Mavericks at Clippers
Blake Griffin was a riddle the Mavs' defense couldn't solve. When they threw double-teams at him, as they often did, he took his time to hit a cutting teammate in stride, or kick it out to whichever teammate could make the best swing pass to an open shooter in the corner. When left on an island on the left wing, Griffin simply powered past his defender for an easy bucket and/or foul. And the scorekeepers might as well have credited the Clippers with two points whenever Blake got the ball in transition. He's shooting 38 percent from mid-range this season and his opponents must rejoice every time he settles for a 20-footer.
Blake returned from lower back spasms caused by a pre-existing hip injury on Wednesday and the back-to-back set may have taken a toll. He went down awkwardly on a non-contact play, rolling his ankle in the process, but it's plausible that his back seized up and caused him to fall in the first place. So if you're keeping track, this could be a minor ankle injury caused by back spasms caused by a hip injury. Blake has missed one game all season and he said after the game that he's fine and unconcerned about the injuries, so owners can keep him locked into all active lineups. It helps that the Clippers will be "visiting" the Lakers, saving Blake the rigors of travel while presenting a dream matchup against the Clips' decimated cross-town rival.
Despite Griffin's play, the Mavericks won behind a typically efficient game from Dirk Nowitzki, who scored a team-high 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting with four 3-pointers. He also grabbed 11 rebounds, stole the ball twice and blocked one shot, as his dream season continues for fantasy owners. Samuel Dalembert also returned to a prominent role, notching 12 points, six rebounds and two blocks in just under 30 minutes, which reduced Brandan Wright to just 16 minutes of action.
NBA teams are rolling out promotional campaigns for players, a gimmicky PR move which has become the norm in recent years.
The Bobcats are convinced that Al Jefferson deserves All-NBA status. They do a nice job of fleshing out the conceit, turning a potentially one-dimensional pun (Big Al dominates the paint, so he has his own brand of paint) into a fully-realized website with sections such as:
Customer Reviews: "Al's pump fakes ... are maybe the best in the league. They're ridiculous. He’s still got that herky-jerky, unbelievably tough game to guard. He gets people off their feet constantly" - Gregg Popovich
Painting Tips: "[Ranks 1st] in field goal percentage (50.0%) among NBA players who've attempted 100 or more shots in the paint (5-9 feet)"
Shades of Big Al: "Pump Fake Blue - Unstoppable Orange - Points in the Paint Gray"
The Rockets created a line of men's grooming products called "Groomed for Greatness" to promote James Harden for both First Team All-NBA and the MVP award. The kid includes a tin of 'beard balm', a bottle of 'beard serum', a comb, and a box espousing Harden's greatness. The kit has an admirably authentic design and color scheme, with a logo of a bespectacled Harden looking cooly into the distance. He's not in the conversation for league MVP but I'm having a hard time arguing the portion of the promo which reads, "Houston’s hirsute hero has [established] himself as the best two-guard in the NBA."
The Rockets also put together a briefcase with a jersey and a mock-up of a newspaper declaring Dwight Howard the league's MVP and the "World's Best Center in 2014." The fact that they'd lobby for two MVPs on the same team is disingenuous to the extreme, and this is more about getting some PR than anything. The whole campaign feels rightfully half-hearted.
The Mavericks handed out T-shirts reading "VInce Carter for VI" to promote Vince Carter as Sixth-Man of the Year. That lazy slogan aspiring to be a bad pun was accompanied by an equally slapdash video of nothing but statistics and play-by-play calls of random plays involving Carter, as a camera slowly moves toward him while he...dribbles alone at mid-court in a darkened arena. If nothing else, the campaign convinced me that Mark Cuban hasn't been an angel investor for any videographers or graphic designers in his role as a "Shark Tank" impresario. While we're on the topic, I was no more impressed by the Mavs' recruitment video for Dwight Howard this summer, which pitched Dwight as Superman in comic-book form but had all the dynamic action and visual spectacle of a Ken Burns' documentary.
Vince Carter's numbers themselves, however, are pretty compelling. Among the league's bench players, here is where Vince ranks in a few key categories:
Minutes Played: 2nd
Field Goals Made: 4th
I think Taj Gibson should win the award by merit, and Jamal Crawford, Reggie Jackson Markieff Morris are also contenders. Yet for sheer delight in what Vince Carter has done at this stage in his career (he's 37 years old), and on the heels of an equally impressive 2012-13 season, I hope to see VC take home the prize.
Rest assured that more award-related PR campaigns will surface in the coming weeks. There will be themed iPads, viral campaigns, billboards and a few flash mobs. If any of it sways you toward one player or another, such as Anthony Davis for Most Improved Player, just remember: unless you're among a select few sportswriters and broadcasters, you can't vote.