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Rookie of the Year Lock Brandon Jennings Drops 55 on Warriors

Brandon Jennings 55 Points

We’re only a few weeks into the NBA season but the steal of the draft and surefire Rookie of the Year appears to be Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings. Jennings has shown promise since training camp, putting up good numbers during preseason and carrying that over into the regular season. On top of his on-court performance, Jennings has displayed excellent maturity off the court, establishing residence close to the team’s practice facility and buying a practical and relatively cheap Ford Edge to get around. As if his 21ppg, 4rpb, 5apg averages on top of 46% field goal shooting and 86% success rate from the free throw line didn’t tell you how well he and his his 4-2 Bucks were doing, Saturday night’s game against Golden State sure did.

Brandon Jennings scored 55 points against the Warriors to help the Bucks come back for a 129-125 win. Perhaps every bit as impressive as the 55 point total is that the Bucks are now 5-2 and in position to have their best season since their ’01 Eastern Conference Finals run. Jennings didn’t even score in the first quarter and started slowly in the game yet he still wound up with 55, thanks largely to a stellar performance in the third quarter where he scored 29 points. BJ had a stretch in the third where he was on fire, scoring 15 straight points. He also scored 10 points in the final 2:15 to solidify the win. With the outstanding game, Jennings is now averaging over 25ppg and proving that he’s easily the top rookie in the league. In fact, I can’t remember a rookie having a more impressive start to the season; most start out relatively slowly or at least have shaky shooting numbers. Guess Jennings really matured and worked on his skills in his year abroad.

While Jennings’ great start might encourage other high schoolers to try the “straight to Europe plan,” I hope they take away the greatest message of all out of this: it wasn’t just going to Europe that helped Brandon’s game, it was playing professionally plus constantly practicing and trying to improve himself that has made him this good. Some people laughed when he said Ricky Rubio was no better than himself, Ty Lawson, Jonny Flynn, or Tyreke Evans. Now I’m guessing nobody would be laughing. It’s nice to have a new star in the league.

LeBron James Announces He’s Changing Jersey Numbers from 23 to 6

LeBron James, the reigning MVP of the NBA, made a huge announcement Thursday night after the Cavs beat the Heat. He was so grateful for Michael Jordan coming to watch the game that he announced he would change jersey numbers from 23 to 6 starting next season. King James most likely chose the number to begin with because he wanted to emulate MJ, but now he’s evidently decided that nobody can touch Jordan, so nobody should wear his jersey number. If 23 hasn’t been retired league-wide, LBJ is starting that movement, so to speak. Anyway, here’s the video of LeBron James announcing he’s changing jersey numbers to 6:

Many people will likely relate this story to what happened with Kobe Bryant who changed from jersey number 8 to jersey number 24. People often suggest that the reason a star player changes jersey numbers is to boost his personal jersey sales by giving existing fans a reason to buy another one. If you’re reading into things, you could conclude that this means LeBron is staying with the Cavs. Why is that? If he were going to sign with a new team, his new jersey would likely become the top seller in the NBA. If he stays with the Cavs, changing numbers would help boost his sales. Craig Sager tried to slip in that question at the end of the interview but LeBron didn’t bite. Too bad.

Refs Overturn Brad Miller’s Buzzer Beater to Beat Nuggets, Wrong Call

It didn’t take long for us to have one of the first shot clock millisecond instant review plays of the year. With the Bulls down by a point against the Nuggets and 0.6 0.3 seconds left on the clock, Chicago inbounded the ball to Brad Miller who did a super-quick catch and release. Miller’s shot at the buzzer went in and the Bulls celebrated what appeared to be a game-winning shot. The entire United Center was in a frenzy thinking the Bulls had just won the game. That was until the refs intervened and overturned the play. Here’s video of Brad Miller’s buzzer beater against the Nuggets:

Here’s my take on the event, and it probably won’t be popular with anyone outside of Bulls fans. I think there comes a point where instant replay intervenes too much with the judgment of the naked eye. Replay of this play to me didn’t produce overwhelmingly conclusive evidence that Miller released the shot after the buzzer. When it comes to a millisecond as it did here, I think you have to give it to the guy. In the same way that the tie goes to the runner in baseball, if there’s a tie like this and the guy actually made the shot, I think you have to give it to him.

Now if you want to complain about a guy having the opportunity to win the game with 0.6 0.3 seconds left, blame it on the rule that allows teams to advance the ball half the court simply by calling a timeout — now that’s a problem. But when there’s ties like this and it becomes a matter of hundredths of a second, you have to give it to the guy for doing the impossible — making that super tough, clutch shot. Much like the challenge calls in tennis, sometimes technology has its weaknesses (the tennis replays include the full diameter of the ball, not just the spot where it hit the surface); one hundredth of a second is too picky to overturn. If the stadium operator started the clock one hundredth of a second too early then it makes Miller’s shot one hundredth of a second after the buzzer. You know what I mean?

Hasheem Thabeet Joins Griffin on IR

As different as the two are based on their styles of play, the top two picks of the 2009 NBA draft now have something in common: they’re both on the injured list to start their rookie seasons. In typical Clipper fashion, Blake Griffin hurt his knee cap in the final preseason game of the year. Hasheem Thabeet meanwhile had been coming off the bench sparingly, posting four points and 11 rebounds in seven games — numbers he would have achieved comfortably in one game at UConn. Well Thabeet’s development has already taken a setback as his teammate Zach Randolph collided with him on Tuesday night, giving him a broken jaw. Here’s the Hasheem Thabeet broken jaw video (it happens at the :27 mark):

World’s Best Scorer Isn’t Too Proud to Learn from Another Great

I’ve been more than critical of Kobe Bryant throughout his tenure with the Lakers. Although Kobe’s character has turned me off, I always respected what I’ve heard is a legendary work ethic. Now I have no choice but to once and for all accept Kobe Bryant for what he stands for after seeing a few clips played on TNT Thursday night. When the Lakers were playing the Rockets, not only could you see Kobe show off some of his new offensive moves, but you also saw TNT play a video of Kobe training with Hakeem Olajuwon during the offseason. Turns out Kobe went out of his way to contact The Dream and ask Hakeem if he could teach him his legendary post moves. Hakeem was thrilled to help out:

Could you imagine being Hakeem and just hanging out at home, only to receive an email from the NBA Finals MVP asking to train with you? Usually the young guys in the NBA are the disrespectful punks who think they know it all and don’t want to learn from anyone. But then you have Kobe Bryant, 13 seasons into his Hall of Fame career, and he still wants to add to his game, and he goes out of his way to contact one of the smoothest players ever in order to improve himself. I don’t know if I’ve done a complete 180 here, but this story has completely changed the way I look at Kobe. Now I really have respect for Kobe. Anyway, here’s the originally Dream Shake in action.

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Kevin McHale Confirms Kevin Garnett Trade Was Financially Motivated

kevin_mchale_featureOne of the biggest trades in the NBA occurred a few offseasons ago and it helped bring the Celtics their first championship in 22 years. In the trade, Kevin Garnett was dealt from the Timberwolves to the Celtics after Boston had already acquired Ray Allen, completing one of the biggest offseasons for a team this side of the Yankees. So far several reasons have been suggested as explanations for the trade. For one, the Timberwolves were going nowhere and either Kevin Garnett wanted to get moved and/or the team felt they owed him a shot at a title. Secondly, people suggested that as part of the “free KG movement,” GM Kevin McHale decided to give his former Celtic teammate, Danny Ainge, a nice present. Another suggestion was that the Timberwolves decided it was time to rebuild without Garnett. Well since he was fired by the Timberwolves in June, it seems like McHale wants to set the record straight about the trade that tarnishes his resume as a front office guy. In an interview with the 2 Live Stews on Sporting News Radio, McHale said it was owner Glen Taylor’s financial decision that led to the Kevin Garnett trade:

“There was a contract extension coming up … I had talked to [Garnett's] agent and I said ‘hey man, you guys are looking for some big money, you better talk to our owner on it.’ I called up our owner and said this is kind of where everything’s at. It just got to the point where our owner came back and said ‘I’m not sure I can spend that amount of money — we’re going to make a trade.’ At that point, it’s just try to get the best deal. I really liked Al Jefferson — I always have. I think you’re looking at trying to get the best, young player you can in that situation. It was really just trying to find the best, young player available to get a good, young nucleus and go from there.”

In addition to explaining how his hands were tied with the deal, McHale made another reference during the interview to the difficulties of running a small-market franchise:

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Manu Ginobili Swats a Bat Out of Mid Air During Spurs Game, Seriously

We all knew Manu Ginobili was a pretty talented player with exceptional quickness and strong moves around the basket. We also know that he has incredible hands. Just check out this video of Manu Ginobili catching a bat out of mid air during the Spurs game. No joke, there was a freaking bat flying around the arena.

Maybe this was some sort of Halloween prank because I really don’t understand how else a freaking bat would wind up in the arena. That makes no sense. What does make sense is that the Spurs boat raced the Kings 113-94 and Ginobili had 13 in 21 minutes. Richard Jefferson finally clicked with his new teammates and I’m still patting myself on the back for calling the DeJuan Blair steal of a draft pick by San Antonio. They look like a competitor again this year.