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'S WONDERFUL, 'S MARVELOUS
Posted by Rob Peterson on Jan. 11, 2005 3 p.m. ET
IT'S THE 19TH LETTER OF THE ALPHABET
Super. Sonics. Sharp. Spurs. Stellar. Suns.
As you can see, this Click and Roll, with a nod to its Tin Pan Alley title and Sesame Street inspiration, is sponsored by the letter "S," the letters "NBA" and the number "3" as in three of the four NBA teams whose nicknames begin with an "S" are three of the best teams in the NBA.
While we've talked about the Suns and the SuperSonics in the past (and will continue to do so later in the column), we're also gonna send some love to the Spurs. (Sorry, Sixers supporters. We'll get back to you when your squad squeezes past the positive side of .500 again.)
What makes them so special beside the fact all three lead their respective divisions by at least four games?
Is it that the Spurs lead the league in point differential at +11.38 points per game? Or that the Suns lead the league in scoring at a retina-singing 109.7 points per game? Or that Seattle has beaten San Antonio twice this season, and has topped the East's best, Miami, twice in one week?
Yes, yes and yes.
As for the Spurs, it's time people start to notice that despite not making the scoreboard go TILT! every night (still averaging a respectable 97.3 points per game, 13th in the league), the Spurs and their coterie of young international stars play some of the most exciting ball in the league.
What? The Spurs' ball movement to the tune of 6.61 more assists per game than their opponents doesn't get you excited? How about being in the top five in 3-point percentage (.366)? And what's more exciting than seeing a team bring out the opponent's best every ... single ... night.
-- [San Antonio Express-News Reg. req'd.]
For example, check out how Utah, which had lost nine straight, played its best game in three weeks and snapped out of its funk with a last-second win over the Spurs.
Why wouldn't you want to watch a team that has a superstar, yet continues to find exciting young players (Ever seen Manu Ginobili slash to the hoop or Tony Parker push the break?) to expertly complement him and coach Gregg Popovich's system? Did you know Tim Duncan is only averaging 34.9 minutes per game? Think he'll be fresh for the NBA Playoffs?
But don't just take it from me. Listen to those who know, like Nuggets assistant Bill Branch.
-- [San Antonio Express-News Reg. req'd.]
"For one thing they've got the biggest playbook in the entire league," Branch told the San Antonio Express-News. "But they're also running more and using a lot of motion (offense). And they're just so deep."
Still, the Spurs realize good isn't always good enough. They're not looking at the NBA Finals right now and one report had them trying to pry away a young Bull.
-- [The Oregonian, Chicago Tribune Reg. req'd.]
Another team that's taking no bull is the Sonics, whom, as I mentioned before, have swatted the Spurs and Heat twice each this season. And this was a team that lost their opener by 30 to the Clippers.
-- [Seattle P-I]
Right now, for the Sonics, it's about togetherness.
-- [Seattle P-I]
That, and they've found a measure of toughness in Danny Fortson, who won't back down from even the most daunting of assignments.
-- [Seattle Times]
Then, there are the Suns, who continue to impress. In becoming the first team to 30 wins this season, they surpassed their win total for all of 2003-04. And if you haven't seen them play, for shame! (No, really, I'm admonishing you. For shame!)
In a 108-91 win against the Clippers in L.A. on Jan. 8, the Suns had 49 points with seven minutes left in the second quarter. Bless their hearts. Any decent open shot they take -- and often make -- without hesitation. Most point guards take some time to learn their teammates' tendencies. Steve Nash already knows where his teammates like to catch the ball and when.
-- [Orange County Register, Reg. req'd.]
He has the Suns running like the NBA's Secretariat: "...moving like a TRE-mendous machine." One of the beneficiaries is Amaré Stoudemire, who seemingly always has an open lane to traverse and then levitate above. In his 50-point game against the Trail Blazers, 14 of Stoudemire's field goals were dunks.
And while we're on that topic, does anyone throw it down harder than Amaré? Anyone? It looks as if he has a grudge against the rim itself.
But I digress. It's no surprise, however, that Phoenix fans are loving it.
-- [Arizona Republic]
In the meantime, the Suns get to test their mettle against another "S" -- Shaq -- Tuesday night in Phoenix (9 p.m. ET, NBA TV). In Arizona, they're already thinking of tonight's game as a June preview.
-- [Arizona Republic]
And who can blame them?
This Sacramento writer thinks Kings GM Geoff Petrie pulled off another winner
by acquiring Cuttino Mobley and Michael Bradley from Orlando for Doug Christie.
-- [Sacramento Bee
Magic point guard Steve Francis, who shared the backcourt with Mobley for all of his first five (and part of his sixth) seasons, was more than stunned by the trade.
-- [Boston Globe]
Meanwhile, Mobley had an idea as to why he was shipped across the continent.
-- [Sacramento Bee]
And while we're intrigued as to how this trade will translate on the court, we're also interested in seeing how the trade affects this proposed TV show.
-- [Sacramento Bee]
Saber-metrics for hoops? It's possible, as some hoops nuts like Dean Oliver
, now a full-time employee of the Sonics
, have gone beyond the classic stats of points, rebounds and assists to try to figure out what makes a team tick
-- [Seattle P-I
, New York Times
, Reg. req'd]
For instance, in the Times article, despite the overall classic stats being nearly the same, one of the reasons the Sonics beat the Heat in Miami was because Danny Fortson was more efficient on the offensive glass than any player on the floor.
We (meaning the NBA) also ventured into this territory with our efficiency stat. As you can see, some of the league's best players are also the most efficient.
Remember Shawn Respert? Seems that Respert suffered from cancer
when he played in the league and decided "play through it" as he said on ESPN News Monday afternoon. Respert is now the Rice University basketball's director of operations.
-- [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Remember Joe Forte? By playing in the D-League, he's trying to make it so you remember him differently.
-- [Washington Post, Reg. req'd.]
Keep an eye on this guy.
-- [Boston Herald]
Every Jazz fan is looking forward to Saturday ... maybe.
-- [Salt Lake Tribune]
It's good to be a Grizzly (or is that Grizzlie?) again.
-- [Memphis Commercial-Appeal, Reg. req'd]
THE GREAT DEBATE
Think you're interested in who's the best point guard in the NBA? Oh, I would say so ... to the tune of 1,141 e-mails about the subject. That's a ton, and while a few questioned my sanity for having the temerity to even ask such a question, none of them said that I stink (for which I thank you).
OK, one did.
Frank in San Antonio took offense, so to speak with our listing of a second-year point from the Windy City.
"Billups and Tony Parker -- the last two point guards to win a ring. How dare you jerks (emphasis mine) put Kirk Hinrich on your list and not even mention Parker?"
Click and Roll sez: "Frank, frankly I'm insulted. I'm the only jerk, singular, around here. I don't need help. Heh."
Then again, with volume, there's no way we could print all of them, but, from A.I. to T.P. (no, I didn't "forget" him last week, I was just throwing out names) we bring you the best letters making their point about their favorite point guards.
A vote for Steve Nash, from Zippity in Santa Clara, Calif.:
"Ever since the 2001 offseason when All-Star point guards Stephon Marbury and Jason Kidd were traded for one another, there seems to have been an ongoing rivalry between them.
"Marbury, it seems, has never gotten over the fact that Kidd led Marbury's team to the Finals the two years following the trade as Marbury tried to lead the Suns past the first round of the playoffs (unsuccessfully). In the end, both appear stuck on middle-class teams without a lot of upside; no closer to getting that ever elusive ring than they did three years ago.
"However; as you look at the NBA today, there are no great point guards who have led their team to a title. Tony Parker is just beginning to let go of Timmy's coat tails and be a basketball player in his own right -- check back again in a few years. Chauncy Billups isn't a true point guard, and Derek Fisher ... well, you get the point ...a title does not make a great point guard, leadership does.
"The best point guard in the NBA right now is one that fulfills the requirements of his position while leading his team to be the best it can be. Jason Kidd was the best in the NBA in 2001 because he led a lottery-bound New Jersey team to the Finals.
"Which brings me to Steve Nash: 10.8 assists, 15.5 points on .522 shooting is incredible for an undersized point guard that was supposed to "fall apart" according to Mark Cuban. He is leading a 29-53 lottery team last year to a 26-4 record start in Phoenix. And he is doing it in under 35 minutes a game. The Suns may not win the Championship this year, but substitute another point guard into the Phoenix lineup and they would be looking at the lottery again this year.
"So let Marbury and Kidd argue about who is the best, Nash will continue to play great basketball and win."
Click and Roll sez: "A well-reasoned and impassioned response from the place where Steve Nash played his college ball. And, Zippity, you were not alone. A majority of the e-mail we received was in favor of the Canadian's shakin' and bakin'."
A vote for Gilbert Arenas, from Rob (no relation) in Washington D.C.:
"What's going on! It's obviously Gilbert Arenas, no one even mentioned him!"
Click and Roll sez: "You just did, and duly noted."
Best-ever letter from Ireland (Cork). Thanks, Eoin:
"Straight off-unless you're seriously injured or have been recently, you're not an NBA point guard unless you're averaging at least 10 assists. So J-Kidd has an excuse, but everyone else apart from Steve Nash? They're just not looking hard enough. Think about it. Every team should have roughly 1.5 possessions per minute. That's 36 per game. Therefore, unless you're surrounded by shooters who can't even hit 40 percent, you should average 14 scoring possessions. At least. Obviously, NBA teams actually average a lot more, or else we'd get a lot more teams like the Pistons and their below 70 points games. Even taking into account that point guards shoot as well, you can't average less than 10 assists and say you're making serious attempts to pass without making a serious case for your own incompetence."
A vote for Monsieur Parker in San Antonio from G. Geraci:
"The perfect point guard depends on the personnel around him. Does he have to play defense, shoot 3-pointers, score 20, lead in assists, penetrate or do everything well? Here in San Antonio Tony Parker is a perfect fit. We don't want the point to take 20+ shots [Marbury], lack 3-range and not be able to penetrate [Kidd], or not be good defensively [Nash]. Plus Parker's a former 'most beautiful person' in the world."
Click and Roll sez: "Most beautiful point guard? That should go over well in the locker room. By the way, Parker's fans defended him as tenaciously as I suppose their San Antonio forebears defended that tiny mission called the Alamo."
In defense of Chauncey Billups from Dave in Grand Rapids, Mich.:
"Did anybody watch basketball in June last year? Chauncey Billups has every reason to be called the league's best point-man. His 3-point and FT percentages are tops in the league among the point guards you listed. He passes well and can drive the lane against any point guard in the league -- remember Gary Payton in the Finals? He rarely turns the ball over, and his clutch shooting is undeniable."
Click and Roll sez: "We saw."
Thomas in Hilton Head, S.C. likes Kirk Hinrich:
"If I were starting a team and had first choice of any point guard it would be Kirk Hinrich. He is young, a great shooter and passer, and his Basketball IQ is off the charts. He has yet to prove that he can win in the League. However, he is on the Bulls."
Click and Roll sez: "Oooh, a backhand at the Bulls. They've won four in a row, you know and are getting better every day ... thanks, in part, to Hinrich."
Grizzlies point guard, Jason Williams received some love from Regina in Memphis:
"J-Will needs some love guys. Let's face it, even with any problems that some perceive, he's the most exciting point guard in the league. He needs more playing time and motivation to get his mojo going, but when it's going -- WOW! He makes the game so exciting! I LOVE THIS GAME!"
And, for Kris from Waterbury, Conn., A.I. is the apple of his eye:
"I think Allen Iverson is the best point because he got a little bit of everything. These past few games he has been improving and i think he will keep going. He leads the NBA in points, sixth (now fifth) in assists per game, and fourth in steals per game. I think AI is a complete basketball player. The only thing he needs to improve a little is his defense. He is playing really well right now and if he keeps this up the whole season he will be noticed a lot more."
Click and Roll sez: "Well, Iverson is one of the NBA's more recognizable players, but I see what you're saying about his play at point guard."
On the West Coast, Del in Berkeley digs Mike Bibby:
"Mike Bibby is the best point guard in the league because he has the best pure jump shot and is the best in crunch time. If you look at his career playoff stats, he is the man you want to have with the ball. He makes all of his teammates better and has raised his game and level of maturity each of the past few seasons he's been with the Kings."
One of our friends from Canada, Akram, likes Franchise:
"I think that Steve Francis is the point guard in the NBA. I picked him because out of all point guards he is the most explosive best dunker and best rebounder. He is also a very good passer if you are open he will get you the ball he is also very good off the dribble. He also has very good dribbling skills, but he is the best dunking point guard in the NBA right now."
Jordan in Basking Ridge, N.J. says, hands down, the best is the Baron:
"I am responding to your question of who is the best point guard in the NBA? Who is the best point guard in the NBA, and what makes him the best? A great point guard is not who has the best statistics, scores the most, or has the most assists, because those things are influenced and determined on the coach and the team as well. What makes a great point guard is teamwork and intelligence. The best point guard in the NBA must be the best player at setting up plays for his team, whether he gets a basket or not, as long as he sets up a play, he is doing his job, and the rest is up to his team.
"The best point guard in the NBA is none other than Baron Davis. He is on top of Stephon Marbury, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, and Dwayne Wade because of his generosity with the ball and his determination. He doesnt care about getting the assist or points for himself, he cares about setting his team up so that perhaps another player can get the assist or basket. Baron is by far the greatest playmaker in the NBA. However, the Hornets cannot seem to get many wins dealing with all these player injuries, including Davis, which also makes him the greatest point guard in the NBA. He still tries his hardest and gives his heart into every game even though the Hornets are the worst team in the NBA and the injuries he has gone through. After Baron Davis, Stephon Marbury is the best point guard, and after Stephon, Jason Kidd. Steve Nash is way over-rated. If his team didn't have the best record in the NBA, he would not be up where he is."
Larry in the F-L-A says it's Wade all the way:
"I think Stephon almost had the right question, but he's too narrow minded to see the right answer.
"But if you were a GM, whom would you rather build your team around at point guard: Marbury...or...Kidd?
"Uh, last time I checked, there were more than two point guards in the NBA. The real question should be simply, 'Whom would you build your team around at point guard?'
"The answer to the real question is Dwayne Wade. Anyone that has not tuned into a HEAT game is missing out on the emergence of this Leagues next Super Star. He has the present day performance to compete with any two guard in the league and the most tremendous future upside of any PLAYER in the league! Plus, he has a all the qualities that you expect from a role model; intelligent, respectful, humble, and he's is a downright stud. He knows when to take over a game, and knows when to defer to his teammates. Take notice. Dwayne Wade is for real."
Nice work by you, Larry. Finally defenses for the principles of our question last week.
First, we'll have Smoke from Brooklyn show some love for Coney Island's own:
"Marbury hands down. When you compare him to the Bibbys and the Nashes, they have explosive players around them. Who's on the Knicks? No high flyers, no big man in the paint, a slow-to-recover Al Houston, and a slumping T. Thomas.
"Come on, We're winning on Marbury alone, and he's developed N. Mohammed, making him a 15-20 pt scorer. The other big PGs have talent around them, Marbury's the best, and he's shooting 46 percent from the field, 85 percent from the line, both career highs. The speed, The power, the range, he's fearless, and never BLAMES anyone for his team's shortcomings, I don't see teams doubling Steve Nash, or Tony Parker, or Bibby or Kidd for that matter. Check the stats, watch the games, he's the focal point of the team, not just the point guard. No Shaq on this team! No run n gun style of offense, And no Vince Carter on the wing. Just NO. 3 NYK."
And last, but not least, Lando from Clarkston, Ga. defending J-Kidd as the top point guard:
"What is this? Is this really a question? Are we discounting Mr. Triple-Double, just because his numbers are down AFTER knee surgery? Are we forgetting that this was the man who single-handedly rejuvenated the Nets and led them to two Finals appearances? Does anybody think that if Steph was a free agent along with Kidd that he would have been courted as heavily? Naw, I don't think so. I give Steph kudos for being a good point guard and he improves things for his team at his position, but there's no question Jason Kidd is still the man because he makes his team better overall.
"As far as the Steve Nash comparison, I will give the nod to Kidd because of SN's late coming. SN's a legitimate contender, especially from the way things have turned around in Phoenix; however, J-Kidd still has the history of showing that he himself made the biggest impact on a team in New Jersey.
"In Phoenix there were components in place already that SN's game complimented perfectly (i.e. Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire.) ... This doesn't take away from SN's skill, but it should be noted that SN doesn't have to work as hard to make this team what is it is, he just has to be himself; all of them do. When J-Kidd went to New Jersey, he made them into a running team period. Before they acquired him the were more of a half-court set offense which did not work with K-Mart of RJ because they're not half-court players. After Kidd came, these guys were looking for max contracts and extensions! So with that said, I believe Jason Kidd is still the premier point guard of the league. The revival of VC's career in NJ will serve to help solidify my theory!
"Thanks for the opportunity to post my thoughts!"
Click and Roll sez: "Lando, thanks for the great e-mail. Loved you in The Empire Strikes Back."
The generosity of NBA fans and its players never ceases to amaze me. Every team -- here
the Wizards fans raised $30K for tsunami relief -- has done its part
-- [Washington Post
, Reg. req'd.]