The Morning After The Night Before, XIX
Big win over a pretty good team. Not bad.
Hump’s out of this world, Bosh looked liked he’d never been away and there’s Jose running the show in the fourth quarter. Wild day.
What’s it all mean? With this group, who knows? Lot of people thought the unexpected win in Memphis was a turning point and they stumbled and bumbled after that.
With the rest of this month looking tortuous – long trips, good opponents – it’s too early to say they’ve turned a corner but the mood around there yesterday was better than it’s been in a long, long time.
And here we go:
Three Things I Learned
What a sourpuss
Is Steve Francis the most dour, pouty, unlikeable player you’ve ever seen? He always looks like someone just ran over his dog.
And I swear he tried to kick Jason Kapono on the groin when he was being helped up by a teammate after Kapono knocked him down on the fourth quarter. That was just before the flagrant foul on Carlos Delfino. Punk.
Never thought I’d see a day when a team would need Rafer Alston. Oh, and has Mike James lost his ability to shoot?
The streak ends
With 1:02 left in the third quarter, Jamario Moon shot free throws, ending a stretch of 178 minutes over four games when he didn’t get to the line. I know it’s only been a couple of games and he’s still got some breathtaking hops but he’s struggling, like a rookie will.
Don’t imagine they hook him out of the starting lineup yet but I’m betting his minutes diminish over the next little while. Which is fine because right now he’s probably better in short spurts.
This is probably nothing ...
But Andrea Bargnani's agent is over from Italy for a couple of days; he generally stops by one or twice a season.
Timing is cool, though, because Bargnani's supposed to practice today and -- lo and behold -- may play this week.
Was talking to a guy about him late last week and it was suggested he's like a fine sports car, a Ferrari maybe, that doesn't run nearly as well and is kept in the garage if just one little piece isn't functioning. Thing is, he's not a Ferrari, he's an NBA player and sometimes NBA players suck it up and tough it out. And play.
Not to say this hyper-extended knee isn't swollen or a legitmate concern. But everyone connected with the team will admit Bargnani's recuperative powers are, um, not the greatest.
Bargnani still has a chance to be a great -- not good, great -- but he's also got some learning to do.
Three Things You Wondered
Q: First of all did you ever make it to Campo Fiori in Rome? Now on to the less fun questions.
Please don't dismiss this right away as your 10,000th TJ/Jose email of the day. It must get very annoying but hear me out.
TJ right now is looking like Rookie TJ. He's leaving his feet to pass the ball, driving wildly and out of control, forcing bad passes and shots, and just generally looking like a PG who is new to the league. I know he's just getting back into his rhythm, but don't you think it was too soon for Sam to start him again?
Ben Detsky, Toronto
A: There has been nothing – ever – that creates such furor among fans than Jose-T.J. It really is incredible.
You’re bang-on, right now, T.J. is struggling mightily. Not sure if it’s confidence he lost when he was hurt, or time, or cohesion with his teammates but there are moments – like the first four against Houston – when they’ve been terrible offensively. Maybe they did start him again too soon, maybe he did need another couple of days of practice. But maybe they don’t beat Phoenix or Boston even if Jose does start.
I will say this, and no one can deny it, this team won’t be as good as it can be unless both point guards are on their games.
Jose did finish strong on Sunday, with T.J. watching, that’s twice now that’s happened so far this season (the other was early and I can’t remember the specific game).
But T.J. is more creative offensively on his own (recall back-to-back games in L.A. and Portland a year ago right about now) and they need him to improve to provide those kinds of plays in the dying seconds of close games. He can simply do more to create – for himself and his teammates – the Jose can right now.
And, unfortunately, we never did get to Campo Fiori. Thanks for the tip, though. Love it when we get road info from people who’ve been there.
Accepting all Beijing recommendations now.
Q: Mr. Smith, I've always been an admirer of your column/mailbag/blog for quite sometime now (got to give you some love) and none of your highly passionate (not to be confused with crazed) participants have ever inquired this query I'm about to pose to you, dear sir- and you may put it under your Basketball 101: In the official NBA website, the game summary tracks down 'unanswered points' by each team - what is it?
How do they track it and what's the point of it all? As a Raptor fan who hails in the northeastern lands of what was Agincourt, I would be highly appreciative if you could please enlighten me and my fellow basketball freaks, er, I mean, fans of the game and of course, fans of your highly entertaining column/mailbag/blog.
A: Unanswered points is just the longest run of consecutive baskets in a game and it's generated by the computer that the scoring table uses to track the game. What's the point? Not sure exactly; but it does give you something to talk about.
Q: Obviously, Suns and Celts are different teams from Bobcats. Without a big man, somebody must step up, let's say, like the previous season. I would like to know your thoughts on Joey, Hump, and Dixon for the last 5 games without CB4? Dixon played one game, but I would like to hear from you about these three players, who must step up for the team.
John Park, Belleville
A: I'm going to leave Dixon out of this, for the moment.
I think it's been fairly obvious that both Graham and Humphries are good -- not great, good -- backups who are overmatched playing extended minutes against starters on good team. As you put it, it's easy to play against a team like Charlotte, which will battle Minnesota all year for the team with the best chance to win the lottery; teams like Phoenix and Boston expose guys for what they are.
Not to say they can't be good backups, and have been. Hump was great Sunday, Joey was invisible. They made trade roles this week.
Dixon? Jury's still out. I'd like him a whole lot better two inches taller and 20 pounds heavier. But if he works at it, I can see him having a good career as a backup point guard. He's gotta work at it, though.
Mailbag’s getting a little light, don’t forget to click here to send along your many interesting submissions. If we can tone down the T.J.-Jose rhetoric, it’d be nice.