Saturday, March 12, 2011

Swishing And Dishing

Is there a such thing as the team-player award?

Because if there is, I want to nominate Andrew Bynum.

Bynum recently talked about how the team is better when they are moving the ball instead of featuring him as a scorer inside and willingly put his dream of being a dominant center on hold in order to make the team better.

That's beautiful.

What's even more beautiful is how much better Bynum will be when he does become the featured scorer for the Lakers.

Once he masters reading defenses and passing from the post and elsewhere, he will be even more unstoppable because he will be able to carve defenses up with his passing and burn them with his powerful low-post moves.

It's like The Karate Kid (1984), where Mr. Miyagi had him doing all of these things which looked like they had nothing to do with fighting, until he actually got onto the mat.

Bynum being unselfish and passing the ball to open teammates doesn't look like it is helping him, but in actuality it is.

This Denver team is fun to watch!

Speedy Ty Lawson has a great feel for the game and the point guard position, and I never knew Kenyon Martin was so versatile with all of the passes he can make.

George Karl is in a great position because he has a deep bench, which allows him to play guys the right amount of minutes to keep them fresh and give his team an energy advantage almost every single night.

Games can be and are often won on energy alone.

And improving and using the bench is the key capitalizing on this edge.

Someone who is great playing 40 minutes will be even better playing 36 and even better than that playing 32.

That is the advantage Denver has over many teams.

These guys in Denver may not be household names yet, but all of that will change if they keep winning and playing like they do.


The Portland Trail Blazers look like they have found their footing again.

I had them as a contender before the season started, but that was before they traded backup point guard Jerryd Bayless, before Brandon Roy had surgery on both knees and before Greg Oden had surgery and was lost for the season.

You wouldn't believe how badly Portland struggled to replace Bayless before Patrick Mills was moved in and got comfortable. It took a good six weeks, and Mills still is merely a barely-adequate replacement.

Gerald Wallace is fitting in nicely, and LaMarcus Aldridge has been lighting up everything in his path for about two months.

And Portland wisely signed Nate McMillan to an extension this week.

They have some nice things going on, but Portland isn't nearly as threatening as they appeared before the season.

A couple of more pieces and a return to full health would go a long way in changing that though.


When I wrote my conference previews before the season started, I noted some of the things which make seasons so unpredictable: injuries, trades, coaching decisions and team chemistry.

Individual improvement is another thing which makes predictions so hard to make.

There have been so many players who came out of nowhere to have better seasons this year.

A good way to get yourself slapped would have been to tell someone before the season (hell, a month into the season) that DeAndre Jordan would turn himself into even a decent NBA player. But that is exactly what he has done, and Los Angeles is much better for it.

His teammate Eric Gordon got better too. Gordon averaged as much as 24 points when he was healthy and the team rolling.

Derrick Rose made the leap into the one of the best players in the NBA and took Chicago with him.

Who saw the season Elton Brand is having?

Will Bynum is a much better point guard than he was in November. He runs Detroit's offense like a pro and is making the transition from someone who loves to take a shot to someone who loves to dish a pass to a teammate.

I already talked about Richard Jefferson and the season he is having.

Marcin Gortat has been playing in Phoenix like he should have been the starter at center in Orlando.

Kris Humphries is someone else getting minutes for the first time and showing he deserves the longer look, and Earl Clark makes plays whenever Stan Van Gundy decides to give him playing time.

These are some of the few who came out of nowhere to have better seasons, and there are many others.

And they all deserve credit for stepping up their games and making themselves and the game better.


Not to be confused with Mike Lowery from the movie Bad Boys but Kyle Lowry is a bad boy himself, or as Mark Jackson might put it, a "bad man!"

An early sign came over the summer when Cleveland and coach Byron Scott signed Lowry to an offer sheet.

When Byron Scott got his first job with the New Jersey Nets, one of the first things New Jersey did was trade for Jason Kidd.

When Scott got his next job in New Orleans, one of the first things New Orleans did was draft Chris Paul.

Scott went on to have great successes (and great failures but let's not talk about that now) with both players.

And Scott played with Magic Johnson, one of the greatest point guards of all time.

Byron Scott knows point guards.

So when he handpicked Kyle Lowry to be his point guard of the future in Cleveland, it was a strong indicator that Lowry was for real.

Houston wisely matched the offer and kept Lowry even though he was little more than a backup to Aaron Brooks at the time.

When Brooks went down with an injury early in the season, Lowry took control of the team and hasn't let go. He is carrying this Houston team and has them fighting for a playoff spot.

Not known as a shooter, Lowry has improved his three-point shooting percentage from .272 last season to a sizzling .380 this year and can beat a team any way imaginable anywhere on the court.

Houston is 7-2 in its last nine games, and Lowry's play in the last five games has been staggering (22.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 8 assists, 1.4 steals, shooting .547 from the field and .488 from three).

When franchises look to win big, they try to find pieces to build around; and Lowry is one of those pieces.

He probably won't lead Houston to the playoffs this year, but he has them in the conversation.

And the way he has played recently, he is close to making himself part of another conversation: the one naming the best point guards in the NBA.

Note Update, 2/26/2012, 12:22 AM: Some of Lowry's March statistics first posted by Tom Martin.

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