Better Effort Needed

We knew that there would be times and games like the ones we’ve just finished off. Our past five games have been, to say the very least, shambolic. It has been a shambles, without doubt. I’m going to be very open and honest here about how I feel because sugar-coating things just won’t do. I’m going to start with JJ Hickson, who for some reason or another seems to have lost either his confidence or mojo because the past three games he’s tallied 22 points on 9-27 shooting, grabbed 15 rebounds, and only attempted 4 free throws. According to 82games.com, with JJ on the floor we’re –11.1 points. With him off it, we’re +2.5. A bit harsh on our still learning forward, but outside of AP, he’s the guy we do best without on the floor. He’s meant to be our “go to guy”, or at least one of them. I know what you’re going to say, his minutes have been decreased thus production falls away. Well, go back to any game he’s played in since his 31 point, MVP eruption against Atlanta. I’d argue that every game since then, he’s under performed. His production hasn’t been that bad at all, but it’s not at the level we need and expect from the freakish athlete. I don’t expect 31 points every night from JJ, but surely a repeat of his opening night effort against Boston isn’t asking too much? And I repeat the word effort JJ; talent alone isn’t enough to get it done. We need you to be now the guy you feel you can be in three years time, that 20 and 10 monster who’s a match up nightmare every time down the floor. How hungry are you to be great? Find the answer to that, and come back to us all…

Our bench has been incredible, and I know I’m repeating what many have said before me but I feel it can’t be overstated how impressive they have been. Boobie is rejuvenated, Tawn is being the guy we thought he’d be for us last season, Sessions is one of the best back up point guards in the NBA and whatever combination of Graham/Harris/Hollins/Powe you get nearly always gets it done, to the tune of an NBA best 47 points a night. It’s no surprise to see that our bench guys of Boobie, Sessions and Jamison are the only ones with a positive affect on the team when on the floor, but its also saddening.  When our starters match that effort and determination, we’ll push 50 games, I guarantee you that. Something too that worries me is we’re 17th in the NBA in points in the paint at 40.8 a game, down almost 3 points from last season. We’re also 26th in the league in 2-point FG%. The numbers don’t lie. Our offensive rebounding woes leave us ranked 25th, but our defensive rebounding rate is pretty good at around 31 a game, league leaders Indiana average 34.

Last season we were a defensive juggernaut at times, but this season it’s flip flopped drastically. From allowing 96 points last season, we now give up 101 a game. Coincidentally, and not in a good way, those number mirror our offense. We’re scoring 96 points this season as apposed to 101 last season. You can put those things down to a number of reasons, but obviously the biggest one is not having LeBron, followed closely by losing the defensively obsessed Mike Brown. While those factors are big things to consider, I still feel that we haven’t put in the effort necessary to be a good defensive team. We seem to be content with letting teams get whatever kinda looks they want, which will, on most nights, get you beaten. And it’s not like we don’t have the pieces to be defensively solid – we have long perimeter guys and length inside, but for whatever reason, it just doesn’t seem to be happening for us.

Our next five games are pretty daunting tasks, games at the Q against the Bucks, Memphis and Boston with road games at Indiana and Orlando in between. Our losing streak is at two – but against the two best teams in the league at the moment mind you – and its upto us to stop the rot and get our rhythm back sooner rather than later, and it all starts with that one magic word; effort.

Rookie Watch

With two of our three rookies out injured at the moment, it’s a pretty thin report card, but one not lacking in quality thanks to this guy.

Blake Griffin – His last 8 games have gone like this – ok, bad, bad, ok, bad, good, bad and WOW. The life of a rookie eh? Onto the WOW game, it happened against the Knicks, to the tune of 44 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists. He became only the 4th player in NBA history since the merger to have at least 40 points and 15 rebounds in a game as a rookie. Go find out the names of the other three, it’s pretty impressive company. If you missed highlights of the game, this clip pretty much captures them all. Danilo Gallinari will never be the same again…ever.

Greg Monroe – For the entire month of November so far, he’s scored 35 points…total. He’s pulled down 45 rebounds, which isn’t bad for a rookie, but Greg Monroe has let me down. I was so high on this guy coming out of college he nearly earned “man crush” status with me. I really don’t know, but Justin Rogers does I guess.

DeMarcus Cousins – Another guy who I couldn’t have been higher on, but seems to be struggling. His last two games he’s gone 5-19 for 15 points and made 5 of 8 from the charity stripe. Just one game previous to those two against New York, he went for 15 and 10 while connecting on 5-6 free throws. Talented, volatile and explosive are three words you’d use to describe the bigman from Kentucky. In five years time, I sincerely hope them three words changes to dominating, polished and unstoppable.

Around The League

Rudy Gay is a little closer to all Cavs fans hearts after his buzzer-beating jumper over you know who.

A new addition to my Christmas list is that Jerryd Bayless settles down and taps into his potential. Toronto could be a nice fit for him you know, he’ll see minutes behind Calderon and I hope the guy who shone at Arizona starts to do it on the big stage.

I watched the Chicago/Dallas games Friday night, and during the 2nd quarter when the Bulls were running a pretty good offense, getting any shot they wanted to, I could only help but wonder what if they did actually get Carmelo.

Be honest; which record surprises you more, Miami or New Orleans?

NCAA Basketball

Jordan Hamilton is making a name for himself, as is Kenneth Faried of Morehead State, whose averaging 18 points and 13 rebounds while shooting 64%. Billy Donovan is a fan too.

Harrison Barnes and North Carolina have issues. John Henson isn’t as consistent as his talent should let him be, same for Tyler Zeller. Their backcourt is struggling, which was the major issue last season also. I still believe that they’ll make the tournament – after all, it’s been three games – because they have talent that when settled down, will win them more games than it loses.

Josh Selby getting cleared is like finding out you’ll be winning $1,000,000, but you have to wait until December 13th to collect your prize. With games against Texas A&M-CC, Ohio, Arizona, UCLA, 19th ranked Memphis and Colorado State between then and now, there’s a good chance the Jayhawks will remain undefeated until he returns. And when he returns, look out.

Ohio State are for real ladies and gentleman. Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas will help fill the Evan Turner-shaped hole, and the Buckeyes will reach at the very minimum the Elite 8. Inside, outside, it doesn’t matter; this team can hurt you either way, and hurt you bad. Thad Matta has done one hell of a job recruiting two blue chip guys to put with his solid returning cast, now its time to sit back, watch and enjoy.

Follow me on Twitter @DOL17, for the Stepien Rules mailbag contact dol-17@hotmail.com

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