With yet another off day I figured it was time to throw in some odds and ends for all y’all to enjoy.
- Benjamin Hochman had a very good interview with Chauncey Billups in the Denver Post.
To me the most interesting part of the interview was when Chauncey was asked if his career has gone the way he envisioned. Chauncey was very open about the struggles he encountered early in his career.
For me to come in at such a high level and fall all the way off, all the way off, those were some trying, humbling times. There was a point in my career that I didn't know if I could make it back to this level. I knew I wasn't leaving the NBA; I was always going to be good enough to just be in the NBA. But to be at the top of that mountain, I didn't know if I could make it back.
One thing that Chauncey does not get enough credit for is for transforming himself from a combo guard to an All-Star point guard. He has a completely different style than he did when he entered the league. Maybe without the early difficulties he does not remake his game and reach this level of excellence.
Hochman also asked Billups about his leadership style on the court.
I think that one of the main differences is I probably go about the game a little different. I'm a lot more serious on the court. I'm probably a lot more intense than some of these guys thought I would be. Off the court I'm a totally different dude. But my passion's to win, and I'm a perfectionist out there. If something doesn't go right, I'm not always happy, but I'm not that guy that's going to get in somebody's face, I don't go about it that way. But I have my ways.
I have grown to love Chauncey’s court demeanor. As he said, he gets angry and is very competitive, but he never panics and you never see him standing around looking at the refs. He never throws a tantrum. I think some Nuggets had Allen Iverson’s theatrics rub off on them and I hope it is not too late for Chauncey to have the same (reversing) effect.
The last question was if Billups appreciates his success more considering how far he has come and I thought his answer was very interesting.
It's funny, every All-Star Game that I've played in, I look around and I'm sitting there saying, "Not one of these dudes traveled my path. Not one." Most of the guys they came in the league, they were already stars, they continued on that path. Nobody fell all the way off then climbed and got all the way back to the top like I have. I appreciate those things, being mentioned as one of the best. I don't know if it's more than the next man, but I know my appreciation for it is high.
- Another Denver Post Chauncey Billups link this one is studying Chauncey’s shooting mechanics. He admits to watching the ball when he shoots, which like a smart US auto executive is highly irregular.
- Many of us are down on Linas Kleiza and I found some numbers that show it is not just our eyes deceiving us.
The statisticians at 82games.com have come up with the following data on Kleiza:
Kleiza has the worst plus/minus on the team by a wide margin at -31. Only one other player, Chucky Atkins, has a negative plus/minus and he is only a -1.
The Nuggets are outscored by three points for every 48 minutes Kleiza is on the court. The kicker there though is they out score their opponents by 12.3 points per 48 minutes when he is off the court. That is a whopping difference of -15.3 between the negative effect of his play on the court and the positive impact on having him on the courtside padded seats.
I have claimed in the past that most Nuggets fans, and perhaps front office personnel as well, overrated Kleiza’s ceiling due to the fact that he became a rotation player so quickly. It is easy to assume that he has more room to grow when in fact I am afraid he has just about reached his potential. The Nuggets may be struggling getting a deal they like for Chucky Atkins and/or Steven Hunter, but if they throw Kleiza into the mix I bet they will get something done.
- I watched most of the Portland Trailblazers and Utah Jazz game last night. Despite the Trail Balzers hot start I am starting to believe that they are going to have a difficult time keeping up their current pace. Why do I think that? Because they are a poor defensive team. Yes, their offense has been unstoppable, but as we keep learning over and over, you have to be able to play defense to beat the top teams in the league. Right now Portland has a defensive efficiency rating of 108.9. That is 22nd in the entire league. Their offense would have to be otherworldly for Portland to consistently compete with the best teams in the NBA. It is very good, but it is not that good. By the way, both the Jazz and Nuggets are in the top ten in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
Even though I expect the Trailblazers to slip a little I still think Dallas is the odd team out come playoff time.
- One thing I noticed watching that game last night is that Greg Oden has very soft hands. He always catches the ball as it falls through the net after someone scores a basket right next to him. I am starting to think the fears that he just does not have the desire to dominate might be well founded. He does not look like he is having fun on the court and I wonder how badly he wants to be out there.
- The Charlotte Bobcats have indeed signed Juwan Howard.
- SLAM Online has a great article tracking the first matchup of Ricky Rubio, the Spanish teen sensation and Brandon Jennings, the high school player that chose to play in Italy instead of the University of Arizona. A very entertaining and insightful article and well worth the read. I think both of these guys will be top five picks in the 2009 draft.
- You may be getting tired of the Celtics, but there were a couple of really good posts on True Hoop today. Once by Kevin Arnovitz outlining what makes Rajon Rondo an All-Star caliber point guard. Henry Abbott looks into all the different angles of Kevin Garnett’s outbursts of emotion on the court. There is even a mention of Francisco Elson. For those of you who do not remember when the Nuggets were playing the Timberwolves in the 2004 playoffs KG hit Elson in his man bits when they were on the floor going after a loose ball, which fortunately was not something Elson had to worry about after the contact by KG. Elson did not back down from the MVP calling him “gay” apparently for making voluntary contact with his manhood.
- One more thing, remember that before the season ESPN.com’s NBA basketball writers projected that the Los Angeles Clippers would finish ahead of the Nuggets. I realize there was no way to predict the Billups/AI trade, but the Nuggets are already 10.5 games ahead of the Clippers in the standings.
- Teaser: Look for some indepth coverage of Sonny Weems first Colorado 14ers home game on Sunday.
Update: Apparenlty Vinny del Negro, coach of the Chicago Bulls, yelled at Quentin Richardson as he was setting up to take a three pointer late in the game. J.E. Skeets over at Ball Don't Lie has the video. Matt at Blog a Bull has the discussion (as well as the video). Call me crazy, but I think coaches should try to avoid doing things to make them look petty in the eyes of their payers.