In the NBA (and all professional sports for that matter), players have a fine line to walk when discussing their opponents. Don’t give them enough credit, and they feel wronged and the comments become bulletin board material. Give them too much credit, and there’s a perceived psychological shift and the comments become bulletin board material.
Al Jefferson’s comments on Dwight Howard, in light of how well the Wolves defended Howard last time the two teams met (via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel’s Magic Basketblog):
“To me, when Dwight Howard’s on the floor, it’s a plus for his team,” Jefferson said after the workout ended. “I don’t think you can stop Dwight Howard. I think you can try to maintain him, try to keep him from just taking over the ballgame. We did a good job of maintaining him, but he’s such a great player he made his teammates around him better, and that’s why other guys got open shots and nailed them.”
You can parse the lines if you’d like, but I’m not sure there’d ever be consensus on where this falls in the spectrum of opponent praise. The fact that Minnesota performed so well against Howard last time around definitely factors in, as the notion that one can’t stop Dwight could be a compensation tactic to keep the gentle giant at bay.
Then again, much of what Jefferson tells us is obvious, making it not so much high praise as a statement of fact. Yes, Dwight Howard improves his team’s performance when he’s on the floor. Yes, opponents want to keep him from taking over the game. Yes, his presence will open up the game for his teammates. But at what point does Jefferson cross that imaginary line and cede the supposed ‘psychological edge?’
The Los Angeles Clippers had a rough go of things against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. Up by 18 with more than five minutes to go, LA blew their lead and were left to watch as the Kings sealed the game late.
The final possession for Sacramento came on a missed corner 3-pointer by Clippers guard Jamal Crawford. The Kings got the outlet pass out on the rebound, but Ben McLemore took it to the rack and missed. That’s when Willie Cauley-Stein stepped in, cleaned up the board, and put the game-winning shot home with less than two seconds left.
Los Angeles lost in spectacular fashion, and became the only team this season to lose given their game situation.
Here’s a compilation the NBA put together of Sacramento’s epic comeback:
Meanwhile, Chris Paul called it the worst regular season loss of his career.
The Clippers peaked too soon. Like, the first 20 games of the season too soon.
Russell Westbrook had yet another triple-double on Sunday. The Oklahoma City Thunder star notched 13 assists in the loss to the Houston Rockets, 137-125, and one of them came on a nifty pass to teammate Victor Oladipo.
The play happened with the Thunder on the fastbreak early in the third quarter. Westbrook was moving from left-to-right across the middle of the floor with the ball while Oladipo streaked down the right wing.
With the Rockets defense collapsing, Westbrook reached halfcourt and fired a bounce pass that sliced through the opposition.
Oladipo finished with the clean dunk.
Still not sure it beats this one, but I think we’ll have to compare once the season comes to a close.
The race between James Harden and Russell Westbrook for the 2017 NBA MVP has narrowed to a two-man race toward the end of the season. The Oklahoma City Thunder star is averaging at triple-double this year, and the Houston Rockets guard is doing things nobody has ever done on a basketball court before.
It’s a tough decision to decide between them, so much so that even former Los Angeles Lakers great and 2008 NBA MVP Kobe Bryant can’t do it.
Speaking on ESPN on Sunday, Bryant said he thought the league might have to just bite the bullet on Westbrook vs. Harden.
“We might see our first co-MVPs this year,” said Bryant.
That would be a huge step for the league, but I’m not entirely sure they would do it. There have been co-NBA All-Star Game MVPs in years past, but never league MVP.
Still, can you decide between Russ and Harden? The Mamba can’t.
Houston Rockets center Nene is from Brazil, but on Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder the South American native went full euro.
On a fastbreak possession, Nene took on Thunder big man Enes Kanter near the rim and absolutely shook him with a nasty eurostep.
The play was so good that it forced Oklahoma City to call a timeout as James Harden and the rest of the Rockets bench met Nene on the court to celebrate.