Trevor Booker turned in another solid performance last night. Booker’s line was not spectacular as much of what he provides to the team will often not show up in the box score. Booker who, coming into this game, had been perfect from the field had his worst shooting night finishing 1-7 and scoring only 2 pts. He also had 2 rebounds, 1 assist, a blocked shot and only 1 turnover. He did sets solid screens, routinely hustles back on defense and follows the ball to get into position to rebound (more on this later). Booker also blocks out!!! Let me say that again, he blocks out – I know it is a foreign concept on this team. Blocking out can obviously help him get a rebound, but just as importantly it can prevent his man from getting a rebound often making it easier for a teammate to grab a board (Ahem… JaVale and Dray!).
Here are some moments in the game, both positive and negative, that highlight Booker’s night:
- 6:20 of 1st – Booker and Martin create pressure on inbound play following a made basket and force a turnover
- 5:56 of 1st – Part of the same sequence as above. Booker receives a pass and elects not to take the initial, open shot. Instead he pump fakes, takes one dribble and ultimately misses a slightly more difficult shot
- 4:47 of 1st – Booker has a nice pass to a wide open Hudson who misses the shot
- 3:00 of 1st – Booker leaves too much space when defending on the pick & roll, which allows Roddy Beaubois to split him and John Wall. Ultimately, Wall recovers but picks up a foul before a shot is taken
- 7:35 of 2nd – Booker prevents an easy two points with a nice block in the paint on Mahinmi
- 5:05 of 4th – Booker scores his only two points on a sweet looking jump shot
- 3:57 of 4th – Booker is in the high post and gets his only assist on an excellent bounce pass, between three defenders, to the cutting Jerome Randle
One item though requires delving into at a much greater level of detail. Particularly since it both demonstrates some positive attributes of Booker, while simultaneously illustrating what has been frustrating about both JaVale and Andray in the past.
It’s the Wizards ball with about one minute and three seconds on the clock in the third quarter. Cartier Martin has the ball just outside the three point line. Booker flashes to the top and sets a very solid screen for Martin, just outside the three point line. It is a screen that is so solid that not only does it stop the defender in his tracks, but it appears from the camera angle as if he is hugging Booker. Martin drives right and pulls up for an open jumper about a foot inside the three point line.
What is so special about that? What is so special, at least for this team, is that as the ball is leaving Martin’s hands Booker just does not stand there and watch (thinking his job is over) or drift up court. He actually sprints from the three point line into the paint! Booker makes it to the logo in the paint just as the ball is bounding off of the rim. Did he get the rebound you ask? No, the ball came off the rim sharply in the opposite direction. Booker exhibited a level of effort, to put himself in position for a rebound that we aren’t used to seeing from the Wizards’ young big men.
Let’s consider this play from a different perspective. JaVale was on the floor, what did JaVale do on this play? Let’s pick up the action from when the shot left Cartier Martin’s hands. On this play JaVale popped out to the foul line looking in Martin’s direction. When the Ball was in flight McGee turned and watched. Was he being boxed out? Did he scramble for rebounding position? Um, no and no. JaVale’s man (Omar Samhan) was able to “box him out” with one arm extended out just to ensure JaVale was still standing at the foul line. As the ball hit the rim, remember Booker is now in the paint running from further away; JaVale is still at the foul line. I know, Booker did not get the rebound either, but the effort was there. JaVale was lunching on that play.
How did the play end you ask? The ball which bounced sharply off the rim landed into the hands of Jeremy Lin who was standing flat footed just outside the paint. (In an effort to create a mental picture, Lin was nearer to the baseline than he was to the free through line.) Rather than run back up the floor on defense, JaVale makes an “attempt” at a steal??? In reality, he did not even slow Lin down who went around McGee as if he was a tall cone in a dribbling drill. Lin easily got into the paint and made nice pass to Shan Foster for an easy dunk. What made me almost crazy is that at the conclusion of this play you notice that Omar Samhan, who is not often described as particularly fast or athletic, is actually in better position to collect a rebound than JaVale.
Maybe Dallas would have still scored on that play, but that is one of those plays in which it is easy to question both his effort and his decision-making. If he would have gotten back on defense then maybe there would have been a blocked shot rather than a dunk. JaVale standing in the paint is a much greater obstacle than him making a half-hearted effort at a steal in the open court against a point guard.
That rant aside JaVale actually had a pretty nice game. According to NBA Summer League stats, JaVale’s line was decent with 18 points (90% FG%) and 4 rebounds. And while he did not have any blocks, he did force a few people to change their shots. It was nevertheless entertaining to watch him catch Jeremy Lin’s floater in the lane. I agree with Chris Webber that it can send a message to the opponent if you block a shot that is called goaltending.
I will also give him credit for having the dunk of the night. In my opinion, it might actually be the dunk of his career so far. It was about the 6:03 mark in the 2nd quarter and JaVale grabbed a rebound in traffic. He went up with two hands and through it down with his right hand on Mahinmi and three other Mavs. A dunk in traffic can get both the crowd and your teammates fired up. I will take that any day over a windmill on a break.
Steal of the night goes to Jerome Randle. The Mavericks were inbounding the ball at about 8:18 in the 2nd quarter. One of the Mavericks’ assistant coaches was giving instructions to Jeremy Lin as he received the inbounds pass. Unbeknownst to Lim, Randle was lurking right behind him and stripped him clean while he was not paying attention. Randle missed the shot attempt but Lin fouled him in the act. Randle sunk both free throws.
At the start of the second half, NBA TV play-by-play man Joel Meyers said something that bothered me a bit. The shot clock was winding down on a stagnant Wizards position and John Wall fired up a shot a long jump shot that came up a bit short hitting the front of the rim. This lead Meyers to say, “Dominique Jones has had some success in the first half against John Wall… it has to be in the back of his [Wall’s] mind that he is on me again.” While I do not think that John Wall is unguardable, I also believe that it is common for a play or two to cloud the judgment of someone watching a game.
Dominique Jones did appear to have the best (relative term) defensive performance against John Wall so far in Summer League, but let’s try considering the full picture:
- John Wall finished the game with 21 points (right on his average for three games), 10 assists, 7 rebounds and only 3 turnovers. Keep in mind that he did this while having his worst shooting night of the Summer League, missing shots (and even a potential highlight reel dunk) that he has been making
- Dominique Jones did block two John Wall jumpers and primarily serves as the reason that Meyers made the comment. However, those two shots came at times when one could easily tell they were coming. Again credit to Jones for being in position to get his hand on those shots
- The Mavericks used primarily three different guards to defend against John Wall: Beaubois, Jones and Lin. In the Summer League you get 10 fouls before fouling out which can allow you to be much more aggressive than you otherwise could in an actual NBA game. Beaubois finished with five personal fouls (four of which occurred within the first six minutes of the game), Jones finished with six (five of which were committed against Wall) and Lin finished also finished with six. Not to take anything from Jones, but virtually unlimited fouls will allow even a middle of the road defender to appear to be much better than they actually are.
- Given Wall’s poor shooting night, many of those shots that he has been hitting previously, he easily left another 10 or 12 points on the floor
- Meyers’ comment also suggests that Jones defense on Wall might actually have gotten into Wall’s head a little (or that it should). I have to say that as I watched Wall play after those two blocked shots, he appeared to be more determined (not less) to hit a few jumpers over Jones. Some were shots that he should not have taken (poor shot selection) others were good looking shots that did not fall
- Wall also demonstrated, while Jones was defending him, that he clearly has a higher gear. At the 3:41 mark in the 3rd quarter, McGee set a soft screen near the 3 point line, which Jones decides to run under. Wall takes a few dribbles to the right, towards the top of the key. As Jones makes it nearly back to position, Wall kicks it into a higher gear and leaves Jones at the foul line and Manhinmi hanging in mid-air scoring on a reverse layup
After watching the game a second time, I can’t help but think that Meyers (and by extension Webber) gave Jones a little too much credit. Jones did demonstrate that he was willing to match up with John Wall and for that he deserves credit. The bigger story for the Mavericks should be what happened to Beaubois? A sore ankle did not cause him to foul four times in the first six minutes of the game.