What you missed while watching your bracket go up in smoke…
Magic 108, Heat 102 (OT): If you were like roughly two-thirds of the people watching this game — flipping back and forth between it and the entertaining Washington/Marquette NCAA game — you felt lost. Each time you flipped back it felt like a new game.
The first half was fairly even, in large part because Jermaine O’Neal continues to by Kryptonite for Dwight Howard. O’Neal always wins that battle. We have no idea why either. Throw in some very flat Orlando defense and the usual dose of Dwyane Wade and you have a halftime tie.
The third quarter and the first seven minutes of the fourth were more what we all expected. Jameer Nelson woke up and penetrated, Orlando won the battle in the paint and even Rashard Lewis was draining shots. Orlando was in control.
Then with five minutes left and up 12, Orlando stopped playing. Their defense was non-existent and Miami scored on 8 of their last 11 trips down the court. Meanwhile Miami played its best perimeter defense in part because O’Neal was doing such a good job on Howard they didn’t need to double, and guys stayed with perimeter shooters. And even when Orlando got a good look, they missed. That opened the door, and like it was an NCAA game it was off to overtime.
Lewis scored seven points in overtime, including a dagger three from the left corner. It was a sign of how tired the Hornets were that he was wide open — top of the Magic scouting report is don’t give Rashard Lewis open looks from the corner. He’s 43.8 percent from where he hit that shot. (Lewis is shooting a higher percentage from the right corner than he does at the rim.) Add in a healthy dose of Vince Carter and the Magic pull it out. You don’t knock road wins, but that was harder than it needed to be.
Nuggets 93, Hornets 80: It is the worst back-to-back in the NBA — West Coast one night, then fly to the altitude of Denver the next night. Even the Nuggets lost the three times they did this last season. It’s a schedule-makers loss. This one live up to the billing. The game felt like it was over by the time TNT switched over — Denver just dominated early. They had 62 first half points by, 34 of those came in the paint, and they grabbed offensive boards on 48 percent of missed shots. Denver led by 25 at the half.
Denver just went through the motions in the second half, and the Hornets tried, but they didn’t have the talent and fresh legs to pull it off.
Update: The Nuggets will waive Jameer Nelson, according to Wojnarowski:
It looks like Denver will ride with the younger Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay at point guard — a risky proposition. Nelson stabilized the position in the event Murray or Mudiay weren’t ready for bigger roles. The Nuggets aren’t hedging their bets now, which puts plenty of pressure on Murray and Mudiay.
Murray should be fine eventually. Mudiay’s promise is far less certain. But this is a team trying to reach the playoffs now, and it might have to ride out growing pains from its point guards without Nelson as a safety net.
Richard Jefferson became a late entrant into free agency when the Cavaliers traded him and the Hawks waived him.
But the forward is landing on his feet.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Jefferson could help the Nuggets, who look primed to end a four-season playoff drought. They were set to squeeze backup small-forward minutes behind Wilson Chandler out of the undersized Will Barton and oversized Juan Hernangomez. Jefferson is far more comfortable at the position.
He’s 37 and doesn’t offer long-term upside, but he’s a savvy defender and still pretty athletic. He picks his spots well enough offensively to help on that end, too.
But Denver also has a deep roster that already had 15 players on standard contracts. There’s not an obvious cut to make room for Jefferson, though the Nuggets clearly have something planned.
Joel Embiid wants to get on the court, he wants to unleash himself on the NBA this season. After three seasons of being bottled up — even in the 31 games he has played there was a minutes restriction — Embiid wants to impose his will on the league.
He’s going to have to do that in less than 20 minutes a night, at least to start the season.
Sixers coach Brett Brown says to start the season there will be a tight minutes limit on Embiid, who averaged less than 15 minutes in two preseason games after finally being cleared to play. Embiid does not like that. Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia has the quotes.
“I don’t really know if there’s a solid number,” Brett Brown said Monday after practice. “I can tell if you were to choose a number, it’s somewhere in the teens.”
“I didn’t know about that, but that’s very disappointing,” Embiid said Monday of the minutes restriction. “I feel great and hopefully that changes based on today’s practice and tomorrow’s practice.”
The Sixers being cautious with Embiid is about as surprising as the last Transformers movie sucking.
That said, if any particular game is close going into the fourth quarter don’t be shocked if Embiid breaks his minutes limit — this is a team that wants to start winning, and that means keeping their best players on the court longer. If Saturday night against the Raptors Brett Brown thinks giving Embiid 22-23 minutes helps get them the win, he will. The goal will be to get him up to the high 20s by the end of the season.
The real test for these Sixers will not be how the offense fairs with Embiid sitting — they have guys that can create and knock down shots if needed, such as Ben Simmons or J.J. Redick – instead it’s how well they can defend with him resting.
From troubled to extended, LaMarcus Aldridge‘s Spurs tenure has changed directions in a hurry.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Piecing this together, Aldridge is exercising a $22,347,015 player option for 2018-19. That means his extension is worth $50 million over two years will carry him through age 35. All in all, Aldridge is now under contract for four more seasons.
Aldridge is a borderline All-Star, and he raises San Antonio’s floor. His back-to-the-bask mid-range games remains reliable, and he’s a willing defender. Him signing this deal should end pining for greener pastures, but it certainly won’t force him into diligent acceptance of his role forever. Players can become discontent whenever they please.
This extension significantly limits the Spurs flexibility the next two summers and maybe even in 2020, depending on Aldridge’s guarantee in the second year of his extension. They seem fine with that, perhaps believing they already have enough to topple the Warriors if Kawhi Leonard is healthy.
With Aldridge, Pau Gasol and Patty Mills all under contract for the few years around Leonard, San Antonio should remain stably good. But will these deals for aging veterans limit the Spurs’ ceiling? That’s the risk for an organization that has built its identity on championships and already has a young, in-his-prime superstar who has proven capable of being the best player on a title team.
Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge a couple weeks ago.
Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk in a statement:
“There is an ongoing investigation into the details of the incident involving Dennis Schröder that occurred on Sept. 29th. During this process, we plan to support Dennis as we would any of our players working through a situation.
However, from our preliminary findings, we are aware that Dennis was involved in a physical altercation. That behavior is unacceptable, will not be tolerated by the Hawks organization, and will result in discipline for Dennis at the appropriate time once the matter has been more fully developed through the law enforcement process and otherwise.
Dennis has accepted responsibility for his actions. He looks forward to learning from this incident and focusing on the season.”
On one hand, it’s odd that the Hawks are both deferring to the process and pledging discipline. On the other hand, teams should more often make their own judgments on how to handle these issues than blindly rely on the legal system.
This statement is intentionally vague, and it gives the Hawks wide latitude in how to proceed. Eventually – likely dependent on legal outcomes – they’ll reveal Schroder’s punishment.