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In the latest installment of Mason Plumlee Travels The Universe, the USA Men's National Basketball Team slayed the Dragic brothers, defeating Slovenia 119-76 in the Quarterfinals of the FIBA World Cup in Barcelona, Spain Tuesday. The Americans improved to a perfect 7-0, and will now play Lithuania in the semifinals of the tournament on Thursday.
Plumlee got his customary six minutes of play with the game out of hand, checking in with 5:44 left in the fourth and the score at 102-69 in favor of the good guys. The Nets young big man put on a show in the final two minutes: following up his own post-up miss with a jam, then exhibiting a deft passing touch by lobbing an alley-oop pass from the top of the circle to Pistons big man Andre Drummond for the slam. Then, the Duke product caught a touchdown pass from Klay Thompson and jammed it home with his left hand as a Slovenian defender held on to his right for the foul. He couldn't put the cherry on the garbage time sundae, however, missing his free throw attempt. Plumlee finished up with a stat line of four points, two rebounds, one assist and one turnover.
Slovenia did in the first half what 16 seeds hope to do in the NCAA tournament: they "hung around." The Slovenians matched the red, white and blue's 20 points in the 2nd quarter to keep the score a respectable 49-42 at the half.
But as so often happens in NCAA tournament games and Dream Team era USA basketball, the dominant team was just too much. The Americans opened up a nine-point lead halfway through the third quarter to enter the final frame up by 22.
One of Fran Fraschilla's keys to the game for Slovenia -- who had a "puncher's chance" according to the ESPN analyst -- was to limit the Americans to no offensive boards. Team USA had 14 offensive rebounds in the first quarter and finished with 24 for the game, well above their average of 12 per game in this tournament.
Fraschilla also felt the Slovenians needed to make 16 threes to stay with the Americans. They only managed 8-27 from behind the arc, including a 1-5 mark from the team's star, Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns. USA, on the other hand was an efficient 9-19 from three. Four of those treys came from Golden State Warriors guard Thompson, who led all scorers with 20.
Plumlee's already scarce minutes will likely get even more rare as Team USA heads into the semifinals against Lithuania, currently ranked fourth in the FIBA world rankings. The Lithuanians, led by young Raptors big man Jonas Valančiūnas, defeated Turkey 73-61 on Tuesday to advanced to the showdown with Team USA.
The Lithuanians and the USA have history. USA only won 99-94 against them at the 2012 Olympics. The five-point win was the smallest margin of victory for the King James-led patriots. Anthony Davis and James Harden are the only holdovers on the 2014 World Cup roster from that stacked 2012 Gold Medal team.
Since 1976, the last pick in the NFL draft has been referred to -- with tongue firmly planted in cheek -- as "Mr. Irrelevant." The dubious honor even comes with some hardware, "The Lowsman Trophy," a play on the Heisman with the player fumbling a football.
The NBA's version of Mr. Irrelevant has changed quite a bit over the years. The most recent king of irrelevancy is Brooklyn draft property, as the Nets selected Cory Jefferson with the 60th and final selection in the 2014 draft with a pick that they bought from the San Antonio Spurs. The 6'9" Baylor product has a legitimate chance to make the Nets roster, and if he does he would be the third Mr. Irrelevant in four years to make the NBA following Isaiah Thomas (2011, Kings) and Robert Sacre (2012, Lakers).
It hasn't always been number 60. From 1948 to 1986, the draft did not have a limited number of rounds, with teams picking until they did not want to pick any longer. This system produced Mr. Irrelevants like Willie Horton -- no, not THAT Willie Horton -- in the 21st round of the 1968 draft, and Steve Martin -- not that Steve Martin either -- with the 202nd overall pick in the 1979 draft. Like virtually all Mr. Irrelevants of this era, neither ever played in the NBA.
The NBA drafts of yesteryear were so long that Carl Lewis -- actually, yes, THAT Carl Lewis -- was drafted 208th overall by the Chicago Bulls in 1984, despite never playing high school or college basketball. But even with basketball absent on his CV, the ten-time Olympic medalist in track and field wasn't Mr. Irrelevant, as 20 players were taken after.
The probability of a Mr. Irrelevant making an NBA roster increased exponentially as the NBA draft was curtailed to seven rounds in 1987, then three rounds in 1988, and finally the current two-round system in 1989. While more Mr. Irrelevants have made NBA rosters since the late 1980s, their relevancy has not increased all that greatly, with only one player averaging over 7 points per game in an NBA uniform.
In honor of Mr. Jefferson, let's look at the non-illustrious history of the top three "Mr.Irrelevants" in NBA history.
Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams underwent successful surgery Tuesday morning on both ankles, the team announced.
The surgery was performed by Nets foot and ankle specialist, Dr. Martin O'Malley. “The arthroscopic surgery performed today on Deron’s left ankle included the removal of spurs from the front and back of the ankle, as well as a cleaning out of his ankle joint," said O'Malley. As for his right foot, "Deron underwent a procedure on his right ankle to remove a loose bone fragment that was below his right ankle joint."
D-Will is expected to be on crutches for four to six weeks, at which point O'Malley says he can begin "light basketball activities." The three-time All-Star should be able to resume full basketball activities in September, according to O'Malley, and is expected to be ready to go come training camp.
Williams missed 18 games this past season, largely due to a sprained left ankle. In 32.2 minutes per game he averaged 14.3 points, 6.1 assists and 2.6 rebounds, all below his career averages.
Since arriving to the Nets franchise in February of 2011, Williams has been plagued with injuries throughout his body. His ankles have been a constant bugbear, but despite numerous cortisone shots and platelet-rich plasma treatments, he never had surgery on his ankles until this past Tuesday. However it is not the nine year pro's first trip under the knife, as he had season ending wrist surgery back in April of 2011.
Earlier this month, Deron Williams expressed frustration with his performance and confidence in a Nets uniform. The Nets hope this surgery leads to a return to form for their franchise point guard, as he is owed roughly $63 million through the 2016-17 season.
The New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets do not have an illustrious history against the Miami Heat. In the NBA regular season, the 26-year-old Heat hold a 59-45 edge over the itinerant Nets franchise. The disparity is even more pronounced in the playoffs, with the Nets winning a solitary game in two playoff series against the Shaquille O'Neal/Dwyane Wade-led Heat in 2005 and 2006. In the first three years of the Heat's Big Three era, the mid-move Nets went a big 0-for-9 against Miami in the regular season.
But that was before Truthball came to the boroughs. Led by Lebron-nemesis Paul Pierce, the new-look elderly Nets swept the defending back-to-back champions in all four 2013-14 regular season matchups. Four wins won't come so easily against the Heat in the playoffs, so let's recap the good times from the regular season while we still can.
Ed. Note: this originally ran on May 4, 2013, and has been updated.
This won't come as a surprise, and if it does you don't even have a rudimentary understanding of the NBA, but the Nets don't have as illustrious a history as the Los Angeles Lakers. Shocker. The Lakers are an NBA team from the league's second season in 1947, while the Nets are a 1960s ABA team turned NBA expansion franchise in the late 70s. The Lakers have Wilt, West, Kareem, Magic, Kobe and Shaq. The Nets have Jason Kidd and three seasons of Dr. J in the ABA. The Lakers have 16 NBA championships and the Nets have 2 ABA titles.
So when you learn that the Nets have only been in seven "Winner Take All" games in franchise history to the Lakers' 26, it shouldn't surprise you. By "Winner Take All," we mean the final game of a series, that the winner of the game wins the series. That's either the fifth game of a best-of-five series, which the NBA used to decide first round series from 1984-2002, or the more popular seventh game of a best-of-seven series.
Starting with game seven of the 1970 ABA first round against the Kentucky Colonels, here's a history of all seven "Winner Take All" games in Nets franchise History, in which the Nets have a 4-3 record overall.
|Start Here: April 29, 1970|
By the numbers:
Paul Pierce: 75 G, 68 GS, 28.0 MPG, 13.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.4 BPG, .451 FG%, .373 3P%, .826 FT%, 16.8 PER
Amir Johnson 77 G, 72 GS, 28.8 MPG, 10.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.1 BPG, .562 FG%, .303 3P%, .636 FT%, 15.4 PER
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It's hard to consider two teams rivals when they have no discernible provincial rivalry geographically, they have only met once in the playoffs -- in the first round, no less -- and they share a grand total of zero NBA titles.
But the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors are rivals of sorts, and it dates back to December 17, 2004, at 5:12 PM, according to Vince Carter himself (fast forward to around 4:30 in the video), when the Raptors first legitimate franchise player, Vince Carter, was traded to the Nets.
The trade created the big three of Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter for the Nets, and a vociferous hatred of "half-man/half a game Carter" for Raptors fans even to this day. Vince didn't help his case when he admitted he had dogged it in Toronto. The hate-hate relationship between VC and Raptors fans lead to random games in November that ended in OT like this:
With that in mind, let's take a trip back to 2007 for a rewind, then through the four games the Nets & Raptors have played this season.
1974-1975 ABA Stats: 84 GP, 37.7 MPG, 18.7 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 50.9 FG%, 77.0 FT%
1974-1975 ABA Advanced: 54.1 TS%, 51.0 eFG%, 17.0 PER, 107 ORtg, 99 DRtg, 10.0 WS
All-Star Team? Yes
Team: 58-26, lost in first round to Spirits of St. Louis
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The Brooklyn Nets made their much-anticipated move from the swamps of New Jersey to the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic last fall, and an instant NYC basketball rivalry with the Knicks was born. Both teams were also playoff-bound and relevant at the same time in the NBA for the first time since… well, ever, which added a little credibility and gravitas to the fledgling inter-city rivalry.
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Nets rookie Mason Plumlee sat down with the blog Starting5 after the Nets 96-91 loss to the Indiana Pacers last Saturday. Despite the loss, Plumlee was "very pleasant" after playing 15 minutes, grabbing three boards and scoring a career-high six points on 3/5 shooting.
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