Court Vision: Can the Nuggets cope without Danilo Gallinari?
By Ben Golliver
• The Nuggets announced Friday that forward Danilo Gallinari tore the ACL in his left knee and will undergo season-ending knee surgery. Here’s a roundup of the media reaction to the injury, with an eye towards how the Nuggets, currently the Western Conference’s No. 3 seed, will fare without their second-leading scorer.
• John Schuhmann of NBA.com notes the statistical impact from the injury, as well as a rotation change forced by Gallinari’s absence.
The Nuggets have the league’s best home record (34-3) and the league’s second best record (35-9) since Jan. 1. Since the All-Star break, they have the No. 3 offense and the No. 7 defense. Gallinari has obviously been a big part of that success. With 51 more 3-pointers than any of his teammates, he’s the one guy who can really space the floor. And Denver has been a better team, both offensively and defensively, with him in the game.
The Nuggets are obviously deeper since [Wilson] Chandler returned in mid-January. Even without Gallinari, they still have three wings – [Andre] Iguodala, Chandler and [Corey] Brewer – who George Karl can trust. And Evan Fournier has shown some flashes of an ability to contribute over the last week.
Karl’s ability to go small, however, is now a bit limited. The Nuggets have played 870 minutes with three of the four veteran wings on the floor together, most of those (597) with Gallinari as one of the three. Those have been great minutes for the Nuggets, played at a very fast pace.
• Bradford Doolittle of ESPN.com thinks the deep Nuggets just might be able to manage without Gallinari as long as Ty Lawson, also currently sidelined, is effective when he gets back.
In a sense, if Lawson gets back on the floor soon, the Nuggets will be fine in terms of the depth of their rotation. Karl probably would have gone nine-deep in the playoffs. Now he’ll go eight-deep, while spotting in end-of-bench players like Evan Fournier, Anthony Randolph and Jordan Hamilton as needed. All of those players are young, athletic and were highly drafted. Expected at least one of them to emerge as a key performer in the postseason.
The bottom line is that, after making some playing-time adjustments in SCHOENE, the projections suggest that the true talent level of the Nuggets’ revamped rotation barely drops at all, going from a 56.6-win team to 56.4. Even on paper, it’s not that Gallinari doesn’t matter, it’s that the Nuggets have the kind of depth to withstand his absence.
• Matt Moore of CBSSports.com concludes that Gallinari’s offensive impact will need to be spread out into chucks covered by Chandler, Iguodala and Lawson.
Ty Lawson, when he returns from a torn plantar fascia (and there’s been no indication of when that will be) will have to cover at least 1/5. Lawson was always going to have to step up in the playoffs as the team’s best player, but without Gallo, Lawson will need to go even further. Particularly, given how teams will play Chandler on the perimeter, Lawson is going to have to loosen up with his willingness to shoot threes. He’s been tentative in the Nuggets’ dribble-drive offense, and that’s going to have to shift for him. Lawson has to provide perimeter scoring and be even more aggressive, something Karl has always struggled to get the Nuggets’ point guard to do.
• Jeffrey Morton of DenverStiffs.com writes that Gallinari’s injury brought him to tears.
I’ll admit it, I cried a little after I saw the play. That one, single, play.
With 4 minutes left in the second quarter on Thursday, April 4th — against the Dallas Mavericks, Danilo Gallinari drove the lane like he always does, put his left leg down to jump stop and his knee bend the wrong way. Gallo collapsed the the ground hold his knee in obvious pain. Pepsi Center deflated like an old balloon.
For me, the worst part about watching Gallo’s injury was the look of panic on his face. As a human being that is hard to deal with. Whats more, as someone said last night, Gallo just seems to be a good guy who just happens to play basketball.
Nate Timmons of DenverStiffs.com with a long list of things the Nuggets will now be without.
What will the Nuggets miss with Gallo out of the lineup?
1.) Scoring – he’s the second leading scorer on the team.
2.) Crunch-time scoring – he has proven over-and-over that he can/will hit big shots.
3.) Rebounding – he’s been great late in games securing boards.
4.) Passing – he’s one hell of a play-maker and a creative passer.
5.) Defense – he covers the perimeter and has been great in the post.
6.) Leadership – no question.
7.) Intangibles – he just makes the game easier for his teammates.
8.) Free throw shooting – the team’s best foul shooter and frequent trip taker.
There’s just so much Gallo does that can’t be measured and I hate to use the word replace. The Nuggets can and will go on without Gallo if they must.
• Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post says don’t write off the Nuggets just yet.
Danilo Gallinari’s knee buckled. Hearts broke throughout the arena. But the Nuggets’ shot at playoff glory was not hauled away on the same stretcher that transported the agonized face and 16-point scoring average of Gallinari to the doctor’s office.
The Nuggets can still win one NBA playoff series. Or more. Yes, this year.
If Denver truly is a team whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts, as we’ve been repeatedly told by coach George Karl, the Nuggets’ season did not end with Gallinari’s injury.
• Tom Van Riper of Forbes compares the salaries and win shares and concludes that Carmelo Anthony, often cited as a top-10 player in the league, is the NBA’s most overpaid player.
You’ve probably heard that Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony dropped 90 points in his past two games, leading his club to victories over Miami and Atlanta. Only mild surprise there: the focal point of the Knicks’ offense all season, Anthony ‘s 28.1 points per game trails Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant for the league lead by a just a whisker.
Except, Anthony isn’t Durant. Despite making about $2.7 million more this season, he isn’t even close. Durant gets his points taking four fewer shots per game than Anthony does (18 vs. 22). He shoots 50.5% from the floor to Anthony’s 44%. Durant averages 4.4 assists per game compared to Anthony’s 2.6, and 7.9 rebounds to Anthony’s 6.4.
As the new breed of statistical analysts like to point out, a primary scorer using extra shots to get his points means fewer shots for others (and hence fewer chances for additional points for the team). Assists lead directly to points, and every rebound gives your team a possession, which means a chance to score. Durant, in short, is an efficient player whose numbers translate into wins for his club. The same is true for LeBron James, Chris Paul and Tim Duncan. But not for Carmelo Anthony. And that’s why, at a 2012-13 salary of $19.4 million, Anthony tops our list as the NBA’s most overpaid player.
• Jessica Camerato of CSNNE.com with an excellent look at 25-year-old Celtics guard Terrence Williams, who says he’s been paying the bills since he was 13.
Williams uses the word “father” very specifically. He has no memories of Edgar, who served time in prison and was murdered the day he was released. Williams was only a child.
“I don’t remember anything,” Williams said. “The only image I really have is when he was in jail and I was taking him some shoes with my mom for him to have. I can’t tell you any stories of, ‘Oh I remember this one time playing at the park.’ I’ve always in the past tried to remember – it’s the hardest thing to do. You can’t have a memory of something that you don’t think ever happened. So to me, I didn’t have a father. I had a dad, I had somebody that birthed me. But it’s just blank.”
• Andrew Wiggins’ father, Mitchell Wiggins, held up Kevin Durant’s cool persona as an example to follow for his son, according to Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun.
“Everything he’s doing it looks like he’s done it before, he doesn’t get overhyped, doesn’t get excited by the crowd, but he has a thirst to be a very good player, he wants to be a very good player,” said Andrew’s father, Mitchell.
“You look at Kevin Durant’s mannerisms, you don’t really know what’s going on. It could be 30,000 people, one-point game, but you look at his face, he looks calm as can be and I told Andrew never to let people see you sweat. He’s been a great listener.”
• Amin Elhassan of ESPN.com sees the Suns as a logical bidder for Andrew Bynum.
The Suns are a franchise in the midst of a massive overhaul, with a stable of players who, at best, would be complementary pieces on a good team. With no potential star waiting in the wings and no identifiable playing style or identity Phoenix needs a franchise-caliber player to not only build around, but also to rally waning fan support (bottom 10 in attendance and percentage of capacity).
Bynum, when healthy, has proven to be an elite player in the NBA. Of course, Bynum’s main flaw is the “when healthy” caveat attached to any compliments to his game. Here’s where a move to Phoenix makes the most sense: he not only would benefit from being the Suns’ franchise player, he’d also have the opportunity to work with one of the league’s best training staffs. The list of players who have found basketball life in Phoenix after everyone has written their careers off is endless (Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Antonio McDyess, Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal to name a few). If Bynum is to show the league that he’s capable of being relied upon, Phoenix is the place to do it.
• Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports writes that Anthony Davis, lover of pizza, has a few models to look up to when it comes to bulking up.
Davis is averaging a respectable 13.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. Despite improved play since the All-Star break, it’s too late for Davis to overcome Portland’s Damian Lillard for the Rookie of the Year award. Instead, there’s another Blazer he focuses on.
“[LaMarcus Aldridge] is a great example,” Davis said. “L.A. came in looking like me, Dwight [Howard] came in looking like me, Kevin Durant, and they are all doing well in the league. That’s a great comparison from coach. I am just trying to get better and stronger so I can eventually be on the level that they are.”
• Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post with a great story on the Wizards’ 1978 championship trophy, which was seemingly lost.
But then, finally, there was a breakthrough. Someone recalled someone else saying sometime awhile back that Smokey Bowie, the late building manager/head engineer/jack-of-all-trades who had been with the franchise since the old Capital Centre days until passing away a few years ago, had at some point taken it home with him for safekeeping. And sure enough, a carload of team employees dispatched to Bowie’s old house found the trophy — scuffed up, tarnished and dented — at the bottom of a closet.
“They bring it in,” Leonsis recalled this week, “and it’s got dings in it, it’s matted, not shiny. My wife [Lynn] is best friends with the woman who runs Tiffany’s in Tysons Corner, so I asked her to look at it, and I said, ‘Look at this – this is what we spend a billion dollars over our lifetime to try to win, and it’s been sitting in someone’s closet. Can you fix it?’ It took about three months, but it came back perfect.”
• Jonathan Tjarks at SB Nation takes a look at what’s in store for NBA prospect Trey Burke during the Final Four.
Burke has been the breakout star of the Tournament. He’s the QB of an incredibly explosive offensive attack which dissected South Dakota State, VCU and Florida. In their closest game, an OT victory over Kansas in the Sweet 16, Burke hit a 30-foot moon shot at the end of regulation that will go down in Michigan history. In a year without a clear-cut hierarchy at the top, Burke still has a lot of room to climb on draft boards. However, getting past Syracuse will present an entirely different type of challenge for the Wolverines star PG.
The beauty of the 2-3 zone, especially when you have the athletes Syracuse does, is that you can dictate who on the floor will beat you. The things Burke has done in the last two weeks won’t work on Saturday. You can’t run a pick-and-roll from the top of the key against a zone. In general, you’re not going to beat a zone by dribbling into the paint. You have to pass it in, which means you need a big man capable of being a threat and making plays from the free-throw line. Burke can’t win this game offensively for Michigan, but he can lose it by trying to do too much.
• Beckley Mason of ESPN.com writes that Rockets GM Daryl Morey has lots of nice things to say about his coach, Kevin McHale.
“[McHale] doesn’t necessarily see the game through our analysis,” Morey says. “But he’s very smart, and he believes in a lot of things that our analysis says how the game should be played.”
For McHale, the trick has been to let go of his coach’s instinct to control the minutiae, to make peace with a style that requires the organization, from top to bottom, to be comfortable with extremes. With Morey’s support and a roster designed to play a specific way, McHale learned to stop worrying and love the 3-pointer.
Morey knows how valuable it is that McHale can translate these concepts into action, and he’s “frustrated” at the lack of recognition.
“I keep seeing all these lists for coach of the year without his name on them,” says Morey, “and I don’t understand.”
• Tom Ziller of SB Nation puts Tim Duncan in the No. 4 spot on his MVP ballot.
But last season Duncan bounced back — thank the lockout? — and this season he has legitimately been the NBA’s best big man. He turns 37 in May. This is unbelievable.
Seeing Duncan and Kawhi Leonard run the team lately has been something else. This is the third generation of the Spurs youth that Duncan is anchoring. He’s No. 4 in PER, an All-Defense candidate, one of the top rebounders and shotblockers in the league and also he’s TIM DUNCAN. He deserves to be on first team All-NBA. At age 36. Amazing.
• One more halfcourt shot from a season full of them – this time by a child during an on-court scrimmage.