As our summer mainstay, Aaron was writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. As the summer dies down and the leaves turn, this quixotic quest of a series has happily reached the last third. But it's certainly not done yet! Today we continue with Ronny Turiaf, Anthony Parker, and Andray Blatche.
Ronny Turiaf is one of the few Clippers I enjoy watching, although there's always a touch of sadness when I consider the state of his career relative to how I would've hoped it'd be years ago. Always a treat and always an asset, in his youth and prime. He's reached a somewhat young fall-off period, now, as the slow churn of injuries has made him unreliable and (in some ways) somewhat unremarkable. I'd say some of the promise that was there when he was young has been squandered, if only just. Whether you attribute that to injuries or simply not being as good as he looked is up to you. Regardless, Turiaf is one of the more amusing backup big men to watch in the entire league, period. Everyone knows the whole "energy big off the bench" trope -- Turiaf goes far beyond the trope, and makes the players that embody it look like dozed-off hobos. He's constantly, CONSTANTLY moving. All the time. Forever. He's out to prove the scientific law that particles are always moving. He revs himself up every day by internally repeating the laws of particle motion -- "cmon, be the particle, Ronny. Leggo. Prove it." This may sound really nice to you, and aesthetically, it definitely is. But it's worth noting that this constant breakneck energy isn't always something that manifests in a good way, and there ARE good reasons he's not always in high demand -- after all, Turiaf's energy leads him to foul indiscriminately, occasionally lose position, and can be considered partially responsible for Turiaf's spotted injury history. So that's not great.
Still, Turiaf is a good player, and better than a lot of people think. He's a downright excellent defender, and has always had brilliant instincts about when to help off his man and when to stay home and bother. One of the main reasons the early-2010 Knicks (with Amare, Gallo, Felton and the rest of the misfit children) were such an engaging team was Turiaf's presence -- his command of the rotations helped him act as sort of a miniature Tyson Chandler, and while the Knicks obviously are better off now with Tyson, it's worth noting that when Turiaf is healthy and clicking he provides similar qualities on defense. Phenomenal weakside blocking, killer screens, and a ready-made stick of pick-n-roll dynamite that blows up the most conventionally successful play in the league. He's quality. Even though he hasn't played a ton this year, he's definitely helped the Clippers in this respect -- they've been a markedly superior defensive team with Turiaf on the floor, and he provides the best play-out-the-string big man the Clippers have ever really put behind Jordan and Griffin. And as many note, when you play as few minutes as Turiaf does, the constant fouling is less of a serious problem. Turiaf's real issue? No offense whatsoever. His offensive game is completely bare, and unlike Chandler, he can't simply throw his size around and get buckets through effort alone. He doesn't really play an important role as an offensive threat, given that all he can really do is finish at the rim every now and again so long as he doesn't need to create the shot or need to move creatively off-the-ball to establish position. Which makes his teams traditionally offensively flawed when he sees too much court time. Which is why, despite being a massive impact player on defense, he'll probably never elicit 20 MPG again.
Off-the-court (and on-the-bench), Turiaf is an entertaining man. The man watches anime with the best of them, which might be one of the reasons I like him -- I'm no anime fan myself, but I hung out with a lot of people in high school who loved the stuff and as such Turiaf tends to remind me of my best childhood friends. Which is all great. He's probably the single best towel-waving big man off the bench in the league, with his on-bench stylings a must-watch whenever his team does anything even remotely impressive. Which, by the way, is one of the reasons Turiaf-on-the-Clippers was a hilariously good idea from the get-go. The man goes crazy for dunks, and while the whole Lob City appellation was never quite the truism it was promised to be, Los Angeles is a great team for him. Just look at examples 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 for why that is. Finally, the man has a rather wild backstory of his own -- Turiaf's battled through heart problems throughout his career, and actually had to undergo open-heart surgery just to get healthy enough to enter the league. Which is pretty insane, and worthy of a whole lot more respect than he tends to get. I like Turiaf. Pay him some attention, next time the Clippers play your favorite team -- he might impress you, really.
I'm not Anthony Parker's biggest fan. Although Parker has always been a relatively effective shooter, he's also (for my money) been overly prominent in Cleveland over the last few years -- I didn't really have strong feelings one way or the other about Parker until he came to Cleveland and started taking more shots than he really needed to. Especially pull-ups -- he's a solid shooter on the catch, and you rarely felt that bad about a Parker three as long as it came at the end of an actual play-call. Far too often, though, Parker ended up going one-on-one and trying to hit off-the-dribble pull up shots (regularly from inefficient long-two range as though it would validate his career as a shooter if he could master those shots). He couldn't, for what probably are obvious reasons, and Cavs fans were left watching a possession or two every few games get lost to a doomed Anthony Parker "I CAN ISO! I SWEAR!" possession. Given that Parker's defense hasn't been anything to write home about for almost four years now and given that he's never had any real tertiary value beyond his shooting, these random possessions of taking over the offense for a pull-up fadeaway two bugged me a lot. You're on the court to finish plays and take open shots. You aren't on the floor to dribble around and create shots, no matter what Austin Carr says.
Still. Parker is part of a rare, elite team of NBA players, a group that doesn't get nearly enough dap. I refer, of course, to the group of NBA players whose sisters are infinitely superior basketball players. Candace Parker -- child rearing constraints aside these last few years -- is one of the WNBA's brightest stars, and one of the more entertaining WNBA players ever. The only other NBA player who I can even argue fits in Parker's elite company on this respect is Reggie Miller, whose sister Cheryl was (by the personal account of virtually everyone who played both of them) superior at basketball and likely good enough to be a star in the NBA, had she been given the chance. So, there's that. Beyond those two, there's the Rashad/Rashada McCants duo (neither of whom, I admit, I ever watched closely enough to really assess comparative value), Ime/Mfon Udoka (yeah, uh, "same"), Rudy/Marta Fernandez (Rudy was better) and the Pamela/JaVale McGee duo (well, that one's mother/son, but still -- JaVale is probably a hair better, if only because of superior staying power). Which makes Parker and Miller alone in their tower of "being inferior basketball players to their ballin-out-loud sisters." This isn't really notable, but it is kind of cool. I am one of the lonely few NBA bloggers who doesn't mind the WNBA at all, and in general appreciates a good WNBA game far and away above a college basketball game and (often) an international game. So I'll be sure to keep monitoring sister/brother pairings. Someone has to do it.
With Parker about to exit the league, there's a single thing I'd like to highlight before he goes. No, not a facet of his game -- I'd rather take my best efforts to forget it, thanks. No, not his time in Israel -- Noam Schiller noted that (and the reasons one should care that he retired) better than I could ever hope to for Hardwood Paroxysm last summer. No, I'd like to highlight something different. Namely his Wikipedia page. Just... just look at it. I have no idea who wrote it, but whoever did has to be the world's biggest Parker fan. Or his wife. Or Parker himself. Seriously. It reads like a fan-page. Just look at some of the wording, here:
"In his first season with the Raptors, Parker helped the team clinch their first ever division title, first NBA Playoffs berth in five years, and best regular season record in franchise history. He helped the Raptors reach the playoffs again in the 2007–08 season, before becoming a free agent in 2009." (This wouldn't be notable, except this is describing his career in the intro paragraph. Because we need to introduce him with everything the Raptors did while he played there, natch.)
"In a season that was fraught with lengthy injuries to a number of his team mates (such as T.J. Ford and Chris Bosh), he managed to play in all 82 regular season games and ensured that Toronto made the 2008 NBA Playoffs, albeit as the sixth seed." (Good thing Anthony Parker was around to 'ensure' Toronto made the playoffs, or lord only knows what would've happened. Might've lost 25 straight or something.)
"Cleveland General Manager Danny Ferry said of Parker: "Anthony will be a solid addition to our roster. He is a very good, intelligent all-around basketball player. Our coaching staff will especially appreciate the good shooting and solid defense that Anthony brings to our team."In a bid to ensure that James had his best shot of winning a title before he could potentially become a free agent after the season, Cleveland also acquired Shaquille O'Neal and subsequently, Antawn Jamison, both of whom were veteran superstars." (This is one of my favorite blurbs ever. "The Cavaliers acquired Anthony Parker, and Danny Ferry said THIS about him. Isn't that great?? Oh also they acquired Shaq and Jamison but shush your face Parker was 'The Diff.'")
There you have it. Anthony Parker: the greatest shooting guard of all time. Meet the new Jordan, same as the old Jordan.
Contrary to popular belief, I don't have a ton of animosity for the Brooklyn Nets. I don't think they're a great team (and I'm still quite hesitant about their defense going forward), but they're clearly much improved and they're doing some really phenomenal stuff on offense. When Johnson and Williams start playing up to their names, sparks will fly. And even on defense, watching Brook Lopez evolve into a "remotely passable" defensive player is a treat. Absolutely a treat. It's always nice to see a long-struggling team right the ship, as I'm sure Ben Swanson will say when the day comes that the Lakers finally catch up to the Bobcats. I don't mean for half the Nets capsules to be negative or jerky.
But I can't bring myself to praise Andray Blatche in good conscience. I'll admit a few things, first -- he has been playing very well this year. His currently-top-10 PER dramatically understates his defense (which has been abhorrent, even still) but it accurately describes the ridiculous level he's been performing at on the offensive end. He's brought his game mostly inside, as he's more than cut in half his rate of shots outside the paint in favor of at-rim jams and offensive tip-ins. His rebounding has gone from sickeningly substandard to startlingly sweet, and he's cut his turnovers to a career low. Blatche is a fringe 7'0" big man who's spent his entire career playing like a 6'5" shooting guard. He finally seems to have remembered that he's a big guy. It's worked, and he's having his best season ever. Nothing else is even close, for him.
Here's the thing. The Wizards have an obscenely poor grasp on player development. They don't really know exactly what they're doing. They've squandered many careers and messed up many player primes by screwing up simple things like putting a player in a role where they have any possibility of succeeding, hiring adequate skill coaches, or finding coaches that actually know what they're doing. They don't draft very well. And their medical staff -- lovely though their attempts to keep Nene's time constrained may be -- isn't anything to write home about. But I refuse -- actively, actually, acutely refuse -- to blame them for Blatche. Seriously. The man was horrible in DC. He's been one of the least valuable players in the league for about 7 years running. He's had some of the worst on/off splits in the entire league, consistently -- his defense has been awful, his offense has been worse, his rebounding has been as tepid as humanly possible for a man in spitting distance of 7 feet tall. But he's amazing right now. This is insane to me.
Look, I didn't think Blatche would give anybody anything this season. You'd think the fact that he very much is would change the picture for me, but I don't think it does. If anything, this makes me even more inclined to dislike him, because it puts his DC years in a more confusing context. Where in God's name was this effort and energy in DC? Seriously! The Wizards did nothing but feature Blatche -- they were letting him start games for a playoff team from his sophomore season onward. It's hard to get 20+ MPG in the NBA, and they managed to give him that every post-rookie year of his career. He was never in want of playing time, shots, or offensive sets that put a spotlight on his unique skillset. They paid him. They hired coaches to help him. They tossed their hat in and made him one of their featured players. And not one bit of it mattered. He still chucked almost half his shots from beyond 15 feet, showed an absolutely insane disregard for his teammates and coaches, and generally made a complete mockery of the Wizards' faith in him. Now he's in Brooklyn, dazzling the world as he makes good on his potential and shows the basketball world what he's actually capable of. The Wizards -- as the team that amnestied him -- are still paying his salary and getting to watch as Blatche does exactly what they wanted him to do... elsewhere. Insofar as they exist at all, the Basketball Gods have a demented sense of humor.
Well... that, or Blatche is just a total jerk. Either/or.
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At the end of each post, I'll be scribing riddles for the next group. Whoever gets the most right will get a shout out at the end of the next post. Tweet me your answers at @docrostov, or post them in the comments. Dr. No, Wul.f, Mike L, Matt L, and J all aptly received their very own 3/3 on 12/12/12. Next thing you know, they'll be doing it at 144/144/144/144/144. (I'm bad at jokes.)
Player #337 is one of the most annoying yet enticing twitter follows in the league. P.O.P. every day. Also: a hot girlfriend never hurts.
Player #338 is better than you'd expect but worse than his fans think he is. Wait, okay. That's probably not quite true. I'm not sure he really has fans. Still, I'm actually a bit surprised he hasn't made a team yet this season. Perhaps he needs to talk to Vader.
Player #339 enters the dragon nightly. I have absolutely no idea what that means, but ever since the 2010 second round, I try not to think about it.
I like how my body is only now beginning to tell me "HEY. WHAT ARE YOU DOING. STOP." in regards to my insane sleep schedule I've been doing for months in order to do this series and hold a more-than-full-time-job. Related note: sorry about the miss on yesterday's capsules -- hopefully I can get a day or two ahead this weekend to make sure that doesn't happen again. This does almost guarantee I'll be doing two sets on Christmas, though. FUN TIMES. Also: only 34 capsules left. Yikes.
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