Posted Dec 23 2006 9:19PM
SECAUCUS, N.J., Dec. 16, 2006-- It was about time.
Every week I scribble a list of the things that I notice and the top 10 make my column, while the rest that didn't make the cut get moved to the top of next week's list.
"Nobody is talking about San Antonio" has now been recycled three times and I can't ignore it anymore.
Forget Phoenix and Dallas' win streaks. Forget Utah's fast start. Forget Orlando leading the East.
Let's talk Spurs basketball.
San Antonio has the best record in the league at 18-6 for the same old reasons: Tim Duncan is back from his foot pain and he upped his offense to a career-high 57 percent field goal percentage resulting in 21.0 points per game after putting in a career-low 18.6 per last season; Tony Parker is matching his 18.9 points per game from last season and shooting 50 percent from the land of three; and Manu Ginobili continues to be a matchup nightmare on the wing with his wondrous ratio of drives to jumpers.
The Spurs are also averaging 100.2 points per game (ninth in the league) and only giving up 90.3 (second in the league), giving them the top differential in the league at +9.9.
If that wasn't enough, the two-man tandem of Francisco Elson and Fabricio Oberto, (or, as I like to call them, "Francisco Oberto"), is averaging 11.2 points and 10.5 rebounds between them which more than makes up for the void left by Nazr Mohammed when he left for Detroit.
Glad I could start the conversation.
And now, these are the 10 things I learned from last week ...
1. Marvin Williams is back
After the NBA season ended last June, my friends all would ask me, "What are you going to do at work now?" They thought that Shaq and Wade wrapping it up in Game 6 meant the start of my vacation until Opening Night. I had three answers for them: 1) The WNBA, 2) USA Basketball and 3) Prepare for next season. Getting ready for next season meant getting acquainted with the Draft, the rookies, the trades and the free agents. It was mostly reading and researching, but thanks to NBA TV, I got my hoops-gazing fix by tuning into our Summer League coverage.
It was during the Rocky Mountain Revue session in Utah that I saw Marvin Williams blossom. He was tired of a season of everybody killing the Hawks front office for picking him ahead of ROY Chris Paul. With every dominant game out West, it reminded me he was a key contributor to a NCAA national championship team and was 6-foot-9, 230 with a frame built to put on pounds. He could play a legitimate post game or step out to hit the three. And he could make his free throws!
After Williams averaged 23.2 points over five games and shot 58-of-66 from the foul line! (Sorry, I get excited about big men converting free points!) I was ready for Marvin to light up the league and then he had to go and fracture a finger on his left hand. Well, he has returned to the lineup after missing Atlanta's first 17 games and had 23 points and seven boards in his fourth game back on Wednesday. We'll see if my summer salivating over his game was worth it, or if it was just a heat-induced mirage.
Oh, and Williams' UNC teammate Sean May must be packing his lunch pail right because he has been going to work. The slimmed down May has scored 15-plus points in seven of the Bobcats' last nine games including a career-high 32 on Thursday in a win vs. Orlando.
2. Top 10 A.I. Moments, Nos. 10-6
I asked for your favorite Allen Iverson memories from his 11 seasons in Philadelphia and the answers poured in. I whittled them down to the top 10, and then ranked them in terms of importance, and overall reader responses.
10. May 13, 1999 - Iverson sets an NBA playoff record with 10 steals vs. the Magic. It is Philly's first trip to the post season since 1991 and Iverson carries the 1-2-3-4-5 Sixers, 10-9-8 76ers to the second round.
9. April 20, 2003 - A.I. opens up the playoffs with 55 points against the Hornets and gets Philadelphia fans thinking that an encore to the 2001 Finals run is possible if No. 3 is this hot.
8. Nov. 15, 2006 - Nobody knew at the time that this would be his last great accomplishment as a 76er when Iverson offered to pay for the funeral of a young man who died of a gun shot wound after refusing to give up his Allen Iverson jersey in a dispute in 2003. "I don't think one guy can do what needs to be done, but I think one guy can help,'' Iverson told the AP.
7. Feb. 12, 2005 - The diminuative one delights and excites the hometown crowd as he goes off for a career-high 60 points in a win over Orlando. "I score a career high and we won the game," Iverson said. "That's how you draw it up in your dreams."
6. March 3, 2006 - Sorry we had to bring it up Antonio Daniels, but Allen shook you twice and put you on your backside. He also had 47 points and 12 assists in the win over the Wizards. Vintage A.I. (This narrowly beat out Iverson doing it to Jacque Vaughn).
3. Gilbert Arenas shoots over 40 percent from three
Shaking the reputation of being goofy is hard to do. Just ask Jim Carrey or Robin Williams as they tried to gain acceptance in dramatic roles after cutting their teeth in comedy. But why can't an elite basketball player be a little quirky and still get respect? Why can't everybody just accept Gilbert Arenas? Apart from his demeanor, analysts criticize his M.O. -- the more shots the better. He dominates and has fun doing it. Now in this sixth season he is shooting a career-high 41 percent from the arc, and it's nearly impossible to hit 4-of-10 shots when you're 23-feet-9-inches from the cup if they are "bad," "ill-advised," or "erratic." He knows what he is doing, and knows he is doing it well.
4. Why doesn't every team do the Captain's C?
I used to be a waiter and like Jennifer Anniston's character in Office Space, wasn't too keen on "pieces of flair" on my uniform, but there is an adornment to NBA jerseys that I think more teams should implement. I am talking of course about the Captain's C. It is a simple patch that goes above the team logo on the right breast but it means that without a doubt, that man is the go-to guy. I am not an hockey fan at all, but I do like how the NHL puts the C's on the sweaters.
The highest profile player in the league rocking the C currently is Milwaukee's Michael Redd. Redd is totally deserving of the C as he is the guy for the Bucks. When I think of the C, however, Tim Hardaway of the Warriors' Run TMC days immediately comes to mind. Not only did the gold letter pop out against the royal blue mesh like a merit badge on a Webelos scout uniform, but he was the point guard on the greatest video game team in the history of the world. Play as the Warriors in NBA Live '95. Timmy, Chris Mullin, Latrell Sprewell, Chris Webber and Billy Owens. Unreal.
5. Let the Kobe 4 MVP campaign begin
After I picked Kobe to win MVP and the season started with him on the bench nursing his knee, I'll admit I felt about as sheepish as the guy who offers to pick up the tab at dinner and has his credit card denied. But now I'm looking like Nostradamus. His field goal accuracy is at a career-high 48 percent and he is getting his teammates involved in the offense more as his field goal attempts are down to 18.5 per game after hoisting 27.2 a night last season. On Friday the Lakers trailed the Rockets by 19 after the first quarter when Kobe only went 0-for-2. Of course he went 17-for-36 the rest of the way to finish with 53 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists to lift L.A. to a 112-101double-overtime win. All of these developments have the Lakers at 16-7 and on pace for 57 wins, which will be the most important number when it comes to determining Bryant's MVP chances.
6. Do you know who Matt Barnes is?
Time to break out the old basketball lingo book and look up what it means to "have a cup of coffee" with a team. This has nothing to do with french vanilla or mocha but is rather a polite way to say that a player had a brief stint with a team before being cut, traded or having his 10-day contract expire. The Warriors' Matt Barnes must be on a caffeine high because he has downed quite a few cups of joe in his career as he is on his fifth different team in four seasons. His tour de java started with 38 games with the Clippers in 2003-04 and has spanned two employments with the Sixers, some temp work with the Kings and six games with the Knicks. It appears he has finally found a home in Golden State as he has scored more points already in 19 games this season than he did in any previous full season. The forward out of UCLA his shooting 52 percent from the field and 48 percent from downtown. He has four games of 20-plus points thus far including 32 vs. the Kings on Tuesday when he went 6-for-9 on triples.
7. Hooray for Jerry
Bill Parcells once said that you can tell who the head coach is because he is the toughest mug in the room. Why does that seem to apply to the strong-jawed Jerry Sloan so well? Utah's maestro is in his 19th season at the helm and has the Jazz in first place in the Northwest with a 17-6 record. It's all coming together this season for Sloan as he captured his 1,000th career victory on Monday against the Mavericks.
"He deserves it,'' said Mavs coach Avery Johnson after the game. "He's been one of the most consistent coaches in the history of our game.''
8. R.I.P. Paul Arizin
He might have the least amount of name recognition as any of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, but what's in a name? Paul Arizin's story is what matters. "Pitchin' Paul," as he was known in his playing days, was cut from his high school team. So he went to Villanova University to study chemistry and was spotted by Nova coach Al Severance and was offered a walk-on spot on the squad. The opportunity led to more playing time, a scholarship, and an All-American senior year. His good fortune continued in the NBA as he helped guide the Philadelphia Warriors to the title in1956.
He is also credited with perfecting the jump shot. "It came by accident," he once explained. "Some of our games were played on dance floors. It became quite slippery. When I tried to hook, my feet would go out from under me, so I jumped. I was always a good jumper. My feet weren't on the floor, so I didn't have to worry about slipping. The more I did it, the better I became. Before I knew it, practically all my shots were jump shots."
Sadly, Arizin passed away on Tuesday at the age of 78. Growing up as a Philadelphia area ball player with nothing but a jumper to hang my hat on, I realize I owe a lot to Mr. Arizin.
9. Top 10 A.I. Moments, Nos. 5-1
Three of the top five come from 2001 when Iverson matched his individual accolades with team success and the 76ers made it to the national stage against L.A. in The Finals. The other two, well, they were sort of like those first couple of dates with your wife when you started to realize you have something special.
5. Jan. 26, 1998 - Iverson is in his second year and the Sixers have traded in their Santa red away uni's for jet black jerseys and combined with the fresh cornrows, A.I. looks like a bad man when he shows off his hops in Toronto thowing down an insane tip-dunk off a missed free throw on Marcus Camby's head.
4. June 1, 2001 - The Sixers can clinch a berth to The Finals in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals by beating the Bucks but find themselves down by 33 points after three quarters. Iverson erupts for 26 of his 46 points in the fourth quarter and Philly makes a game of it as it cuts the lead to 10 points with 5:14 remaining. This comeback sets the tone for the Sixers 108-91 Game 7 romp and epitomizes Allen's never-say-die attitude.
3. May 6 - May 20, 2001 - In an epic seven game series, Iverson has two 50-point games to Vince Carter's one and shows his versatility by dishing out a career-high 16 assists in the clinching Game 7.
2. Dec. 21, 1996 - It was just the 20th game of Iverson's career, but he proved he belonged in the NBA by doing his best against the best ever. Hoards of readers brought it up, but I loved the way Kyle in Ontario put it, "My favorite Iverson moment was when he was playing against the Bulls and he anklebroke Michael Jordan." I don't know if "anklebroke" is a word, but I'm petitioning to add it to the official NBA lingo dictionary. As for the play, Jordan was down in his picture perfect defensive stance, eyes burning into Iverson. The crowd started to buzz and Iverson struck, putting the cross on MJ at the foul line and pulling up for a feathery 15-footer. Those were the days.
1. June 6, 2001 - Iverson didn't just lead the Sixers to the 2001 Finals, he won a game for them when he was there. A.I. scored 48 in a 107-101 overtime win in Game 1 in Los Angeles and hit the legendary corner jumper with Ty Lue sticking him. Every basketball fan recognized him as the best player in the world that day.
10. The ball
It was announced on Monday that the league is going back to the leather ball. The Grizzlies' Chucky Atkins first got wind of the change in the visitor's lockerroom at Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey on Monday and proceeded to dance around the room singing "We got leather! We got leather!"
Have a question or comment for The McTen or care to share what you learned this week? Get at me.