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NBA Awards 1/11/13

Wednesday Night Action
The Indiana Pacers (22-14) used a stifling defense and Paul George’s playmaking abilities at both ends of the court to take down the Knicks (23-12) in Indiana, 81-76. With starting center Roy Hibbert hampered by back spasms, reserve big man Ian Mahinmi, a very underrated and athletic center, contributed nicely with 13 pts & 6 rebs in 20 min. Melo was out for NY (suspended for extracurricular activity w/ KG after their recent game), so JR Smith took it upon himself to shoulder the offensive load for the Knicks, and while he did have one spectacular dunk, he also missed about 2/3 of his shots (10-29) in scoring 25 pts and dishing out 6 dimes…..The Kings and Mavericks battled into overtime in Sacramento as the capitol of California prepares for life without pro hoops (allegedly moving to Seattle next season). It was Dallas prevailing in OT 117-112 as OJ Mayo (24/10/5 asst, 8-15) snapped out of his funk and the Matrix had a nice little flashback performance with 19/10 & 2 stl. Dirk missed 14 of his 21 shots in the game, but fellow 1998 draftee Vince Carter scored 23 while making 13 of 16 from the charity stripe. For Sacto, Tyreke was big in his 2nd game back from his sore left knee, playing 32 min and coming up with a 20/7/3 blk performance. Cousins had 29/9/4 asst but fouled out with 5 turnovers…..Portland hosted Miami for TNT’s 2nd game of the night, spotted them a 10 point lead w/ just over 6 min left, and then proceeded to outscore them 20-8 the rest of the way to notch a 92-90 victory and push their record to 20-15. Nicolas Batum was splendid with 28/7/5 & 2 stls while Aldridge had 20 & 15 rebs (though missed 13 of his 19 shots). For the Heat, Bosh had 29/2 stl, 4 blks, and shot 13-18 while LeBron was just 1 assist away from a triple double, though he only scored 15 pts. Wade missed 12 of his 18 shots while grabbing just 3 rebs, dishing only 2 assists. Interestingly, the Blazer bench managed just 8 pts, 6 rebs, and 1 asst in this game.
The Akeem Olajuwon Award —  Paul George  —  24 pts, 11 rebs, 5 asst, 2 FTM, 6 stl, 1 blk, 2 treys, and 10-24 shooting…Mr George is making a strong case for inclusion in the All-Star game next month, now posting averages of 16.9/7.5/3.7 & 1.6 stl. Among NBA small forwards, he stands at #7 in scoring, #3 in rebounding, and #6 in assists, all the while playing top notch defense. He was the 10th player taken in the 2010 Draft, and it’d be quite interesting to see NBA GMs do a mock redraft of that draft class. Greivis Vasquez went 28th (definite top 8), Jordan Crawford 27th (top 15 for sure), and George would probably go no lower than 5th overall behind John Wall, Cousins, maybe Greg Monroe…and maybe Derrick Favors who went 3rd in that draft, tough to rate as he still gets small minutes playing behind Al-Jeff & Millsap in Utah, but has shown flashes of being a major interior force. George’s teammate SG Lance Stephenson, enjoying a breakout 3rd year himself this season, was a 2nd round gem in that 2010 Draft, taken 40th overall – he’d definitely go in the top 20.
The Mark Randall Award —  Chris Kaman  —  6 pts, 4 rebs, 0 asst, 2 FTM, 0 stl, 1 blk, 0 treys, and 2-10 shooting in 17 minutes…Kaman put up borderline All-Star numbers in his brief prime with the Clippers, averaging 15.7/12.7/2.8 blks in 56 games during the 2007-08 season, then 18.5/9.3 in 2009-10, playing 76 games, when he did play in his one and only All-Star game. He was sent to New Orleans as part of the CP III deal a year ago, and in just over 80 games with the Hornets, he’s averaged about 13/7 with a shade over 1 block per game. He was part of the legendary 2003 Draft class, going 6th overall, right behind Wade at #5. Technically, the 2003 Draft was bit overrated and top-heavy, as after the Kaman pick, the only All-Star was David West (twice, #18 overall). Lottery picks behind Kaman included such busts as Michael Sweetney (9th), Jarvis Hayes (10th), and Marcus Banks (13th). Other complete busts taken in the top 20 picks included Reece Gaines (15th), Troy Bell (16th), and Zarko Cabarkapa (17th).
The Duke of Earl (Clark)
Quickie Bio – The Suns took him 14th in the 2009 Draft, but on a veteran team that eventually made the Western Conference finals, he only played 7.5 min/night in just 51 games his rookie year. Quick side note: this will go down as the last decent season Amare Stoudamire ever had – 23.1/8.9 and 55.7% shooting while playing all 82 gms – got him his $100m/5yr deal. Anyway, they traded him early his 2nd year to Orlando, where he still found minutes hard to come by, playing just 11.5/night there his 2nd season. It was more of the same last year, playing 12 min/gm but in only 45 games, scoring & rebounding under 3/gm. He came to the Lakers alongside Dwight this summer, and has finally gotten his chance to play. 
Scouting Report – His size (6’10”), athleticism, and versatility had him marked as potential top 10, top 7 lottery pick, but his tendency towards passive play, and settling for jumpers dropped him to #14 overall. Here was the scouting report on him at the time: “STRENGTHS – lateral quickness, versatility on offense and defense, ball-handling skills, explosiveness, 1st step, body control. WEAKNESSES – Go to scoring mentality, shot-selection, consistency, always playing hard, FG%/FT%”. So essentially he was high-upside guy who needed to focus on his mental approach, playing smart, being a true professional – maturation. Well now in his 4th year, the signs of maturation were there well before his huge performance last night (22/13/3 asst, and solid defense). 
Today/Coach D’Antoni – I watched the Spurs game a day later, specifically focusing on Clark, and saw all that has been missing from Laker performances this season – defense, hustle, energy, effort – as well as lots of skills (shooting, driving, dribbling, passing, rebounding) on display from Clark. During the broadcast, longtime Laker color guy Stu Lantz (longtime as in 25 years) spoke of being ‘anxious to see him play since training camp’. He spoke of how hard he was working in practice and how good he was looking. That missing maturity seemed to be missing no longer. And yet D’Antoni didn’t give him any minutes (23 DNP-CDs this season) until injuries forced his hand! Was the glare from the Laker stars so bright during practices that he completely failed to see what his 11th/12th man was doing? Does he conduct practice sessions wearing blinders? Jesus…all the while he’s not shy about voicing his displeasure with Pau, benching Jamison, and complaining about defense, energy, lack of young legs, effort. And a potential solution to all of these problems is rotting on his bench. Horrible coaching, complete lack of imagination, creativity, and open-mindedness. On the bright side, Clark and Jordan Hill give the Lakers an interesting twosome in any trade talks, or to build around for the future. 

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