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The A–Z of the NBA


MAR/APR 2012

To Live & Fly in L.A. Chris Paul & Blake Griffin


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Forget the give-and-go, call this play the “Give and…Oh No!” as it looks like Rajon Rondo was not ready to accept the handoff from Kevin Garnett. It was either that or Rondo was gun-shy about having to possibly shoot the ball.

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During his first visit back to Beantown after seven-plus years and a championship with the organization, Kendrick Perkins was welcomed back fondly to Boston—that is, until he obliterated Jermaine O’Neal on this dunk, leaving him shoes-up, man-down. Even Ray Allen seems to agree.

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We’re not exactly sure whether it was the result of a nasty pick or a wicked crossover, but either way, Hakim Warrick is on his way to the deck while Ramon Sessions explores his options.

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noah Graham/nBae/Getty imaGes

Mo Williams says “No Mo” to Brandon Jennings as he gets all ball on Jennings’ jumper.

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Sure, it’s just a tire. Like Mt. Rushmore is just another sculpture.



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mar/apr 2012

The Gameplan


60 Star Aboard

With the arrival of Chris Paul to the Clippers, the buzz surrounding Staples Center these days has been the team in red and blue. Yes, the addition of Paul will mean that many more lobs for Blake Griffin to catch and turn into dazzling highlights, but hype aside, Paul brings leadership to a franchise that will now be expected to contend.

33 HOOP’s A-Z of the NBA

76 Serge Protector

We do it every year: we isolate the 26 storylines, personalities and players to watch in the season and present them to you in simple alphabet form.

Serge Ibaka is the guy in all those Oklahoma City highlights that you regularly see on SportsCenter and nightly top play roundups. No, really, he is. It’s just that’s he’s usually edited out. You see, right before the Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook fastbreaks that end with one of them flushing down a dunk, it’s Ibaka who starts the action many times with a block or rebound that ignites OKC’s transition game.


Andrew d. Bernstein/nBAe/Getty imAGes

68 Defenders With Influence

There are great individual defenders in the NBA, guys who do an amazing job of making life difficult for the man they’re matched against, but there are a few players whose defense extends beyond their assignment. They have the ability to cajole, will and prod their teammates to step up their defensive game.

84 Pick ’n Rolls Despite his lofty credentials of eight championships, 26,395 career points, 11 AllNBA selections and eight All-Defensive Team nods, John Havlicek will never be known as the best at his position. It’s not because he didn’t excel at any one spot; the ultimate do-it-all player, Havlicek’s greatness lied in his ability to be able to play any role for the Boston Celtics, making

him one of the most versatile players to ever play in the NBA.

30 24 Seconds with Shannon Brown We give the highflying Sun two dozen probing questions to answer.

Poster Andre Iguodala slammin’ one down and Bill Walton with the hook.


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tHe GamepLan Departments

12 The Point 17 Jumpball

Brack-it: Debating the NBA’s all-time greatest beard; Head2Head: Which point guard is better between Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings? numerology: The 123s of the NBA; First Five: Chase Budinger, Toney Douglas, Carl Landry, JaVale McGee, Greg Monroe; Dance Life: Jen from the Toronto Raptors Dance Pak; transition Game: Shawn Marion.

mar/apr 2012



90 Call-Out Big ups to big achievements, both on and off the court.

93 Check It

102 Stepback

spin moves: Kevin Love tells us what he likes to do when not cleaning the glass; Goods: our picks

It’s been 20 years since Magic Johnson came out of retirement to put on a show at All-Star to capture the game MVP honors.

for go-to gadgets, featuring the PS Vita; Wear: Stay fresh with our apparel and kicks selects, featuring the Burn Rubber x New Balance MT580 “Workforce” Pack.

21 104 Final Exam It looks like Eric Gordon is due for some remedial courses.



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THE POINT There’s plenty of good stories in this condensed season, much of which we touched upon in our annual1 A-Z look at the League and cover2 story, but a very intriguing and brewing storyline is Kobe Bryant Bryant, having cemented himself as the next best behind Michael Jordan3 among shooting guards, has been playing with a determined focus. Usually guys, as they get older, start dialing down the shot attempts, using their newfound wisdom to play more efficiently. Bean has been anything but. At 33, Kobe has suddenly ratcheted everything up 24 notches: minutes, field-goal attempts,4 threepoint attempts, usage percentage.5 On top of all this is a list of injuries6 as the jumpers he’s been hoisting with 10-plus seconds on the shot clock. What’s the reason for beast mode, Kobe? Only Kobe can answer that. The speculations are far and wide.7 The Lakers are no longer favorites for a title, so Kobe is just looking to singlehandedly8 carry the team on its back. The departure of Phil Jackson has freed Kobe to go NBA2K12 on the League.9 He’s looking to usurp MJ on the all-time scoring ledger.10 He’s trying to win back some stolen swag his Staples Center roomies have taken from the Purple-and-Gold.11 The #KobeSystem12 is that good. He’s trying to become the oldest player to ever top 30 ppg.13 He’s on a mission to prove ESPN wrong for ranking him seventh14 on their offseason player rankings. He’s trying to best his single-game scoring record by 19 points.15 As I’ve been telling people all season, this chapter in the Kobe saga will be an interesting read.16 Never before has Kobe been so overshadowed, he’s currently going through a divorce and he might be realizing his quickly waning basketball mortality. Do we count Kobe out? No. He’s certainly not.17 Others might find his game vexing, but I actually find this version18 of Kobe extremely entertaining. So you can keep your Lob City, Miami Thrice and Rubio-mania,19 my League Pass will be following wherever Kobe goes this season.

Volume 40, No. 1

Editor-in-Chief Ming Wong #2 Design Director Kengyong Shao #31 Assistant Editor Phil D’Apolito #14 Online Editor Darryl Howerton #21 Editor-at-Large Jeramie McPeek #4 Copy Editor Trevor Kearney #8 WNBA Editor Lois Elfman #40 Senior Writer Michael Bradley #53 Contributing Writers Russ Bengtson #43, Christopher Cason #24, Jon Cooper #10, Jim EIchenhofer #12, Anthony Gilbert #1, Brian A. Giuffra #17, Melody Hoffman #34, Andy Jasner #27, Trevor Kearney #8, Holly MacKenzie #32, Brett Mauser #25, McG #93, Jeff Min #12, Brett Olson #36, Rob Peterson #9, Earl K. Sneed #23, Kyle Spelling #35 Illustrator Matt Candela #52 Retired Numbers #6, #11, #13, #30, #99

Professional Sports Publications 519 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10018 Tel: (212) 697-1460 Fax: (646) 753-9480 Executive VP Operations Jeff Botwinick Executive VP, Business Development Martin Lewis Executive VP, Sales Steve Farkas Executive VP, Sales Mitch Gibbs Executive VP, Team Relations Dave Gerschwer Executive Administrative Director Julie Wong Manager, Marketing Services Aron Sawyer Production Manager Jaime Ziegler Production Assistant Tara Malloy

NBA Publishing/NBA Photos Executive VP, and Executive Producer, Production, Programming, and Broadcasting Danny Meiseles Senior VP, Multimedia Production Paul Hirschheimer Senior VP, Entertainment & Player Marketing Charlie Rosenzweig Senior VP, Marketing Communications Mike Bass Senior Director, NBAE Production John Hareas Executive Vice President, Global Merchandising Group Sal LaRocca Vice President, Licensing Mary Pat Gillin

Ming Wong #2


9. Peep his four straight 40-point games in January. 10. Kobe started the season 4,424 points behind MJ for third place. By the time you read this, Kobe will have passed Shaq for fifth. 11. L.A. will always be a Lakers town, but you can’t deny that the Clippers are more intriguing at the moment. 12. I have a pair sitting on my desk that I plan to hoop in as soon as this issue is put to bed. 13. MJ scored 30.4 ppg during the 1995-96 season at 32. 14. Bean even called out ESPN afterwards: “Not bad for the seventh-best player in the NBA.” 15. Do the Lakers catch the Wizards coming off a back-to-back this season? 16. I have it pre-pre-pre-ordered for my Kindle. 17. In his mind, Kobe can average 25 a game for as long as he puts his mind to it. 18. By my estimation, we’re currently watching Kobe 8.0. 19. OK, I’m lying a bit on Rubio. I’m a sucker for great passing.

Senior Directors & Senior Official NBAE Photographers Andrew D. Bernstein, Nathaniel S. Butler Vice President, NBA Photos Joe Amati Director, Photos Imaging David Bonilla Official NBAE Photographer Jesse Garrabrant Senior Photo Editor Brian Choi Photo Coordinator Kevin Wright All NBA photos appearing in this magazine, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright of NBA Entertainment. All WNBA photos appearing in this magazine, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright of WNBA Enterprises. All NBDL photos appearing in this magazine, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright of NBDL Enterprises. HOOP is published monthly, December through June, by PSP. © 2012 Professional Sports Publications. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without permission of publisher is prohibited. To subscribe to HOOP, call (800) 829-3347. PRINTED IN THE USA

Sam Forencich/nBae/Getty imaGeS

BONUS POINTS 1. Yes, A-Z took a year off last year, but expect it to be an annual staple. 2. Big thanks to Joe Amati, Andrew Bernstein and Brian Choi at NBA Photos for helping put together and executing the excellent cover shot in record time. 3. Really not a bad place to be. 4. At press time pace of 25.1 FGA, this will be Kobe’s second highest amount of attempts in his career. 5. An estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he’s on the floor. His current 40.1 would be a career high. 6. Ironically enough, one of the injuries is a damaged wrist on his shooting hand. 7. These were all sourced from varying conversations I had, some in earnest, some in jest. 8. If you watch the Lakers play, they’re just not the same as previous editions. Kobe taking 25-plus shots, while excessive, is sometimes the best way for them to win until they figure things out.

Manager, Global Media Programs Felecia Groomster


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TO ORDER CALL YOUR CABLE, TELCO OR SATELLITE PROVIDER TM & © 2012 Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved. Copyright © 2012 NBA Media Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved.

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The 123s of The NBA


The number of free-throw attempts by Dwight howard in a January 12 win at Golden state, breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s 50-year-old record* of 34. howard hit 21. * ties playoff record that Shaq set in 2002 Finals


The number of free throw attempts separating first-place Dwight howard and second-place Blake Griffin during the ‘1011 season.

ROcky WidneR; nathaniel S. ButleR; d. claRke evanS; JORdan JOhnSOn; GaRRett ellWOOd (3)/nBae/Getty imaGeS

1,760 The number of career threes made by Peja stojakovic. he retires fourth on the all-time list.

4 The number of times the Clippers have finished with a better record than the Lakers: ’92, ’93, ’05 and ’06. The two franchises have never squared off in a postseason series since sharing Los Angeles in ’84-85.

15 The number of years Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has been the coach of the team, making him the longest tenured of all the head coaches/managers of any professional U.S. sports team. Popovich took over from Bob Hill on Dec. 9, 1996.

23 The number of players who are currently stuck overseas until March after failing to secure an opt-out clause with their foreign club. The list includes Aaron Brooks, Wilson Chandler, J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin.

48-141 THe CliPPerS all-Time reCorD aGainST THe lakerS aT THe STarT of THiS SeaSon. THe laST Time THe CliPS oUTriGHT won THe SeaSon SerieS in THiS maTCHUP waS THe 1992-93 SeaSon.

* numbers as of presstime HOOP

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head 2 head

Stephen Curry vs. Brandon JenningS Only three picks separated dynamic point guards Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings from one another back in the 2009 NBA Draft. As we examine their games, the gap is just as close. How close exactly?



Scoring: It was quite clear that after only one year in the League, both of these ’09 draft class alums knew how to score the rock. Jennings has the illustrious 55-point outburst on his résumé, a feat he accomplished two seasons ago against Curry’s Warriors no less, and Curry dropped 42 in Portland to close out his equally impressive rookie campaign. If this was purely on shooting the basketball, Curry would win in a landslide and the only commentary we’d have to offer would be three simple words: open your eyes. With a phenomenal outside touch that has been passed down from sharpshooting father Dell, Stephen has been knocking down NBA threes since his college days. And that didn’t stop when Golden State selected him seventh overall. Curry shoots the trey at a terrific 44 percent clip for his career, finishing among the leaders at seventh his rookie year and up to third last season in the category. Jennings can hit the long ball as well (1.7 3PM), but the southpaw’s touch is a bit more erratic and inconsistent at this point in his career, as it is with most young players. But Jennings might have the quicker first step, allowing him to get into the lane and utilize his svelte 6-1, 169 frame to craftily find innovative ways to get the deuce. It almost seems as if he creates a new shot every night, much like he does with his hairdo, and most get the job done. Curry’s no slouch to finishing around the bucket, though he’s much more comfortable pulling up for the mid-range jumper which is near automatic. So far in their brief careers Curry has the edge on the stat sheet averaging 18 points to Jennings’ 15.8, but this category is probably a lot closer than the numbers would indicate. Curry has had the benefit of playing in uptempo systems and also has elite scorer Monta Ellis in the backcourt to take a load off him. This season he’s adjusting to Mark Jackson’s more methodical, halfcourt style, something that Jennings has already had to cope with under Scott Skiles, albeit without a player of Ellis’ caliber next to him. It’s close, but Curry’s jumpshot is too much of an advantage for Jennings to overcome.

Stephen Curry GuArd 6-3, 185 pounds golden State WarriorS

Advantage: Curry



Advantage: Curry






























‘11-12 stats as of press time


Steve Yeater/NBae/GettY ImaGeS

Floor Game: At this point in their respective careers, neither guy is your typical floor general in the mold of a Steve Nash or a Chris Paul—both are point guards who look to score first. Curry, who may even be more of a combo guard, handles the ball like there’s a string protruding from his palm and has made great strides in running the point since making a conscious effort to learn the position prior to his final season at Davidson. His career 5.9-3.1 assist-turnover ratio leaves a little to be desired, though he does possess the ability to “wow” at any given moment with a needle-threading pass. It is apparent Jennings has picked up a thing or two from the steady Skiles on how to play the position, but still makes some questionable decisions at times. He needs to improve on his shot selection and learn that despite his uncanny ability to drain the off-balance shot, it would be wiser to defer to an open teammate and not force the issue as much—something his career 38 percent shooting can attest. Turnovers aren’t necessarily his bugaboo (2.4 career) but if he can shore up his decision-making, those assist numbers (5.3 career) will go way up. It also should be noted that Jennings has no college seasoning under his belt after jumping straight from high school to Italy for a year, so we believe with more experience he’ll tighten up his flaws. Both players have the natural talent to impress with a flashy look-away pass or fit the ball into a tight window, both have a dynamic first step coupled with a cache of hesitation and stutter step fakes but neither Curry nor Jennings have shown yet that they can command an offense. In terms of becoming a true point guard, Jennings’ ceiling is probably higher than that of Curry but until Jennings plays a bit more under control, Curry gets the edge.


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defense: Jennings and Curry have two of the scrawnier builds in the NBA which can make life difficult fighting through screens and getting backed down by the bigger point guards in the game. While they lack in strength, both players do what they can to compensate for it in quickness. Jennings has the raw athleticism and foot speed required to become a quality defender in the League. He’s not quite there yet, but there probably isn’t an opposing point that can outright burn him in his Under Armour kicks, as it seems to be only a matter of whether or not Jennings is in the mood to keep up. With excellent leaping ability he does a decent job on the glass for his size (3.6 career), and his aggressive nature puts him in the middle of any loose ball scrum. He also cops 1.5 steals a night. Not quite the athlete Jennings is, Curry has a good set of hands which swipe 1.7 steals per game and has the bigger body, even if only marginally at 6-3, 185, resulting in a decent job on the glass for a guard with 4.2 career boards. He too is quick, but doesn’t play as tenaciously as Jennings on this side of the court and sometimes has a hard time keeping his man in front of him. For Curry, it may be a matter of bulking up a bit and asserting himself, but Jennings is the clear-cut better defender. After all, Curry did get a very intimate look at Jennings erupting for 55.

Advantage: JenningS

BrandonGuArd JenningS 6-1, 169 pounds MilWaukee BuCkS

“I dunno, man. I try not to get too close to these guys. But I think Boris diaw may be a close second.” —amar’e Stoudemire on who’s the second smelliest player in the NBa after Ronny Turiaf



Leadership: Since opting to skip college to ball in Europe for a season, Jennings has lacked the college tutelage that Curry garnered in his three years at Davidson. Coming from a professional basketball pedigree, Curry has proven he can lead by example as well as vocally, orchestrating his underdog Davidson Wildcats to an elite eight appearance in March Madness. Although it hasn’t had the opportunity to manifest itself on the NBA floor yet, Curry appears to have all the makings of a true leader who can get his teammates to rally around him. He has a natural headiness about him and great feel for the game that we believe should come out in due time. As of now, Jennings needs to transform the tune of his detractors calling him cocky into that of having a confident swagger. Yes he has a playoff berth in ‘09-10 to his credit, but it’s hard to quantify how much he meant to that Bucks team as he started to fade down the stretch after a scorching start. Under Skiles’ tutelage, he can certainly grow into an all-around point guard and lead by example, but currently he has to show us he can make his teammates better.

Advantage: Curry



Clutch: Having a proven go-to guy like Monta Ellis to take care of business during crunch time is a valuable luxury to have for Golden State, but it has also put a harness on Curry for the moment. While Curry’s cool demeanor and smooth jumper could eventually make him a prime candidate for some last second heroics, he hasn’t gotten that opportunity yet in the League. Although Jennings hasn’t exactly racked up the buzzer beaters himself, if there’s one thing that Jennings is it’s fearless. He has shown us the fortitude of not being afraid of taking a big shot—or any shot for that matter. With his ability to penetrate the lane and drain just about any shot that his left hand manages to launch at the net, Jennings looks bound for at least a few game-winners before his career is over. This aspect is largely speculative, but Jennings seems to savor the big moment more and desire is half the battle.

Noah Graham/NBae/GettY ImaGeS

Advantage: JenningS

the VerdiCt There’s no questioning the overall talents of Jennings or Curry. Both have yet to reach their peak and still have a tremendous amount upside to offer their respective clubs. Sure B-Jennings may be able to shake Steph off the dribble, but we’ll take Curry as the more complete baller right this moment.


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Last February, the Rockets shipped Shane Battier to Memphis,1 ushering in their second-round pick from 2009, Chase Budinger, as their starting small forward. He welcomed the playing time but knew he’d miss his friend and mentor. “He was very helpful and is still one of my closest friends,” says Budinger. “He’s one of those professionals that you look up to. He’s a great guy. It was tough but it was also good to know I’d be jumping into a starting role.” Budinger seized the opportunity, starting 22 of the Rockets’ final 24 games and averaging 14.4 points during that span. Never in question was his explosiveness2—which was never more on display than when Budinger poured in a career-high 35 in the regular season finale, a rout of Minnesota. That finished off a stretch of 17 wins in the Rockets’ final 25 games. The void in Budinger’s game entering the League, and the reason he slid to Detroit at No. 44 in the 2009 draft,3 was his defense. Battier, a two-time NBA All-Defensive selection, was the perfect teammate to tutor Budinger. He isn’t yet Battier or former Rocket forward Rodney McCray, another two-time selection, but he’s improving.4 “For me, it’s mostly closeouts, weakside help, being in the right position and rebounding the ball— just little things like that,” says Budinger. “Shane really helped with spacing and being where I have to be.” The Rockets hope to get where they want to be: the postseason.5 They finished last in the Southwest last year, albeit just three games behind Battier’s Grizzlies for the final playoff spot. Memphis went on to stun top seed San Antonio in the first round before bowing to Oklahoma City in seven games. Houston has similar designs for the 2011-12 campaign. “Once you make the playoffs, anybody can win,” says Budinger. “What’s good about us is we’re a young team, a deep team, and with the shortened season, we’re going to have fresher legs.”

BONUS POINTS 1. The Battier deal fetched Hasheem Thabeet (the No. 2 overall pick in 2009), DeMarre Carroll and a first-round pick. 2. The 2006 McDonald’s All-American selection and dunk contest winner out of La Costa Canyon HS in 2006, Budinger was chosen as the Mizuno National Player of the Year in volleyball. 3. Budinger was promptly dealt to Houston for a future second-round pick. The Rockets didn’t make a pick in ’09 but traded for Budinger, Jermaine Taylor and Sergio Llull on draft night 4. The new Rockets head coach, Kevin McHale, was a six-time All-NBA Defensive Team selection, 5. Since reaching the Finals in 1997, Houston has won just one playoff series, that coming in 2009 when it knocked off Portland in six games.





including First Team nods in 1986, ’87 and ’88.

10 - Forward - Houston Rockets


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And it all comes down to this. The ’00s versus the ’70s. The current beard icon versus the redheaded OG. The prototypical NBA hipster versus the NBA hipster prototype. Bill Walton lived in Portland and owned a fxed gear bike back in the ’70s, for God’s sake. His life story would be Portlandia crossed with Blue Chips, all set to a Grateful Dead soundtrack. Much respect to Baron Davis, the leading standard bearer, but Walton’s beard is the father of his style. And while the decision may have John Wooden rollin’ in his grave, Bill Walton is your all-time NBA beard champion.

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23 - Guard - New York Knicks


DOUGLAS The New York Knicks have championship hopes for this season1 and why shouldn’t they? They added center Tyson Chandler2 to a frontcourt that already included Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, forming one of the best frontlines in the game. But if they’re going win their first NBA Championship since 1973, third-year guard Toney Douglas could be the difference maker. He was named the Knicks starting point guard in preseason3 and, even if he doesn’t finish the year as a starter, will play a major role in their success. “I’m very prepared for this opportunity,” says Douglas. “Whenever I get on the court, I’m going to go all out and play like it’s my last game.” Douglas played that way last year and had his best season as a pro, recording career highs in points (10.6), assists (3.0) and steals (1.1). He’s recovered from offseason shoulder surgery4 and is excited for his first chance to be a full-time starter in the NBA.5 “Starting for the Knicks in the worlds most famous arena, the Garden, it’s going to be a great experience,” he says. “I’m just going to do whatever I can to help the team win.” If he plays well and the Knicks should do just that.

BONUS POINTS 1. In the preseason Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said his team “should compete” for a NBA championship this year. 2. The Knicks acquired Chandler in a sign-and-trade deal with the defending NBA Champion Dallas 3. D’Antoni named Douglas the starter but the Knicks also signed veteran point guards Mike Bibby and Baron Davis and drafted Iman Shumpert in the first round of the draft. 4. Douglas tore his labrum last year and had successful surgery in May. 5. Douglas has started 24 games in his career including three in the playoffs last year when Chauncey Billups got hurt.



Mavericks on 9/10/11.


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shaWn Marion


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toronto raptors Dance pak













At what point did you seriously start thinking about dancing professionally? Jen: Throughout high school I was debating what to do, whether to take a degree in dance, or dance on the side. I decided on kinesiology, so it kind of correlates to dance and I danced for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League, for four years. Then I moved to Toronto to do my masters and I tried out for the Raptors Dance Pak and I made the team. What was your first game like? Jen: My first game was hectic. It was just following people and trying to be where I had to be at the right time and not to miss any hits or any cues. It was stressful, but once you’re on the court and see everyone its like, ‘Wow,’ a feeling you can’t even explain. What’s been your top highlight so far of being a member of RDP? Jen: This year especially, I feel like I’ve been able to take more of a leadership role, which is more of my personality. You really get that satisfaction of helping other people and getting to perform as well. NBA China invited the Dance Pak over for an event last year, how was that experience? Jen: It was unreal, probably the best dance experience of my life. We did two performances a day and got to sightsee at night, it was amazing. What’s the most valuable piece of advice you pass on to the new girls? Jen: Have fun. Just don’t stress about it, don’t worry about little things. Just enjoy the experience because it’s a once in a lifetime thing. Do you have a pre-game routine? Jen: Basically just going through the dance and just trying to relax. I don’t really like to get too-too excited cause then I get nervous and forget what I’m doing. I like to relax and do my own thing. You’re an occupational therapist, is there any overlap between your work and dancing? Jen: I wish there was more, but there are classes that do have dance classes for kids with disabilities and an occupational therapist and a dance teacher run them collaboratively. So I’m looking into starting something like that at the studio that I work at. How did the lockout affect you? Jen: I just wanted to get back to dancing, just going to the gym is not the same. We were busy with appearances and that was good, because having a full time job it’s usually hard to do three practices a week, games, plus appearances. I was able to do more appearances, which was good for me. If you were on Dancing With The Stars and you had to pick an NBA player as a partner, who do you think would be the best? Jen: DeMar DeRozan is really good at the Dougie, we could Dougie it out together. Duane Watson #7


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Each time Carl Landry scores a basket during a home game in New Orleans, the Hornets’ publicaddress system plays a brief audio clip: “Every day I’m hustlin’!” The sound bite, taken from a popular Rick Ross song, is a fitting tribute to a fifth-year player who had to scratch and claw his way to earning a permanent role in the NBA. “Ever since I entered the League, nothing1 was given to me,” describes the 28-year-old Landry, who wasn’t picked until the second round of the 2007 draft. “I had to work for everything. When I first came into the NBA, people tried to poke holes in me. They said I’m unathletic and that I wasn’t tall enough [to thrive in the paint] and a lot of other stuff. It’s not the size of the dog; it’s the fight in the dog. That’s something I tell myself all the time. Going out there and outworking2 people gets you a long way.” As the reconfigured Hornets begin a new era in the Big Easy, they’d do well to follow their power forward’s simple words of advice. Landry—the rare player who seems more comfortable as a reserve3 than a starter—is focused on doing whatever he can to help. “Coming off the bench, playing center, playing small forward, it doesn’t matter,” the 6-9, 248-pounder says. “I’m just happy to be out there, grateful for the opportunity to play. I’m excited about any opportunity that I have.”

BONUS POINTS 1. Landry received zero interest from major NCAA basketball programs, after a nondescript high school career in Milwaukee. He ended up at a junior college in Indiana, where he blossomed, then finished his college career at Purdue. won Games 1 and 4 against a supersized Lakers frontcourt. 3. Landry has come off the bench in more than three-fourths of his career NBA games.



24 - Forward - New Orleans Hornets



2. It did during the 2011 playoffs. Landry’s relentless play in the paint was a key reason the Hornets



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10 - Center - Detroit Pistons



BONUS POINTS 1. Come on. Fess up. Who voted Gary Neal ahead of Greg Monroe last year? 2. Monroe’s Player Efficiency Rating skyrocketed from a very good 18.07 as a rookie to an MVP-like 26.24 through January 16. 3. As a 20-year-old rookie, Monroe shot 87 percent of his made baskets within two feet of the hoop, with 13 percent coming from further out. He made 3.4 rim shots per game (ranking fifth among centers) at a league-average 65 percent rate. As a 21-year-old, Monroe has expanded his range, with 70 percent of his made shots coming at the rim, and of course 30 percent from further out. Now, Monroe is even more unstoppable at the hoop, making 71 percent of his rim shots, seven percentage J. DENNIS/EINSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

points above the league average this season. 4. Nobody else on Detroit averages 15-plus points per game. 5. Last season, Monroe was 32-for-136 from beyond two feet (24 percent), 29-for-80 in post-ups (36 percent) and only averaged 1.3 assists per game. Now he’s knocking down 40 percent of his shots beyond two feet (a 16-percent improvement), making 51 percent of his post-ups and averaging a league-leading 3.0 assists per game for centers.

Greg Monroe was robbed of being a first-team All-Rookie selection1 last year, so we’re going to form a neighborhood watch committee to make sure he doesn’t lose out on winning the NBA Most Improved award this season. Seriously. Name a better M.I.P. candidate in the first half of this shortened NBA season than the Detroit Pistons’ 6-11, 250-pound center. Through 13 games, the Georgetown product saw his season averages jump2 from an impressive 9 points and 8 rebounds in 28 minutes per game as a rookie to an eye-opening 17 points and 9 rebounds in 32 minutes per game as a 21-year-old NBA sophomore. “I just think I just got a lot more comfortable,” says Monroe. “My confidence was brought up even higher this year. I just had a lot more time to work on my game this summer and offseason.” We’ve seen the long lefty unveil a heretofore-unseen post-up game, watch him magically turn into one of the best passing centers, all while seeing him knock down shots further from the two-foot confines3 he was limited to during his rookie season. He has clearly become the Pistons go-to guy.4 “I wasn’t having plays called for me last year, so I wasn’t asked to do as much as I’m doing now,” says Monroe. “So I think that has a lot to do with it.” Last year as a rook, Monroe was a garbage player, albeit a good one—collecting loose balls and putback rebounds at a great rate. But who knew he could score on the block? Who knew he’d become a solid post defender? Who knew he would become one of the Pistons’ better passers? “Yeah. I’ve been working with Coach [Lawrence] Frank everyday, trying to improve5 on that,” says Monroe. “Coach Frank told me at the beginning of the season, ‘We need you, by the end of the year, to be our best post-up guy.’ So that’s what I’ve been working on this whole season is trying to be as good as I can in the post—making plays for my teammates.” We knew the postman always rings twice. Just never expected him to deliver like this.


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Washington Wizards JaVale McGee may be known for his sick dunks,1 but the fourth-year player is switching up his shot selection this season. The 7-foot center has been focused on improving his weaknesses and not relying on his strengths. “I really worked on free throws and executing my hook shot more,” says McGee of his extended offseason workouts. “Last year I was like 50 percent2 [at the line] and I would have averaged two or more points if I would have made free throws.” McGee, selected in 2008 out of the University of Nevada-Reno, is the first son of a WNBA player to be drafted in the NBA. He gives credit to his mom, Pamela McGee3 for teaching him how to hoop while growing up in Michigan. “It’s a great legacy to be a part of. I admire my mom; she’s taught me a great deal about the game of basketball. You have to put in a lot of hard work to get better to improve your game.” The young leader is working hard on the other side of the ball as well. Last season he finished with 2.4 blocks per game. This year, he started the month of January with a league-leading three blocks. “I want to be a defensive presence in the paint and in the post and a rebounding threat,” he says. “[Our team], we all know what each other’s roles are and we’re all having fun with the young players. We haven’t started [the season] off that well, but we plan on fixing it.”

BONUS POINTS 1. If you recall, McGee made jaws drop while in the national spotlight last year placing second in the All-Star Game dunk contest. McGee stunned the crowd with a double-dunk—slamming two balls in two hoops. He also impressed when he dunked three balls—two he was carrying and one off an alley-oop from teammate John Wall.


34 - Center - Washington Wizards



2. Last season McGee averaged 10.1 points and 8 rebounds but shot a woeful .583 percent (134-230) 3. Pam McGee won back-to-back NCAA championships at USC in 1983-84 before playing professional basketball overseas. She was drafted with the second overall pick in the WNBA’s 1997 inaugural season and went on to play with the Sacramento Monarchs and the Los Angeles Sparks. She is now an assistant coach for the Detroit Shock.



from the foul line.


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24 seconds with Shannon


By Jeramie mcPeek #4

HOOP: LeBron, Kobe, now Nash… what’s it been like playing with all these MVPs?1 BROWN: I definitely feel blessed to play with these guys and learn from them. They are the best at their respective positions. It’s very humbling. HOOP: Give us one word to describe each. BROWN: That’s tough. I’d have to go to the dictionary or thesaurus. So I’d say for each one: dedication.2 I’ve seen how those guys get in, they work, take care of their bodies, get up extra shots. They do what they have to do to stay the best. HOOP: What’s the biggest difference between L.A. and Phoenix? BROWN: The traffic. I can get from the arena to my house in 20 minutes. That same drive would be an hour in L.A., at least.

HOOP: We’ve seen those love tweets.3 BROWN: Yeah, we definitely get on Twitter and express our love for each other. That keeps it fun also.


HOOP: Can we get an invitation to the fourth wedding? BROWN: [laughs] The fourth one is going to be in like five years. She’s already asked me about it. HOOP: We hear you had Fatburgers for everyone after the big wedding? BROWN: We had some steak and chicken, too. But after you get your dancing on and you have the grown-up beverages, you need some Fatburger to soak that up. HOOP: How do your two NBA Championship rings compare to Monica’s wedding ring? BROWN: The championship rings took blood, sweat and tears, and that other ring took blood, sweat and tears, too [laughs]. But it also took some green pieces of paper. HOOP: When are Monica and Tamia Hill5 going to do a duet? BROWN: That’s a good question. I love both of their voices. I told Grant that I’ve got a CD of all Tamia’s songs.

HOOP: Did you have that CD before you signed with Phoenix, or did you burn that afterwards to impress Grant? BROWN: No, no, I had it back in college. I heard a bunch of her songs back to back to back once and realized, “She’s got some hits!” HOOP: We hear Shannon Brown is a pretty good singer. BROWN: My wife doesn’t think so, but I try every once in a while when I’m feeling it. HOOP: We meant Shannon Brown, the country singer.6 BROWN: My bad. I was on a visit to Michigan State and they announced, “At halftime, we’re going to have Shannon Brown perform.” I was like, “What do they want me to do?” That’s when they brought out the country singer. It was quite a coincidence. HOOP: Are you going country? We saw some tweets about buying a horse or something. BROWN: She took me horseback riding on our anniversary. Being from the country, she used to do it all the time. So she asked me on Twitter if she could get a horse, and I said, “Whatever you want.”

Barry GossaGe/nBae/Getty imaGes

HOOP: You’re on the NBA road. Your wife, Monica, is regularly traveling for her recording career. Is it tough not getting to see each other often? BROWN: It is, but the time away keeps the fire hot [laughs].

HOOP: You’ve married Monica three times, right? In a music video, a private ceremony in 2010, and then a lavish wedding last summer? BROWN: Yeah. We had the big one on July 9. I call it a soiree. We were already married, but it’s something that the mothers wanted to see. It was good for the friends and family to come together and celebrate.4


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HOOP: You went canoeing for your anniversary, too, right? BROWN: Yeah, that was fun, but with canoeing, you’ve got to be on the same page or you will tip over. And the paddles can’t be on the same side. She got tired of paddling, so I was doing it and we were going in circles. But it was beautiful on the lake. HOOP: We saw you on Minute to Win It with Derek Fisher last year. How do you prepare for that? Do you take glasses out of the cupboard and practice stacking them? BROWN: Nah, they actually gave us one day to practice all the games that we could possibly play. But it was different types of bottles and equipment. So when we got to the real stage, it was tough. It was fun, though. HOOP: Are you a game show guy? BROWN: I used to be, but now I’m into stuff like Lockup, Beyond Straight, CSI, stuff like that. HOOP: How would you do on Fear Factor? BROWN: I don’t know, man. I’m not really into eating bugs and stuff. That’s a little too extreme. HOOP: Is it true that baseball was your first love? BROWN: First sport I ever played. I ended up quitting in eighth grade to focus on basketball. But baseball was fun. HOOP: What position did you play? BROWN: All of them. I played catcher, left field, third base and I pitched a little bit. Wherever they needed me. I remember throwing a lot of people out from behind the plate. HOOP: Could you have gotten to the majors? BROWN: I think so. I still go to the batting cage. I could run, catch, throw. I think if I had stuck with it, I could have gone through the ranks. HOOP: Not much need for a 44.5 inch vertical in baseball, we guess? BROWN: Put me in the outfield for all those home run hitters. I could snag a couple of those before they leave the park. HOOP: What was your best dunk ever? BROWN: There’s a few, man. I had one where I dunked on Penn State. One at Stanford. One where I switched hands that people thought was crazy. HOOP: We thought you were going to say your playoff dunk7 on Chris Anderson. BROWN: Yeah, I liked that one. The game before, Birdman had blocked my shot and he did his (flapping arms) thing. That didn’t sit right with me, so when I got it, I threw it down on him and I yelled “AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH.” That changed the series. We ended up winning the game and the Western Conference, and went on to win the championship. BONUS POINTS 1. James, Bryant and Nash have five regular-season MVPs between them. 2. Looking up “dedication” at, we found synonyms that also fit Brown’s MVP teammates: commitment, devotion, single-mindedness. 3. At press time, @MonicaBrown had 911,452 followers and @ShannonBrown had 204,372. Although Shannon points out that Monica already had a 700k head start when he joined Twitter. Barry GossaGe/nBae/Getty imaGes

4. The “big one” was featured on E! Fascinating Celebrity Weddings. 5. Tamia Hill is the the R&B songstress wife of Grant Hill. 6. We discovered the country version, when we visited The basketball version is currently working on his official website. 7. Check out YouTube for both Birdman’s block of Brown, and Brown’s returning the favor from the 2009 NBA Playoffs.


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HORFORD @ TheJoeJohnson2 @zaza27 @ jpargo1 @dsloan15 @Teague0 @ greenrayn20 @aabradley11 @Marquis_Daniels @ JaJuanJohnson @MickaelPietrus @PaulPierce34 @ rajonrondo @ gregstiemsma @bismackbiyombo0 @D_Brown4 @Matt_Caroll_ @theborisdiaw @GhJr09 @chiggins11 @byron22james @eduardo_najera @tyrusthomas @ KembaWalker @dj_white3 @ MisterCBooz @RonnieBrewerJr @mr_2eight1 @LuolDeng9 @TajGibson22 @KyleKorver @luke1luk @ quietstorm_32 @casspi18 @christeyenga8 @GeeAlonzo @BooBysWorld1 @KyrieIrving @AMP1808 @ samardo24 @RealTrist13 @BrianCardinal @mrvincecarter15 @Dojo20 @ RealJasonKidd @Ianmahinmi @matrix31 @swish41 @reallamarodom @jasonterry31 @CharleeRedz13 @Arron_Afflalo @ CoreyBrewer13 @DeMarreCarroll1 @KennethFaried35 @rudy5fernandez @gallinari8888 @J_Goin_Ham @kostakoufos @tylawson3 @J_Stone5 @Adaye5 @BenGordon8 @JonasJerebko @ BrandonKnight12 @vernon_macklin @JasonMaxiell @G_Monroe10 @CV31 @ stephencurry30 @CTJenkins22 @DLee042 @KCsFinest24 @ishsmith @klaythompson @jeremytyler3 @EkpeUdoh @Adrien4 @CBudinger @Goran_Dragic @J_Flynn @jordanchill43 @CourtneyLee2211 @Klow7 @MookMorris2 @ChandlerParsons @pdpatt @LScola4 @HasheemTheDream @TheRealTWill @Darren_Collison @King24George @dgranger33 @THANS50 @Hoya2aPacer @George_Hill3 @TheRealJP31 @realajprice @StephensonLance @D_West30 @realtuffjuice @ReggieEvans30 @randyfoye @gotgomes @blakegriffin @deandrejordan @FlightLeslie23 @CP3 @TreyThompkins @mogotti25 @ Matt_Barnes22 @SteveBlake5 @DevinEbanks3 @DerekFisher @0goudelock @paugasol @dariusmorris4 @MettaWorldPeace @ aa000G9 @darthur00 @mconley11 @DlamarC33 @MarcGasol @rudygay22 @juicemayo32 @therightpargo1 @quincypondexter @MacBo50 @JoshSelby2 @SamYoung4 @ShaneBattier @chrisbosh @mchalmers15 @UpnComin32 @T_Harris87 @ThisisUD @KingJames @m33m @PUN45 @ DwyaneWade @AndrewMBogut @MrJonBrockman @cabezadelfino @tobias31 @BRAND0NJENNINGS @JLeu30 @MbahaMoute @LarrySanders @ jjbareapr @8MichaelBeasley @WayneElli22 @leezy3 @kevinlove @TheARandolph @rickyrubio9 @ATolliver44 @MartellWebster @ RealDWill7 @Marshon2 @DHorner31 @KrisHumphries @KONJames10 @BlackBoiPachino @MehmetOkur13 @Frenchi27 @ DeronWilliams @jwilliams20 @ShawneWill3 @sheldenwilliams @farouq1 @TrevorAriza @marcobellinelli @ TheOfficialEG10 @JarrettJack03 @MrTreyJ @ChrisKaman @CarlLandry24 @dsummers35 @greivisvasquez @carmeloanthony @R_Balkman32 @tysonchandler @Baron_Davis @landryfields @BigJorts55 @jerome_jordan @JLin7 @stevenovak20 @I_Am_Iman @Amareisreal @colea45 @nickcollison4 @DC4three @KDTrey5 @ JHarden13 @sergeibaka9 @ROYALTIVEY L @MiniT21 @EYMaynor3 @NazrMohammed @ThaboSefolosha @ russwest44 @ryananderson33 @3eazy @iambigbaby11 @CDuhonStandTall @Tru_Harp32 @ DwightHoward @jameernelson @danielorton21 @jjredick47 @jrich23 @Qrich @vonwafer13 @BroadStBully24 @C_Brackins33 @spencerhawes00 @Jrue_Holiday11 @MindofAI9 @ jmeeks20 @mospeights16 @thekidet @ShannonBrown @JChillin @JaredDudley619 @ Channing_Frye @MGortat @realgranthill33 @eegabeeva88 @keefmorris @SteveNash @ Big_G_21 @hdubb21 @aldridge_12 @nicolas88batum @MarcusCamby23 @JCrossover @ AJALLDAY1 @wessywes2 @Csmeezy1 @NdotSmitty @ewill901 @boogiecousins @TyrekeEvans @ jimmerfredette @cisco32 @DonteGreeneCOS @c_hayes44 @JJHickson31 @thoneycutt23 @Isaiah_Thomas2 @jtthekid @ OfficialMT23 @youngwhiteside @DeJuan45 @tj_ford @manuginobili @dgreen_14 @Cory_Joe @TheBig_Island @ GNeal14 @tp9network @tiagosplitter @leandrinhooo20 @andreabargnani @RasaulButler45 @eddavis32 @DeMar_DeRozan @gforbz3 @iamamirjohnson @AlecBurks10 @DFavors14 @gordonhayward @ Enes_Kanter @CJMiles34 @Earl_Watson @drayblatche @trevor_booker @jcraw55 @ShelvinMack @MoneyMase @JaValeMcGee34 @H55Ndiaye

of the NBA @kevin_seraphin @C_Sing31 @24JanVesely @John_Wall @ NickSwagyPYoung

The alphabet is one of the earliest components of language we acquire that help us make semblance to the world around us, so it’s no surprise we rely on it every year to look into what we think is the 26 storylines that make up this season.

*definitions sourced from Merriam Webster Dictionary HOOP

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Adaptation noun; modification of an organism or its parts that makes it more fit for existence under the conditions of its environment


on the perimeter to a dangerous interior weapon that can also burn opponents with his midrange shot. Still only 23 years old, Hawes has altered his game, playing more of a professional style, and the Sixers’ early strong start shows how important his change has been. In Orlando, coach Stan Van Gundy would like to see more rebounding from Ryan Anderson, but it’s hard for him to fault the fourth-year big man’s growth

into one of the League’s top long-range weapons. Ever since his rookie year, with the Nets, the 6-10 Anderson has been able to shoot the three-pointer. This season, he is even more dangerous. Van Gundy may grouse about Anderson’s board work, although he was pulling down 7.3 a night through 11 games, but he can’t deny that Anderson can stroke it. And, perhaps the coach understands his player a little better. It’s tempting to expect

someone of Anderson’s size to camp out down low, but that’s not his game. So, it appears as if the two men have reached an agreement: Anderson can still light it up from beyond the arc, but he needs to get a little rougher inside, too. It’s a good arrangement—especially for the Magic.— Michael Bradley #53


SIXERS COACH DOUG COLLINS attributes Spencer Hawes’ growth into a more productive player to the center’s knocking down his body fat to 10 percent. Hawes thinks it’s more about his offseason workouts on the low block with former NBA star Shawn Kemp. Kemp is happy Hawes isn’t “in love” with his jumper any more. Whatever the case, the fifth-year pivot is more effective than ever and has gone from someone who wanted to play HOOP

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noun; the bearing of a load


HOW MUCH DOES INTENSE SCRUTINY and the pressure of winning “...not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven...” championships weigh? Just think about the sheer number of eyeballs around the world watching them, multiply that by the talking heads and media outlets that dissect every missed shot or minute moment and double that total with their self proclamations and that final tally is dizzying. In many ways, it doesn’t even matter whether they can lift the load or not. If they were to hoist the backbreaking weight over the heads in the form of the Larry O’Brien Trophy, many will say it was to be expected. If they succumb to the giant heft that leaves them crushed on the Miami Beach sands, it will only serve to prove the naysayers right. Whether you love or loathe the formation of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach, you have to acknowledge the tremendous load on the backs of #6/#3/#1. —Ming


Wong #2


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Clockwork noun; the precision, regularity, or absence of variation associated with a clock or clockwork


isn’t entirely true. Two lockout-shortened seasons are the only things that can stop Pop’s teams from winning 50 games in his 14 full seasons as Spurs head coach and front office shot caller. And now that you mention it, Pop would probably have a problem with us calling the Spurs his team during this incredible era. Surely he’d say, “This was Tim Duncan’s team.” Be that as it may, it was Pop who got the

Spurs to be annual playoff contenders, whether Duncan played 41 minutes per game 10 years ago or whether he plays 25 minutes per game today. It was Pop’s decision to draft Manu Ginobili 57th, Tony Parker 28th, DeJuan Blair 37th ... and so on down the line. Though, Pop would rather give all the credit for his picks to GM R.C. Buford and scouts, he is the man in charge of it all. After all, it was Pop who

sent the word to bring in only two types of players to his organization: “Guys that have something to prove or guys who aren’t full of themselves.” By that mantra, Pop built what the 2011 ESPN Ultimate Standings called the best organization in basketball. And that is why, like clockwork, you can set your watch to the Spurs’ excellence. —Darryl Howerton #21


GREGG POPOVICH and his San Antonio Spurs have made the playoffs every year dating back to 1998. No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving was but six years old when that streak started. During that era, they have won four titles and played the role of a serious contender each and every year. As the sun rises and sets, the Spurs have won 50 games every full season under Pop’s watch. Well, that last part HOOP

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transitive verb; to eat up greedily or ravenously IT’S EASY TO USE THIS TERM IRONICALLY when referring to Kevin Love (the big man lost 25 pounds in the offseason), but we’re not talking about ravenously throwing a high protein/low fat meal down his throat. We mean devour basketballs, particularly the ones that stray off target. Except Love doesn’t use his mouth catch

a carom off the glass, he uses a giant set of hands that—we could swear—were bred to swallow rebounds. At 6-10, it’s not like Kevin has an unfair height or reach advantage on the low block. He’s not even what you would consider a freak athlete. But one peek at history says those attributes alone do not make a prolific

rebounder. Working the boards is all about positioning, effort, determination and smarts. A little nastiness never hurt either. Like all the greats, Love also has the instincts to sniff out a shot’s trajectory. If it looks short off the release, he’ll quickly adjust and beat his man to it. What about a long-range jumper? That

just means a higher bounce; Love will time his leap accordingly. When it comes to rebounding, at 15 per game, there’s no doubt this Timberwolf has separated himself from the pack. —Philip D’Apolito #14


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Elusive adjective; tending to evade grasp or pursuit


coming out of the Mississippi. Upon initial glance, his first step looks like it might be accompanied by rockets attached to his sneakers. Even after a double take it still seems that way. The 6-3, 185-pound combo guard utilizes a grab bag of moves to evade his man: a filthy crossover, a

spin-move to dizzy defenders, and he’ll hesitate in a flash only to leave you dead in his wake. He’s too quick to be seen and too hard to grapple, but it’s not just confined to the hardwood. Ellis evaded a handful of now-regretful teams in the first round of the 2005 Draft and now

manages to duck the spotlight reserved for the top-flight stars of the League. That counts too, right? —#14


EXQUISITE GUARD PLAY IS ABUNDANT IN TODAY’S NBA, and there are surely a lot of difficult-to-contain cats out there. However, there may not be a player who epitomizes the word like Monta Ellis. With the ball in his hands, the Jackson, Miss. native is as slippery as a catfish HOOP

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Feet noun; the terminal parts of the vertebrate leg upon which an individual stands WITH THE POSSIBLE EXCEPTION OF SOCCER, there is no other sport in the world (in the U.S., it’s not even close) where there is as much interest on what the athletes are wearing on their feet than basketball. Whether it’s the legendary

Air Jordan line that has spanned 26 years and remains as influential as ever, Nike and its many innovations based on feedback from athletes, the deep roots of adidas, the basketball-rich tradition of Converse or the countless other

brands that have outfitted an NBA player, basketball fans (and even the non-fans) have squinted with much curiosity on what is laced up on their feet. And it doesn’t even matter whether the air-filled cushioning, crazy light construction,

podulon, zoom airbags, flywired-fused uppers or interchangeable insoles can improve your game; we all remain captivated by what’s next on NBA dudes’ feet.—#2


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Growing Pains

noun; the stresses and strains attending a new project or development

THEY SAY ROME WASN’T BUILT IN A DAY. We’re not sure how long it took to erect present-day D.C. but luckily for the Wizards, time is on their side. With a nucleus of John Wall (age 21), Nick Young (26), JaVale McGee (23), Andray Blatche (25), Trevor Booker (24), Chris Singleton (22), Jordan Crawford (23), Shelvin Mack (22), Kevin Seraphin (22) and Jan Vesely (21), Washington boasts one of the youngest teams in the NBA. Being young doesn’t necessarily mean a bright future is on the horizon, but this specific core isn’t devoid of talent with a former No. 1 overall pick in Wall to pace the way. At the moment though, it lacks quality leadership so it’ll be interesting to see which player or players emerge in that capacity, as the Wizards go through their zygotic development in what appears to be a season in which the team will take its fair share of lumps (OK, maybe a lot). There will be stresses and strains along the way, mistakes—some possibly embarrassing—will be made, but like any project worth doing, having encountering adversity and struggle early on will only make success taste that much sweeter. At times it could be painful, but remember: they’re growing. —#14




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noun; the quality or state of being humble IT ALL BEGINS WITH A KISS FROM A ROSE. No, not the Seal ballad from the Batman Forever soundtrack, but the pregame ritual of the NBA’s quiet killer. Before every Bulls home game, Derrick Rose blows a kiss to his mother, Brenda, in the United Center stands, in a genuine display of love for the woman who raised him to be respectful, level-headed and most

of all, a man. Despite reaching the apex of individual achievement last season, winning the MVP award, Rose remains a calm, confident force on the court. Before he even was drafted, Rose was asked if his low-key demeanor meant he lacked confidence. “Off the court, I’m quiet,” he told reporters in 2008. “On the court, I can talk more. I’m calmer on the

court, and people listen to me on the court. I command respect by leading by example, staying at practice longer, doing the little things to show I’m a good teammate.’’ He continually raises his game and has transformed a beleaguered Bulls franchise post-MJ into a perennial contender. Some say he’s the best point guard in the game. Some say he has the

chance to be a Hall of Famer, an all-time great. Just don’t expect him to gloat about it or let the fame and accolades go to his head. Plus, if he ever came close to doing so, his mom would put him in his place, or as Brenda told the Chicago Tribune last May, “I would hit him upside it and bring him back down if he ever changed.”—McG #93 HOOP

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Impervious adjective; not capable of being damage or harmed


bum right index finger that he has learned to play with for the past few seasons, the infamous right knee that has kept him out of many practices and on flights to Germany for experimental procedures and a torn ligament in his shooting wrist that sometimes leaves his right hand numb during games and requires a protective postgame oven mitt. Despite

this, 33-year-old Kobe has not missed a single game this season (as of press time) and maintained his elite level of play. Beyond his unbreakable body, Kobe has been similarly unpierceable when it comes to his game. Critics have been quick to drop Kobe from best-playerin-game discussions, citing his heavy mileage, poor shot selection and eroding

skills. None of this affects him. He’s still among the leaders in scoring and as his 48-point night on January 10 proves, he is still every bit the Black Mamba. So go ahead and throw darts at his game or swing sledgehammers to his body; it all just bounces off Kobe.—#2


WE CONSIDERED “IRON MAN” for the letter I, but that would only suggest he is susceptible to rust after some time. No, after some thought, “Impervious” captures Kobe Bryant more eloquently. The man has become renowned for his pain threshold. He’s had a litany of ailments that have kept him out of games over his 16 seasons, most recently the HOOP

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adjective; involving the united activity of two or more


NEW YORK is playing a poker hand where they’re sitting on pocket rockets. With their pair of aces, Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks certainly have a leg up on the field. In terms of offensive output, the two bullets are arguably the best at their respective positions, each able to score in a multitude of ways while dropping 25-30 on a nightly basis. The problem for the Knicks is that despite their impressive hole cards, they’re also staring at a board full of cards that don’t help them too much, which means they always need Anthony and Stoudemire to come up big every time. No other team depends on their two top stars more so than the Knickerbockers. Their top-heavy lineup means opponents will call the Knicks’ hand each and every time, daring the other cards in the deck to step up. —#2


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noun; name given to the outstanding set of rookies from the 2011 NBA Draft whose first or last name starts with the letter K OKAY, technically, this is G-word, but the emphasis is on K. Somehow we had to illustrate this weird circumstance where so many top-notch rookies this season had the Special K touch to their names: Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Kemba Walker, Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight, 044

Klay Thompson. There’s so many of these 24-karat gems out there that we think Generation K could take on any other combination of rookies from the draft class. Seriously, how are you going to match up with the 6-11, 267-pound center Enes Kanter on the low block? Which rook

has the athleticism and rebound tenacity to keep up with Kawhi Leonard? Then, when I throw a bunch of lottery point guards (Kyrie, Kemba and Knight) and shooting guard (Klay) at you, how are you going to counter? Yeah, Ricky Rubio will hold his own for a while and Derrick

Williams will be difficult to contain, but after that, any other newb will be KO’d. In a few years of seasoning, you kan bet it will be the K-Kids who will be the klass of the draft. —#21


Generation K


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adjective; involving or characterized by hard or toilsome effort LET’S SAY ONE resided comfortably under a rock from 2006-09 and knows nothing about Tyler Hansbrough’s game. Or let’s say one is a Blue Devils fan and has completely repressed all memory of his existence. It would appear then from merely peeping Hansbrough’s extensive list of college accolades at UNC (’08

NCAA Player of the Year, the ACC’s all-time leading scorer, a four-time All-American, yes we can go on), perhaps laborious wouldn’t be the first word that flies into the brain. What could’ve possibly been so hard or toilsome for a dude with this decorated of a college career? Well, it’s that relentless effort he brings on a

nightly basis that makes him so special. He’s not the biggest, he’s not the fastest and he’s not the strongest. Hansbrough’s like a faithful hammer. One that, upon purchase, never needs to be replaced for a more trendy version; it just continues to get the job done by banging away. He slid to Indiana at pick No. 13 in ’09 due to

his aforementioned physical limitations, but Hansbrough’s best traits cannot be quantified in terms of seconds, inches or points. The only way to properly gauge Hansbrough’s game is through blood, sweat and tears. —#14


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Metta World Peace

noun; the name of the basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest

HE WAS BORN RONALD WILLIAM ARTEST JR. He was raised in Queens, in a housing project filled with tales of tragedy, struggle and violence. In the nascent stages of his basketball career, he was characterized as unpredictable, a loose cannon, bizarre. We’ve laughed at many of his antics, from singing karaoke with fans to his foray into comedy, and cringed when he’s made mistakes. Despite all of his unpredictability, we probably know him better than any other player in the League. He is who he is. There’s no façade. It’s amazing how a player, once so beleaguered, has been able to change his perception, all by being his true self, his inner child. Kids make mistakes. Kids say the darndest things. Kids are full of optimism. And that is the sheer genius of Ron Artest’s decision to change his name to Metta World Peace. Metta is now 32 years old, but after so many years of tumult, he is just keeping it simple. As Metta told reporters before the season, “If you look at a young kid and you tell them, would they love world peace? They would definitely tell you yeah. But as we get older, we change and we adjust to our environment. And we don’t think about little things anymore. But kids love, they love other kids. They love world peace.” And we do, too.—#93




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noun; a place, employment, status, or activity for which a person or thing is best fitted WHEN YOU SPEND THREE YEARS FLOATING AROUND from Turkey to South Korea to Sioux Falls, S.D., you tend to lose your illusions of grandeur. NBA starters have come from the NBA D-League. And from those who have played abroad. Undrafted performers have found regular spots. But all three in one? That’s tough. So, when the Celtics held onto Greg Stiemsma this season and made the

Wisconsin product a centerpiece of their defense, it had to come as a surprise to fans all over New England. But not to Stiemsma, who has worked since leaving Wisconsin on becoming the kind of interior performer that would fit perfectly on a team like the Celtics. With Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett on the roster, there is plenty of production on the offensive end. But

without Kendrick Perkins on the roster, Boston needed somebody to anchor the middle of the D. That’s a perfect job for Stiemsma. Even though he shoots a high percentage from the field, Stiemsma isn’t likely to have any plays called for him. That’s not his gig. But through the early part of the NBA season, Stiemsma established himself as one of the

League’s top shotblockers. Now, that will get you playing time, especially for a coach like Doc Rivers, who understands the importance of defense. Listen to enough scouts and executives speak, and they’ll repeat a familiar refrain: Players have to do at least one thing well. Stiemsma defends. And like so many players before him, that will be his ticket to a spot on a roster.—#53 HOOP

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Opportunity noun; a: a favorable juncture of circumstances b: a good chance for advancement or progress


withstand the weight. Roy retired at 27. Oden has played in exactly 82 games in four seasons with his 83rd game still very much an uncertainty. The unfortunate injury rash was by no means a favorable juncture of circumstances for the Trail Blazers, but it placed Aldridge into a fierce

staring competition with opportunity. Last year Aldridge capitalized, copping a thirdteam All-NBA nod and a second place finish in the NBA’s Most Improved Player voting; an All-Star game isn’t far behind. He fulfilled the talent that made him a No. 2 overall selection. This year he has

continued on the same path and now has the chance to compensate for his fallen brethren by personally tossing Portland in a sack and hauling the team on his lone shoulders to make a deep playoff run. Not bad for a guy who was initially billed as the third banana. Consider it seized. —#14


FLASH BACK TO THE 2007-08 SEASON: The youthful and brimming-with-potential trio of Brandon Roy, Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge is primed to carry Portland on their backs for the next decade. Flash-forward to today: Aldridge is the only one whose knees could HOOP

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noun; continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition


IT TAKES A DIFFERENT KIND OF PLAYER to survive 41 games a year in the mile-high air. Ask any visiting player to the Pepsi Center and they’ll tell you the difficulties of running up and down the court for 48 minutes, 5,280 feet above sea level. There’s shortness of breath. Your muscles tighten. You dehydrate faster. To succeed in Denver, it’s a given that you must be able to deal with obstacles different from what most players encounter. But what the Nuggets have had to go through the past two years have been rockier than the scenic mountains that serve as the city’s backdrop. First, let’s take away your franchise player after a months long soap opera of hearing his name attached to every team but yours. Then you lose three key players to China. At the center of it all is head coach George Karl who has embodied the word after being diagnosed with neck and throat cancer in 2010 and beating the odds. Survive? No thank you, the Nuggets have thrived. They played well enough to capture the fifth seed in the West last season and are on pace to do so again. With unsung heroes like Arron Afflalo, Nene, Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson executing Karl’s high-octane offense without missing a beat, the Nuggets are still as dangerous and exciting to watch. What doesn’t kill you only serves to make you stronger and few teams have been faced with death as much as the Nuggets have.—#93 HOOP

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Quagmire noun; a difficult, precarious, or entrapping position


stays? And what do we do if he goes?” Or even, “What moves should we make to get Howard to stay? Or what deals do we take on if we choose to move him? Do we rebuild? Do we reload? Do we go all-in once again and pull off a blockbuster that allows us contend for a championship right now?” For years, the

Magic have overspent to surround Howard with a winner (Gilbert Arenas, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Vince Carter, Jason Richardson, etc.). But now the chickens have come home to roost and Orlando must decide what to do with Howard before he makes that decision for them as a free agent this summer. It seems like

the fate of half the NBA stars—Andrew Bynum? Pau Gasol? Brook Lopez? Stephen Curry? Unknown first-round draft picks?—rests in the hands of the Magic. Hope Orlando has something up its sleeve before Howard pulls the curtain down behind them, for that truly would be a quixotic quagmire. —#21


THE BIG QUESTION FOR DWIGHT HOWARD IS: Should I stay or should I go? Not so simple, but by no means does it even compare to the dilemma the Orlando Magic faces. The Magic now has more question marks covering its franchise than the ?’s found on the Riddler’s costume. “What should we do if Howard HOOP

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verb; to make, do, or perform again


WE’RE NOT SAYING WHETHER DALLAS WILL OR WON’T shake hands with the POTUS at the end of the season, but we will say that as defending champs, they are the only team in line for the feat and until eliminated, they are still one of the favorites. The Mavericks are a reflection of how you view things. The optimist will look at the Mavs roster and see a championship-forged squad featuring Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki that reloaded with hungry and capable vets in Lamar Odom, Vince Carter and Delonte West. The glass-half-empty guy sees an aging core that replaced a defensive and spiritual void left behind with Tyson Chandler’s departure with some ill-fitting used parts. Regardless of which camp you fall under, the Mavs still wear the crown until someone takes it from them in a seven-game series.—#2


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Symbiosis noun; a cooperative relationship (as between two persons or groups)


together like the predatory shark and the resourceful remora. If not for Westbrook, Durant would undoubtedly face a constant double-team with the occasional triple coverage. Having an MVP candidate sharing the same floor gives Westbrook plenty of opportunities to exploit. That is

not to say the two don’t have moments where they don’t see eye-to-eye. Over the course of a long season, even more practices and countless bus and plane rides, there is bound to be some friction between two individuals. Like most intrafamily disagreements, it rarely lingers

and the bond gets stronger as a result. Durant and Westbrook outgrowing each other? No, they’re helping each other grow.—#2


THE APPARENT RIFT BETWEEN KEVIN DURANT AND RUSSELL WESTBROOK? An overblown creation by those who can’t fathom the notion of two supremely talented individuals playing together in the ascent of their careers. As far as we’re concerned, Durant and Westbrook go HOOP

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Twitter noun; a website in which individuals interact by means of a brief, 140-character-limit message WE tried to keep this 140 characters and under, but it’s impossible under such a constrained format to properly convey how vital Twitter has become to an NBA fan. Whether you long to follow the exploits of your favorite NBA player—the self-deprecating musings of @SteveNash,

the id-like persona of @aa000G9, the mass appeal of @SHAQ, the varied musings of @Amareisreal (just a few examples)—the many media experts and outlets (shameless plug alert: @HOOPmag) that provide valuable insight to the game, or just to connect with other

fans, it’s almost required to be on Twitter if you’re serious about your NBA habit. Oh, and don’t forget @NBA, it’s only the most followed sports league Twitter, natch. Remember the once solitary and passive experience of watching a basketball game on TV? It’s been forever

changed with the advent of the tweeting blue bird. Just hop on Twitter during any game and you can instantly trade barbs, wit, analysis and hashtags with likeminded fans and the occasional celebrity or voyeuristic NBA player as the action unfolds. Now, that’s #gamechanging. —#2 HOOP

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Underappreciated QUICK, FILL IN THESE BLANKS OF UNHERALDED NBA PLAYERS: J_m_s H_r_en L_o_ D_ng A_d_e_ B_gu_ T_a_de_s _ou_g OK, the pictures on the page were a dead giveaway, but without them, it’d be a tough exercise. Even those “in the know” might struggle with it. Mainstream media—given the results of ESPN’s NBA 054

Rank project where 92 in-house experts rated players—collectively overlooked these men, not ranking a single one amongst their Top 30. James Harden may very well be the next coming of Manu Ginobili with his do-everythingoff-the-bench game, but he gets lost in the storm when Thunder teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are playing Pop-a-Shot to the tune of 35 field goal attempts per game. Loul Deng may

be the NBA’s defensive MVP, anchoring arguably the top defense the past two years by guarding the LeBrons, Kobes, Durants and Melos of the League. But when you play with the NBA’s real MVP, Derrick Rose, you have to be satisfied with hearing cheers that sound like boos (“Luuuuu!”). Andrew Bogut has showed the world that Australia exports more than surfers, golfers and tennis players, but few fans even know his Player Efficiency

Rating and plus-minus numbers make him a possible top five center in the game today. And lest we forget Thaddeus Young, whose all-around stellar game has grown up right before our eyes, is now putting up plus-minus per-minute numbers as a 23 year old that only trails LeBron James among small forwards, while only trailing Dirk among power forwards. Underappreciated? Not by us.—#21


adjective; not duly appreciated


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adjective; lively in temper, conduct, or spirit WHO CAN FORGET BACK IN ’09 WHEN, right before the draft, then-prospect Brandon Jennings dubbed fellow point guard Ricky Rubio as “all hype?” After the two squared off against one another in Europe, Jennings made it clear he wasn’t too fond of Rubio’s game. But after the Spaniard’s electric start to his NBA

career in ’11-12, we’d like to think maybe Jennings has come around. Rubio has the it factor. You can’t put a finger on it, but whatever it is, it comes to life when he’s running the show. Hell, he’s compelling reason enough to sign up for NBA League Pass. The Target Center comes to life when the floppy-haired beanpole rook

enters a game. Fans will wait for that beer run or delay the bathroom break, afraid to miss a chance to experience a Rubio highlight firsthand that will undoubtedly be replayed and talked about the next day. The 21-year-old even brings life to his teammates; especially when he flings some of the flashiest no-look and

behind-the-back passes we’ve seen all season, sometimes even—gasp!—using two hands. Sometimes it’s difficult for a young player to fulfill such lofty expectations, but Rubio’s been playing professionally since age 14; he spits in the face of pressure. Hype? Yes. And then some. —#14 HOOP

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Wily adjective; full of wiles: crafty


the ball and move without it. They position themselves perfectly for rebounds and read the passing lanes as if they were following teleprompters. When the game ends, the kids are wondering what happened. Here’s what happened: they lost to a group of guys who know the game, not just play it. And so it is for Kurt Thomas and Juwan Howard, who remain in the League

when many expect their tanks to be well beyond empty. Now in their late pre-40s (Thomas is 39; Howard is 38), they survive on their wits and experience. They know where to be on both ends of the court and won’t find a situation during a game that they haven’t already seen a 100 times. The older guys know how to take care of their bodies, because they know it’s impossible to bounce

back so quickly any more. They are great teammates, because they are willing to teach the youngsters—or at least the guys willing to listen. It’s just like what happens down at the YMCA: after a while, players learn that basketball is as much a game of the head as it is the legs. Howard and Thomas prove that every time they step onto the court.—#53


HEAD over to the local Y one day and check out what happens when a bunch of 40-year olds play some young guns. Beforehand, it will look like a rout. The pups are faster, bigger and jump higher than their aging foes. And, for a few minutes of action, the expected scenario might just play out. Then comes the reckoning. The old guys start hitting 10-footers. One after another. They pass HOOP

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Xenophobia noun; fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign LAST SUMMER, a German won the Finals MVP, a Lithuanian was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame and a Turk, Canadian and another Lithuanian were taken third, fourth and fifth overall in the Draft. There have been times throughout the last decade where we were told the foreign influence on basketball was nothing more than a fad, teams blindly jumping to get the one-up on

the competition, but the lengthy time period has made it a valid case study. Sure, there have been your occasional Nicoloz Tskitishvilis and Rafael Araujos, unable to live up to the hype. But by and far, coaches and players have had more nightmares than sweet dreams planning for Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Yao Ming, Andrea Bargnani, Luol Deng, Andrew Bogut—the list goes on. International

talent no longer comes in the form of the big that can step out; they are filling needs in every aspect of the game. Watch Serge Ibaka on defense or Ricky Rubio weave a no-look bounce pass. Very few have come close to mastering a stroke as refined as Peja Stojakovic on the wing or Dirk’s fadeaway J. Even the best oneand-done U.S. phenom cannot sit back on his laurels. Those high school and college

accolades are no longer a path paved in gold to the League. Michael, Magic and Bird were the influences. Arvydas Sabonis, Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic were the trailblazers. Dirk, Yao and Nash were the All-Stars. Now let’s sit back and enjoy as a new generation continues to transform the game. Just one warning: America, don’t sleep. —#93


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Yield verb; to give forth or produce by a natural process or in return for cultivation


minutes per game to 28 and then 25. His coach, Gregg Popovich, focused much of the offense through other Spurs, knowing Duncan would be the perfect paint facilitator in helping younger teammates get open threes. Now San Antonio runs a top three offense, and a lot of it is due to the fact that Duncan knows sometimes

less from him is more for the team. It’s also something the seven-time All-NBA pick Tracy McGrady has learned as well. Once a supreme scorer with two scoring titles under his belt, T-Mac is now playing his role coming off the bench for Atlanta. In short spurts and when necessary, McGrady can still revert to his old All-NBA

form as he showed on January 2 against Miami with 11 fourth-quarter points for the upset victory. If yielding is the natural process that returns cultivation, it is so good to see the 35-year-old Duncan and 32-year-old McGrady in their twilight years, leading good teams to even higher levels once again.—#21


A TRUE LEADER FIRST LEARNS TO SERVE. And when Tim Duncan was in his MVP years, he always seemed to play the game with that servant’s heart, serving as the ultimate teammate and consummate leader. That trait came into full view last year and this season when Duncan’s playing time was reduced from 31 HOOP

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Zone Defense noun; a system of defense (as in basketball or football) in which each player guards an assigned area rather than a specified opponent until 2001, nobody played a zone in the NBA. Okay, nobody admitted to playing a zone. That was what set professional basketball apart from its collegiate and international counterparts. The game was bad-on-bad. I try to stop you; you try to stop me. Of course, whom were we kidding? NBA coaches became experts in disguising zones, the better to stop successful offenses and one-on-one savants. The

“illegal defense” technical fouls did nothing to stop the trend. Teams would behave for a possession or two and then go right back to spinning their intricate webs. So, the NBA gave up. Play a zone. Go with a box-and-one. The triangle-and-two. Use any geometric configuration you want, but don’t start crying when longrange bombers start strafing you from beyond the arc. Ten years later, the zone

remains legal, but it’s impossible to find a team that uses it exclusively. In fact, it’s still somewhat anathema to a bunch of coaches. But it has its uses, you can be sure of that. Take last year’s Finals, when Dallas decided the Heat couldn’t shoot well from the outside, and it wasn’t a good idea to let LeBron James and Dwyane Wade merely blast past defenders on the dribble. So, the Mavs zoned it up,

especially late in games. And it worked. Now, don’t worry; that success hasn’t spawned a legion of imitators—although the Heat still sees its share of zones. But as long as it’s allowed, teams are going to use the zone in some form. And guess what, professional basketball hasn’t perished in the decade it has been around. Imagine that.—#53


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Aboard Blake Griffin’s emergence has righted the once unsteady ship of the Clippers. Now with Chris Paul, the team has a captain who has set a course towards a championship.


Chapter 1: These Los Angeles Clippers are competitive. Clippers practice is over and Blake Griffin has turned into Thor. Only, instead of wielding the mystical hammer Mjolnir like the Marvel superhero, The Mighty Griffin hurls a Spalding basketball at full strength into a nearby, innocent wall. BAMMM!!! Blake is pissed. He is having some sort of free-throw shooting contest with teammate and struggling free-throw shooter, DeAndre Jordan. The 6-10, 251-pound power forward obviously has sported some handicap to his best friend on the team—Griffin is a 64 percent free throw shooter; Jordan a 42—but that doesn’t matter at the moment. Griffin is losing to Jordan and, dammit, he is mad. Jordan sinks two free throws. Griffin answers. And then—uh, oh—he misses again. BOOM-BAMMM!!!! Now Griffin is punting the ball with full authority, kicking the ball mightily at the ceiling, as hard as any NFL punter could. Probably could smash the 2100-inch video screen at Cowboys Stadium if he wanted. Every player shooting and every coach feeding Clippers basketballs stop what they’re doing to take in the moment. BOOM-----BAMMM!!!! once again. Now it’s a kickoff. He’s kicking the basketball to the opposite end of the court. Hits the wall. Would’ve been a touchback on any football field. HOOP

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Blake must’ve lost the shooting contest, his Clippers teammates have already figured. Head coach Vinny Del Negro turns back to his group and returns to work. His assistants at various nearby courts do the same. The Mighty Thor walks into the locker room. Silent. Chris Paul saunters over from his group to where Jordan now stands at the free-throw line to challenge his center to a similar shooting contest. New rules of engagement are set. Paul, normally an 85-percent free-throw shooter, is going to use his weak hand, his left, and shoot 10 free throws against Jordan, a natural lefty. “You better not write about this if I lose,” Jordan calls out. The pair shoot two shots at a time, with the 26-year-old Paul speaking quietly to the 23-year-old center, words that make Jordan smile ... while he continuously drains shots all the while. Jordan makes eight with his good hand. Paul sinks seven with his off hand. Then Paul saunters over to the weight room to get another sweat in after practice.


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Chapter 2: Chris Paul is a teacher. The 6-0, 175-pound point guard seems to always be in teacher mode—so much so that you want to address him as Coach Paul. “I think I’ve always been in coach mode, from my days as a 12-year-old AAU kid to now,” says Paul. “And part of that is just being a point guard. “I told D.J., ‘Whenever you miss a free throw, don’t get mad. It’s a long season. You just gotta keep shooting. Shoot it with the confidence.’ Sometimes D.J. gets mad like he’s a 90-percent free-throw shooter. We just want his head to stay in it and to shoot ’em. I told him I never want to compare him to Tyson Chandler by any means, but Tyson was not a good free throw shooter when he was with us in New Orleans. And now look at him.” HOOP

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Chandler was a 60-percent free-throw shooter his first eight years in the League; the former Hornet center and current Knick has been a 74-percent free-throw shooter his last three seasons. It’s a very interesting dynamic at work. The Clippers have potentially one of the best offensive lineups in basketball after adding veterans Paul, Chauncey Billups, 35, and Caron Butler, 31, to the young big-man brotherhood of Griffin and Jordan. Defensively and rebounding-wise, on the other hand, the team is a constant work in progress.1 “We have good leadership and good defensive players individually,” says Del Negro, “so I’m not worried about it becoming a problem. We just need to improve and finish defensive plays with the rebound. That’s hurting us now. “Get into coverage better, communicate better on defense, keep watching film, practice, stay together and it’ll all kick in a positive way.” When Paul, a seven-year NBA vet, was acquired via blockbuster trade a week before the season began, Griffin gave an off-the-cuff description of the new L.A. squad, saying it now would turn into “Lob City” with Paul in town, anticipating the many alley-oop passes to come this season. It’s a name neither Paul nor Griffin like much now because it puts too much emphasis on the showtime aspect of basketball—sorry, Laker fans—rather than the blue-collar staples the Clippers need to master if they’re to become winners. Paul knows this. When he ran a high-powered offense as a 22-year-old and led the New Orleans Hornets to the second-best record in the West in 2007-08, it was done with a

squad that also ranked top 10 in both defense and rebounding. And much of the credit for that went to a young frontline stud duo of Chandler and David West, then 25 and 27, respectively. So Paul knows the process of winning. “You keep trying to punch it into those guys,” says Paul. “Blake and DeAndre are unbelievably talented. But you need the savviness and the wisdom of the game in order to advance. Talent in this league only takes you so far. You gotta have guys like Chauncey,2 who’s been to the Finals and stuff like that. Gotta have guys that aren’t gonna get rattled in situations.” It’s a dynamic that portends a great future. Two young athletic studs flanked by three winning vets. A bench3 loaded with experienced players who also can bring steadiness in nine-year pros Mo Williams, Brian Cook, seven-year pro Ryan Gomes, six-year pro Randy Foye and 10-year pro Reggie Evans. That’s why Paul is always in teacher mode. He knows knowledge is the key to winning. “You just gotta keep telling em, keep telling em,” says Paul. “Even if they sometimes may not want to hear it, you gotta stay on them about it. You gotta let ’em know. You gotta respect them because at the end of the day, they’re two very good players, especially Blake. You gotta respect his basketball knowledge and what he knows. At the same time, they’re great guys and they’re open to listen.” “Chris has been in the League for seven years and has the experience,” says Griffin. “He’s obviously the best point guard in the League. Having him on my side is comforting. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can and gel together as quickly as possible.” Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls says that gelling part has already happened, saying after his first game against the duo, “I can tell you now, the pick-and-roll with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, it’s a tough one. Probably the toughest I’ve ever had to defend.” Chapter 3: Chris Paul is a basketball savior. Paul created basketball in Oklahoma City. He saved basketball in New Orleans. And now he embarks on the biggest reclamation project in NBA history—turning the Los Angeles Clippers into a winning organization. Who can forget the 2000 Sports Illustrated cover where the magazine touted the HOOP

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P ’N R PoTeNTiAL While the pick-and-roll combo of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin may just be getting underway in Los Angeles, it’s already generating some high praise around the League, and justifiably so. Naturally, this got us thinking about some of the best pairs to ever run the pick-and-roll, as we peek back and remember a few filthy tandems. John Stockton and Karl Malone John Stockton and Karl Malone have long been the gold standard on how the proper pick-and-roll should operate, so much so that you can’t have a serious discussion of the play without mention of the Hall of Fame tandem. In 18 seasons together with the Jazz, the duo played in an NBA record 1,412 games as teammates, and it was that acquired chemistry that made the two so potent with one another. Their pick-and-roll game didn’t necessarily produce an over-abundance of highlight reel materials like one would expect. It just embodied consistency, and was a virtually unstoppable force from the late 80s up to the 21st century. Off a pick at the top of the key, Stockton (the NBA’s all-time leader in assists) would hit Malone (second all-time in scoring) on a roll to the hoop, and the Mailman would deliver by any means possible. We may never see another point guard-power forward combination so automatic for such a long period of time.


Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili Just like their team during its 15-year run of excellence, this pairing doesn’t get its just desserts. What it lacks in its durability of Stockton/ Malone and explosiveness in Nash/Stoudemire, Duncan and Ginobili make up for in championships, three to be exact. It should be noted that Tony Parker would be an able substitute for Ginobili since both are adept at finishing around the basket off the screen, but the Argentine swingman has an advantage of having a better outside stroke, a shot that presents itself often when Duncan is setting the pick. Duncan presents so many challenges for the defense: he can step out for that bank shot, go hard to the basket where he is excellent from either hand, and most overlooked, TD has great court awareness to find the cutter or open man.

Andrew d. Bernstein; nAthAniel s. Butler; Victor BAldizon/nBAe/Getty imAGes

Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire More akin to Paul-Griffin than Stockton-Malone in terms of flashiness, the pick-and-roll Steve Nash ran with Amar’e Stoudemire was among the more explosive ones the game has ever seen. The tandem hooked up in Phoenix from ’04 to ’10, thriving in head coach Mike D’Antoni’s offensive friendly system that manufactured the NBA’s top offense in all six seasons. Coming off a screen, Nash was a true maestro at dishing out the precise ball at just the right time, whether that was a bounce pass in stride or a perfectly timed alley-oop. And Stoudemire was the beneficiary, skillfully slipping to the hole utilizing his unbridled power for about as sure of a two as there was. The connection was relatively short-lived, but the two still cause havoc with the set play today, albeit not the same without one another.


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Clippers organization as “the worst franchise in sports history?” Since that cover, the team hadn’t done anything necessarily to change public opinion, making the playoffs only once in the 21st Century, while posting losing records the other 11 seasons. Now ensconced in L.A., Paul just laughs when he is asked about his life calling as “basketball savior,” saying, “I would never say that. I think I’ve had a wonderful opportunity, though, to be a part of some really cool things. Taking basketball to Oklahoma to start off my NBA career was a blessing in disguise. Those fans there were unbelievable. Then I’ve been in New Orleans, being a part of that community.4 Those are the fans and the people who pretty much molded and shaped me as my professional career began to blossom. And now to be here to be a part of something pretty special here with the Clippers is something I’m excited about.” It’s amazing when you think about it. As a 20-year-old rookie, Paul became the face of the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, a franchise displaced by Hurricane Katrina, which forced the team to move their home base for two seasons from Louisiana to Oklahoma. Oklahoma City officials had long campaigned for an NBA team, so when the tragedy hit New Orleans, they were more than willing to host the Hornets, so that they could show the League that their fan base would support a professional basketball team. The Oklahoma City fans immediately took to the Hornets, perhaps relating to New Orleans’ tragedy in their own way, since it had been a full 10 years since the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building, a dark day that claimed the lives of 168 people. So with Ford Center, a state-of-the-art arena, already in place, Paul and the Hornets made OKC their new, temporary home. Once there, the Wake Forest All-American who hailed from Lewisville, North Carolina completely won over Oklahoma City with his down-home5 ways.

And on the court he lived large, transforming the 18-64 Hornets into a 38-44 squad, en route to winning 2005-06 NBA Rookie of the Year. Not only was the rookie Paul a small part of Oklahoma City’s healing process, he also was very instrumental in drawing those early sellout crowds, which later would lead to The City giving birth its own NBA franchise, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in 2008-09. Likewise, Paul helped the post-Katrina healing process in New Orleans, despite the constant rumors of the franchise moving along with the lackluster season-ticket sales of only 6,000 upon the Hornets return in 2007. As Paul told Yahoo! Sports at the time: “We have to give these people a reason to get behind us.” The Hornets would go on to have their best season in franchise history in Paul’s New Orleans’ debut, posting the West’s second-best 56-26 record in 2007-08, en route to a second-round playoff finish. Four seasons later—when Paul was ultimately dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and a first-round pick—the Hornets franchise was finally on stable ground, thanks in large part to Paul, with 10,000 season tickets already sold and having made the playoffs in three of the previous four seasons. “It’s been a pretty cool situation to be a part of,” says Paul. “You know what I mean? That’s just the way God works. He works in mysterious ways. He’s put me in positions to HOOP

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BONUS POINTS 1. Through six games in the 2011-12 NBA season, the Clippers ranked second in offensive efficiency, 22nd in defensive efficiency and 29th in rebounding rate. 2. Billups was named 2004 NBA Finals MVP for leading the Detroit Pistons to the NBA championship that season; Butler didn’t play in the 2011 NBA Playoffs, but he did earn an NBA championship ring as the Dallas Mavericks starting small forward for 29 games before he was felled by a season-ending knee injury. 3. While the Clippers’ second-string is veteran-laden, their third stringers are rather young with the injured Eric Bledsoe, 22; Trey Thompkins, 21; Travis Leslie, 21; Solomon Jones, 27. 4. Chris Paul established the CP3 Foundation in memory and dedication to his late grandfather’s spirit of giving back to his communities. Since 2005, Paul has focused his foundation’s efforts on enriching the Winston-Salem and New Orleans communities. 5. One example: Paul rented a modest three-bedroom, two-bath home for $1,400 a month and lived with his brother, while also keeping a spare bedroom for family when they came to visit. 6. In the reported traded that was later rescinded by the NBA, acting in its capacity as the team’s owner, the Lakers were to receive Paul, the Rockets were to receive Pau Gasol and the Hornets were to receive Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and a 2012 first-round pick that originally belonged to the Knicks via the Rockets.

sort of be that leader.” The Apostle Paul has become the NBA’s miracle worker, which makes his latest transition to the West Coast so apropos. Throughout 2011, there were rumors that Paul wanted to sign with the New York Knicks when he became a free agent in Summer 2012. Then, there was those December done-deal rumors that unofficially sent him to the Los Angeles Lakers, only to be later nixed6 by the League. So it’s only fitting, that when Paul was finally, officially dealt from New Orleans that he would end up on yet another team that had its own set of obstacles to overcome. Once again, Paul ended up in a city, on a franchise, that desperately needed him to save them. “Since I was a kid, I grew up with a religious background and different things like that,” says Paul. “I’ve been fortunate to have two parents who’ve always been there for me and everything I’ve done. And my dad used to say, ‘Everything happens for a reason.’” “Everything happens for a reason, through all the trade speculation and everything that had taken place. Instead of saying, ‘Why me?’, I asked ‘Why not me?’ “And maybe because of those other cities that I’ve been to—and situations I was in with Oklahoma and New Orleans and the devastation there—it may have helped me for this situation that came up with the trade speculation. It’s just, you control only what you can control.”


Chapter 5: We shall see if Chris Paul is a prophet. For this we can offer no proof, as of yet. We can only close the Book of Paul with some back-and-forth dialogue with the newest Clipper about the old Clippers’ end times. Where is this team going to be three months from now and where is it going to be three years from now? “That’s a good question,” says Paul. “Three months from now, hopefully we are making strides in the right direction. Three years from now, we should be the best team in the West.” Best team in the West. “Yeah. That’s what we’re shooting for,” says Paul, eye contact unwavering. You seem very confident saying that. “Ah, no question,” says Paul. “Because we’re gonna work. That’s what I said the day that I got traded here. I said, ‘The thing that’s gonna be a constant here is that we’re always gonna work hard.’” Oklahoma City, New Orleans and Los Angeles wouldn’t expect anything less.

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Chapter 4: Chris Paul is an old man. With Paul’s rich basketball history—he has made three All-NBA teams, played in four straight All-Star Games, won an Olympic gold medal—you sometimes forget he’s only 26 years old. His game is so old-school and crafty—working the pick-and-roll to perfection, getting into the paint at will, getting to the line, setting up teammates for open shots, knocking down jumpers himself, ball hawk at all times on D. When asked how old Paul really is in basketball years, teammate Caron Butler says, “Chris is 40. He’s playing in the YMCA league and all that. He really understands the game.

It’s fun watching him.” When the old-man-at-the-Y quote is relayed to Paul, he laughs, but he also relates, “I think part of it is just the way that I play also. I understand that I can’t jump like Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan and stuff like that, so I’ve always had to be crafty. I think part of that comes from just knowing the game. When I play chess, I know the rules like where everything can move, but I can’t really set you up for anything. In basketball, I know everything. I feel like I can set you up to do this and do that, and there’s only so many different things you can do on the basketball court. I always just try to be a step ahead. “I’ve been like that since I was in college. Part of it is just being a basketball junkie. Playing when I was 12 years old on my AAU team and just watching basketball all the time. Like I lived for it. Anybody who is obsessed with their craft … As a journalist, if you’re meticulous with punctuation and things like that, that’s how I am with basketball. I just pay so much attention to the details.”


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9/29/10 9:34 :34 AM

DefenDers With


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An otherworldly scorer in the lineup won’t improve his teammates’ points output or shooting percentage, but a supreme defender can turn even the meekest band of matadors into a stalwart defensive team.


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h influence If you spend any time following Tony Allen on Twitter,1 you’ll find out quickly that he has no shortage of, well, anything. Updates. Opinions. Shout-outs. Criticisms. The man’s fingers fly across his phone keyboard faster than his feet cover ground on the court. So, it’s no surprise that teammate Mike Conley says of the Memphis Grizzlies guard and lockdown defensive specialist, “He does a great job of being loud.” By “loud,” Conley isn’t just talking about sound, although Allen can produce plenty of that.2 He means that Allen is particularly adept at speaking at the defensive end—and everywhere else. On the court, he’ll direct teammates to the right spots, identify enemy screens, set rotations and call out switches. Allen is a defensive quarterback who understands that if all five players aren’t grinding to stop the opponent, Memphis doesn’t stand a chance. “He lets everybody know where to be on the court,” Conley says. “He does a good job motivating the team.” It’s no secret that the stars of the NBA show are the scorers. They get the face time on

>> By Michael BraDley #53

the camera and the big money come contract time. The best of the best play big D, too—Michael Jordan3 and Kobe Bryant4 come to mind immediately—but the League’s popularity has been built upon those who put the ball through the net. What most forget to realize is that what makes the stars so great is the fact that they are able to put the ball through elite defenders like Allen. Just try to win anything of consequence in the League without playing good team defense. It’s impossible. Dallas captured the title last season because the Mavericks were able to make Miami struggle for points when the game became tight,5 and time dripped away. And the Heat couldn’t close the deal because it couldn’t find a solution to Dirk Nowitzki’s assault on the nets or contain the Dallas three-point shooters. Memphis didn’t reach the Finals last year, but the Grizz did subdue topseeded San Antonio in the first round, largely by keeping the Spurs’ offense in check. (San Antonio topped 100 points just once in six games.) The Grizzlies HOOP

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points differential last season, were so interested in trading for Chandler before the season began? And Chandler made New York coaches, executives and fans smile when he said at the press conference announcing his deal that his goal was “to get everybody playing defense.” That has been Kevin Garnett’s M.O. since he was with the Timberwolves. Though known at first for his scoring and board work, Garnett quickly became one of the game’s most committed defenders, capable of checking just about anybody on the floor and never shying away from making sure his teammates were doing it right at the dirty-work end. From the time the Celtics acquired Garnett, they have been one of the League’s top defensive teams. That makes pretty good sense. And it’s not happenstance that Chicago has been consistently near the top of the League ratings in fewest points allowed since Joakim Noah joined the team. His style may not be so smooth, but his passion is evident in every herky-jerky movement he makes. Without that, the Bulls wouldn’t be near the top of the Eastern Conference, no matter how well MVP Derrick Rose plays. “He’s constantly talking and telling guys what to do and where the picks are coming from,” Conley says of Noah. “Guys feed off that.”

Shane Battier is a 33-year old man, with a degree in religious studies from Duke and 11 years experience playing professional basketball. But ask him about the culture that

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were even able to keep high-flying Oklahoma City under 100 three times in their memorable seven-game Western semis series. Allen and his big mouth played big roles in the success. By being so active and enthusiastic at the defensive end, he was able to inspire his teammates to play hard and therefore succeed. Even without high-scoring wing Rudy Gay, Memphis was able to thrive. A big reason was the contagious defensive climate Allen helped create. “Not everybody has the same talents defensively,” says Conley, who is extremely dangerous at that end himself. “When you see your best defensive players working hard, and not-so great defensive players working hard, you as a player are going to do what you can to help the others.” Allen works hard, but the soundtrack that accompanies his effort is pretty important to the cause, too. He doesn’t just inspire by making plays and helping teammates. He is always talking. Always. “He gets a steal during practice, and he says, ‘That’s what I do! You can’t score on me!’” says Memphis coach Lionel Hollins. “The other guys get energized by that. It’s always a positive.” The League has plenty of guys capable of lifting their teams’ play at the defensive end through their talent and exhortations. It almost requires a certain charisma to play that role. Defending to the death is one thing; having the personality necessary to bring everybody else along is quite another. There’s no way Dallas wins the title last year without Tyson Chandler in the middle of its D. Can you see why the Knicks, who owned a slender, plus-1.1 HOOP

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explicit D Quantifying a great individual defender is not easy. Traditionally (and most easily) is gauging a player based on the two lone defensive stats on a box score: blocks and steals. The truth is, there is much more beyond the crowd-pleasing block or the ooh-and-ahh ball theft: forcing your man into low shooting percentages, denying your man the ball, not fouling and giving opponent free points, taking charges, help defense, inspiring and raising teammates’ defensive intensity. But let’s face it, it’s human nature to draw upon memories of an incredible block or crafty pickpocket and these three guys are some of the best in the League at defensive highlights. Place them on any team, any lineup, and they’ll undoubtedly get “theirs.” DwIghT howArD: Howard has the past three Defensive Player of the Year trophies to his name. Yes, award voting is a subjective act among writers, but he’s dominated the competition since ’09 with consecutive first place shares of 91, 94 and 97 percent. He did, after all, lead the NBA in steals and blocks combined last season with 293, or 3.8 per game. It’s rare for a pivot to snatch so many steals (1.4 per), a stat usually reserved for wing players guarding along the perimeter, but much like Hakeem Olajuwon before him, Howard’s freakish athleticism and wingspan allow him to swipe with ease.

Joe Murphy; layNe Murdoch; aNdrew d. BerNSteiN; NathaNiel S. Butler/NBae/Getty iMaGeS

Serge IbAkA: The man who dethroned Howard in total blocks (198) last year despite playing just 27 minutes a game? A surge like that can only come from an Ibaka. The Republic of Congo native is similar to Dwight physically, as both have had their unnatural big men hops on display in previous dunk contests. Post All-Star break in ’11, Ibaka upped his number of blocks per game from 2.1 to a whopping 3.0 with more playing time. At only 22 in his third year, Ibaka already has more prolific block numbers than Howard had at this point in his career. rAjon ronDo: Rondo fits the mold as a former steal champ in ‘10 (189, 2.3). A theft barrage from Rajon is commonplace at least a couple times a game for the only player to average 2.3 steals in both ’10 and ’11. At a wiry and rangy 6-1 and 186-pounds, Rondo employs elite hand-eye coordination and foot speed that make him a pleasure to watch on D. His quickness and length for his size allows him to lie in wait for the opportune moment to seize the ball. Of course it certainly helps that he has an all-world defender in Kevin Garnett backing him up. —Phil D’Apolito #14

exists in NBA locker rooms—all locker rooms, for that matter—and he heads right back to his teenage days. According to Battier, there remains among athletes a need to fit in. A desire to be one of the crowd. That may manifest itself in terms of dress, behavior off the court or field and what hobbies they pursue. It’s there when the time comes to play ball, too. Everybody wants to fit in, even on defense. “When you look at team sports on a professional level, it’s like high school,” says Battier, a forward for the Heat. “The peer pressure is evident in all sports, especially pro basketball, on good teams and bad teams. There is good peer pressure. If the top three players are the most coachable and hardest working, it will trickle down to the last player. “Most people think the NBA athlete is immune to peer pressure. But it’s more of a factor than when we were in high school.” Hollins believes in the peer pressure idea. In fact, he prefers it. Players hear too much of coaches’ instruction and criticism. It always works better if they police and motivate themselves. “Peer pressure is important on the whole team,” he says. “There has to be chemistry and acceptance of roles. Peer pressure is the best pressure. When you have a team of young players, peer pressure is not as easily put on. You need to have players who do [their jobs] consistently. If you’re telling someone they’re not hustling, and you’re not hustling, it doesn’t work. You have to be working hard all the time.” If players can be influenced so easily and regularly, it’s easy to imagine that they’ll come along for the ride at the defensive end—provided there is someone they respect leading the HOOP

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way. Remember that plenty of kids have their own style in the high school hallways, but it’s only the ones with influence who can get the others to go along with them. So, if a standout player decides to hunker down on the defensive end, he’s going to get others to come along. “If you see an All-Star or a guy who averages 20 points a game and is not known for defense, and he’s battling every possession, you ask yourself, ‘What am I doing extra?’” says Battier, who has never been accused of needing external motivation to do his job well. It’s always great to see the big names doing little things to help their teams win. That behavior definitely can inspire the others, as Battier says. The true inspiring defenders, however, aren’t usually the 20-point scorers. Not that the big guns are one-dimensional, but for guys like Allen, Chandler, Noah—and, yes, Battier—defense is a way to stay in the League, a means of becoming popular. Battier has averaged double figures in points just three times in his career and not since 2006-07. Yet, he continues to be coveted by teams (he was the object of several clubs’ attentions during the truncated free agent period last fall before joining the Heat) because of his contributions in other areas. When it was announced that Battier had signed with Miami, guard Mario Chalmers was asked what Battier would bring. “A defensive presence,” he told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. Although some veteran players might cringe at being known more for their defense than their scoring, remember that Battier was the guy who used to delight fans at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium by taking charge after charge, even as he was earning first-team all-America and national Player of the Year honors. “I look at guys primarily known for their defense like offensive linemen,” Battier says. “People expect you to plug along and do the job. With perimeter defenders [which is Battier’s primary role], people only know if you’re not doing your job when you make mistakes.” Since it’s virtually impossible to stop the best NBA players, and even some of the second-tier scorers, on a regular basis, even the finest and most committed defenders need help. A lot of help. That’s where their ability to inspire teammates is most important. Even if Battier or Allen is able to play aggressive D on the outside, there will be plenty of times during a game when they are beaten off the dribble. That’s where the other four players come in. Detroit big man Ben Wallace is usually one of those “others.” The 6-9, 37-year-old has built a reputation on defense during his career,6 even more so than Battier, since Wallace has never averaged 10 points a game in any season during his career. But he has blocked three or more shots a night three times. Wallace is a tremendous defensive anchor, but he understands the need for a leader on defense, someone who can set the tone. “You’ve got to have a good leader, someone willing to sacrifice his game and give himself up for the team on defense.” Wallace says. “He’s got to be one of the guys who are willing to make it happen on defense. Defense isn’t something where you get a rhythm going or can run a play. You have to want to do it.”

Digging Deeper Defensively You know the adage: There’s no “I” in team. Well, there’s also no “I” in defense. Therefore by deductive logic we can conclude that there’s no “I” in team defense. What good is a lockdown man-to-man defender if he’s surrounded by four guys who’d rather be on the other side of the court? Conversely, how good can a defender really be if he’s playing on a squad that surrenders more points than an offseason all-star charity game? These would appear to go hand-in-hand. That is to say, a team cannot be great defensively without playing as one cohesive unit. Hold that thought. Rather than spouting off the League’s top defensive clubs, we’ll try to answer these questions by taking a peek at an individual’s overall value to his team’s defense via his on-off court differentials. This stat, while not an all-encompassing measure of a player’s defensive ability and can be a byproduct the man replacing him in the lineup, still shows us how important a player is to his team’s defensive efficiency. It takes into account the defensive rating of a team (points allowed per 100 possessions) when a player is on the court vs. when he is off the court. So far in the ’11-12 season’s small (as of press time) sample size, the leader is Mavs newcomer Delonte West as Dallas has an 88.67 defensive rating with him on the floor and 117.52 when he sits, good for a net of -28.84. Portland’s Gerald Wallace is second (91.20 on, 115.22 off, -24.02 net) and Andre Iguodala of the Sixers is third (91.24/115.24, -24.00). [Ed note: it’ll likely change by the time you read this.] For a clearer picture, over a full season in ’10-11 the top seven differentials were Charlotte’s Shaun Livingston (102.28/110.51, -8.23), Chicago’s Ronnie Brewer (95.83/103.56, -7.73), Utah’s C.J. Miles (105.94/113.02, -7.08), San Antonio’s Tim Duncan (101.85/108.85, -7.00), Oklahoma City’s Eric Maynor (101.87/108.51, -6.64), Boston’s Kevin Garnett (97.84/104.03, -6.19) and Atlanta’s Josh Smith (104.82/110.93, -6.11). It’s easy to say, last year for example, that Miles’ value to the Jazz (a team that allowed almost 106 points for every 100 possessions with him on D) wasn’t as significant as Brewer’s to the Bulls (just under 96 points per 100 possessions), but it was very similar relative to the quality of defenders around him. Some of these names listed, and not listed, may come as a bit of a surprise. It is, after all, a statistic that might be more indicative of an individual’s defensive value to his team as opposed to his value compared with other players across the League. But where these differentials do provide some closure is here: We have proof that the teams with players listed among the leaders would be a lot worse off defensively without them. And there’s certainly something to be said for that.—#14 Noah GrahaM/NBae/Getty iMaGeS



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It may be possible for pickup teams to have all five players matching up with their men, but in the NBA, things don’t work that way. It’s about rotations and all five men doing their jobs. If one breaks down, it all breaks down. “One weak link, and it can definitely come apart,” Wallace says. “If you can’t get all five guys moving and helping each other, you won’t get stops.” And don’t think the players don’t know who is letting down the group, even if the fans don’t. It’s obvious to them and even more obvious to coaches. If you have a team that doesn’t care about playing defense, that’s one thing. If everybody is committed to it but one, he’s easy to spot. Again, it comes down to Battier’s theory of peer pressure. “I do agree with that,” Conley says. “I think when you see guys putting forth the effort defensively, and you aren’t at the same level, it’s easy to be picked out. You don’t want to be that person who stands out [when the team watches] film.” Forget about the film. Fans will identify those who aren’t doing their jobs—or at least they think they can do it. Often, they don’t understand the rotation a team is using or the concept of “helping the helper,” which is so important in the NBA. As a result, they’ll end up blaming the wrong guy for an opponent’s easy basket. That makes Wallace mad. And if you have ever seen the imposing Piston big man up close, that’s something you don’t want to do. So, he spends a lot of time encouraging his teammates to do their jobs defensively, so that when he follows the scheme, he doesn’t get left hanging. “Sometimes, you can do your job and look bad,” he says. “If the defense breaks down up top, my job is to rotate and take the charge. If I rotate, and no one helps me by getting my man, the guy I’m trying to stop will lay the ball off for a dunk.

“I look like I’m not doing my job.” So, what does Wallace do? He talks. He’s not in the realm of Allen, who would probably like to wear a microphone, the better to carry on a conversation with fans, the TV guys and a hot dog vendor during games. But Wallace will speak up whenever the team is together. He’s not worried about who’s shooting the ball well or if the offense is running smoothly. It’s all about the other side of the court. “I talk about defense in the locker room, at practice and at the shootaround,” he says. “You can’t talk about defense enough. There are so many good offensive guys in this league that you can’t ask one guy to shut down his man. “It’s a team effort.”

Sometimes, the best defender isn’t going to be the most inspirational. Sometimes, a formerly cavalier practitioner of the art is capable of bringing his teammates together and playing better D. Call it the prodigal son approach. The Grizzlies know they can always depend on Allen and Conley. But over the past year, forward Zach Randolph7 has emerged as another player on whom the team can rely. As you might imagine, Hollins is thrilled that “Z-Bo,” formerly someone who was primarily interested in compiling 20-10 nights, is busting it at the defensive end, too. “When Zach is rotating and taking charges, players know that’s another guy HOOP

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BONUS POINTS 1. @aa000G9 is one of the most entertaining Twitter feeds to follow. 2. Amazingly enough, Allen and another notorious loud screaming defender, Kevin Garnett, were on the same Boston Celtics team at one point. 3. Jordan was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1988 and named All-Defensive First Team nine times. 4. Bryant has garnered nine NBA All-Defensive First Team selections and two second-team nods. 5. Dallas flummoxed Miami with a zone defense that successfully forced the Heat into shooting jumpers. 6. Big Ben has copped five Defensive Player of the Year Awards (’02. ’03, ’05, ’06). 7. Unfortunately, Randolph hurt his knee at the start of the season that sidelined him 8 weeks. 8. KG took home the MVP hardware in 2004. 9. In that season, Garnett captured his only Defensive Player of the Year award.

For all the talk about Derrick Rose and his outstanding offensive play, perhaps an even bigger reason why the Bulls reached the Eastern Conference finals last year was their defense. That’s Noah’s department. He blocks shots, for sure, but he is even more valuable as a help defender and a quarterback who makes sure everybody on his team knows what’s going on. “Communication is one of the biggest keys on defense,” Conley says. “When you’re guarding the ball at the top of the key, you can’t see what’s happening behind you. You need communication so you can make the play.” Then there’s Garnett. During his time with the Timberwolves, he was known primarily as a do-it-all, MVP-caliber,8 new age forward—for good reason. The man was a quadrupledouble threat every time out. But his defensive prowess was underrated. That changed when he was traded to Boston before the 2007-08 season. From that point on, Garnett willingly sublimated his offensive production (having Ray Allen and Paul Pierce with him made that easier) and stepped up his work on the defensive end, becoming a 6-11 backstop capable of creating havoc all over the place. The results were staggering. In ’06-07, the last year pre-KG, the Celts were 18th in the League in points allowed and 25th in opponents’ field goal percentage. The following season,9 Boston was second and first, respectively. More importantly, they were NBA champs. Coincidence? Hardly. “He’s a great shotblocker, help defender and defender on the pick-and-roll,” Hollins says. “He’s like the orchestrator and conductor in the back of the defense. If you have a big guy who can talk and play good defense by recognizing and helping, you really have something.” And everybody else is likely to come along for the ride.

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they can trust,” Hollins says. “Zach’s done a marvelous job offensively, and defensively he is now improving the attributes that make you a winning player. He’s always been a good offensive player and rebounder. “Now, Zach knows that if his guy is always catching the ball in the sweet spot, or he’s not showing on the pick-and-roll, the team can’t win.” While Randolph continues his emergence as a willing defender and helps the Grizzlies become more successful, the stalwarts throughout the League—the real defensive inspiring forces—continue to do their job. Take Chandler. In midJanuary, the smoking-hot Sixers came to New York riding a six-game winning streak. They were sharing the ball well, playing efficient offense and running teams out of the gym. It was a great test for the Knicks, who last year would have delighted in engaging the Sixers in a game of first-to-100-points. Or even 110. Instead of flashing and dashing, the Knicks strangled their guests in an 85-79 win. Philadelphia entered the game shooting a robust 48.5 percent from the floor. Against the Knicks, they managed only a 39.5 percent success rate. Chandler scored only three points—all free throws—in 35 minutes but he grabbed 13 rebounds and anchored the defense from his center position. “He’s a communicator,” Hollins says. “He recognizes and sees what’s going on. He’s always in a help position and covering for everybody. You have to be selfless to do that. You can’t look for the notoriety other guys who score a lot get.” Chandler’s size gives Knicks guards the ability to increase their efforts along the perimeter, since they are safe in knowing anybody who beats them must deal with a 7-1 force behind them. That’s not an invitation to slack off, rather the license to be even more aggressive, the better to create turnovers that lead to easy scores. If that’s not an inspirational situation, nothing is. After stocking up on offensive help the last couple years, New York finally realized the need to upgrade its D. And one man can make a difference, especially if that one man is Chandler. “Having a presence like Tyson Chandler behind you can benefit you a lot,” Conley says. “You can pressure on the outside, knowing that if you get beaten, you have a safety net, and he can make the play.” While Chandler is someone who chooses to fire up his teammates with his actions, Noah seems hidebound every possession to get the Bulls playing winning defense. His frenetic play is one thing; and since it’s accompanied by a soundtrack of commands, warnings and encouragement, it’s almost impossible not to be carried away. Last year, the Bulls led the NBA in opponents’ field goal percentage and were second in points allowed. HOOP

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© 2005-2011 Take-Two Interactive Software and its subsidiaries. All rights reserved. 2K Sports, the 2K Sports logo, and Take-Two Interactive Software are all trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. The NBA and individual NBA member team identifications used on or in this product are trademarks, copyrights designs and other forms of intellectual property of NBA Properties, Inc. and the respective NBA member teams and may not be used, in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of NBA Properties, Inc. © 2012 NBA Properties, Inc. All rights reserved. “PlayStation” and the “PS” Family logo are registered trademarks and the PlayStation Network logo is a trademark of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. KINECT, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox LIVE, and the Xbox logos are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies and are used under license from Microsoft. Wii is a trademark of Nintendo. © 2006 Nintendo. The ratings icon is a trademark of the Entertainment Software Association. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners.

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M 1/23/12 4:02 P :02 PM

By Holly MacKenzie #32

Like the quiet and often neglected piece of ofďŹ ce equipment that protects your gear from getting burnt, Serge Ibaka is serving the same role for the oklahoma city thunder.


Serge Protec t HOOP

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In the corner of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s locker room after their final game of the regular season, Serge Ibaka was buttoning up his shirt. While the rest of his Thunder teammates were quickly getting dressed and fleeing the locker room, Ibaka was taking his time. The last player out of the shower, and the last player to get dressed and then the last player to remain seated in his locker, Ibaka moved at a completely different pace than everyone around him. His teammates hurriedly answered questions and tried to duck large media scrums in attempts to escape the arena in exchange for a postgame dinner and a few precious moments of peace before the playoffs officially began just a day later. Ibaka’s exit, however, remained the same as every other game. The simple decision not to deviate from his usual postgame routine echoes the way in which Ibaka has remained steady despite the whirlwind he has been caught up in for the past two years since coming to Oklahoma City. Arriving to play for the Thunder in 2009 after leaving his professional team in Spain, Ibaka was a raw but freakishly athletic 19-year-old rookie that couldn’t speak English. As he became introduced to the NBA game on the court, he had to learn the life of an NBA athlete off of it. Two years later, he’s done more than all right.



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Larry W. smith; LayNE murdoch (2)/NBaE/GEtty imaGEs

When the Oklahoma City Thunder faced off against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010, it was a coming-out party for Russell Westbrook, an exclamation mark for the Thunder and a series that shocked the basketball world. Ultimately, the Thunder came a rebound short of forcing a game seven against the eventual two-time NBA Champions. What got lost in the excitement and exuberance of OKC’s “We Rise Together” mantra was a rookie big man who wasn’t as flashy as Westbrook or Durant, but one who was showing that he was also ready for his close up. On the court, he’s a shotblocking mix of energy and fury. Off of it, he’s just a young guy living in Oklahoma City who enjoys going to movies and cooking1 his own meals. It’s true, 22-year-old Serge Ibaka is as low key off of the court as he is loud on it. Besides dabbling in a little modeling (more on that later) and being a professional athlete, Ibaka says he likes simple things like listening to music, tweeting with his teammates and fans and going to his favorite restaurants in Bricktown. “When [I] meet somebody, sometimes they think I’m different,” Ibaka said. “They see me play in the crowd and they might think I am a mean person. People will approach me and think I’m going to be a mean person, but they see I’m different.” Working extra hours on his game and then overtime on his English, Ibaka prepared himself for the moment when his team would need him. That opportunity came even sooner than he imagined. After the surprise trade-deadline deal last year that shipped Jeff Green to the Celtics and brought Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder, Ibaka has moved into the starting lineup and

has shown why scouts, coaches and teammates alike have raved over his potential since arriving in Oklahoma City. Although his move into the starting lineup has been smooth sailing for the Thunder, Ibaka said he was shocked when teammate Kevin Durant told him about the deal as he was walking back to his hotel room in San Antonio. Waving his hands in the air, eyes wide, facial expression exaggerated, Ibaka says, “I was like, “Whoa.” He explained that because the media hadn’t expected a trade for the Thunder, the team also hadn’t anticipated a deal going down. Shocked, but ready for the increased opportunity, Ibaka has turned into a blocking machine and a defensive presence wreaking havoc on his opponents with the help of Perkins inside. When Perkins is asked to describe his new teammate in one word there is no hesitation: “freak.” Since the arrival of Perkins, Ibaka has been free to roam the paint and sneak up on opponents, swatting their shots into the crowd. During a four-game span in March, Ibaka recorded 23 blocked shots. On the season, he averaged 2.4 blocked shots per game, tied for second in the League. Fourteen games into this season, he’s on the same 2.4 average, tied with Dwight Howard for fourth place. Perkins was dead on with his description. Ibaka stands 6-10 with a 7-4 wingspan and a 46-inch vertical leap. Featured in ESPN The Magazine’s “The Body”2 issue as one of its models depicting the athletic form, Ibaka is listed at a chiseled 240 pounds. A dynamic player with the ability to run the floor as well as defend, it was his energy off of the bench that initially had tongues wagging, but now it’s the intimidating swats that he follows up with Mutombo-esque finger-wagging3 that gets him noticed.


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“Blocking and running the floor,” Ibaka says of his favorite part of the game. “Block and run. I love running with my teammates. When I run, when the game is running, I feel good. I love to run every time I can.” Ibaka talks slowly and deliberately, but his English is remarkably crisp, his thoughts coming across loud and clear for someone who has spoken the language—his fourth,4 along with Lingala, French and Spanish—for only one NBA season. His ability to grasp the English language seemingly overnight echoes how he has transitioned from playing professional basketball in Spain to serving as an integral part of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s roster. While Ibaka has made both look easy, in reality neither has happened without hard work, dedication and, as head coach Scott Brooks explains, intelligence. “He’s a lot smarter than me. He can speak different languages. When you can go to another country and pick it up that quick that’s impressive. And he’s done that when he played in Spain and he’s done that here in the States. Smart kid, he picks up things quicker and he’s prideful. He wants to be a good player and he focuses on all the little things that it takes to be good.”

Prideful, but still very humble. About the leap he has taken this year from energy player off of the bench to starter on a playoff team, Ibaka clearly wants more. “I think I will tell you I am not yet a good player in the NBA,” says Ibaka. “I will be. Right

now I’m thinking I am getting better every day. I think one day I will be a good player. Right now, I am not. I am just beginning right now.” When asked how he has remained the same young man he was when he landed in Oklahoma City three years ago, Ibaka smiled, but shrugged his shoulders. “My first time when I started to play basketball where I’m from, my first coach, he used to tell me in life and in study and in sport, you have to be humble every time. If you can be humble, that is when you can go up—that’s my motto from when I was young. I grew up with that mentality so that’s why I am humble.” Still humble despite the highlight reel plays and spotlight shining on him and his team, Ibaka is asked how he has kept the success from changing him. “Why would it change?” Ibaka asks rhetorically. Shaking his head emphatically, he continued, “No, no, no. A lot of people change, but any time you start to think of where you come from you will never change. Every time I have tough moments I just think of where I come from. For sure, I learned a lot of good stuff from where I come from. Every time I think of where I come from, I keep the same mentality: Humble and keep working hard.” While Ibaka is almost bashful when the topic of conversation is himself, shifting the conversation to his teammates and the praise freely flows. When describing his surprise over the Perkins-for-Green trade, he doesn’t bring up the opportunity it opened up for him. Instead he talks about how great of a teammate Green was and also how much he gleaned from him during their tenure together. Pointing to Kevin Garnett as a player he admires then grinning when talking about the thrill of playing against him, it’s easy to see that Ibaka is enjoying every moment of living his dream. And why shouldn’t he be? As the first player to be drafted from the Republic HOOP

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you hear that from a second-year guy that came from another country that didn’t know English,” says Kevin Durant. “He’s smart, he’s getting better and we need him to get better.” In addition to the confidence that comes from mastering his fourth language, Ibaka has also mastered the Thunder’s offensive and defensive schemes and is thriving in the starting lineup. “He’s more confident and he knows his role—to come in and play defense, get rebounds, knock down open shots,” says Durant. “He’s been working a lot on his midrange game and it’s getting better. Confidence can do a lot, along with opportunity and he’s getting an opportunity to play and he’s capitalizing.” Durant isn’t dishing out praise that Ibaka hasn’t earned. Last year, playing 27 minutes per game Ibaka averaged 9.9 points and 7.6 rebounds while shooting 54 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the free throw line, improving his stats across the board as he appeared in all 82 games. So far this year he’s dropped off a bit in points production, but his role on the Thunder isn’t to score, but to defend, a role that has been natural for him. What hasn’t been natural, however, has been his adjustment to a new culture. Ibaka credits his teammates and the staff in Oklahoma City6 with helping him to adjust to the United States and to the NBA. “Everybody helped me here because they knew the first time I was here, I knew nothing,” says Ibaka. “I needed help. Everybody helped me. My teammates, my coaches and the staff who work with the team here. Everybody. I was very happy because I like the organization here, it’s like a family. It’s great.”

Larry W. smith; NEd dishmaN/NBaE/GEtty imaGEs

of Congo,5 and the third-youngest of 18 children, Ibaka has made it. Playing in Spain as a 17-year-old, then coming to the NBA to play against the best players in the world, Ibaka has made his family proud and has found a new family among his teammates in Oklahoma City. Despite only playing alongside Perkins for a few months, the two have developed both chemistry on the floor and a bond off of it. “He’s improving a lot,” Perkins said. “I think he’s improved a lot on his offense, but he’s a guy who works hard, he tries to get better day by day. He’s coming along great.” While his fellow big man is quick to shower Ibaka with praise, the teammates who have been with him since the beginning are also impressed with the way he has adjusted to the NBA game. Speaking on the successful season he has had last year, veteran Thabo Sefolosha says, “Obviously he’s learned a lot from his first year. He works really hard at it. I’m not surprised to see him make that jump. He has a lot of talent. He works. Good game or bad game, he’s always the first in the gym to keep working on his game. He knows he’s young and has room to improve.” On a Friday morning after a another victory, the Thunder were given the day off. Not surprisingly, Ibaka ended up at the practice facility anyway, getting in a two-hour workout. These additional workouts and extra hours spent at the gym have paid off for Ibaka. During his rookie season, those workouts would finish just in time for sessions with his English tutor and this season, he gets to reap the benefits of knowing the language everyone else is speaking. “There are times when he tells us what we have to do and that’s encouraging when HOOP

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TM & © 2012 Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved. © 2012 NBA Properties, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photos: Getty, Shutterstock

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BONUS POINTS 1. If you questioned the validity of Ibaka saying that he really enjoys cooking his own meals, take yourself over to YouTube and search “Serge Ibaka cooking video” to see Ibaka preparing some comfort foods. 2. Just peep the photos. Ibaka’s photos look like they should be used for anatomy class to properly detail the muscular system. 3. Not directly at an opponent, mind you. That’s a T these days. 4. In the same aforementioned video detailing Ibaka’s handiwork in the kitchen, you also get a glimpse of Ibaka’s mastery in each of the four languages he is fluent in. 5. While fellow countryman Dikembe Mutombo also hailed from DRC, Deke came to the NBA by the way of Georgetown whereas Ibaka came directly from Congo. 6. When Ibaka first arrived in Oklahoma City, it wasn’t just his teammates and coaching staff to welcome him with open arms. Ibaka said he spent time with almost everyone on the basketball operations staff as the franchise wanted to help his adjustment to life in the NBA and give him a sense of familiarity and family. While he has found a second family with the organization, he’s quickly become a fan favorite in Oklahoma City. 7. During his introduction for the Slam Dunk Contest, Ibaka walked out with people holding “NBA Africa” flags. Ibaka said he came up with the idea to represent his home and it’s just another reminder of how seriously he takes this opportunity to make his family and friends proud. 8. Ibaka on the best part of playing in the NBA: “We play 82 games. I love to play. There are 82 games to play and I love playing.”


when I was on the bench. I will change nothing. I think that has helped me a bit to try and help my team.”

After the the rest of the locker room had emptied out, Ibaka smiled when he was asked how he gauges success. “First of all, how we did on the team,” he says. “How the season went. That’s first of all what I am proud of. [Then] I see myself in last year and then this year, [did I] to get better? [Did]I really progress? I am sure I can get better. If I keep that mentality, next year and the next year and the next year, I can do a lot of good things in this league.” He isn’t the only one who thinks his future is bright. Oklahoma City’s front office has their eyes on Ibaka for the long haul. Loyal and appreciative of everyone who has helped him in his basketball journey, it’s obvious that he wants to reciprocate the franchise’s belief in him. “I had confidence before I was playing in the NBA,” says Ibaka. “When I was playing in Europe, I was telling myself if I stay humble and keep working hard, one day I would do something important in basketball. I didn’t do it yet, but I’m sure if I keep working like I am right now, I will do it one day.” For the fans in Oklahoma City, for his family back home in the Congo and also for himself, Ibaka knows there is more success waiting for him, as long as he remains true to himself.

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One thing Ibaka is always quick to reference is his journey from the Congo to Spain to Oklahoma City. While he’s a long way from the Congo, he keeps his family and his home close to his heart.7 “When I think of where I come from and think of where I am now, I just say I’m blessed,” he says. “When I’m thinking where I come from and where I am right now, I’m just saying it’s not easy. Not everybody has that possibility. It’s something nobody ever gets easy in their life. If I’m here right now, that means I can do better than this. That’s why I keep the mentality to work hard every day to get better.” That work ethic8 and focus is something that Ibaka gets naturally. “It’s something I learned from my father,” says Ibaka. “My father, when I was young, he was working for all for us. It’s something I learned from my family.” Sefolosha spoke warmly of Ibaka’s personality away from the basketball court, saying his teammate has a good spirit. Unfailingly polite and extremely patient, Ibaka is a rarity in professional sports. While many players say that their fame and success hasn’t changed them, Ibaka shows it, answering question after question well after the allotted media time. Honest and introspective, he is completely aware of the situation he is in. Seizing his opportunities and working hard for more, Ibaka has found the correct balance between being thankful for where he is and still hungry for more. “I don’t care if I’m starting or not,” says Ibaka. “I will show my teammates and coaches I don’t care if I’m starting or not, I will still be the same Serge. I don’t know if the coach or my teammates will give me more importance right now because I’m starting, but for myself, I will make myself the same player with the same importance for the team as HOOP

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TM & © 2012 Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved. Copyright © 2012 NBA Media Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved.



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By Michael Bradley 53 What made John Havlicek one of the greatest players to ever play in the NBA was not his renowned motor, legendary defense or even the 26,395 points he scored. Hondo’s greatness lied in his willingness to play any role in order to win.

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Pick n Roles Before Boston faced Milwaukee in the seventh game of the 1974 NBA Finals, Celtics coach Tom Heinsohn had an odd request for John Havlicek, the team’s leader and one of the game’s all-time greats. Even though the veteran guard-forward had averaged 28.2 ppg over the previous six games and was the team’s catalyst, Heinsohn1 wanted to slow him down. “I want you to be a decoy,” the coach said. From the time Havlicek entered the

League in 1962, he had been willing to play a role. At first, he came off the bench. He was an offensive complement. He guarded any and everybody. But once Bill Russell, Sam Jones and the rest of the Boston legends from the ’50s and ’60s had retired, the Celtics had become his team. With a chance to win the franchise’s first championship in five years—and the first that would be under his leadership— Havlicek wasn’t so keen on the idea of being used as bait for the Bucks’ defense.

So, you can imagine his reaction to Heinsohn’s suggestion. “A decoy?!” Heinsohn’s reasoning had nothing to do with depriving Havlicek of his much-deserved opportunity to lead the Celtics back to the top. It was a bit of old-fashioned Boston big game tactical maneuvering. From the mid-’50s, when the team started dominating the League, its focus was always the victory and nothing else.2 Personal statistics didn’t

matter. Neither did individual glory. Winning a championship was everything. Period. By asking Havlicek to step to the background, Heinsohn was creating more room for center Dave Cowens to thrive against Milwaukee star pivot Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.3 Prior to the series, Heinsohn had concocted an “open-middle” offense that was designed to give the more mobile, 6-8-inch Cowens an edge against the 7-2 Abdul-Jabbar. To that point, it had HOOP

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during his 16-year NBA career and won eight NBA titles.4 He played with and against some of the all-time best and distinguished himself for his perpetual motion on the court and the competitive fire he lit every night. But it was the postseason that really defined him, because as a Celtic, that’s how you were to be identified. “They understood better than anybody in the game that it was about winning,” says Billy Cunningham, who squared off against Boston in the postseason four

times while with the Philadelphia 76ers. “That was their M.O. The regular season was important, but when the playoffs came, they stepped it up. They had a better grasp and understanding of that than other teams did.” Havlicek learned early on that it was all about the postseason. Before the 1963 playoffs began, Frank Ramsey, “The original sixth man,” according to Havlicek, crystallized his feelings in a succinct blackboard message that read, “You’re

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worked. Although Abdul-Jabbar was getting his points, he was also working hard to guard Cowens, who had been prospering off the dribble and by shooting jumpers away from the basket. With each ensuing game, Heinsohn added a new wrinkle to his attack. With one game to play, he was installing the final part. In Game 6, Havlicek had scored a game-high 36 points and taken 29 shots in a taut, double-overtime loss. It made sense that Milwaukee would key on him in the finale. “He said, ‘Trust me. We can go back to the way it was if we have to,’” Havlicek says of Heinsohn’s response to his protest. “He was always one step ahead of them.” Havlicek wasn’t exactly a wallflower in the deciding game; he did score 16 points. But Cowens had a game-high 28 points and led all players with 14 boards. Better still for the Celtics, Abdul-Jabbar endured a scoreless stretch that lasted a quarterand-a-half. And when it came time to put the game away, Havlicek and Cowens scored 10 of the points in an 11-0 run that secured Boston’s 12th NBA title. Havlicek’s willingness to subjugate himself to the team embodied the franchise’s ethos of winning over everything else. “[Boston forward] Paul Silas said he had never seen such intensity where he had played [Phoenix and the Hawks],” Havlicek says. “He adopted it. Nobody wanted to be the weak link.” Havlicek scored more than 26,000 points

messing with my money.” Back then, NBA players often secured summer jobs to supplement their salaries, which didn’t come close to today’s seven and eightfigure totals. If the Celtics won the title, they would earn close to $2,500 and might not have to work during the offseason. “The only thing that was significant to us was the W and the L,” Havlicek says. “We had veteran teams, and everybody had a role. We knew what we were supposed to do. [Coach Red Auerbach]5 said it wasn’t how many points you scored or how many rebounds you had but your value to the team. In the playoffs, everybody took their roles to a new level.” By the time Havlicek made it to Boston, the team was already comprised of veteran winners who had captured five championships. That success had taught them when to turn up the intensity. Havlicek tells a story of watching K.C. Jones struggle to defend a rival in one regular season game, succumbing to the same move again and again. Russell was not happy to see his teammate fail, and he asked Jones what was going on. “K.C. replied, ‘Russ, the score’s not close now. If the game gets close, I’ll take the move away,’” Havlicek says. Sure enough, the contest tightened, and the rival went to the strategy that had served him well earlier. “K.C. took it away,” Havlicek says. During Havlicek’s time in Boston, the Celtics had some epic struggles in the postseason, but their most famous series came against Philadelphia and Los Angeles. From 1963-69, the Celtics and Sixers squared off in the Eastern Conference playoffs four times, and


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Boston met the Lakers for the NBA crown on five occasions. Though the Celts won all but one of those nine series, none was ever easy. Playing Philadelphia was particularly tough, since the teams were so familiar with each other, due to as many as 12 regular season meetings. Throw in a few exhibition tilts, and there was plenty of opportunity for contempt to build. “Everybody waited for the Magic and Bird Show, but they only played two times a year,” Havlicek says. “People had a feast when [Boston and Philadelphia] played.” The familiarity between the teams led to some raucous behavior by their fans. Havlicek says he could always count on a torrent of “eggs, potatoes and batteries” when the Celtics visited Philadelphia’s Convention Hall, and when the projectiles ceased, the barrage of insults didn’t. One particularly strident heckler under the basket became particularly irritating to Boston point man Bob Cousy,6 who “solved” the problem by telling a teammate to stand aside when Cousy threw a fastball down the lane. The ball conked the fan in the head and quieted him—momentarily. “From then on, he wore hockey gear to the games,” Havlicek says, chuckling. The Celtics defeated the Sixers in a pair of tightly contested, seven-game Eastern Conference Finals, with the most famous coming in 1965. In the final game, with the

Celtics clinging to a 110-109 advantage at Boston Garden with 0:05 to play. Philadelphia guard Hal Greer was set to inbound the ball under the Sixer basket, hoping to trigger a play that would result in a last-shot victory. Instead, Havlicek, looking for the advantage in every situation, tipped the ball away from Sixer forward Chet Walker, preserving the victory. Many consider the play simply tremendous timing on Havlicek’s part, but it was born of his ability to gauge situations and react. He had first focused on Walker, whom he was guarding, and tried to view Greer on the periphery. But as it took longer for Greer to get the ball in—K.C. Jones was impeding his view of the court—Havlicek turned to look at Greer and saw the ball come into play. His resulting tip of the pass, and Johnny Most’s famous, “Havlicek stole the ball!” call, are part of NBA lore. “As the count got to four, I looked at Greer longer than I usually did, and that allowed me to see the ball and deflect it,” Havlicek says in his typical understated way. After years of watching the Sixers—and before that the Warriors—succumb to the Celtics in postseason play, Philadelphia fans finally gained redemption in 1967, when the Sixers overcame Boston in the Eastern finals in five games, the first time Havlicek had tasted playoff defeat.7 “That was huge,” Cunningham says. “The previous year, we had won the regular

season but lost in the playoffs to the Celtics. It was a wonderful learning experience. But after ’67, that team was dispersed.” The Celtics, meanwhile, had two more years of the Russell dynasty to enjoy. And both seasons brought championships earned at the expense of the Lakers. The ’68 Finals series featured a showdown between a pair of gunslingers in their high-scoring prime. Boston won in six, but L.A. star Jerry West averaged 31.3 ppg to lead all scorers. Havlicek scored 27.3 each time out and was on the court

for a remarkable 48.5 minutes per game, playing all but two of the possible minutes in the series. The remarkable durability (though Russell was even more impressive, missing only one minute of the six games) was a testament to Havlicek’s will to compete but also his versatility. Because he played both guard and forward with equal success, he was able to fit into any game situation. “Because he could play more than one position, he was more valuable,” West says. “He was not a traditional guard, HOOP

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Havlicek’s Martin’s Ferry, Ohio, birthplace. He admired West and respected his competitive fire. “You didn’t want to make him mad,” Havlicek says of West. “You just wanted to let him get his 30 or 35 points. If you got him mad, he might get 50. He was the ultimate competitor.” The 1969 Finals turned on a couple of key moments. The first game in the fourth game, in Boston. With seven seconds remaining, and the Lakers up one and threatening to take a 3-1 lead back to Los Angeles, the Celtics called a timeout, and Havlicek announced they would run the “Ohio” play, so named because it was first implemented when Havlicek was at Ohio State.8 This was an interesting call for several reasons. First, Russell, and not Havlicek, was the coach of the team. Second, the Celtics had never run

except that Russell had other plans. “Russell was so confident,” Havlicek says. “He said, ‘They can’t beat us. They don’t have a running team, and we do. We’re going to run them and run them and run them.’” Boston jumped out to a 24-12 lead on the strength of its fastbreak and led by three at the half. The Lakers started hitting shots in the third quarter and pulled even at 60, but Boston used an 11-0 run to build a 91-74 advantage. Although L.A. rallied, a clutch foul line jumper by Don Nelson clinched the triumph, quieted the band and left the balloons safely in the rafters. Havlicek had a team-high 26, along with nine boards and five assists. “That was the lowest ebb of my career as a professional,” says West, who finished with 42. “I felt we should have won it. As I look back on it, you hear that the best teams always win. Well, they didn’t there. It’s not sour grapes. They won, and they deserved to win.” Havlicek was delighted by the triumph, but he had empathy for his rival. “No one could have done any more for the Lakers in those [Finals] series than [West] did,” Havlicek says. After [the ’69 series], I told him, ‘You’re a great player, and I hope you get a championship—but not against us.”

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but he could play back there. I always felt his best position was small forward. Playing up front gave him an advantage, because he was super active. He could run down loose balls and get open against bigger opponents.” The ’68 series was exciting, but it had nothing on the encore in 1969. It would be the Celtics’ final hurrah, and with an aging Russell and Sam Jones on the verge of retirement, many believed the Lakers would finally subdue Boston. West sure appeared ready to make it happen, scoring 53 in the first game and 41 in game two, keying a pair of Laker victories. West would average 37.9 ppg for the series and become the only player ever on a losing team to be named MVP of the Finals. Havlicek had grown up rooting for West, who was a huge star at West Virginia University, which wasn’t too far from

the play and had only installed it before the playoffs, “when Russell was at a press conference,” according to Havlicek. Finally, since the play called for Sam Jones to run off a triple screen (the “Old Picket Fence” to you Hoosiers fans), take a pass and hit a jumper, there was a time consideration, too. Since Russell didn’t know the play, he wasn’t even in the lineup when the Celtics broke their huddle. It didn’t matter. Jones came around his teammates’ group pick caught the ball and let go a jumper that barely eluded Chamberlain’s outstretched arm. The ball hit the front of the rim, the back of the rim and fell through, tying the series. “That play was three-for-three,” Havlicek says. “It worked in college against Indiana when [Larry] Siegfried9 made the shot. It worked again in an NCAA regional. On that one, I inbounded the ball, and the opponent took away the screen, so they kicked it to me, and I shot it and made it.” The second moment came before Game 7, when Havlicek discovered a piece of paper that listed the events scheduled after the Lakers won the championships. Balloons were set to be released from the Forum ceiling. The USC band would play “Happy Days Are Here Again.” It was going to be a big party—


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BONUS POINTS 1. Tom Heinsohn played for Boston from 1956-65 and coached the team from 1969-78, winning two NBA titles and five division crowns. 2. The Celtics won 11 NBA titles from 1957-69. 3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won six titles with the Bucks and Lakers and remains the NBA’s all-time career scoring leader (38,387). 4. Only Bill Russell (11) and Sam Jones (10) won more titles than Havlicek did. 5. Red Auerbach built the Celtics from an also-ran into a dynasty and retired with 938 coaching wins. 6. Cousy played for the Celtics from 1950-63, won six titles and teamed with Bill Sharman for many years in one of the best backcourts of all time. 7. The 1966-67 Sixers went 68-13 and won the world title by defeating the San Francisco Warriors in six games. 8. Havlicek played at Ohio State from 1959-62 and was a member of the 1960 national title team. 9. Siegfried played with Havlicek at Ohio State and was a member of the Celtics from 1963-70. 10. The Knicks won the seventh game of the 1973 Eastern Conference finals, 94-78, and defeated the Lakers in five games in the Finals.

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11. McDonald averaged 5.6 ppg during the 1975-76 season and 3.4 ppg in the Finals against Phoenix.

The Celtics experienced a dry socket for the next few seasons, something alien to Havlicek, whose seven-year career to that point had included six titles. As Boston waned in the East, the Knicks rose, winning a pair of championships in the next four seasons and actually beating the Celtics in a pair of Eastern finals. The most impressive of those triumphs came in 1973, when New York won the seventh game on the road.10 “They had never lost a seventh game at Boston Garden,” Knicks all-time great guard Walt Frazier says. “We had played two nights before in New York and had a chance to clinch [the series], but

we didn’t. Nobody gave us a chance in Boston, but we won it.” The disappointment from that loss set the stage for Boston’s return to the top in ’74. Two years later, the Celtics did it again, defeating Phoenix in six games to take the title. Game 5 of that 1976 Finals series, in Boston, was one of the greatest games ever. It went three overtimes, featured a remarkable plot twist and some unlikely heroes. With one second left in the second extra period, Havlicek hit a runner that gave the Celtics a 111-110 advantage and what he thought was the victory. As the fans stormed the court, Havlicek retreated

to the Celtic locker room and pealed off his jersey. After many minutes of bedlam, referee Richie Powers decided there was one second left in the game and called the players to the court. Suns guard Paul Westphal came up with the brilliant idea of calling a timeout, even though Phoenix had none left. Boston was awarded—and converted—a foul shot, making it 112-110, but the Suns were then able to inbound from midcourt, rather than under their own basket. As the buzzer sounded, forward Gar Heard hit a turnaround 20-footer to force a third OT.

“We were comfortable with him taking the shot,” Havlicek says. “But he made it.” In the final five minutes, little-used Glen McDonald hit two shots that propelled the Celtics to a 128-126 victory.11 Two days later in Phoenix, they clinched their 13th championship—and Havlicek’s eighth. “You were at the heights of jubilation and the depths of despair so many times during that game,” Havlicek says of the triple-OT thriller. For the most part, Havlicek’s postseason experience was one of joy. No matter what his role was. HOOP

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Besides cramming stat sheets with their almost 70 points, 20 rebounds and 13 assists that they average as a trio, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh are also good at stuffing care packages for overseas troops as part of the Miami Heat’s Care Packages for Soldiers initiative.

The Mavericks celebrated their NBA championship with the requisite visit to the White House where Dirk Nowitzki presented the POTUS with a commemorative Mavs #23 jersey. President Barack Obama: “Well, you know, I was actually 23 before [Michael] Jordan.”

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Golden State made the holidays sunnier for some local Bay Area fans when the team, including Dominic McGuire (left) and Monta Ellis treated some families to some holiday shopping as part of the NBA Cares Home for the Holidays Program. steve yeater/nBae/Getty IMaGes


No one will compare their games with one another, but there are a lot of similarities between Tim Duncan and Larry Bird in their NBA accolades. Duncan: four-time NBA Champion, three-time Finals MVP, two-time MVP, nine-time All-NBA First Team, 13-time All-Star. Bird: three-time NBA Champion, two-time Finals MVP, three-time MVP, nine-time All-NBA First Team, 12-time All-Star. On January 11, Duncan passed Larry Legend on the all-time scoring list. Layne Murdoch/nBae/Getty IMaGes



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Work ShoeS Dedicated to the hard-working folks of Detroit, the Motown-based boutique Burn rubber collaborated with New Balance to produce the MT580 “Workforce” Pack. Paying homage to the blue and white collar workers of the city ravaged by the auto industry recession, Burn rubber explains: “These people are not workers to us. These people represent our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends. A couple of years ago when the auto industry went through its toughest time, our family and friends were affected heavily by the downturn. People lost jobs, insurance, houses and a way of life that they were used to. Needless to say this was a time for restructuring and new beginnings. After witnessing the resiliency of the community around us we decided to do this project to pay homage to them. This is our way of showing that we notice and appreciate what these men and women have done four our country.” hit up page 100 to see more.







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Kevin Love Dallas Mavericks Kevin Love is coming off his best season in the NBA where he put up a 30-30 game, recorded 53 straight double-doubles and earned his first All-Star bid. After an offseason where he was busy playing professional volleyball (on New York City’s Times Square, natch), doing a Funny or Die video and shedding pounds to prepare for an encore, Love has firmly established himself as the best boardman in the game. When not snatching caroms, Love turns to a varied selection of interests to bide his time.

Kevin’s Hobbies I live near the beach so I’ve been playing some volleyball lately. But I pride myself on being multifaceted. I want to be able to do everything. Obviously I want to perfect my sport and reach my full potential in basketball. But I’m the kind of guy who when someome says, “Hey let’s go do this,” I’ll say “Alright, come on, let’s do it.” I just like having a good time.


Kevin’s Movies I want to say so many movies but I have to say Gladiator. It’s either Gladiator or He Got Game. I used to watch that before every game of high school. That’s one movie that motivated me early on in my career and it’s still right up there as one of my favorite movies.

Kevin’s TV I’m really getting into Modern Family right now. I really love The Office even though it’s making a lot of changes. I just love dry humor. Anything that has dry humor and has that kind of sense of comedy in it I like.

Kevin’s Social Media I would have to say Twitter. I took a little hiatus from Twitter, but I’m back on it and I have close to 100,000 followers [Ed note: As of press time, Love had almost 150,000 followers]. I used to have 100,000 back in the day so I’m just trying to get my followers back up. It’s a fun way to relate with the fans. If you want to get in touch with me you can @kevinlove wherever you are in the whole world. It’s a fun way to interact with the fans and I think it’s the best way.

Kevin’s Music


IllustratIon: matt candela

I honestly listen to all types of music, coming from a musical background. I’ll listen to everything from hip-hop all the way down to some of the oldies my dad used to listen to. I’ll listen to anything. I’m not the type that listens to one genre. I’m more prone to listen to hip-hop because that’s what I’ve been around my whole life. My brother introduced that to me at an early age, so definitely Jay-Z would have to be one of my favorites because he transcends all races and all people. HOOP

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the goods

Bond 50: James Bond 50th Anniversary Bluray Collection No, it does not come with any Q-blessed gadgetry, beautiful women or even a Martini (shaken, not stirred, of course), but Bond 50 does include all 22 films spanning the six Bonds—Sean Connery (our fave), George Lazenby (least fave and remembered), Roger Moore (the most comedic), Timothy Dalton (forgettable), Pierce Brosnan (bland) and Daniel Craig (grittiest)—of the legendary franchise in pristine 1080p glory (nine of the them getting the Blu-ray treatment for the first time). Along with the films, the set will include over 130 hours of bonus features.

$199 (pre-order as of press time)

Incase Sonic Headphones have become more than utilitarian peripherals for delivering personal sound; they have become fashion accessories. Customized graphics, paint schemes, logos, and chromed-out parts are standard fare. Much like their line of luggage and accessories, Incase’s line of headphones go against the gaud with a clean design. The zen-like approach to the Sonic envelops your ears in two pillowy, suede memory foam earcups that deliver sound that’s neither too high or low in spectrum. The audio cables feature integrated mic and audio control and come in two flavors.


Where to Buy: Bond 50: James Bond 50th Anniversary Bluray Collection,; Mountainsmith Lariat 65,; Lensbaby Scout,; HTC Rezound,; Dyson Hot,; Sony PS Vita,; Incase Sonic,

Sony PS Vita We honestly thought that dedicated portable gaming devices would not have any traction due to the progressively improving hardware of the ubiquitous smartphone, but the PS Vita proves that while you can play a casual game like Angry Birds on your phone, you will need a powerful platform with gamers in mind for a deep game experience. The centerpiece to the PS Vita is the gorgeous 5-inch OLED display. Game interaction comes in a multitude of forms: the multi-touchscreen, rear touchpad, dual analog sticks, dual cameras and six-axis motion-sensing system. The Vita will come in a 3G/Wi-Fi version or a Wi-Fi only model with games coming in the form of Vita game cards or digitally via PlayStation Network. Our biggest gripe? No NBA or even basketball game upon its launch.

$249.99 (Wi-Fi) $299.99 (3G/Wi-Fi) 096


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Mountainsmith Lariat 65 The Lariat 65 backpack can stuff 4,275 cubic inches worth of necessities in its bowels and comfortably distribute the weight thanks to its X-Frame suspension system, compression-molded back panel with lumbar support and dual density shoulder straps and waist belt. The insides sport enough general and specialized compartments for any imaginable need and the outside has plenty of loops and mounts. The rugged construction and reinforced zippers give the pack durability and the detachable daypack provides versatility for short jaunts from the campsite.


Lensbaby Scout Give your SLR the ability to capture the world through an aquatic point of view. The Scout is a manual-focus fisheye optic with a focal length of 12mm, a 160-degree angle of view and focuses from 0.5 inches to infinity. Scout has a maximum aperture of f/4, but also has a removable disk aperture system that spans from f/5.6 to f/22 and is available for Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony Alpha A, Minolta Maxxum, Pantax K, Samsung GX and Olympus four-thirds.



HTC Rezound With smartphones helping many users shed the need to carry an additional portable music device, it was only natural that one would make audio its main focus. With Beats by Dre audio built in, the Rezound is BBD’s first foray into phone hardware. Boxed with BBD ear buds, the Rezound does pack a bigger bass punch (if you’re so inclined), but the other features—a crisp 720p display and 1080p camera with slow-motion replay (perfect for basketball clips and highlights, we should add)—in the Android-swathed phone make it a hit.

$199.99 (with two-year contract)

Dyson Hot Leave it to Dyson to reinvigorate humble appliances like the vacuum, the fan and now the space heater. Based on its fan-less Air Multiplier fan, the Hot doubles up as a heater with the addition of ceramic heating elements inside, warming up a small space (good for an average bedroom or office) quickly and smoothly. Sparse and simple controls (thermostat knob, fan control knob and oscillation button) appeal to the minimalist. Too bad the Hot doesn’t satisfy the energy conservationist (1500 watts at max power) or the frugalist (high sticker price).



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Where to Buy: Burn Rubber x New Balance MT580 “Workforce” Pack:; Casio G-Shock GW4000D-1A:; Converse Allover Plaid Full Zip Fleece Hoodie:; Converse Court 84 Re-Mix:; Jordan Air Jordan 2012:; New Balance M1300CL:; PF Flyers Center Hi S:

Converse Court 84 Re-Mix $65

Burn Rubber x New Balance MT580 “Workforce” Pack The “Workforce” Pack consists of two MT580s in the same grey upper wrapped in black suede with white trim. What sets each apart is the subtle hits of color and outsole. The “Blue Collar” (available now) sports the gum-like orange outsole, while the “White Collar” (available on March 1) has the transluscent outsole. Each comes with three lace options and dust bag.


PF Flyers Center Hi S This 1953 basketball classic last roamed courts when twohanded set shots and underhanded free throws were all the rage, but the strap closure and padded ankle are new additions.


Converse Allover Plaid Full Zip Fleece Hoodie $68



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Air Jordan 2012 Even after 26 releases, the lengendary line still continues to excite. The 2012 takes last year’s concept of interchangeability another step forward with three insole options—Fly Around (quick), Fly Over (jump) and Fly Through (power)—and two fit options—Lo (ankle freedom) and Hi (ankle support). The shoe itself is a mix of tech in the form of Flywire and traditional Jordan luxe (wingtip details, premium leather) to make it an admirable follow-up to last year’s underrated 2011 release. Connoisseurs will appreciate the shoe’s detailing and the attention to detail on the ridiculously large packaging (almost twice the size of a Countdown Pack) and at the same time, lament its pricetag that pays obviously pays homage to MJ himself.


Casio G-Shock GW4000D-1A G-Shock has perfected the art of timepieces that look every bit good as they are tough and the GW4000D-1A keeps the tradition in an analog package that features 200M water resistance, solar power battery, atomic timekeeping, alarm and stopwatch.


New Balance M1300CL New Balance’s Made in the USA premium series are made in five domestic factories in the Northeast. While shoe production in these factories aren’t measured in the millions (they each average a little less than 6,000 pairs made daily), they are crafted with pride while taking no short cuts in quality.

$140.00 HOOP

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Nike Sportswear Team Destroyer Jacket In time for March Madness, Nike Sportswear drops a collection of Destroyer Jackets for their elite college programs: Arizona, Connecticut, Duke (pictured), Florida, Kentucky, Michigan State and Syracuse (pictured). The jackets combine technical elements of the classic Destroyer jacket with a silky satin touch and traditional campus details like letterman embroidery and sleeve logo.

Thoughtfully and minimally designed, the Campus Pack has a padded faux-fur-lined compartent for up to a 15-inch notebook and a slip pocket for a tablet, all in a compact package that won’t leave you looking like Quasimodo.



Incase Campus Pack

adidas adiZero Rose 2.5 and adiPower 2 (All-Star editions) The starting point guard and center for the East All-Stars will be wearing the aidZero Rose 2.5 and adiPower 2, respectively in the midseason showcase. Derrick Rose’s adiZero Rose 2.5 will be based on lightweight quickness while Dwight Howard’s adiPower Howard 2 is all about explosive power.

adiZero Rose 2.5: $110 adiPower Howard 2: $100

adidas Originals Letterman Jacket $75 New Balance M576IV If a pair of New Balance shoes are made in the U.K., it can only be conceived in Flimby. The tiny village in the Borough of Allerdale in Cumbria, England is the lone factory in the coutry that produces NBs since 1982.




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Puma Tech Hooded Jacket $70

Jordan RCVR Slide We love our basketball kicks, but after a few good runs, there’s no better feeling than unlacing them and slipping into a good pair of slides. The SolarSoft foam on the RCVR Slide keeps things plush while the molded footbed and elastic-embedded upper keeps the foot in place.

$42 adidas Originals Campus $65

Where to Buy: adidas adiZero Rose 2.5 and adiPower Howard 2:; adidas Originals Campus, adidas Originals Letterman Jacket:; Converse by John Varvatos Star Player:; Incase Campus Pack:; Jordan RCVR Slide:; New Balance M576IV:; Nike Sportswear Team Destroyer Jacket: nikesportswear. com; Puma “Clyde” Script, Puma Tech Hooded Jacket:

Puma “Clyde” Script In New York City during the ’70s, the Clydes were the shoes to be rockin’ thanks to Knicks guard Walt Frazier for which they were named after. (some facts: The Clydes were the first signature basketball shoes and were originally released in 1973) The script is a slight variation of the original, but the suede in these new releases are definitely on point.


Converse by John Varvatos Star Player The best part about a great pair of Chucks is when they’re fully broken in. These JV Star Players take care of that with vintage details likes a pre-scuffed and aged toe cap and midsole for a bit of deconstructed luxe right out of the box.



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The Western Conference All-Stars wiped the floor with the East 153-113 during the 1992 All-Star Game at the Orlando Arena in Orlando. The attendance for the game was 14,272.

Johnson owns the record for most single-game assists in an All-Star Game with 22, a feat he accomplished during an OT loss to the East in 1984. His 127 career assists at the All-Star game are also most in NBA history.

After five championships, three Finals MVPs and three regular season MVPs with the Lakers, on November 7, 1991, Earvin “Magic” Johnson publically announced he tested positive for HIV and has officially retired from the NBA at age 32. Three months and two days later, Magic was voted in as a starter by the fans and came out of retirement to make his 12th All-Star appearance. He copped the game’s MVP honors (his second All-Star Game MVP) with 25 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 3PM in 29 minutes.

This was Jeff Hornacek’s best season and only All-Star appearance with the Suns as he led the team in scoring averaging 20 points, 5.1 assists and 5 rebounds.

A six-time All-Star and twotime champion, Dumars averaged 16.1 points and 4.5 assists during his time in the League. The 6-3 guard had 4 points and 3 assists in 17 minutes in the ’92 All-Star Game.

Orlando is the host for the All-Star 2012, in the new state-of-the-art Amway Center that opened in 2010. The ’92 game was the last time the city hosted All-Star.


The game’s leading vote-getter was Michael Jordan with 1,049,573. Magic received 658, 211, fourth most in the West.

Played at the “O-Rena,” the arena its doors in 1988 in preparation for the Magic’s inaugural season in ’89-90. It was also known as the TD Waterhouse Centre, The arena in Orlando and the Amway Arena until it was officially closed in 2010.

Brad Daugherty was the first overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The 7-foot Daugherty played eight years in the League, all with Cleveland, and was a five-time All-Star averaging 19.0 points and 9.5 boards before having his career cut short by chronic back issues at 28. He retired as Cleveland’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder and held both marks until 2008 when LeBron James cracked his point total and Zydrunas Ilgauskas bested his board work. His #43 is one of six jerseys retired by the Cavs.

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Hall of Famer Joe Dumars spent his entire 14-year career with the Pistons and is Detroit’s franchise leader in games played with 1018. The 18th overall selection in 1985, Dumars is one of only five NBA players to come out of McNeese State University.

Mark Price was taken in the second round of the ’86 draft and spent nine years with the Cavs, making the AllStar team four times. The sharpshooter is the NBA’s all-time leader in career free-throw percentage with .904 and was a two-time NBA Three-Point Shootout champion in ’93 and ’94.

This was Dennis Rodman’s second and final appearance in the All-Star Game. In typical Rodman fashion, he grabbed 14 boards while scoring 4 points in the game.

Reggie Lewis finished ’92 with 20.8 points per game en route to his only All-Star appearance. He played six seasons with the Celtics averaging 17.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists before having his career cut short at age 27. In honor, the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center opened in Roxbury, Massachusetts to host the Boston Indoor Games and serve as the home court for Roxbury Community College basketball games and track and field events for Northeastern.



February 9, 1992: NBA ALL-STAR GAME Orlando Arena, Orlando, FL5


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HOOP March/April 2012  

The A-Z of the NBA Chris Paul and Blake Griffin To Live and Flly in L.A.