BREAKING NEWS: Nazr Mohammed is good! I have proof! Because we seem to be living in a sort of “postmodern” statistical era, in which all of the traditional stats are deemed completely worthless and it turns out that Wilt Chamberlain was in fact one of the WORST players ever*, I ventured over to the blog site 82games.com to check out what some of their number-crunching has crunched out. And lo and behold, they show undeniable proof that Nazr Mohammed is actually competent. Two things jumped out at me. First, of every guy on the team, Nazr is one of the few with a positive +/- number (+7), meaning we’ve scored 7 more points than we’ve allowed total with him on the floor. Second, our top 5-man-unit in terms of +/- consists of Felton, Carroll, Richardson, Wallace, and…Melvin Ely. No, just kidding, it’s Mohammed again! This crew’s got a net +/- score of +38. Incidentally, the group with the WORST +/- is…the one that currently starts, McInnis-Felton-Okafor-Wallace-Richardson, coming in at an Antarctican -69.
Of course, I’m well aware that these stats are skewed because our starters are playing more of their minutes against the OTHER team’s starters, who are almost always better. But here’s an important analytical point: it is what it is. Does it mean we should replace Okafor in the starting lineup with Mohammed? Not necessarily. Does it mean we should replace McInnis with Carroll? Yes necessarily! A thousand times yes! We should replace McInnis with a Cub Cadet lawnmower, for all I care, because it’s probably faster and can make “cuts” (ha!).
So anyway, I insist that Nazr’s pretty good, but you know who’s really bad? Denver. I haven’t looked at their 5-man units or anything, but I imagine there are only about three combinations of them anyway; the entire team’s beat up. Denver is exactly why people were skeptical about the Celtics’ off-season deals working out, because even though they have marquee names, and even if they can get their chemistry straight, they still have more problems showing up than Britney to a courthouse. Against us, none of their starters played fewer than 30 minutes and only three dudes came off the bench. No Nene, no Najera. The heavily tattooed JR Smith (dude’s arms look like a pair of Air Jordan 20’s) must be in some serious hot water with George Karl if he can’t get more than 19 minutes of PT. There’s also some guy named Yakhouba Diawara, who I only know played for “France” prior to the NBA—not sure if that was the University of France or France State. Meanwhile, watching Anthony Carter covering McInnis is like watching a preview for The Bucket List. These guys are going to struggle.
Oh, and Kenyon Martin just doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being a punk. Really, he’s got to be one of the more underrated punks in the NBA, possibly in all of sports, and it’s time we give him his due. With that obnoxious throw-down slam and the way he punches and/or kicks the ball afterward, plus his run-ins with management, plus it seems like he’s always got some sort of injury, when are people going to RECOGNIZE?! I bet he’s jealous of Shawne Merriman. Granted, if Denver were in the East, they’d be challenging for a division crown, but out in the West, they’re barely holding on—and they’re $27 million over the cap. That’s one sick team; maybe Ben Bernanke can hook them up with some sort of economic stimulus package (assuming he has no hard feelings over losing the beard-growing contest to Smith and Drew Gooden).
So we took the win against Denver, but it was sort of unsatisfying, given the way the Nuggets bumbled around in the final six seconds. This led us to…uh-oh, it’s Magic. You didn’t have to be Ric Ocasek to know that this game would be a problem. Beatdowns by the Magic are starting to feel like a weekly-scheduled event. Orlando makes me feel like “Flick” from A Christmas Story: I just want to say “Uncle,” get the loss over quickly, and move on with my life.
And early on, that’s exactly what it looked like would happen, as Dwight “Scut Farcus” Howard seemed to be turning the game into his own personal Slam-Dunk Contest. Meanwhile, Hedo Turkoglu unleashed his devastating array of “drive slowly to the left without faking or changing speeds or doing anything really and bank it in off the boards” moves that are apparently unstoppable. He did this repeatedly—to the tune of 16 points—and the only thing that varied was the amount of hair I pulled out watching. Also, it turns out Carlos Arroyo is pretty good when you don’t bother to guard him. He still flings his passes around with the accuracy of those t-shirt-launching guns, but with no one within pissing distance of him, he put up 17 points.
Fortunately, Gerald Wallace pulled a "Ralphie" and went off. 36 points, 14 boards, 5 assists, 3 steals, 0—zero!!—turnovers! 11-14 from the foul line!! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! Gerald was all over the court. He was astonishing. He was captivating. He was stoned when they took his publicity photo—check out his picture atop ESPN.com’s “Daily Leaders” board. He still gets a little greedy from the three-point line (sometimes he stands there for almost a couple of seconds, and you can practically see a little “Angel Gerald” on one shoulder telling him to pass or penetrate and a little “Devil Gerald” telling him to shoot), but who cares? He’s our heart-and-soul.
Kudos also to the reemerging long-range skills of Jason Richardson and Matt Carroll, who went a combined 7-for-12 from downtown. And Felton is the point guard, whether it’s his assigned position or not. One of the Orlando television announcers cracked me up when he said, “There seems to be some confusion here in Charlotte, as a lot of people think Felton should be the point guard.” Actually, there’s no confusion here in Charlotte, except maybe with the head coach.
*I made that up. It was actually Oscar Robertson.