CLIP AND SAVE
Can you name the only team in the NBA to go undefeated in the United States so far this season? If you said the Clippers (and we know you did, because you're smart), you are correct!
Since losing their first two games to Seattle in Japan, the Clippers are the hottest team in the league at the moment, winning all four games they have played in the U.S. In the third of those four wins, the Clippers and coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. tipped the Warriors and their small forward, Mike Dunleavy Jr., in the first meeting between a father and a son in the NBA in 27 years.
The most surprising thing about the Clippers' modest streak is that they've been able to do it without power forward Elton Brand, who is on the injured list with a broken foot. One of the reasons is second-year power forward Chris Wilcox.
Wilcox, who played 34 total minutes in the Clippers' first two games, played 41 in the first game after Brand's injury. He hasn't played fewer than 31 minutes since, is averaging 15.4 points during the Clippers winning streak and is leading the league in field goal percentage, shooting an Artis Gilmore-like .600 percent.
"I'm getting the feel of the game," Wilcox told the L.A. Times. "I'm in the right spot at the right time, I'm executing plays well. I'm just doing the little things Elton would be doing when he's in the game. Those are big shoes to fill."
That they are. The Clippers have also benefited from playing only six games, the fewest in the NBA, compared to the defending champion Spurs, who have played a league-high 11 in the first 21 days.
-- L.A. Times
Better win 'em now, guys.
In the first three weeks of the season, we're seeing some strange numbers.
Of course, if you read NBA.com (doctors recommend three servings per day), you already know Seattle's Ronald "Flip" Murray is sixth in the league in scoring.
Another interesting stat arrives courtesy of the Chicago Bulls. Last season, the Bulls won a team-record low three games on the road. This season, they've already won three games on the road. It's at home where they're having the problems.
On Saturday, the Bulls dropped to 1-6 at home after being buried by the Sonics 98-90. Not only that, the greatest Bull of all time was in attendance. No, not Dave Corzine. Michael Jordan.
And with a five-game road trip that features (get this) -- Phoenix, L.A. Lakers, Dallas, Sacramento and San Antonio -- things don't get easier for the Bulls on the road.
Then again, take the Orlando Magic at home. Everyone else has. After beating the Knicks in OT on the road in their first game of the season, the Magic have lost nine straight, including going 0-6 at home. And although it's been a cool autumn, one man's seat has become very hot.
Yet, even the best teams can get testy. At 8-2, the Pacers have the best record in the NBA and are an NBA-best 5-0 on the road. But, ah, those two loses at home prompted the Nap Town faithful to vocally express their displeasure. Which prompted All-Star Jermaine O'Neal to respond in kind. O'Neal later apologized for blasting his hometown fans.
Coincidentally, this difference is nearly the same as the currency exchange rate between Canada and the U.S. If you don't believe me, use this currency exchange site. Enter 87.8, choose Canadian dollars and exchange it for a bunch of greenbacks. And what do you get? You receive 67.3 U.S. dollars in exchange, or a number 0.5 less than the Raptors average on the road. Creepy.
IF THE SEASON ENDED TODAY ...
The Clippers and the Nuggets would be in the playoffs, the Spurs, Timberwolves and Blazers would not and the Celtics would win the Atlantic with a 5-4 record, but would only be tied for fourth in the Central Division.
THE MISSING LINK
Finally, someone noticed.
After all the harping on players and people talking about rule changes in regard to why scoring is down, Greg Anthony noticed that another group of guys have a hand in the current style of play: the coaches.
Here is some of what Anthony had to say about coaches becoming more defensive-minded:
It started back with the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons of the late 1980s under Chuck Daly, and Pat Riley, my former coach, took it to a whole new level in New York. It's simple, really. Eliminate transition and force teams to shoot contested shots in the half court, and you greatly improve your chances of winning.
The statistics don't lie -- players shoot a far higher percentage when uncontested (no hand in their face or elbow to the gut) than when contested. You don't see nearly as many contested shots when teams are on the fast break. So if you can eliminate a team's fast-break points, you give yourself a much better chance of winning. Fewer possessions reduces the gap in talent, because the better team has fewer chances with which to use that talent.
Agreed! In order to get the best uncontested shot these days, a lot of teams work to get a favorable matchup on offense instead of working the ball around to score. And the best way to break down a defense is to pass the ball. Dallas and Sacramento score a lot, not only because they have a ton of talent, but also that talent knows how to find the open man. Teams that have one scorer and try to isolate that one scorer for a favorable matchup, will, more often than not, come up short.
So, NBA teams can either begin to pass the ball to get uncontested shots or the league can widen the rim, as suggested by Pacers coach Rick Carlisle. Here's what Click and Roll readers had to say about Carlisle's suggestion.
"I believe it could work. Maybe there won't be so many missed dunks."
C&R sez: I don't think missed dunks are the problem, but it is nice to hear from someone from the birthplace of the game we love.
"What rule change would I make to increase scoring? Rather than widen the rim an inch, I feel that the court should be widened a bit. I don't know how many times -- rather than seeing a three pointer swish through the net -- a whistle was blown because a player's heel grazed the out of bounds line. With the size of these players feet its amazing there are any corner threes. Its almost a balancing act in the first place to get the shot off let alone hit it at a high percentage."
"It's true that defense wins championships, but offense fills the seats! Obviously fans appreciate the all-out hustle, and the thrill of a good block or steal, but honestly would you rather see a 76-75 overtime win or a 121-118 scoring fest like the days of old? Let's listen to Rick and gain a bit of excitment back to the greatest game on the planet."
"Allowing the "veteran" players show up late for training camp is a move in the WRONG direction. I realize that this was a concession the league was forced to make in order to get the first round of the playoffs to seven games, but the Players' Association and the players themselves need to realize that any move they make to tarnish the product they are putting on the floor is just going to hurt TV ratings and fan interest."
"As someone who's been watching the NBA for over 40 years, I'd have to say the most boring basketball I've seen in my life has been played during the last 15. What attracted me to basketball in the first place was the "fast break" of the greatest team of all time, the Boston Celtics with the greatest player of all time, No. 6, Bill Russell.
"Consider the fact that the Celts averaged close to 120 points a game during Russ's 13 year tenure. Since the inception of the three-point shot, the game has slowed down considerably while the ball is thrown inside and held for five or six seconds until a double-team develops. Then the ball is tossed back beyond the arc where somebody jacks up a three pointer. All I can say is eliminate the three-point shot and get back to the running game. That's what basketball should be about!"
"Get rid of the zone defense. It's slowing down the pace of the game!"
And finally, a suggestion so obvious, you'll wonder why you didn't think of it.
"I'd get rid of defense. It's probably one of the biggest reasons scoring is so low."
Never thought of it that way, Karl.
Anyway, we want to hear from you again. Our question this week: Who or what has been the biggest surprise in the first month of the season?
Send in your comments and we may print your e-mail in next Monday's Click and Roll.
This will be quick, because this Click and Roll has gone on a little long.
Vince Carter, back in the dunk contest? Hmmm, could be.
From the magazine that rated Eddie Van Halen as the 70th -- say what? -- best guitarist of all time, comes Rolling Stone's attempt to link rock 'n roll and basketball. All you need to know about this "list" is the greatest moment blending rock and hoops, bar none, is Marvin Gaye's rendition of the National Anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game. Rolling Stone lists this moment at No. 13 in a top 25. Sigh.
Recently, some have suggested eliminating conferences and seeding the top 16 teams in the NBA Playoffs. To this, I agree (as I always do) with NBA Commissioner David Stern.
"It wouldn't be sports as we've developed it for the past 60 years," Stern said, as reported in the Houston Chronicle.
-- Rob Peterson, NBA.com