Middle Kingdom Previews 2: Rockets, Pistons, Nets, Bucks

Bruce Bennett

Lin! Nets! Dunleavy! Middle Kingdom Previews takes a look at the epic grudge matches coming soon.

Happy Thanksgiving, P&T!

By the time most of you read this it will probably already be Friday (or Saturday) here in China. How did I spend my Thanksgiving? Since it isn't a holiday here, I worked from 1pm to 9pm. I ate the closest thing I could find to Thanksgiving dinner - Chicken McNuggets from the Mickey D's next to my building - and then I typed these previews during my office hours in the spirit of pure spite. Enjoy!

Fri., Nov. 23 - @Houston Rockets

Chinese Name: 火箭 (huǒ-jiàn) Lit. "fire arrow"

One of the interesting aspects of studying Chinese - a language that revels in it's own ancient-ness - is discovering the interesting root meanings of modern words. Whenever a new machine is invented, the Chinese use a combination of ancient words to describe it (an example is the word for computer, dian-nao - lit. "electric brain". Some Chinese person saw a rocket and decided to name it "fire arrow", which, I must admit, sounds pretty cool. But what about the ancient fire arrow, that thing medieval bowmen used to shoot at thatched-roof houses when they wanted to act like total dicks? My historical research, based on the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, indicates that the fire arrow was invented in 12th century England by Kevin Costner, who teamed up with Muslim Morgan Freeman - the inventor of gunpowder - to blow all kinds of shit up around Alan Rickman's castle. But what about the ancient Chinese: did they use fire arrows in war, and if so, did Kevin Costner teach them this technology or did they discover it independently? My coworker Meng Fan-yi checked online and informed me that fire arrows were indeed part of the ancient Chinese arsenal, but she could neither confirm nor deny the Kevin Costner connection.

To the rest world this will be known as the "Jeremy Lin Reunion Game"; to the strange, insular world of P&T this will be known as the "Jeremy Lin AND Toney Douglas Reunion Game."

Hmm...so many ex-Knicks, and so little time. Should I focus on TD or Lin?

....

Fine! I'll talk about Lin! Are y'all happy now?

When I begged Seth for this job before the season, I was secretly dreading the day I would have to write this preview. Now, I'm surprisingly okay with it. I don't want to say that this Knicks team has made the off-season Lin controversy irrelevant...but that's exactly what they've done. Among the many glorious side effects of the Knicks' best start in four decades is a marked improved fans' sense of perspective. I hadn't even thought of Lin until I happened upon this article yesterday. Poor kid - all he has now is his faith in the Lord, his millions of dollars, his legions of fans, and his youth. Is he simply going through a sophomore slump - this is only his second season of regular NBA minutes, after all - or has the league really figured him out? I'm glad we don't have to worry about the answer to that question.

Last year Jeremy Lin was the Knicks' golden goose. This summer, in a story straight out of some old fairy tale, they traded in that golden goose and got themselves a duck. (An aside: if Felton gets a little too shot-happy during a game, how about calling him Launchpad McQuack? Don't get me wrong: I'm not hoping Felton starts jacking up shots willy-nilly, but it's bound to happen one of these games, and Launchpad was my man growing up. I'm pretty sure that new Denzel movie Flight is just an R-rated retelling of Launchpad McQuack's life story.)

It's common knowledge that Ray Felton has thoroughly outplayed Lin thus far, so there's no need for me to do something as petty as posting their comparison stats. On second thought, I'm totally that petty:

Rk Player G MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL TOV PF PTS
1 Raymond Felton 10 33.0 6.4 14.6 .438 1.9 4.5 .422 1.0 1.6 .625 2.7 6.9 1.1 2.3 1.9 15.7
2 Jeremy Lin 12 33.5 3.5 10.5 .333 0.7 2.9 .229 2.3 2.7 .875 4.4 6.3 1.9 2.8 2.3 10.0
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/23/2012.

I was 100% against letting Lin go, and not ashamed to admit it. I don't think he's played horribly so far, outside of the shooting percentages - but wasn't that the biggest knock on him? This is all about the greatness of Duck. I loved Felton in 2010, and I held out hope that he could rebound from last year's Portland disaster, but the idea of him coming in and just wiping out the memory of Linsanity seemed pretty farfetched. Ray, I've never enjoyed being wrong...until now.

As for the rest of the Rockets, they play a fast-paced game and they rebound the ball pretty well at both ends (10th in ORB%, 11th in DRB%), which should make for an interesting clash of styles with the Knicks. Harden has come back to Earth a bit after his spite-fueled hot start, but he's clearly the best player on their team. Former Knick draft pick Omer Asik had turned into the evolutionary Jared Jeffries - a rebounding and defensive machine who can't score or hold onto the ball to save his life. Are there any programmers in the audience? If so, I'm issuing a challenge to you right now. Remember the old "Magic vs. Bird" video game? I want a "JJ vs. Asik" game, where you have to punch in a ridiculous, Mortal-Kombat-fatality-like sequence of buttons just to shoot the ball. First player to three points wins. Get it done, programmers!

Who am I kidding? Forget Asik, forget Harden. It's Felton vs. Lin, live from Houston. May the best duck win!

Sun., Nov. 25 - Detroit Pistons

Chinese name: 活塞 (huó-sāi) Lit. "moving plunger"

TRAP GAME ALERT! SOUND THE ALARM! TRAP-TRAPPITY-TRAP-TRAP!

A home game sandwiched between the Lin reunion mess and Monday's Battle for NYC, this Pistons match-up looks to be the trappiest trap game that ever trapped. If anything, this should be a good warm-up for next month's Trap Bowl, Dec. 15, at home against the Knicks' trap game tormentors, the Cavaliers.

Detroit ran out to an early lead in the ping-pong ball race with their terrible 0-8 start, but this is a team with talent - specifically the talented young frontcourt duo of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond - and they have shown signs of turning it around lately. Not to put too fine a point on it, but much of their early season struggles have stemmed from the fact that Rodney Stuckey has flat-out sucked ass this season. Check out their top six lineups, based on minutes played. I've highlighted Stuckey's name. See if you can detect a pattern:

#
Unit
Min
Off
Def
+/-



1
Knight-Stuckey-Prince-Maxiell-Monroe 160.7 0.93 1.06 -41


2
Knight-Prince-Singler-Maxiell-Monroe 68.0 1.14 0.95 +25


3
Bynum-English-Singler-Jerebko-Drummond 44.2 1.11 1.12 +1


4
Bynum-Stuckey-Singler-Jerebko-Drummond 29.1 1.13 1.47 -23


5
Knight-Stuckey-Prince-Jerebko-Monroe 23.1 0.89 1.11 -8


6
Bynum-Stuckey-Maggette-Jerebko-Drummond 12.3 1.19 1.38 -4


Detroit has started two different lineups this season: lineup #1 for the first eight games (0-8) and lineup #2 for the past three games (2-2, with one loss being a close game in which they held a fourth-quarter lead). Using the power of imagination, you have probably come to the conclusion that Detroit is better with Kyle Singler starting. But here is where the story starts to get weird. Detroit won their first game of the season, coincidentally enough, when Stuckey was sitting out with the flu. After the game, Detroit head coach Lawrence Frank went out of his way to stress that Stuckey was still the starter. Stuckey responded to that vote of confidence by going to Frank personally and asking to come off the bench. It's a good roster move for the Pistons, which means it's not good for teams about to play the Pistons.

I need to have a little heart-to-heart with Coach Frank. He's still a fairly young guy, and I like to think I know how the "rap" with the young people. Let's hope he's reading this blog:

Sup, Lawrence. The two of us go back a long way, Broseph: you used to coach in Jersey, I used to live in Jersey. Game recognize game. Now I hear one of your players is trying to coach-block you, making the roster decision by his own damn self. And you let him get away with that ish? That's a punk-ass snitch move, playa! -cracks imaginary whip- You need to show Rodney Stuckey who's running this game - don't just start him, play him all 48 minutes next Sunday. RESPECT!

Look I know the Knicks will lose at the Garden eventually, but their next three home games are against Detroit, Washington and Phoenix. Let's keep the home streak going a little longer.

Mon., Nov. 26 - @Brooklyn Nets

Chinese name: 网队 (wǎng-duì) Lit. "net team"

I have an article about this game coming up in a few days, and I don't feel like antagonizing anybody (for the time being) so I'm going to keep this as bland and general as possible.

The Brooklyn Nets are a professional basketball team which originated in the now-defunct American Basketball Association. They played in the state of New Jersey from 1978 until this past summer, when they moved to the borough of Brooklyn, which was also the setting of the television show "Welcome Back, Kotter", starring noted Scientologist John Travolta. Scientology is a religion founded by writer L. Ron Hubbard, the stated belief of which is that the Galactic Lord Xenu brought billions of people to Earth 75 million years ago, stacked them in volcanoes, and blew them up using hydrogen bombs. I am not prepared at this time to discuss any opinions I may have or not have regarding the Brooklyn Nets and/or the Church of Scientology.

Wed., Nov. 28 - @Milwaukee Bucks (xióng-lù) Lit. "male deer"

I must admit, I didn't pay much attention to the Bucks before I happened upon a "Who's the bigger surprise in the Eastern Conference?" online poll. The choices were the Knicks and the Bucks. I remember screaming out, "It's clearly the Knicks, asshole!" to no one in particular.

While I still believe anyone who chose the Bucks as the bigger surprise in the East should be castrated, I must say that they have been among the more pleasant surprises this season - they're still leading the Central despite last night's tough overtime loss in Miami. When the Knicks visit Milwaukee next week we're in store for a good ol' fashion pleasant surprise-off. May the pleasantest surprise win!

And why has their surprise been so pleasant? Not for the reasons you might think. Monta Ellis is still doing Monta Ellis things - scoring a lot (21.4 PPG) and chucking up a lot of bad threes (.214 3P%). Certified Knick-killer Brandon Jennings' numbers are pretty much in line with his career averages. Ersan Ilyasova - a.k.a. the Turkish Steve Novak - has started the season even colder than the real Novak (.313 FG%, .250 3P%). The Bucks have been succeeding thanks to strong contributions from up and down the roster. Samuel Dalembert and Larry Sanders are both averaging more than 10 rebounds per 36 minutes, and the Bucks rank first in the league in defensive rebound percentage. They have received quality production off the bench from the Brothers Ud-h (Beno Udrih and Epke Udoh) and from random second-year dude Tobias Harris.

But their best bench player, by far, has been...no, I can't say. I WON'T SAY IT! ARRGGGH...MIKE DUNLEAVY!

-punches the wall for ten minutes-

My hatred for Mike Dunleavy goes well beyond irrational. I don't know if it's the Dukiness, the nepotism, or just his face (seriously, Mike, if you don't do something about your face), but I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't hate the guy. When I was in high school and he was still at Duke I used to entertain my friend and fellow Duke-hater Cochise with something I called the Mike Dunleavy Dance. No tape of this dance exists, thank God, but I think I can teach you how to perform it yourself:

  1. Clench your butt-cheeks tight (and I mean really tight.)
  2. Try your best to mimic this Teddy Roosevelt face.
  3. Hop repeatedly from left leg to right leg, kicking your knees up high for added effect.
  4. Hold out your left hand like you're expecting an entry pass in the post, hold an imaginary monocle to your eye with you right hand.
  5. Scream "I'm Mike Dunleavy, Junior! Pass me the rock, fellows! I'm going to the hole!"
  6. Repeat as needed.

I should have known then that the rat bastard would grow up to be a Knick-killer. He averages more points per game against the Knicks than any other team, according to basketball reference, and he's been on fire so far this year (.489 FG%, .455 3P%).

Look Knicks, you just lost a game. I'm not mad, really. You're allowed one or two of those per month. And I know you'll be preoccupied for the next few days, what with all the Jeremy Lin questions and the Big Apple Brouhaha and whatnot. But if you allow Mike Dunleavy to light you up again...I'm going to send my mom to MSG and she is going to beat the living shit out of you. She can do it...believe me.

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