Monday, December 31, 2012

A Tale of Two: DeMarcus Cousins and Royce White

DeMarcus Cousins has decisions to make. (

Sacramento is in flames. It used to be easy to key in on the reasons behind the fire, but a new barrel of gasoline seems to be added with every game that the Kings play. Not literally, of course, but its also not tough to imagine a pile of Kings gear going up in smoke at the hands of a fanbase in the throws of near perpetual discord.

In 2006-07, the franchise finished just outside the top half of the NBA in regular attendance, ending the season at 16th out of 30. No one wanted to see a team that, with more and more regularity, became ineffective in their lone goal of winning basketball games. Attendance dropped and the Kings lost a net of nearly 130,000 live viewers at their home court the next year, finishing 11 slots lower in season attendance than in the year prior.

Another season, another drop, this time to 29th due to a loss of around 60,000 spectators, some of whom returned during Tyreke Evans' stellar debut season just in time to see the young guard earn Rookie of the Year honors. On the scale, though, the Kings remained at 29th in attendance until last season, when they managed to finish one spot higher.

The Kings ownership maligned by now from wishy-washy commitment to retain the Kings and to keep the franchise in northern California — noticed the numbers and, without saying as much, seemed to go into complete "Sell! Sell! Sell!" stock market mode. Evans was nagged by injuries and his front court partner, 2010 draft pick DeMarcus Cousins, was a near constant headache away from the court and a temperamental talent on the hardwood.

The Kings are sitting at 21st in attendance for this season, but, unfortunately for the fan base, the struggles faced by this squad — and the trouble created by its members — have not undergone such positive changes.


By comparison, the Houston Rockets have been an almost pristine franchise. With Yao Ming altering both the way his opponents played and the basketball world at large, the Rockets made multiple playoff appearances in the mid-2000s. Even with Ming often sidelined by injuries, players like Shane Battier, Tracy McGrady and Luis Scola made the team respectable. Other times, production came from surprising sources like Aaron Brooks or Goran Dragic.

Those names can no longer be found on the Rockets' roster, though. Management either let walk or traded (amnestied, in Scola's case) players with the hope of making a push for a major free agent that never came along. Houston never made that particular addition, but they did come away with Jeremy Lin (thanks to a back-loaded contract offer) and James Harden.

Those two, primarily the Bearded One, have a previously unheralded Rockets team in the top half of a very competitive Western Conference, and could make a playoff push if the remainder of the season plays out the right way.

Make no mistake: the right way is not the ideal way. The right way is winning games with the current roster, continuing to gel and utilizing these pieces to create a larger sum. The ideal way would have Lin and Harden creating while also being able to space the floor for the first-round draft pick that was supposed to terrorize big men with an offensive acumen far more polished than what most rookies bring into the Association.

More than one-quarter of the way into the season, the Rockets have had to rely on doing things the right way.


There were questions about Cousins in the lead-up to the 2010 draft. He had been hugely important to Kentucky's success in his only season of collegiate hoops — if John Wall was reason No. 1 for the Wildcats' accomplishments, Cousins was No. 1b but his commitment to finishing every play, keeping his attention on the game when he was not directly involved in a play, and his focus on staying in proper shape to play on the highest level of professional basketball all contributed to Cousins sliding down draft boards. Though he only had to wait until the Kings-held fifth overall pick, Cousins was snubbed by the New Jersey Nets, who opted to go with the known quantity of Derrick Favors with the No. 2 pick rather than take what they perceived as a gamble.

Favors is now developing as a member of the Utah Jazz's monstrous front court after being acquired in the Nets' trade for point guard Deron Williams. It could have been Cousins jumping from the East Coast to the mountainous West, but the entirety of the his career has been spent in Sacramento, and it has not been the easiest two-plus years, to say the least. Here's the laundry list of Cousins' infractions from this season alone: getting suspended for confronting an announcer "in a hostile manner"; claiming to have lost any semblance of confidence; getting suspended for punching O.J. Mayo in *ahem* a sensitive area; getting suspended indefinitely for having a verbal argument with Kings head coach Keith Smart; being reinstated after one game and having Smart decide to leave him home rather than include Cousins in a road game in Portland; storming out of an interview; and recording his first career triple-double in a 118-96 fileting of the Boston Celtics.

Of the items on that list, only one is positive. The 12-10-10 line against the Celtics is a holdover from last season, when Cousins put up star-like numbers with averages of 18.1 points, 11 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. The difference between his outstanding performance from 2011-12 and his big night against Boston is that, while passing through the Celtics' defense, Cousins looked disaffected; disinterested in actually moving the ball, as if his interest was wholly invested in an individual stat line rather than teamwork.

This outburst was preceded, naturally, by unnamed sources (likely Cousins' own camp) saying that Cousins is interested in being traded to the Washington Wizards. Trade rumors are nothing new when it comes to the Sacramento big man, with common thinking working along the get-rid-of-a-problem-while-you-can-get-a-high-return lines. Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Orlando, and of all teams Houston are other cities that sources (again, probably Cousins' agent) have cited as having interest in the problematic (for his own team and others) player capable of filling productive minutes at the power forward and center positions.


White (Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty Images)
Royce White hasn't played a single meaningful minute in the NBA. His time in the summer league begat averages of 8.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. White's numbers dipped in four preseason games on a combined 27.3 percent shooting, and it is likely his numbers would have been inconsistent in any regular season action.

Who knows, though? The Rockets recently assigned White to the D-League, a motion the forward rebuffed by refusing to report to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Accepting a role in the D-League would have allowed White to play at Vipers home games and possibly even travel to road games on bus, given the smaller circumference he would have to navigate due to the farm system's less hectic schedule. This is similar to what White wanted when, before the season began, he asked the Rockets to work with him and make concessions to accommodate his obsessive compulsive and anxiety disorders.

A flat-out "no" was probably not the best answer for either party involved in this situation, even as White wages an ongoing not-quite-war on Twitter in the name of those who suffer from the same disorders as himself. As SBNation's Tom Ziller wrote

"This is where I think White is missing the point on purpose. The Rockets want Royce White to play basketball. Royce White wants to play basketball. But he wants to play only on his terms. As it turns out, playing on his terms appears to be an increasingly difficult target. It doesn't appear that the Rockets can meet that target. C'est la vie. The dream's over. White is not going to stick in the NBA."

Anyone who tracked White's college career — or even did a bit of research before the Rockets selected him with the 16th overall pick of the 2012 draft — knows that he had a bit of trouble as an undergraduate. Incidents of alleged theft, assault and trespassing led White to announce his departure from Minnesota and an eventual transfer to Iowa State, after a panic attack caused White to miss a flight that would have landed him in Kentucky, signing with John Calipari — the man responsible for signing some of the best high school recruits year in and year out; the man who reigned in Cousins for one season before making him one of five teammates taken in the first round of the NBA's 2010 draft.

The Midwestern surroundings did wonders for White, who was one of several transfers on the Cyclones' 2011-12 iteration. So high were expectations that White was selected as the Big 12's Preseason Newcomer of the Year, one of a bevy of accolades he would win before declaring for the NBA draft while his name was hot.



It may be ironic that the last game of White's college career came against the team he could have been a part of, the team with a head coach so enamored in White's talent that he was willing to forgo the constraints of a system so reliant on freshman that he regularly has to reload it with the next crop of one-and-dones just to have a starting five that he deems fit.

Kentucky won the NCAA National Championship while held a-high by the lanky arms of Anthony Davis, now with the New Orleans Hornets. That group lost just two games last season, steeped in the noises of Assembly Hall as the Indiana Hoosiers exclaimed their return to national relevance by stealing away a one-point victory against and falling to the Vanderbilt Commodores, one of college basketball's most consistently inconsistent programs, in the SEC championship game.

White would have added an extra dimension to that already dangerous group. His versatile scoring could have placed an undefeated record in the annuls along with a national championship celebration strewn with nylon nets fraying from so much nervous handling while waiting to be announced as the best in the land.

That's the kind of machine that White was in college, and that was the powerhouse that the Rockets thought they drafted in June. That is who they drafted, undeniably, but since White held himself out of training camp because of a disagreement with the team over means of travel. The issues have snowballed since that seemingly innocent act of self-preservation, and White's reintegration into the Rockets organization — and the NBA at large — seem less likely with each passing day.

Instead, the Rockets are relying on SEC products and former rivals Chandler Parsons and Patrick Patterson to handle starting forward duties. While Parsons is a long-range shooter and is making much more progress as a professional this year than he did last year, Patterson has traded rebounding for scoring this season, averaging four more points per 36 minutes than he did last season but grabbing 5.8 rebounds per 36 as compared to 6.9 during his sophomore year, and 8.3 as a rookie.

Whether White would improve on any of Patterson's numbers is unknown, just as it is unknown what kind of package Houston could assemble if they were to make a move for Cousins. To lay the truth bare, though, neither White nor Cousins will play for the Rockets this season, and Cousins could very well see himself out of Sacramento by the All-Star break, especially with the Kings beginning to see small amounts of success (winning seven of their last eight at home; being 5-0 at home with crowds over 15,000 this season; Jimmer Fredette entering the beginning stages of becoming JIMMER FREDETTE by being No. 16 in the league in True Shooting percentage and owning a Win Share per 48 Minutes of .154, well above the league average .100).

White and Cousins are two players on similar career trajectories, but their hang-ups have occurred at different times. Whereas Cousins has produced tangible results and shown his worth making him appealing for suitors ready to exercise their patience in order to perform alchemy and turn the 22-year-old into solid gold — White has done nothing of the sort, not on a stage that matters to NBA executives weighing the merits of a player who has already been drafted.

It is possible that these two could have shared a piece of the Kentucky pedigree. The possibility also remains that the they could be traded for one another, although that is a long shot, especially if the Kings decide to rid their organization of Cousins' drama and the Rockets' easiest option is to buyout White's relatively small contract to effectively end any chance White has of a career in the NBA.

The only certainty is that neither Cousins nor White will be able to fully capitalize on their respective abilities until they are willing to meet their teammates, coaches and, yes, their bosses at a middle point at which both parties can happily accept a compromise. Theirs are two separate stories with one overarching theme: that of the talented but troubled; that of those who can either enrich or deprive those around them. Make no mistake that the time is coming that White and Cousins will have to make just that decision, and that both the Kings and Rockets will be willing to go on with or without them.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Avery Johnson and the Brooklyn Brand

Avery Johnson didn't meet Brooklyn's standards. (

At 14-14, things were not exactly dire for the Brooklyn Nets. A .500 record is the very definition of "middling," and that is much, much better than the Nets have been in recent seasons. But with two verified All-Stars like point guard Deron Williams and shooting guard Joe Johnson, an average record is not acceptable — not when Brooklyn envisioned competing for the NBA title by systematically acquiring Williams then Gerald Wallace, fighting off temptations to sell high on young talent like MarShon Brooks and Brook Lopez, and buying Johnson's enormous contract over the summer. Someone had to go, and coach Avery Johnson's is the head that fell.

With so much talent, the argument goes, why wouldn't this roster win? Even Jerry Stackhouse and Andray Blatche — a 38-year-old journeyman and a career Knucklehead — have made positive contributions to the Nets' cause this season, and yet Johnson could not manage to put together a winning record after 28 games.

Go 24-58 in 2010-11? Travis Outlaw started 55 of those games and the front office was fully committed to making a deal for Carmelo Anthony to improve the front court. Anthony wound up across the Hudson River, but still determined to fly their flag on a high-caliber player, the Nets imported Williams to build around and bought Johnson some more time.

Pump the brakes on Johnson winning just one-third of the contests he coached in 2011-12. The lockout threw off everyone's game and Williams still was not fully acclimated with the system after appearing in 12 games as a Net before the lockout.

But with a roster containing talent both proven and rising, some pundits projected the Nets as a top-four team in the Eastern Conference, if not in the entire NBA this season. Johnson's firing was not due to a case of small sample size, a trend that is becoming more of a commonality in American professional sports.

The truth is, losing in New Jersey was okay. The franchise's last appearance in the playoffs was in 2006-07, and their Finals appearances were even further away in the rear-view mirror. Johnson immediately improved on the record of the final season of his predecessor, Lawrence Frank. Even though his team technically failed to improve on their season record during the lockout-shortened campaign, Johnson's winning percentage increased from .293 to .333.

A sub-.500 winning rate was fine, as long as there was progress. That was in New Jersey. Things work differently in Brooklyn.

The Nets' path to 14-14 this season was not smooth. Losses never came alone, but occurred two, three, five at a time. Williams became vocal about not liking the offense he was in charge of running, even going as far as to say he preferred the system Jerry Sloan championed with his former team, the Utah Jazz, before tension between the coach and the pointman ended with Sloan leaving NBA coaching ranks. Brooks, who looked so promising as a rookie, was confined to the end of the bench, averaging 11.2 minutes per game before being loosed by new head coach P.J. Carlesimo last night in a win over the Charlotte Bobcats. Nearly 20 minutes of playing time bumped Brooks' per-game average to 11.6, which still pales to the 29.4 minutes he logged routinely last season before falling out of Johnson's graces.

That is not the way to re-brand a franchise. The move to Brooklyn, the roster reconfiguration, Jay-Z's increasingly public ownership role, the concerts to inaugurate Barclays Center as a haven of new life in a borough devoid of professional sports since the Dodgers found a baseball home on the opposite coast — all is for naught if the product is less than top-quality. That's why names like Phil Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy are being bandied about now. Fans and management both have faith in those former coaches, and even Johnson's flight to the Finals with the Dallas Mavericks in 2006 cannot compare to faith.

For all of the build-up to New York having a second NBA team, to Manhattan no longer having the roundball monopoly, Johnson's gradual improvement of the Nets did not coincide with the expectations that skyrocketed after the franchise finally relocated.

In New Jersey, Johnson had the people's faith, but things are more dire in Brooklyn.

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A Conversation with Jordan Crawford

After scoring 27 points off the bench in the Washington Wizards' 105-97 win over the Orlando Magic, Jordan Crawford had few words for reporters. Attempting to find the basest meaning of success in the game of basketball, I made up what I think would be an accurate discussion with Crawford transcribed this audio clip from last night's post-game locker room chat.

There is one particular thing Jordan Crawford is not doing in this photograph. (

Journalist: What was the key to tonight's game?

Crawford: Making shots.

Journalist: How can tonight's success at home be translated into wins on the road?

Crawford: Making shots.

Journalist: With a record like 4-23, it must be tough to look at one game at a time. Does Coach Wittman have you focused on a season-long goal?

Crawford: Making shots.

Journalist: Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III wasn't in the crowd tonight, but fans still did the "R-G-3" chant.

Crawford: Making shots.

Journalist: Um, yeah, what I was going to --

Crawford: Making shots.

Journalist: Ok. Sure. There aren't many chances to celebrate a Wizards win. What are you going to do tonight?

Crawford: My plan is to go home and allow my body to recover from the stresses of an 82-game season by surreptitiously applying ice and heat to any ailing joints, then get a full night's rest because there is more work to do in the morning. I know some other fellows would go out and enjoy the night life after a win, particularly in the context of having only four victories in 27 games, but I choose not to subscribe to such idiosyncrasies.

Journalist: Thanks, Jordan. I'll see you tomorrow in Chicago.

Crawford: Making shots!

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday Roundtable: What Team Will Remain Undefeated The Longest?

Will Michigan remain undefeated longer than Duke and Arizona? (
BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among three of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.

This week's question: What college basketball team will remain undefeated the longest Duke, Michigan or Arizona?

Kyle Davis: 
Even though Arizona has the easiest schedule of the three, I think Duke will remain undefeated the longest. If they can survive an always-scrappy Davidson team on Jan. 2, the next most probable defeats would come at No. 23 NC State on Jan. 12 and then Maryland on Jan. 26. The Blue Devils have already proven themselves by beating three top-5 teams this season, so they have clearly been tested. While they probably won't make it out of conference play undefeated, it won't be the in the next four games.

Michigan is about to begin a brutal Big Ten schedule that kicks off with Northwestern and then finds the Wolverines facing No. 10 Ohio State, No. 11 Minnesota and No. 12 Illinois all on the road in a four-game span starting Jan. 13. It just doesn't seem likely Michigan can survive that brutal of a stretch without getting banged up and suffering a loss.

Arizona has the easiest schedule with no teams currently ranked in the top 25 ahead, but I still think they'll slip up somewhere. Both wins against ranked teams have been by one point, and probably games they should have lost. Colorado is a talented squad that could give the Wildcats a run for their money on Jan. 3 and Oregon and Oregon State on Jan. 10 and 12 will be tough tests.

Alex Skov:
There are blue blood programs, there are perennial second-tier squads, and there are wildcards in college basketball. Come March, the scales of competition always balance themselves. The odds that Arizona makes it to the second weekend of play are good, barring a meltdown, but even coming into the season ranked 12th in the AP poll and 11th in the coaches poll, the Wildcats are a surprising team to be undefeated at this point. They scraped by against their only two ranked opponents in one-point victories at home, and one of those ranked teams — Florida — recently fell to a Kansas State team that Michigan downed by 14 with a second-half clinic. The Pac-12 is not a basketball powerhouse, but teams like Colorado, Oregon and Oregon State won't leave Arizona's schedule without a pockmark. I would put money on CU wrecking Arizona's 2013 early.

Michigan's situation is a study of contrasts (the program had a stacked roster last season, and the shock of losing an upset to Ohio in the first round of the NCAA tourney would theoretically make them more mature and capable this year) and similarities (the Big Ten offers too many capable opponents in too quick of a succession for Michigan to survive January without a loss) when juxtaposed with Arizona's schedule. That leaves Duke. A Davidson team that beat eventual No. 2 Kansas in Lawrence last season will be no pushover, but Mike Krzyzewski will have the Blue Devils well prepared to win that contest and a road game against questionably powerful but ranked NC State. Duke has already trodden a tough road and face the fewest potential bumps, respectively. The question may not be how long will they be undefeated, but how much regular season prosperity the Blue Devils can translate into the language of postseason play.

Shawn Deegan:

I’m usually uncertain about how to answer questions like this one and this time is no exception. There are so many variables; strength of schedule, talent, playing style and coaching all come into play. If I have to pick one team, though, I’m going with the Duke Blue Devils. First of all, the Blue Devils have few true challenges left on their schedule. The ACC is still a solid conference, but normal powerhouse program North Carolina isn’t what it’s been in the past, leaving Duke as the top dog by a wide margin. There is currently only one ranked team left on Duke’s schedule in NC State, and I don’t see the Wolfpack giving Duke problems if the likes of Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State couldn’t. I just don’t see Michigan, as good as it is, continuing this run in the dominant Big 10. There are just too many landmines in that conference to think Michigan’s run will last as we approach league play. The Pac-12 has some solid teams but, again, not the marquee school to rival Arizona. So the Wildcats have a chance to make me look like a fool. However, I think Duke has better talent than the Wildcats and more options to go to in the event of an off night by one of its studs. The final factor is, of course, coach Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K is, in my humble opinion, arguably the greatest coach in basketball. His ability to get marquee talent to play together and excel as a unit is unparalleled and he can x-an-o it with the best of them. With Krzyzewski at the helm, I think the Blue Devils have the option to keep them up and motivated in order to continue their undefeated streak through the ACC. I love what each of these teams are doing this year, but in the end, I think Duke’s got the best chance to keep this undefeated streak going.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

How Seriously Should We Take Arizona?

Arizona is 12-0, but are the Wildcats an elite team? (

Sean Miller's Arizona team is 12-0, ranked No. 3 in the country and is off to the school's best start since the late 1980s (1987-88).

Arizona was projected to win the Pac 12, but not many expected this team to start off this well, and some are still questioning if this is an elite team. The pickup of Xavier transfer Mark Lyons is clearly paying off, as he is averaging a team-high 13.4 points and 3.2 assists per game. Senior Solomon Hill has also been playing great, averaging 12 points, five rebounds and three assists per game.

But both Arizona's games against top-25 opponents have been one-point wins against Florida and San Diego State, neither on the road and both could have very easily been losses. Florida was up by six with 56 seconds left and it took an incredible collapse for the Wildcats to sneak out a win. Against San Diego State, it was a last-second defensive stop with a block that kept SDSU from taking the lead and possibly winning.

Arizona deserves the No. 3 ranking because they did enough to win those games and stay undefeated. But are they ready to be called elite? Not quite yet. Outside of those two one-point wins, none of the teams Arizona has played so far will be expected at the party in March. They survived the Florida game in part to the crowd energy and home-court advantage that the Wildcats won't have in March.

Part of the issue with Arizona not getting the same love given to other top five teams is geographical. With games that start late in most of the country, everyday fans haven't had the opportunity to see the Wildcats play on a regular basis, and when they have, it's games like against Florida when they probably should have lost.

Another could be that while Lyons has played well for the Wildcats, he's not a household name. Arizona doesn't have a Mason Plumlee, Trey Burke or Cody Zeller to grab headlines. This helps make what the Wildcats have done more impressive, but it also makes them less marketable to everyday fans.

This could all change in the next month when Arizona's conference schedule starts out with some big (for Pac 12 standards) challenges. Colorado is talented enough to keep with the Wildcats on Jan. 3, and if Arizona wins, two-loss Oregon and Oregon State will be waiting back-to-back on Jan. 10 and 12. The Wildcats are the only Pac 12 team ranked in the top 25, so beating up on a weak conference won't do a lot to help their case, but a couple of early losses will do much more to discredit what Arizona has accomplished so far.

Perceptions change from December to March, and maybe Sean Miller's club has what it takes to make a run at a national title, but it's going to take more from the Wildcats to win the respect of the country.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ranking the NBA's Christmas 2012 Uniforms

Danilo Gallinari overpowers Blake Griffin in fashion, but perhaps not in basketball. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

The NBA's Christmas Day schedule is not the pinnacle of its season that would be the Finals and the mounting tension leading up to that series during the playoffs but there are always interesting match-ups with storylines to warrant being put on the slate for one the league's biggest calendar days. Three of this year's five games were won by double-digits and the remaining two were decided in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. Whether they were blowing out their opponents, gritting their teeth until the last buzzer or just hoping for some kind of lenience, though, each player that took to the court yesterday donned uniforms exclusive to the occasion. All-[insert single color]-everything was the common thread for each kit in the aptly named "BIG Color" theme, but some fared better than others in the mindful eyes of sartorialists. It may be important to note that the clothes I'm currently wearing hue more toward Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' tendencies than, say, GQ intern Rajon Rondo's preferences. That still puts me within high-five distance of Russell Westbrook, though, so don't be scared away from these rankings of this year's Christmas uniforms, and feel free to point out any oversights in the comments.

"Someone's running away with my hat!" (Reuters)
1. Los Angeles Lakers
By virtue of every team wearing white jerseys in 41 games each year, it would be easy to assume that the Lakers' (lack of) BIG Color uniforms were boring. Not so. By removing the yellow accents and going with purple outlines of numbers, the Lakeshow achieved a minimalist look that was cleaner than their standard home jerseys. The purple's contrast on the pure white background also gave the LA logo on the shorts a phantom appearance. Due to the Winter season, the uniforms could be reminiscent of snow, but they certainly looked better than Kobe Bryant's first foray into a white-out wardrobe.

2. Denver Nuggets
Denver's throwback jerseys are still their best look, but the Nuggets' yuletide navies were a pleasant departure from both the old school style and the normal soft blues. Of the day's new uniforms, this was by far the most plain. Dark color? Check. Light color outlining names and numbers? Yep. The name of the franchise even goes straight across the front of the jersey; there's no visible curve to it. The miner's patch is still present on the back, and it is the flashiest thing about a subdued uni. Miner' collar... There are really too many bad lines that can be dropped about the navy and golds.

Top-five uniforms, top-five facial expressions. (
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
The numbers are barely-legible on a television screen, but trust that there is still orange surrounding the just-a-shade darker blue of the numbers. The word on the back of the shorts is unnecessary, but clothing manufacturers have to cut loose every once in a while. (There it is. The awful pun that opens your door to leave these rankings, if you so choose.)


These are less busy than the usual orange-and-black piped uniforms that typically color the Thunder's lockers. Enter: v-neck, life of the party, and, in this case, a fixture that bridges the gap between the everyday Thunder unis and the Christmas Day attire. Also, the three white sleeves Westbrook sported may not have been a perfect match to the color scheme, but they popped against the light blue.

4. Miami Heat
Dark red. Get it? Because fire is sometimes red and almost always hot? Being able to read the names and recognize the numbers on Miami's jerseys is the near-certain reason the Heat claimed a three-point victory against the slightly better-dressed Thunder.

5. Brooklyn Nets
It's tough to mess up a combination of black and white, but the Nets' standard jerseys look more like a miner's outfit than the Nuggets'. (That of a coal miner rather than a gold miner, of course.) That said, the black-on-black approach is stark, with white outlining, and the blotted-out logo on the shorts looks more like a shield worthy of the Brooklyn Knight than the — what is it? A crest? A basketball piloting an Asteroid ship?

Gerald Wallace isn't a fan of KG's uniform. (Getty)
6. Boston Celtics
Let's be clear: the green-with-white-piping jersey is the only one the C's should ever don outside of the home jersey that flips that color scheme. The green, green and more green take on Boston's uniforms is still preferable to the black-accented kits, if only by a slim margin. The outlined numbers look bulky, especially considering the single-color wording typical in Boston. Such is life in the bottom half of a list that ranks uniforms.

7. Los Angeles Clippers
Too much red and not enough blue, plus the cursive script makes it look like Blake Griffin's mom had too many leftover felt iron-ons and went to town on some sleeveless shirts.

8. New York Knicks
If you didn't wince at Carmelo Anthony's orange jersey-orange shorts-double orange shooting sleeves-orange headband-orange socks get-up, congratulations. You probably watched the Knicks/Lakers contest longer than my 11-year-old brother.

These uniforms are simply too bright. The New York logo looks kind of cool with the knocked-out treatment, but little else does, especially the way 'Melo rocked it.

"Blast off! lol" - Jeremy Lin (David Banks/Getty Images)
9. Houston Rockets
Bland, although the majorly gray unis are a perfect fit, conceptually. The font across the front of the jersey longs to look futuristic, implying space travel and discovery of the unknown, while the top-to-bottom gray hearkens back to the way rockets were portrayed in early science-fiction movies. It works, in a mixed up kind of way. Kudos to the designers for changing the lining at the jersey's edges to darker lines to add texture. Overall, though, these look boring and no amount of prettying them up with theories of throwback references can fix that.

10. Chicago Bulls
Um, these look like the jersey I wear to rec league. Same Sharpie magic, different angles.

(Alex Skov, Professional Photographer)

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Kevin Durant's Niceness Is Becoming Marketing Gold

Durant's marketing ability is through the roof, including recently starred in a kid's movie. (

Kevin Durant seems to have this superstar thing all figured out.

We first mentioned this last summer, acknowledging how Durant humbly stayed with the small-market club and showed all the qualities of a different (and better) type of star.

Durant didn't complain about not playing in a huge city (cough, cough, Dwight) and he doesn't mind his teammates taking shots (are you listening, Kobe?). He seems to never get angry at the media and handles himself with class.

Durant's approach doesn't seem to be hurting his marketing ability at all. Nike has launched a "KD is not nice" campaign that plays off the fact Durant is one of the most likeable faces in the NBA. It's a smart concept, because his track record makes it easy to tell the slogan isn't serious, while it plays on the fact that what KD does on the court, and how good he is, isn't nice for opponents. He'll shake your hand, but after he drains the game-winning three.

 Durant also starred in a recently released kids movie called "Thunderstruck." I'm sure the movie went straight to DVD and don't think it broke any box-office records, but regardless, Durant is the one staring in the movie, not LeBron or Kobe.

By being the humble, quiet and yes, nice, star, Durant has separated himself from the pack and created a new way to market himself. What makes it even more likeable? It's because this humble persona is genuine. It has to be or else this wouldn't work. That's why Dwight and Kobe haven't had Nike pitch this to them.

It's much more difficult to be an athlete in the social media and Internet era, where every aspect of an athlete's life is revealed. One wrong step (or decision, if you will) can change the way a player is viewed (just ask LeBron how his decision went). Yet no one seems to have a negative thing to say about Durant. He still has a long career left where adversity could get to him, but it just doesn't seem like he will snap and be hated. 

If Durant doesn't have that misstep, and if this "KD is not nice" campaign takes off like it has started, the humble superstar will continue to grab the hearts of NBA fans across the country. The only time fans will be able to hate him is when he beats their team with great performances, and that's the kind of hate Durant can probably live with. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

You're A Mean One, Mr. Stern

You're going to get fined for wearing that during a game, 'Melo. (
The holidays are here and will soon be over. You're surely rifling through seasonal foods, wrapping paper and scotch tape in anticipation of the festivities. Before feasting on tomorrow's NBA treats, make sure you find a way to get all of these fake songs that I made up this afternoon very existent, oddly franchise-specific songs downloaded so your ears are not deprived of basket-hoop background music during your late December:

Atlanta Hawks: "O Christmas [Jeff] Teague"
Boston Celtics: "Santa Claus Is Bringing Rondo's Headband Back To Town"
Brooklyn Nets: "Hark! The Gerald Wallaces Sing"
Charlotte Bobcats: "We Three Kings (Kemba + Michael + The Blazers' 2013 First-Round Draft Pick)"
Chicago Bulls: "The First Noël Without Derrick Rose"
Cleveland Cavaliers: "Even Santa Claus Gets The Blues When Kyrie Doesn't Play"
Dallas Mavericks: "O Mark Cubino (One Cold and Skip Bayless-ed Winter)"
Denver Nuggets: "Go Tell JaVale About Consistency In The Mountains"
Detroit Pistons: "The Twelve Austin Dayes Of Christmas"
Golden State Warriors: "Feliz NaviDID YOU SEE THAT HARRISON BARNES DUNK?!??!?"

Houston Rockets: "His Beard Had Bells On Christmas Day"
Indiana Pacers: "(Gerald Green Jumped) Up On The House Top"
Los Angeles Clippers: "God Rest Ye Merry, Grant Hill"
Los Angeles Lakers: "All I Want For Christmas Is Synergy"
Memphis Grizzlies: "Rudolph Gay, Our Red-Hot Scorer"
Miami Heat: "Boogie Woogie Santa Juwan"

Milwaukee Bucks: "I Want An Efficient Back Court For Christmas"
Minnesota Timberwolves: "Baby, It's Cold Outside (The Three Point Line)"
New Orleans Hornets:"Grown-Up Christmas List (Doesn't Include Comics, Robin Lopez)"
New York Knicks: "(Half Our Team's As Old As) Auld Lang Syne"
Oklahoma City Thunder: [Redacted in case Kevin Durant really isn't nice, as marketing strategies now suggest]
Orlando Magic: "Santa Big Baby"
Philadelphia 76ers: "Christmas In Hollis" (as performed by Royal Ivey)
Phoenix Suns: "Do You Hear What I Hear When Michael Beasley Says He Wants To Be MVP?"
Portland Trail Blazers: "Children, Go Where I Send Thee (J.J. Hickson Might Shoot Another Three)"
Sacramento Kings: "Happy XMas (DeMarcus' Suspension Is Over)"
San Antonio Spurs: "Carol Of @DaTrillStak5"
Toronto Raptors: "Away In A Manger, Or Any Way, Andrea Bargnani"
Utah Jazz: "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth Another 5x5 (A Jamaal Tinsely Holiday Jam)"
Washington Wizards: "(At Least We Were 0-0) Last Christmas"

Friday, December 21, 2012

Nic Batum and the Elusive 5x5

Nic Batum eyes an assist during his 5x5 game against the Hornets. (AP Photo)

The triple-double is the pinnacle of stat lines in the NBA. It’s an undeniable achievement of greatness and the definition of a complete performance. Watching the league’s elite fill up a stat sheet and reach double-digits in three categories is an experience every fan should get to see at least once.

However, there is one other feat more rare and, unfortunately, less valued: the 5x5 stat line. The latest example of this came in the form of an all-around effort by Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum. Batum had an outstanding performance this past Sunday evening against the New Orleans Hornets, finishing up with the final line of 11 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, five steals and five blocks. Not too shabby.

He’s the first player to achieve the accomplishment since 2006 when Andrei Kirilenko pulled it off one of his three 5x5's as a member of the Utah Jazz. Batum’s performance is one that may go unnoticed by most casual fans, or even intense fans who don’t follow the Trail Blazers. It’s truly unfortunate because the 5x5 stat line is arguably more impressive than the lofty triple-double.

With his performance on Sunday, Batum became just the eighth player in this era of basketball to achieve the 5x5 statistical anomaly. The other seven are Hakeem Olajuwon, Kirilenko, David Robinson, Vlade Divac, Marcus Camby, Derrick Coleman and Jamaal Tinsley a pretty solid list to join. It’s also exclusive, as only those eight players have reached this mark since statisticians began tracking the 5x5 as an actual accomplishment in 1990.

Now, let’s compare the 5x5 to the triple-double. From the 1990-91 NBA season to the 2010-11 season, there have been an average of 34.5 triple-doubles recorded per season. There have only been 15 times in the last 27 years that a 5x5 has been recorded. Total. Not per season, but in the entire decade. The difference in frequency of occurrence between these two feats is enough to open some eyes. There have been only 15 5x5s recorded, ever, while there have already been 12 triple-doubles this season.

In short, there are some accomplishments that do not get enough hype in athletics. Yes, the triple-double is an exceptional achievement and, yes, it is the symbol of a complete game at the highest level in basketball. However, should it be? The realization of a 5x5 performance by any player is far more rare and, frankly, requires the player to fill up more statistical categories in a single game. Maybe it’s time for the 5x5 to take center stage.

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Friday Roundtable: Merry Christmas from the NBA

Wade. Howard. Bryant. James. Durant. These are some of the NBA's Christmas Day stars. (Getty Images)

BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among three of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.

This week's question: The NBA season is closer to its halfway mark than it is to the opening tip-off. Each year, the Association schedules marquee match-ups for Christmas Day. This year's slate of holiday games includes a rematch of the 2012 Finals; Boston in Brooklyn; Knicks/Lakers in Hollywood; the Rockets visiting the Bulls; and the Clippers hosting the Nuggets. Which game will  be on your TV?

Shawn Deegan: 
It’s that time of year again. Lights on the tree, presents being exchanged, and basketball brought to the front of the sporting world. With the NBA taking center stage, there will be a handful of games to make sure you see. However, for my money, the one game that is a must watch is the Heat vs. the Thunder. Now, normally I’m a patron for the small-market, under the radar teams who don’t normally get to share the spotlight with the big boys. However, on the big stage, it’s all about the match-ups of the best against the best, and there are no better players than Lebron James and Kevin Durant. Both will play the three-spot in this game, so the odds we see these two square off one-on-one are high. Durant is one of, if not the elite scorer in the game, while Lebron has become arguably the best all-around player in the NBA. Both bring contrasting styles of play and sensational talent that is unparalleled. Any time two of the best meet, it’s a good time to watch, but adding the spotlight of the Christmas Day game should elevate the drama to another level.  

Kyle Davis: 
Knicks/Lakers easily has the most storylines and drama to surely make for a great game, the veteran Celtics taking on a renewed Nets team should be good basketball and who doesn't like a Finals rematch? I would like to cop out and say all three of them but since I have to pick, I'll take the Thunder/Heat matchup. No team is better than the Thunder (21-5) right now, who were on a 12-game winning streak before Thursday's loss to Minnesota. The Heat aren't playing too poorly either, especially at home, where they are 12-2.

This game isn't lacking star power either. This is the battle of Big Three's, and the Thunder's Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka are playing just as well as James, Wade and Bosh. Durant is scoring at will (nearly 28 points per game), while Westbrook is still finding plenty of shots. It's starting to look like Wade's prime is leaving him (although that's still with him averaging nearly 20 ppg), but LeBron doesn't look to be slowing down anytime soon. Not sure you'll find more pure talent from top to bottom in any other Christmas game, so you know there will be plenty of highlights.

The Thunder are not going to take this game lightly. Durant and Co. have been pegged to win a title at some point, and the Heat took away their first chance last year. OKC wants nothing more than to beat Miami any chance it gets, because Durant and this team are great competitors, and they know who is standing in their way of a title. Yet the Heat still have more to prove ("not one, not two, not three ...").  Both teams are going to want this one for Christmas.

Alex Skov:  
Thunder/Heat is tough to pass up, and, for my money, Rajon Rondo is one of the most exciting players in the NBA right now, but the most intriguing Christmas Day match-up to me is the first game in Staples Center. The New York Knicks are 19-6, but five of those losses have come on the road. New York has allowed opponents to go over the century mark in three of those losses, including giving up a whopping 131 points to the Rockets during a Thanksgiving hangover. The Lakers are under .500 overall, but 8-6 at home. Steve Nash should be back in the starting line-up, which may not solve all of the Lakers' woes (especially on the defensive end), but his presence will make the Knicks' defense show a level of respect that LA hasn't gotten during Gatsby's time away due to injury.

The first meeting between these two anchors of their respective coasts ended with New York winning by less than 10 in Madison Square Garden on Dec. 13. Carmelo Anthony, looking like the early MVP candidate that he is, outdueled Kobe Bryant in that contest by scoring 31 points. While Bryant's attempt to save his team ended with the personal victory of a double-double (31 points, 10 rebounds), Kobe's never been one to take things lightly. The tension between Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni and Anthony led to D'Antoni losing his job in New York, a destination Nash considered as a free agent this summer.

The storyline of Kevin Durant and his ever-improving supporting cast taking on the world's best all-around basketball player and his All-Star teammates is an obvious one, but there are multiple plot twists in this Knicks/Lakers saga that make the drama even more appealing. It's not like Anthony, Bryant, Nash, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard are bad at basketball, either. There's an outside (read: across the street, past the city limits and over state lines) chance that former D'Antoni and Nash partner Amar'e Stoudemire will be healthy enough to suit up for the Knicks, too.

What was is that D'Antoni said in his first press conference for his new head coaching gig? “If we're not averaging 110 or 115 points per game, then we need to talk"? The Lakers aren't living up to that statement, but no one knows how to run D'Antoni's offense better than Nash.

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Christmas Came Early: A Preview Of College Basketball's Best Weekend Games

KU beat Ohio State twice last season, including in the Final Four, but the Buckeyes will have a shot at revenge Saturday. (

The NCAA is giving fans a few early Christmas presents with a couple of great match-ups Saturday before teams break for the holiday. During a time when many Top 25 teams are busy beating up on Northwest Mississippi Technical College, Saturday features a couple of big-time battles. Here's a look at some the best games of the weekend:

No. 9 Kansas vs. No. 7 Ohio State - 4 p.m. EST CBS
The Jayhawks not only beat the Buckeyes in Allen Fieldhouse this time last year, but KU also won the matchup last year that meant more, defeating Ohio State in the Final Four. Now the two teams will face off in Columbus, where OSU will look for revenge. Kansas has played as well as any team in the country in December, beating three good teams (Colorado, Belmont and Richmond) by a combined 93 points. Ohio State had been nearly as dominant, up until having to scrap out a 10-point win over Winthrop on Tuesday. Jeff Withey has proven to be a defensive force in the paint, and freshman Ben McLemore is a human highlight reel, but Ohio State has a defensive specialist of their own in Aaron Craft and a pure scorer in DeShaun Thomas. This is Kansas' first true road test, so it will be interesting to see if they can continue the hot play away from Lawrence. Ohio State will be searching for revenge, so expect this to be a close game from beginning to end with lots of lead changes.

No. 12 Missouri vs. No. 10 Illinois - 6 p.m. EST ESPN2
This is a long-standing rivalry game played in St. Louis and this year these two teams are evenly matched and very talented. Illinois comes in undefeated after surviving the toughest test so far in a road game at Gonzaga. Missouri's only loss came to Louisville, and although the Tigers also have wins over VCU and Stanford, the majority of Mizzou's schedule has been weak. It's tough to see how Missouri will play after facing four weaker opponents. Missouri's transfers look to be meshing nicely, under the floor leadership of Phil Pressey, and have the ability to score a bunch of points. Illinois lives and dies by the three, which will certainly be the case again Saturday. Brandon Paul is averaging nearly 19 points per game and is making an early case for Big Ten Player of the Year.

No. 3 Syracuse vs. Temple - Noon Est ESPN2
Syracuse, 10-0, got Jim Boeheim his 900th win Monday against Detroit and should be more relaxed now that the milestone has passed. The Orange are facing a Temple squad that has been praised this season, but just lost to Canisius on Wednesday to move to 8-2. It's human nature for the Orange to relax a bit after seeing the result of Temple's last game, but taking the Owls lightly is not a wise decision. Syracuse's advantage lies in the fact Temple is only shooting 30 percent from 3-point range, and that 2-3 Orange zone will make the Owls beat them with the outside shot. This game will be played on a neutral floor in New York as part of the Gotham Classic, so Temple faces a Syracuse team that's only played one other road game. Syracuse should come away with the win, but don't be surprised if Temple puts up a fight.

Other games to keep an eye on: No. 8 Florida vs. Kansas State in Kansas City, Texas vs. No. 20 Michigan State, Canisius vs. No. 21 UNLV

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Duke Lands No. 2 Recruit Jabari Parker

Jabari Parker announced Thursday he will play college ball at Duke. (

Jabari Parker, the No. 2-rated recruit in the ESPN 100 and No. 3 Rivals recruit in the class of 2013, chose Duke Thursday over Michigan State, Florida, Stanford and BYU.

This is a big win for the Blue Devils, as Parker — a 6-foot-8 forward from Simeon Career Academy in Chicago — is the third ESPN 100 recruit to commit to Duke next year. Duke had already landed Matt Jones, guard and No. 36 recruit, and Semi Ojeleye, forward and No. 41.

Coach K has recruited Chicago pretty well in the past, including landing Jon Scheyer, Sean Dockery and Corey Maggette.

Parker will look to fill the shoes of senior Mason Plumlee, who is an early frontrunner for National Player of the Year. He'll have to stay healthy, as he fractured his right ankle over the summer, but if he does, Parker's ceiling is very high, especially with the way Coach K can build talent.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Who Will Be Next To Jump From Cinderella To Powerhouse?

Gonzaga was America's original "Cinderella" team, but now is a terrifying team to meet in March. (

Gonzaga started the idea of the mid-major "Cinderella" with an Elite 8 run in 1999. Now the Zags are a consistent top-25 team that is expected to do well in March.

Butler took it a step further with consecutive NCAA Tournament title game appearances under coach Brad Stevens and is continuing to take on a beat top 25 opponents. We've already discussed how good of a coach Stevens is, as now Butler is moving away from that Cinderella title to being a fixture at the top of the game every year. 

It's a tough job for a mid-major to maintain the kind of excellence it takes to become one of the big boys, with less funds and recognition. Many teams haven't been able to hold on after breaking into the limelight. Just look at Bucknell, Vermont or Hampton. We'll see if Norfolk St. or Lehigh are one-hit wonders after last season's shockers. Factors like coaching and personnel are obviously involved and if your breakout coach leaves for a bigger school, your dreams of being the next Gonzaga could end in a second.

Still, Butler will likely be the last team to make the jump in performance level and credibility, so here are a couple more schools in the running to be next in line.


VCU: The Rams hammered their way into the spotlight in 2007 with a dramatic 79-77 win over Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They only reached the tournament one more time in the next three years (2009) but then had the breakout year in 2011. VCU scrapped its way to the Final Four before losing to who else but Butler. The Rams were back in it again last year, nearly losing to Indiana (63-61) in the second round. The Rams have had the big wins to get themselves known and then made an impressive run to make the nation believers. As long as Shaka Smart is the coach, VCU has a good chance to keep this going. They probably need two or three more tournament appearances and another Sweet 16 birth as well as some huge regular-season wins to move into Butler range.

In The Running:

Creighton: Creighton benefits from playing in a conference (Missouri Valley) known for producing talented, mid-major basketball programs. The BlueJays have been a mainstay in the NCAA Tournament since 1999, making the tournament eight times during that span, including five seasons in a row from 1999-2003. Creighton has advanced to the second round three times since 1999, yet can't seem to find a way into the second weekend. With potential National Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott leading the way, this could be the year Creighton breaks through to the Sweet 16.

Davidson: If Stephen Curry could have stayed at Davidson for more than four years, Davidson could already be in line with Butler. The Wildcats reached the NCAA Tournament each year from 2006-2008, with the climax being Curry leading the 2008 squad to the Elite 8, where it was narrowly defeated by soon-to-be national champion Kansas. Bob McKillop has rebounded from the loss of that great 2008 senior class and is looking to make a second-straight tournament appearance this year. Davidson has been able to recruit pretty well, schedules big-name opponents early in the season and plays in a fairly weak conference, so the blueprint is there for the Davidson name to grow, but the Wildcats still need to go first.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Bandwagon: Lou Amundson, Ultimate Hustle Player

The Bandwagon is a regular feature spotlighting NBA players who are not stars in the typical sense of the word, but deserve to have a following nonetheless. Today, jump on the Bandwagon for Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Lou Amundson.

Lou Amundson fights for a rebound against the Pacers. (

Lou Amundson's track has led him through the D-League and five other franchises before finding a place in the Minnesota Timberwolves' deep front court. His NBA career has been filled with 10-day contracts, battles for playing time and, most of all, hustle.

Aside from standing 6'9", there is not much about Amundson that says he is a professional athlete in the world's most competitive basketball league. He looks like a strong-jawed softie topped with long blonde hair that's often pulled into a ponytail. For goodness' sake, he unwinds by playing acoustic guitar and rides a bicycle to work (an idea that a much more well-known competitor borrows from time to time).

Actually considering him a "softie" would be a mistake, however. Now in his eighth year in the Association, Amundson's defined his game with relentlessness and energy that have made him a valuable asset off the bench in all of his stops, perhaps most notably with the Phoenix Suns.

Over the course of 155 games with the desert troupe, Amundson found a niche with one of the best second units of the late 2000s. He found minutes primarily at the power forward position although he did occasionally play as a stretch-center — and put up the best numbers of his career.

Putting the statistics of a role player of Amundson's caliber into text undermines their worth in the context of a team. He averaged 4.5 points, four rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game during those two years in an average of 14.3 minutes per night. By no means are those Earth-shattering figures, but they do quantify Amundson's performance by standard basketball means. His advanced stats (an above average offensive rating both seasons, grabbing nearly 15 percent of available offensive rebounds in 2008-09, .118 WS/48 in 2009-10) get a little closer to showing the actual impact that Amundson's intangibles had on the Suns as a whole.

2008-09 PHO 13.3 .530 .536 14.9 15.3 15.1 3.7 1.5 4.6 15.1 108 109 0.8 1.0 1.8 .082
2009-10 PHO 14.4 .562 .551 13.1 19.9 16.7 3.7 1.0 4.4 14.6 113 107 1.5 1.3 2.9 .118
Career 12.6 .497 .494 13.9 17.8 15.9 3.4 1.4 4.4 15.4 103 106 1.8 4.5 6.3 .078
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/17/2012.

Even those, though, fail to justify his play. The one thing that Amundson absolutely never did in Phoenix — and never seems to do, ever — is give up on a play. Heard of playing through the whistle? This guy does it. Looking for a player who doesn't pause to congratulate himself? Throw some attention Amundson's way.

He's blue collar, and that may turn some people off of him. He's not a triple-double threat. There's very little flash to Amundson's game because he grinds in the post. In his most visible years (those in Phoenix), he played on Steve Nash's team. His collective efforts there earned him a roster spot with the Golden State Warriors in 2010-11, where he played all seven of his career starts. Again, though, the Bay Area storyline was elsewhere, centering around tension between Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis in the back court, eventually resolved and replaced when Ellis was traded to Milwaukee for Andrew Bogut. Golden State acquired David Lee the same summer Amundson arrived, and the starter naturally garnered more attention than the back-up.

To point: "Lou Amundson's team" is not a viable tagline in the NBA. It's downright irrational to think that will ever be the designation for an entire basketball franchise.

But you know what? Amundson is fully aware of that fact, and it does not bother him. Shortly before this season began, Amundson said as much to Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press:

"I don't see being a role player as a negative thing. There's maybe a handful of stars in the league, and everybody else is a role player. I see myself as a basketball player, first and foremost, somebody who cares about winning and wants to be competitive."

(Tom Szczerbowski/US Presswire)
There are only a handful of players in the NBA who will be so earnest as to say they have no qualms being a grace note in his team's anthem. The confidence needed to be an athlete at the highest level of a sport rarely allows for such honesty. T-Wolves head coach Rick Adelman knows Amundson's time in the NBA's little brother league shaped the forward's attitude. As he told

"The guy has worked his tail off. [He] knows what it’s like not to be playing and not to be on a team, so he does have kind of an attitude. He has an understanding of what it takes, and nothing’s been given to him. He’s hungry."

A coach would be remiss not to highlight his players' good sides, but knowing how Amundson has worked emphasize that word his way from a non-power conference school in college (UNLV) through undrafted status to All-NBA D-League First Team and D-League Rookie of the Year honors as a member of the Colorado 14ers (now the Texas Legends). After parlaying that success into a series of short contracts, Amundson proved himself as a valuable member of the Suns' bench and went to the Western Conference Finals in his final season with the franchise. His latest playoff appearance came last year as a member of the Indiana Pacers, who were defeated in the Eastern Conference Semifinals by the Miami Heat's LeBron James Show.

Based solely on the talents of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, the Timberwolves were supposed to be a fringe playoff team this season, and they may still be. He is only played 87 minutes in 10 games this season, but the fact that Timberwolves management sought out Amundson while revamping their roster to become a competitor in the West says something about his character.

Amundson's humble attitude belies his tenacity on the court. Each time he steps on the hardwood, Amundson seems to believe it will be his last. That's how he plays, at least, and isn't that the kind of player that is essential to basketball at its purest?

At the very least, that's the kind of player that can anchor a bench, and Amundson isn't asking for any more than that.

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