of making the All-NBA Third Team. He achieved cult status in Portland when he went on a ridiculous midseason tear.

Aldridge has regularly referenced a December game in Dallas as the moment a switch flipped for him, the time that he realized he needed to do more – much more – offensively if the Blazers were to make hte playoffs. Against the Mavericks this season, Aldridge has averaged 28.6 points and nine rebounds per game and he’s gotten to the line more than eight times per game. He’s succeeded, in part, because Tyson Chandler is the only Dallas big who can stick with him defensively.

Dallas will surely pay tons of attention to Aldridge, doubling him, pressuring him on the ball and forcing Portland’s shooters – streaky guys like Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez – to make them pay for collapsing on Aldridge. Given the quality of Dallas’s offense, Portland simply won’t be able to keep pace offensively unless Aldridge posts big numbers. There's pressure on him, without a doubt, and he will need to respond.

IV. Secret of the Series: Jason Terry is the X-factor for Dallas

While no team in the NBA can feel totally confident in its ability to defend Dirk Nowitzki – a player who once again didn’t get enough run as an MVP candidate – the Blazers have multiple guys to throw at him: Aldridge, Wallace and even Batum. Mavericks guard Jason Terry, though, is a different story, as his quickness, pull-up shooting and big shot-making abilities leaves Portland looking for answers. Surprisingly, during the regular season series Terry was a virtual non-factor, averaging just 12.3 points and 1 assist against the Blazers; Only San Antonio, Chicago and Milwaukee held him to a lower point average than Portland.

Matthews and Fernandez will probably get the call on Terry and the Blazers will switch a ton late in games to keep a hand in his face. There should be a comfort factor for Dallas in knowing they split this season with their No. 2 option being off his game. If Terry shows up – or if he goes off like he’s fully capable of doing – it will be something the Blazers haven’t dealt with this season.

V. The Dinosaur Narrative: "Portland is so deep they can overwhelm you”

In previous years, NBA executives and media members around the league would marvel at the vast collection of young talent that Portland had assembled. Injuries and consolidation trades have taken a major toll, however, and the Blazers are not nearly as deep as they might look on paper. Blazers coach Nate McMillan didn’t settle on a starting lineup until late in the season – he tried Wallace at the power forward spot before sliding him in at small forward – but once he did he rode his starters hard. McMillan has really leaned on Aldridge and Wallace down the stretch – often playing them both over 40 minutes a night – and you can expect him to play veteran starting point guard Andre Miller heavy minutes as well.

Portland’s bench really only goes three deep: Batum, Fernandez and Brandon Roy. Batum has done a nice job of settling into a reserve role after ceding his starting spot to Wallace, but he can’t always be counted on to make an immediate offensive impact. Fernandez has struggled with his shot all season long but – like Batum – can change a game with his energy and defensive instincts.

Roy is the biggest question mark and could be a major player in this series. His size makes him a tough cover for Dallas’s reserve guards and he should get a fair number of minutes because he can hide on defense – where he’s a major liability due to a lack of lateral quickness – against Jason Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson or Peja Stojakovich. The problem is that he appears to no longer trust his shot, shooting just 33% in April and looking to facilitate Portland’s second-team offense rather than get his own scoring. If Roy steps up and provides a legitimate scoring punch off the bench, it will relieve pressure not only on his fellow reserves but on Portland’s starting unit as well. The bad news: he’s scored in double figures just twice in the last month. The good news: his best game of 2011 came against Dallas, when he dropped in 21.

VI. The Line-Item Veto: Who wins each match-up?

PG: Neither Andre Miller nor Jason Kidd played great in the regular season series: Miller averaged nine points and four assists while Kidd averaged five points and eight assists. But watching two of the game’s smartest, craftiest point guards in the postseason should make for an excellent chess match. Call this a push.

SG: Reports out of Dallas are that DeShawn Stevenson will start at the two and, while he brings a bigger body than Rodrigue Beaubois, he’s the definition of unpredictable. On the opposite side, Wesley Matthews took a nice leap forward in his second season, drawing MIP consideration and upping his scoring average in a big way. He plays hard and enjoys playing defense late in games, something he will be asked to do. Slight advantage: Blazers.

SF: Gerald Wallace is being highlighted and circled everywhere as a potential X-factor for the Blazers, and rightfully so. He’s been a phenomenon since arriving in Portland at the trade deadline and has given the Blazers great defensive versatility, an added measure of toughness and a veteran savvy that were lacking. Shawn Marion is probably getting looked over in all of this, as he averaged 13.3 points and six rebounds against the Blazers this season. Wallace’s overall activity level gives him the nod, but not by as much as you would think. Advantage: Blazers.

PF: Dirk Nowitzki vs. LaMarcus Aldridge should be about as fascinating as any first-round match-up in the Western Conference. Nowitzki has averaged 21.7 points and seven boards this season against the Blazers and put some nails in the coffin down the stretch of an early season game with some huge fourth quarter baskets. Nowitzki has a big edge in playoff experience, he has the homecourt advantage and he should have plenty of help defending Aldridge. Advantage: Mavericks.

C: Much like Miller/Kidd, the center match-up of Tyson Chandler and Marcus Camby pits fairly similar players: long, rebounding-first defensive specialists. But Chandler brings more on the offensive end and is younger and Camby has struggled a bit since his return from arthroscopic knee surgery in early 2011. Advantage: Mavericks.

Bench: Terry is the major standout while JJ Barea’s speed has given Portland problems in the past. Thanks to Brendan Haywood, the Mavericks also have more depth up front, which could be a big factor in helping keep Dallas’s starters out of foul trouble. Unless Roy shows up, Portland’s bench lacks pop. Advantage: Mavericks.

Coach: The pressure is on Rick Carlisle to deliver in the postseason, as the Mavericks have been bounced in the first round three of the last four years. McMillan has applied expectations of his own, stating recently that it was time for both the Blazers and himself to take the next step and win a playoff series, something they were unable to do against the Rockets in 2009 and the Suns in 2010. Both teams rely heavily on advanced scouting and tendency analysis and both teams incorporate zone defense looks. Should be a fun one. Call it a push.

VII. Conclusion

Mavericks/Blazers has become the hot upset special pick, but Dallas should eventually pull it out because Portland has struggled to win on the road, has dealt with inconsistent outside shooting all season and isn’t nearly as deep as everyone thinks they are. The Mavericks have the cohesiveness factor on their side and Portland doesn’t have a great option for defending Jason Terry. The Andre Miller / Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby / Tyson Chandler match-ups are very much toss-ups, and the Mavericks will need to pay extra attention to Gerald Wallace, but it’s difficult to see Dirk Nowitzki and company not taking care of homecourt. Prediction: Mavericks in 7.

VIII. CBSSports.com Video Preview

Tyson Chandler and the Dallas Mavericks will take on LaMarcus Aldridge and the Portland Trail Blazers in round 1 of the NBA Playoffs. Who will come out on top? Ian Eagle and Ken Berger breakdown this playoff matchup.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com