Posted: Tuesday January 23, 2007 12:53AM; Updated: Tuesday January 23, 2007 4:25PM
When 40-year-old Clifford Robinson tipped home a miss over New York's Eddy Curry to give his Nets a win at the buzzer Friday, bleary-eyed NBA hounds like this mug couldn't help but regard it as our own -- less impressive -- version of Halley's Comet. It was akin to watching Ben Wallace beat Shaquille O'Neal in a free throw shooting contest by sinking five freebies in a row. It was like watching Jerry Stackhouse win a game by driving the lane with his left hand, and throwing in a Lenny Wilkens-esque lefty floater for the win. It was like watching Craig Sager admonish his tailor, demanding a more understated three-piece number for that night's televised Dunk Contest.
Curry is one of the worst rebounding big men in the game, though his numbers have improved this year, his per-minute carom totals have gone down. And Uncle Cliffy, whom we love, is easily the worst rebounding big man of his generation -- and probably this one, as well. Robinson has a career rebound rate (a stat that registers the percentage of available rebounds a player pulls in) of 8.4 -- a mark Trail Blazer rookie Brandon Roy has matched this season. Robinson's percentage in 2006-07 is 6.7, which is what 5-11 (maybe) Toronto guard T.J. Ford is offering in his third full campaign. Just a shockingly poor mark for such an impressive (and 6-11, to boot) athlete.
Which is why it was so odd to see him win a game with a rebound. Jokes aside, it was more like watching Charlotte's Brevin Knight (1 of 9 on the season) nail a game-winning 3-pointer. The job descriptions of both Cliffy and Brevin (rebounder and long-distance shooter, respectively) demand for these sorts of things, but they've somehow gotten away with these shortcomings due to strong play in other facets of the game. Robinson especially, because he might be one of the most underrated defenders of the last 25 years (and I've never seen anyone guard Kevin Garnett better).
Speaking of which, here's Denver's Marcus Camby, over his last three games: 18.3 points, 18.7 rebounds, 3.3 blocks, three Nugget wins.
Rockets guard Vassilis Spanoulis recently shared some of his frustrations about his rookie year with a Greek newspaper, complaining about what he perceived to be a lack of communication between Houston's front office (the ones who courted and signed him) and Rocket coach Jeff Van Gundy (who doles out the minutes and runs the offense). Though Spanoulis has struggled mightily (shooting just 31 percent from the floor, with 2.6 points and an assist in 10 minutes per game), he's been forced into a Charlie Ward-type role in Van Gundy's offense that he is clearly not suited for.
Vassilis mentioned as much in the overseas publication, pointing out that JVG has asked him to be a spot-up shooter when he is clearly at his best with the ball in his hands and probing the defense. The whole mess smacks of stereotyping gone mad, because not all European basketball exports are brilliant shooters who can only give a lick and a promise to the defensive end. Spanoulis can't shoot, to be sure, but he can help an NBA team as an Eric Snow-type. But he'll need the ball, and some screens; and Van Gundy isn't about to adapt his offense to Spanoulis' talents -- however limited.
The saga is another thing to add to the long list of frustrating things about last summer's World Championships. During Team USA's loss to Greece last September, coach Mike Krzyzewski implored his players to fight over screens to try and get out on Spanoulis behind the three-point arc. It was a pointless move which allowed for Vassilis to hit his screener with a pass while the defenders needlessly overplayed the perimeter. The plan then backfired in another direction: Spanoulis was encouraged by the attention, banked in a wild 3-pointer, then was fouled by Kirk Hinrich while attempting his second bomb.
By the time he had gotten his touch after hitting the banked-in trey and several free throws, his streaky form from long-range started working -- not unlike Jason Kidd, who never seems to hit a 3-pointer unless it's preceded by mellowing his touch with a pair of made free throws. Spanoulis had the game of his life from the perimeter, only because Team USA's prime gave him way too much credit for his abilities. Very frustrating. If the smart-aleck guy who writes for SI.com's NBA page knows that Spanoulis can't shoot prior to the WCs, then shouldn't word about his perimeter issues have gotten around to Coach K? And shouldn't Jeff Van Gundy have watched a tape or two of Spanoulis' lousy shooting before trying to shoehorn him into a role he doesn't have a chance of thriving in?