Court Vision: Baylor’s Brittney Griner is ready for her NBA shot
By Ben Golliver
• Mavericks owner Mark Cuban floated an idea on Tuesday: Is Baylor star Brittney Griner worthy of a draft pick or Las Vegas Summer League roster spot?
• Griner tweeted that she’s game: “I would hold my own! Lets do it.”
All of these are wasted words because none of this will happen, and frankly none of this should happen. Brittney Griner has the potential to be a franchise-leading, league-dominating superstar in the WNBA. That’s the sort of pressure and expectation we should be placing on her, because these are expectations she’s fit to handle. To probably exceed.
She’s not a gimmick to be gawked at and over-scrutinized by the collection of NBA executives and bored NBA freaks who watch the Summer League every year. No, at that point in her summer schedule she’s supposed to be here, doing damage for the Phoenix Mercury and leading a turnaround for a proud franchise that has been in the WNBA Finals four times, while winning the championship in 2007 and 2009.
This is her sport, and soon to be her profession. Why talking heads and now NBA owners continually and pointlessly have to judge Brittney Griner in the reflection of her middling male counterparts shows that we still have so, so far to come.
• Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk sees this as Cuban being Cuban.
What would be both good marketing and more of a test to see how she could do at a higher level would be to put her on the Mavericks’ Summer League team in Las Vegas. The marketing potential would be big, something Cuban admitted, and Griner could see if she fit. The more I think about it, the more I like that idea. While it would pull her away from the WNBA season for a few weeks what that could do for that league’s marketing would be huge. It would be fun for everyone.
• The Lakers retired Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey on Tuesday night. The only problem? The jersey was backward. Trey Kerby of The Basketball Jones explains.
• Everyone is rightfully furious at Mike Rice, who was fired by Rutgers for verbally and physically abusing his players during practices. Dwight Jaynes of CSNNW.com wonders what it’s like to be Rice’s father, a former coach who now works as a television broadcaster for the Blazers and who will call a game on NBA TV on Wednesday night.
And nobody loves his children more than Mike Sr. All of us who know him understand how proud he’s been of his son’s coaching success. I cannot imagine how difficult it’s been over the last 24 hours to deal with the media firestorm that videotape of a Rutgers practice has brought to his family. If you have children, you know how much of those kids’ pain you feel. And you even understand how often you’ve wished you could actually alleviate their pain by taking it all upon yourself. You may have even, in very tough times, prayed for that.
As a parent in a situation like this, I’m sure there’s a terrible combination of guilt, depression, embarrassment, anger and pain raging on the inside. And Mike Rice Sr. is going to sit down Wednesday night and work a basketball game, probably trying his best to find that “Crazy Uncle Mike” persona that Trail Blazer fans love. Perhaps in this case, the game will be a brief respite. A break, if possible.
• Dylan Murphy of Hoop Chalk examines Jason Kidd’s shooting form.
• Zach Lowe of Grantland dubs Kobe Bryant’s passing “selfish unselfishness.”
It’s sort of a functional selfishness; those passes stem from his score-first, score-always mentality. They’re not so different from the very smart inside-out passes Carmelo Anthony has been tossing from the post this season after drawing double-teams. There is something to be said for enabling a selfish player by putting him in a position where his selfishness can lead, almost inevitably, into forced unselfishness. The trouble with Kobe has always been when he follows those 10 seconds of holding the ball by hoisting a terrible shot against double-coverage or passing to a player in a poor position to create with very little time left on the shot clock.
We’ve seen a lot of selfish unselfishness from Bryant this season as [Mike] D’Antoni has adapted his offense to fit whatever personnel the Lakers have available on a day-to-day basis. This has not been a good season for critics who bash D’Antoni for his inflexible loyalty to the spread pick-and-roll system — a system that forced an evolution upon the entire league. The Lakers barely run that offense, though there are certainly elements of it present. But they’ve mostly just cobbled together an incoherent series of possessions designed to maximize any advantage they have at any particular time, or some advantage that might present itself due to mismatches in semi-transition.
• Matt Moore of CBSSports.com with the lengthiest Corey Brewer interview you’re likely to read.
• The NBA.com guys like the Spurs over the Thunder.
John Schuhmann: The Spurs are my pick. Overall, they’ve been the slightly better defensive team, their starting lineup has been much better defensively than OKC’s starters, and they’ve defended the Thunder’s No. 2 offense well in two of the three meetings so far. Manu Ginobili’s health (and eventual effectiveness) is obviously a concern, but it’s been a concern all season, and they’ve managed to put together the West’s best record with him having a down year. The changes that the teams went through since last year’s conference finals — the Spurs improving defensively and the Thunder swapping James Harden for Kevin Martin — favor San Antonio. So I’m picking the Spurs … as long as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard are healthy.
Sekou Smith: We’ve seen the Thunder at full strength or something close to it all season. And they are still a step behind the Spurs, who haven’t had a fully healthy cast all season long. The Spurs are obviously a bit longer in the tooth, but they have complementary players like Danny Green, Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard who are superior to the Thunder’s complementary players. When your stars cancel each other out, the measurement undoubtedly comes down to whose supporting cast can carry the day. And the Spurs win in that regard. Toss in the fact that Gregg Popovich is calling the shots on that Spurs bench and he’s probably still smarting from that Western Conference finals exit at the hands of the Thunder last year, I’m going with the deeper and more complete team (aka San Antonio) to win the West this year.
• TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott digs into superstar calls, finding that elite players are subject to both extremes: friendly whistles and brutal hacks.