Nash, Arenas, Davis rise in big week for point guards
Posted: Friday December 15, 2006 5:25PM; Updated: Saturday December 16, 2006 12:36AM
Just a few shopping days left until the Christmas holiday, and we're all ready to offer a sleigh's full of presents: a point guard for Yao Ming, a sense of tact for Zach Randolph, a legitimate NBA starter to play alongside Chris Paul and a right hand for Michael Redd. One thing we won't be sending along is a conscience for Washington's Gilbert Arenas, because he's just fine the way he is. And Kobe Bryant gets an IOU until next December, because he has all he needs: a head on his shoulders and the ball in his hands.
Dallas has alternated wins and losses in its last seven games, and Nowitzki is going to need some help. Josh Howard says he's healthy and he's having a career year (17.8 points and 5.4 boards), but the Mavs go sour when he and his teammates can't find the rim. In Dallas' last three losses, Howard is shooting 9-for-34 (26.5 percent), with Jason Terry 10-of-28 (35.7 percent) and Devin Harris 4-of-22 (18.2 percent). Meanwhile, Nowitzki has remained consistent, making nearly half his shots and averaging 27.3 points in those losses.
Duncan has made two-thirds of his shots since Dec. 8 while presiding over the league's second-stingiest defense. The most encouraging part of his play, for Spurs fans, is his allotment of minutes per game. Duncan is playing 33.6 minutes a night, which reminds more of his ultraefficient championship turn in 2004-05 (33.4 minutes a game) than last year's injury-addled run.
For some of us, having our wisdom teeth removed means a nice weekend of walking around in a stupor, alternating Ramen Noodles binges with somnambulant runs through NBA Live '98. For Wade, it means having to watch from home as his Heat hand extended minutes to rookie Chris Quinn at point guard. Wade sat out a loss to Phoenix and a Friday road game against a white-hot (at home) Wizards team. Pity, because Wade's been bringing it for the bulk of December: 29.2 points on 50 percent shooting, 4.8 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 2.0 steals in five games.
Gary Payton and Speedy Claxton may be worse off on a statistical angle, but is there a more destructive starting point guard out there than Houston's Rafer Alston? Yao's teammate can't stop shooting threes (6.3 attempts a game), hits on 37 percent of his shots from the floor, can't work a screen and roll to save his life and is probably keeping Yao from averaging 30 points per game. Yao's at 26.1 points right now, with 9.6 rebounds, and I don't think he's taken in a re-entry pass all season. The turnovers have to stop, however, as Yao is averaging 4.1 miscues in 35 minutes a game.
The driving force behind the NBA's hottest team, Nash wowed the East Coast this week with a series of strong performances. His Suns have won 12 in a row, with Nash offering a dynamic brand of basketball down the stretch in several of the wins -- whether it took hitting game-changing shots, playing tough defense (!) or milking the clock (!!) in crunch time. The reigning MVP is averaging 20.2 points and 11.7 assists for the season.
The Timberwolves are a surprising 10-10 after opening December by winning four of six, including impressive victories against the Rockets, Jazz and Bulls. KG's been all over the place as usual, especially in the win over Utah; he held Carlos Boozer to eight points on 4-of-17 shooting while offering a 31-point, 14-rebound, three-block performance of his own.
When is this guy going to go off? His averages of 26.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists are pretty darn respectable, to say the least, but he's topped 35 points just twice in 21 games. Thirty-eight points is a nice season high ... if you're Mike Bibby. Listen, LeBron, Zydrunas Ilgauskas is going to be moody no matter how many touches you give him, and Larry Hughes is going to break something whether he has the ball in his hands or not, so throw us a bone and throw up a 50-point night, willya?
Kobe, his team and the Lakers' coaching staff are about to face a serious challenge: keeping everything on track with Lamar Odom on the shelf for a month (with another week or two after that for Odom to play his way back into shape). Luke Walton can supply some of Odom's passing fancy, rebounding and long-range shooting, but it's Kobe who will have to step up without padding his stats. He's probably up to it, scoring 33 points on just 18 shots against the Mavs on Wednesday. That play will have to sustain and Walton will have to continue to nail shots (he missed 10 of 13 against Dallas).
He's still wowing us with his play, averaging 25.3 points and 10.2 rebounds a game, but his clash with Trail Blazers management last week left us a little frustrated. We didn't mind his rude gesture to a Pacers fan all that much (NBA players have been doing stupid things in the heat of game action for 60 years), but the idea that he shouldn't have to sit out a game (as he did against Toronto two days later) because the Blazers imposed the punishment, not the NBA? Weak. Is Randolph ever going to figure out that the organization is sick of this stuff?
Utah is still the NBA's best team, Boozer the Jazz's best player. But if this season has shown us anything, it's that Boozer has his issues scoring against a zone featuring long defenders. In losses to the Timberwolves and Warriors, Boozer was stymied by a zone at times, with Andris Biedrins and Kevin Garnett acting as Boozer's most profound scoring deterrents. Boozer shot 6-of-24 (25 percent) in those two games compared with his 57 percent mark overall.