Links: Inside the NBA (Playoffs)

by April 30, 2009

by Lang Whitaker

I said this in passing last night on Twitter but I also want to say it here, because I knew we’ve got a lot of readers over at TNT: All of TNT’s analysts and announcers who criticized Josh Smith for trying (and missing) that dunk through his legs are hypocrites.

If you missed the play, when the game was out of reach in the fourth, when the Hawks were up 20, Josh Smith got the ball on a run out for a wide open dunk. The video isn’t online right now, but as Josh gathered himself for what was surely going to be a human highlight, TNT analyst Dick Stockton — in one of the rare moments when he wasn’t talking about how awesome Dwyane Wade is — blurted out, “Watch this!”

Hey, I was watching, excitedly. I was waiting to see what Josh would pull off. All Hawks fans were. And if he’d been able to pass the ball through his legs and dunk in a game, everyone would’ve gone crazy. The NBA would have made it into a commercial. TNT would have replayed it a dozen times. We would’ve made it Slamadamonth. ESPN would have made it their top play in perpetuity. I bet even Fratello would’ve marveled aloud at J-Smoove’s athleticism.

But he didn’t make it. The ball just missed going in, and the Hawks got the rebound and ended up scoring on the play anyway. And the Hawks still won by 15.

So to criticize Josh for trying to be what we all want him to be is wrong. I’m glad he tried it. We’ve got Joe Johnson to be our rock, the guy who always makes the safe and correct play. Josh is the fire to that ice. Yeah, he jacks up threes and makes the occasional ill-advised pass, but you take the bad with the good, and with Josh there’s more good than bad. And the good is way more exciting than the good from most players.

The Heat are already sticking out their lips and trying to play the pride card. Speaking on the play, Erik Spoelstra said “they really tried to embarrass us.” Dwyane Wade added, “Yes, we were very insulted.”

Hey Coach? The Hawks weren’t trying to embarrass you, the Hawks did embarrass you. They blew you out in your team’s most important game of the year, just like your guys embarrassed the Hawks in Games 2 and 3. Dwyane? If you don’t want to be insulted, don’t let former slam dunk champions get breakaway layups.

The real down side for the Hawks wasn’t Josh missing a dunk where the Hawks retained possession, but it was losing Al Horford with a sprained ankle. If he’s out and if Marvin Williams still can’t play, the Heat are going to have the upper hand in Game 6 on Friday night in MIA.

• I don’t think Rajon Rondo should have been called for a flagrant foul against Brad Miller, but I do think the NBA should have upgraded it to a flagrant foul yesterday. When it happened, with the game on the line and the clock nearing zero and Miller staring down the barrel of a wide-open layup, I don’t think there’s any ref that would’ve called a flagrant right then. (Except for maybe Violet Palmer, because she’s not very good.) If Derrick Rose had done the same thing to Kendrick Perkins in the same situation, they wouldn’t have called that either.

And I’m not convinced Rondo was trying to injure Miller. Was he trying to foul him? Of course, and so was Kendrick Perkins. But Perk whiffed, and the only way for Rondo to stop him from making an open layup was to foul him. Now, if Rondo wanted to grab Miller’s face and slam him to the ground he could have, and that definitely would’ve drawn a flagrant foul. But he fouled him and didn’t deck him.

Now, I do think the NBA should’ve upped it to a flagrant one today, after the fact, just to kinda say, “OK, Bulls fans, we know we handed you Game 4 on a silver platter,  and there’s no way we can go back and change the call on Rondo, but if it makes you feel better now we’ll change it to a Flagrant 1, which won’t really matter.”

I don’t think the L didn’t call make it a flagrant because Rondo was a key player — they suspended Dwight Howard and cost Phoenix a series a few years ago when they suspended Amare/é/’e.

Whatever. Can’t wait for Game 6 tonight.

• Totally unrelated, but the Madden looks awesome.

• Spike’s Kobe documentary, not so much.

• Our man Joel Kimmel, illustrator extroidanaire, has just completed a new LeBron comic book that looks dope. Check that out here.

kerihilson3• In Twitter news, last night Kevin Durant made a few pleas to be connected with R&B songstress Keri Hilson. “Y’all think i can get Keri Hilson’s number? Be honest lol,” Kevin asked.

I asked Kev what he would do if he actually got her number — would he be too afraid to actually contact her? “Hell nah, ima text her as soon as i get it..den call her the next day…i got my game plan set out already lang…”

So he’s already got a plan in the works, which is the kind of forward-thinking I expect from such a talented player/playa. Now we all just need to get word to Ms. Hilson. If anyone out can hook this up, we need to make it happen. For Kevin.