Michael Jordan won 10 scoring titles in his 15-year career and is all-time leading scorer in NBA history. Thus, it was no wonder the Charlotte Bobcats' owner was disgusted by his team's offensive effort last Saturday night in a 93-62 loss to the visiting Boston Celtics.
The Bobcats had a season low for points and barely surpassed the club record of 59 set in last year's opening-night loss to the Celtics. Charlotte also shot just 34 percent and was outscored in every quarter.
Thus, Jordan addressed the Bobcats after the game and apparently blistered them. While Jordan did not talk to the media afterward, the players said he challenged their pride by trying to get them to turn around a season that is getting away from an 8-15 team.
"It starts with playing hard," coach Larry Brown said. "You beg people to play hard and do the right thing? That's not coaching."
Brown's comment is a clear indication that he feels the players are tuning him out. It just reached a crescendo on Saturday.
"This is the culmination of what's been happening—this is the finale," Brown said. "If you play soft, if you don't execute, if you don't play hard, you're going to get embarrassed."
When asked if anyone was performing acceptably, Brown said, "Maybe Boris (Diaw). I don't see guys setting an example, doing the things we need."
Co-captain Gerald Wallace portrayed the Bobcats as a team in disarray or, at least, close to it.
"We don't have five guys thinking team first," Wallace said. "We have five guys thinking 'I' first."
Anthony Visits MSG
Not surprisingly, the Madison Square Garden crowd gave Denver Nuggets forward Caremlo Anthony a nice ovation prior to the start of Sunday's game against the New York Knicks. However, it was nothing like the rousing cheers LeBron James got last season from Knicks' fans when he visited with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Perhaps the more modest reception was due to the fact that James turned down an offer from New York and signed with the Heat and the fans don't want to get their hopes up again. More likely, it was because the Knicks are no longer looking like sad sacks as they have a 16-9 record and have won eight games in a row.
One fan did yell, "We'll see you next season, Melo," as Anthony was about to shoot a free throw. Anthony backed away from the line and smiled. With the Nuggets in town two days in advance of the game, the Brooklyn native who grew up idolizing former Knicks star Bernard King got plenty of advice about how he should approach his future.
"Everybody's yelling out the windows, 'Melo, we need you in New York,'" he said. "Of course that feels good when you know someone out there wants you to come and represent their team and represent their city. That's what I took from that."
Anthony has yet to sign a three-year, $64.47 million extension offer that has been on the table for months and can opt out of his contract and become a free agent at the end of the season. The Nuggets are certain to deal Anthony by the February 24 trading deadline as they do not want to wind up left getting nothing in return as the Cavaliers did with James. There is a strong sense that the only team in which Anthony would agreeable to forgo free agency and sign an extension with is the Knicks.
When asked about the possibility of being traded to a team for which he doesn't want to play, Anthony said, "I don't think that's going to happen."
Hawks Learn the Value of Giving
It's time of the season for giving and that certainly fits the way the Atlanta Hawks have played this season. The Hawks are third in the league with a 23.19 assist rate and fourth in percentage of assists, recording an assist on 63.6 percent of their baskets.
The Hawks are sharing the ball without having a big-time playmaker. Guard Jeff Teague has a team-high 33.11 assist rate but plays just 13.4 minutes a game.
"It's the difference between us now and before," forward Marvin Williams said. "We were a good team last year. But if you watched us most nights, we looked like a one-man show, with Joe (Johnson) carrying most of the scoring load. Well, we're not that team now. We just aren't that team anymore."
Atlanta is 16-9. Last season, they were 19-6 through 25 games. However, the big difference is first-year coach Larry Drew's motion-based offense.
During the preseason, Drew's offense didn't look that much different than the one employed by former coach Mike Woodson because Johnson still had the ball in his hands a lot and his teammates played off him. However, nearly a third of the way into the season, it is obvious this offense is very different.
"This works for everybody," power forward Josh Smith said. "Joe gets plenty of the same good looks now that he did before. But that ball moves now in a way that allows every single one of us to be a threat. And that's a good thing."
Threes Key for Rockets
The Houston Rockets haven't found too many keys to winning this season, having started 9-14. However, one of them is scoring three-point field goals in bulk. The Rockets are 5-0 when they make at least 10 threes.
"I just think it's something we have to do," coach Rick Adelman said. "If we move the ball and get open looks at threes, we have a lot of guys who can make that shot. The key is to go inside out. We want to attack the basket and then kick it back out."
Center Yao Ming's strained tendon in his left leg has allowed opposing defense the luxury of not having to sag inside and inside guard the three. However, point guard Kyle Lowry has began doing a better job of penetrating then kicking out to Shane Battier, Kevin Martin, Brad Miller and Courtney Lee behind the arc. Lee is making 51 percent of his long-range jumpers while Miller is at 47 percent and Martin is at 42.
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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