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.
League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant
Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.
However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.
“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”
“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”
One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.
“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”
Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.
But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.
Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver
That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.
Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.
What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.
Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.
By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.
Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.
How’s that going?
(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.