Nolan Smith: A. Bad. Ass. The other day in the comments, reader Jonny wrote his name like this: KNOWlan smITh. As in, KNOW IT. I love it, so I'm going to add a hyphen, keep the caps, and make this his new nickname. KNOW-IT was straight dirty last night, playing all 40 minutes, going 9-15 from the field and 4-7 from three for 28 total. It was like he could score at will. He had 5 assists to only 2 turnovers, nailed all 6 of his free throws, and grabbed 5 boards for good measure.
There was a delightful viciousness to his game, too. Several times, a Miami guard got up in his grill, and Nolan scored as though he was making a point. And nobody peacocks better than KNOW-IT. The way he bugs his eyes out and stares at the crowd as he kind of glides down the court, both hands stiff at his sides like he's holding something down, is just wonderful. His run of threes at the end of the second half had me up and shouting at the tv (granted, it doesn't take much), and when he dunked, my reaction made my mom look up from her book in alarm. So I guess my two main points are that Nolan Smith is my hero, and everyone's ready for vacation to be over so I can go back to North Carolina. One last thing: people need to start talking about Nolan as a NPOY candidate. We keep hearing it about Singler, and that's great, but Nolan's the guy who has a real shot, especially now that Kyrie is down.
Young Threezy: A-. Slow start, but he came back hard in the second half and ended up having a beautiful game. I continue to absolutely love Dawkins. In his second year, he's become a natural scorer. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that if Coach K turned him loose, he could average 16-19 a night. His shot is deadly, and it opens up his drive when defenders are forced to play up. I'm actually kind of annoyed that until yesterday, Coach K limited his minutes. After he put up 28 on Bradley, here were his minutes prior to the Miami game: 18, 32, 23. Okay, that second game isn't as bad as I thought, but still, this dude should never be playing less than 25 minutes, particularly in the few games after he had a huge confidence boost with 28 points. Ride the hot hand, baby.
Baby Dawk gets an A- instead of a straight A because of his defense. He's kind of a conundrum on that end. On one hand, he's got great intelligence, and he gets a lot of steals (4 last night) by anticipation. On the other hand, he lacks a bit of quickness. Speedy guards seem to blow by him with ease, and that led to a couple easy buckets for Miami. All in all, though, slow and smart is better than slow and stupid, and for a guy with his scoring ability, I'll take it.
Plumblefuck the Lesser: F-. You didn't think I'd just be effusively positive, did you? But let me put out a disclaimer before I begin: I know there is some disagreement about this guy. At halftime of yesterday's game, I tweeted grades (@SCurrSavesDuke OMG FOLLOW ME LOL) for each player, and I gave Miles an F. Several people took issue with that grade, and others have contended in the past that I'm too hard on him. So maybe that's the case; I don't know. I'm only trying to be honest with what I see, and what I see is an alarmingly poor basketball player.
In the past few games, Coach K has tried to get him in the flow. I get that, and it's smart. Some people thought he played really well during that stretch. Personally, I thought he benefited from crappy defenses and just made a lot of dunks on alley oops and fast breaks. And he got a few blocks too. But the Bradleys and St. Louis' and UNC-Greensboros of the world are easy pickings. I wasn't going to praise a guy for great performances against them.
Here's what I saw yesterday: Miles has an almost comical lack of coordination. He's almost never in good position for a rebound. When he is, he usually cannot catch said rebound. He commits really stupid fouls on defense, particularly after he's been out-rebounded. He's far too aggressive trying to block. This leads to more fouls, and leads to easy dishes for opposing guards. (The one time I was pumped up about Miles last night was when he 'blocked' that guy on a dunk...and then ESPN showed the replay, and it turned out he slapped him in the face). He cannot set a pick to save his life. He plays terrible interior defense.
Q: Why won't Miles Plumlee be consuming food between the hours of noon and 3pm for the next 7 days?
A: Because Reggie Johnson ate a week's worth of his lunch.
He has no offensive moves. He's more likely to travel than he is to put together a solid post move. The lowlight of his night came at the end of the first half, when Nolan found him underneath on a baseline inbounds pass. Miles made the correct choice to try an up-and-under reverse with his left, but he airballed the lay-up.
I get that Coach K needs him. I get that he's valuable as a big man. But oh my Lord, if this doesn't prove that he can't excel in the ACC, what will? It was an absolute disaster for Duke fans, and a comic tour-de-force for anyone who hates us. Am I alone in this? Am I making too big a deal of his horrible play? I'm really asking here. I want to know what other people's impressions are, because I feel kind of like a negative nancy sometimes. If I'm wrong, let me know. Maybe I'm in a hate vacuum, because my stepfather yells at him basically the entire game. He thinks he must have hands the size of my mother's. And speaking of her, she usually gets pissed when he yells. But last night even she couldn't help but admit that in Miles' case he had a point. When my mom can pick out a player's uselessness in the scattered moments when she pays attention, that is a problem.
Kyle Singler: B+. Kind of a quiet night for The Sing, but, as usual, the shots he made were huge. When we're nearing a crisis situation, you can always count on him to step up and deliver, even if the rest of his night has been iffy. His shot was slightly off last night (only 2-8 from three), and he seemed sort of lost in the offense, but like a Boo Radley* type recluse, he showed up when required. He also did a great job on the boards, nabbing 8 to help the Plumblebums.
*What about Boom Radley as his nickname? Sort of reclusive, very quiet, but when he shows up...BOOM!
Plumblefuck the Slightly Greater: C. A lot of the same problems as his brother. The difference is a few inches, a touch of coordination, and a cooler head. Mason plays a more intelligent game than Miles, and as such he commits fewer fouls and makes fewer bone-headed plays on offense. But he's still constantly getting out of position going for blocks, and his offense has all but disappeared after some great early performances. Coach K needs to start him, though. He's far more valuable than Miles, and he's capable of actually being good. Even when he's not great, like last night, he's the kind of player who can block 4 shots and grab 10 boards in only 25 minutes.
Ryan Kelly: B+. I'm loving him more and more. He lacks the size and strength of the Plumlees, but he's everything they're not in terms of court smarts and fluidity. He meshes with the offense almost seamlessly, and he plays with a controlled excitement that's really fun to watch. He's a very good 4 for the Duke offense. He would be a great 4 if he was a little better on the boards and could body up on bigger guys on defense. His inability to do so will probably limit him to around 25 minutes per game, and it makes us have to rely on Miles more than is healthy.
By the way, what's his Harry Potter nickname? Marion came up with it the other day, but I've forgotten and I still haven't read the books.
MARION ANSWERS: Neville Longbottom.
Seth Curry: B-. He's still not quite there, is he? I noticed, though, that he's never in the game for very long stretches. It's like Coach K pulls him out to punish him any time he makes a slight mistake. I know that's not the case, but I do wish they'd leave him in for a little continuity. But what really worries me about Seth is the shooting. From 3, he's been great (44% on 46 attempts). But from the field overall, he's only 37% compared to 42% at Liberty. When you subtract 3-pointers, he's 26% from inside the arc. That's really awful. Granted, it's a small sample size (8-30), but the fact remains that he's not hitting the mid-range jumper like we expected. Once that piece falls into place, he'll be fine.
Seth gets a B- instead of a C because he's an instinctively strong defender. I love watching him play D; he's everywhere. Also, it would be unfair to give him a C when the refs seemed to be targeting he and Dawkins specifically. Of Curry's 4 personal fouls, I bet 1 was legitimate. Which brings me to...
These Idiots F. Good GOD. Could they have been any worse? I would say I'm less prone to blaming referees than most, but these guys were horrible. And, to be fair, they were horrible both ways. But Dawkins and Curry got screwed over and over, Miles Plumlee could have been called for about 8 more fouls than he had, and Reggie Johnson got the short end of the stick for Miami. Ryan Kelly had one awful blocking foul called on him near halfcourt when a Miami guard bowled him over, and got jobbed again later underneath. Karl Hess was the man responsible for most of the bad calls, as he usually is whenever he ends up at a Duke game. Here's a picture:
I heard from several places yesterday that he stinks, and I have memories of his poor performances in the past. I'm not saying he's the worst ref in history, but last night was godawful.
Team Defense: B-. Terrible inside. Terrible. Reggie Johnson showed the formula for beating Duke. It was pretty damn unequivocal. On the other hand, I thought our perimeter D was pretty strong, and had a lot do with Miami's miserable three-point shooting.
Three more quick thoughts:
1) The lineup I really want on the floor is Mason-Singler-Dawkins-Curry-Smith. I realize we sacrifice some rebounding that way, but I really think we could run teams off the floor for short stretches. We'd also create a ton of turnovers. This combination only happened once, with 13 minutes left in the second half, and it only lasted for about 45 seconds of game time.
2) I want Reggie Johnson on our team so bad. We'd be unbeatable. He's quite the player. 9-10 from the floor, 5 offensive boards, and he makes his foul shots. If he plays like this for the remainder, he'll be first or second team All-ACC.
3) Thanks to bluefaceddevil in the comments for reminding me about the Top 5 plays and the subsequent interview from Duke Blue Planet. This particular interview, given by Kyrie to Nolan Smith, is hysterical. It's probably the best one yet, and it includes a discussion of blown kisses. It's amazing to me that we have players who are this witty and funny. How can anybody not love these guys?
Okay, moving on: there's bragging to be done. Singler was the Hot Potato yesterday, and he scored 14 points. Yours truly had the closest guess with 15, and I therefore extend my Hot Potato lead to 6 points. Can nobody catch me??? I KNOW BASKETBALL SO WELL! READ IT AND WEEP, LOSERS!
Second-to-last order of business: Jenn Hildreth. She's the sideline reporter for Fox Sports Sunday Night basketball, and I've noticed that her interviews are routinely pretty solid. It's rare that I notice, much less like, a sideline reporter (for anything but looks, if I'm being completely honest), but she seems to know her stuff. Her interview with Nolan after the game was awesome; she managed to bring out his funny personality and get past the rote answers, which should be (and largely isn't) the main goal of any sideline interviewer. Nobody cares that player X thought his team played hard. What's weird or funny or interesting about you? So I say well done, Miss Hildreth, you graduate of the Emory School of Journalism. I predict big things for you.
Last order of business: Commercials. I'm pretty harsh on bad commercials, beer ones especially, so let's take a moment to be positive: the new AT&T 'Rethink Possible' ads are pretty hilarious.
Disclaimer: AT&T is the epitome of corporate evil. They're the largest lobbying group in Washington, by far, and one of their main goals now is to oppose net neutrality. They want to make us have to pay for fast internet, and create preferred user paths so poor bastards like you and I (I'm assuming you're poor too. If not, congrats!) will be cast back into the DSL stone age if we don't want to fork over a pretty penny. And let's face it, we'll have to fork over that pretty penny. Slow internet sucks, and so does AT&T.
THAT BEING SAID. These two commercials are pretty great. The guy's expression at the end of this one cracks me up. He is too cool for school:
And I dug this one too:
That will do it for today. Happy Monday, happy ACC win.