You may want to take a couple aspirin just to watch these games. Maybe even that Vicodin you have stashed away in the medicine cabinet. (Oh, admit it, you refilled the prescription on that just to keep around in case, right?)
The Utah Jazz vs. the Denver Nuggets is the series where the “last man standing” can be taken literally — the whole thing may be decided at the four spot, where the injured knee of Kenyon Martin will square off against the torn oblique muscle of Carlos Boozer. Both men are hurting. Both men are going to go come Saturday.
May the man with the highest pain tolerance win.
Martin missed 18 games with patellar tendonitis, a problem he tried to solve with platelet rich plasma therapy (where healthy blood and platelets are injected into the sore area to speed healing). He returned for three regular season games at the end where he averaged 22 minutes per contest and coach Adrian Dantley said he asked out of the second half of the last game because his knee hurt.
Boozer missed the last couple of games with a slight tear in his oblique muscle (along his rib cage). It’s still painful, but Boozer said he is going to go come Saturday.
Both men are key to their teams. Boozer is the second offensive option for the Jazz, a key part of their pick-and-roll offense and the inside to Deron Williams outside. They need him to score points, they need him on the glass. Martin is the defensive anchor of the Nuggets, the guy they count on to lock down the other team’s inside threat — like Boozer — and to protect the paint. He is the enforcer.
In an evenly matched series between rivals, whichever one of the walking-wounded power forwards can have the biggest impact will give his team a huge lift. Possibly a lift into the next round.
There are 1,230 NBA games in a season, and decent amount of those come down to which team executes better in a close game late. (By the way, the best teams don’t win the most close games, the best teams have the most blowouts and aren’t in as many close games.)
What that means is there are a lot of game winners, a lot of clutch shots every season. The folks at NBA.com compiled them for you, and what else do you have to do on a Sunday night but watch 13 minutes of them.
Yes, there is plenty of Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook in this one, but the clutch shot of the season belonged to Kyrie Irving.
Jason Terry has talked about reaching out to multiple teams, including contenders, during free agency before settling on the Milwaukee Bucks. When he talked about why the Bucks, he spoke of believing in what Jason Kidd was building.
There may have been another reason: Minutes.
From Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times:
Some NBA officials contend he signed with Milwaukee and rejected overtures from a handful of teams, including the reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, because of potential playing time.
“He wants his minutes,’’ said an NBA executive, whose team had shown some interest in signing Terry. “He didn’t go there (Milwaukee) to sit on the bench.’’
Terry’s agent denied this, saying he wanted to be part of the Bucks.
If minutes was a key part of his decision, so what? Guys choose teams for money (usually), wins, to play with friends, lifestyle, and weather, plus other reasons — how much run they get is in that mix. It’s never just one thing. And playing time matters.
No doubt Terry will get run with the Bucks behind Matthew Dellavedova, although Giannis Antetokounmpo with the ball as point guard is what is going to make this team fun to watch.
The vultures have been circling.
Other teams have called Sacramento GM Vlade Divac since the day he took office to inquire about the availability of DeMarcus Cousins — however, only George Karl took those calls and tried to run with it. The Kings know they have a franchise player, the best traditional center in the game right now, in Cousins and that is hard to come by. While it may not be easy — Cousins has always been demanding of those around him — they need to make it work.
Enter coach Dave Joerger, the guy who had success with difficult personalities in Memphis and got that team to the conference finals a couple of times.
Cousins has this season and next on his deal, and around the league the conventional wisdom is he bolts when this contract is up (hence the trade calls). Here is what one executive told Zach Harper of CBSSports.com.
“They’re fooling themselves if they think he’s sticking around,” said one league executive. “The good news for them is his value will always be high. There isn’t a point of no return in which you’re not getting high value for him. Teams will bid against each other in the trade market. Maybe [Cousins] doesn’t go for the biggest money in free agency but you’d love to have that card to play.”
The Kings aren’t giving up on being able to keep Cousins. They hope Joerger, the Olympics experience, some winning, a new building, and a trip to the playoffs will have Cousins thinking Sacramento is his home, where he wants to stay and build something.
I’d be surprised if the Kings seriously considered any move before next summer. But if Divac and company get the sense after this contract that they may not be able to keep Cousins — and let’s be clear, up to this point the organization has given him little reason to put his faith in them, Cousins is not unreasonable here — they have to make a move. This is not Oklahoma City where they can just turn the team over to Russell Westbrook, if Cousins goes it’s a rebuild in Sacramento (for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in a decade).
Celtics fans (and the rest of you convinced Cousins is coming your way), you need to wait it out. This is not going to be some quick move this summer.
But the vultures are circling.
Harrison Barnes is the new gun in Dallas — a four years, $94 million contract says so. Dallas is betting the No. 4 option in the Warriors attack is ready to blossom as the No. 1 option with the Mavericks.
But make no mistake, the Mavs are still Dirk Nowitzki‘s team.
Barnes knows it and told Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News he has to prove himself.
“Out of respect, this is Dirk’s team,” Barnes said. “He’s put in the years and won a championship. But I have to go out and earn that. People assume that just because you get paid a lot of money and have a lot of attention that all of the sudden you’re guaranteed this many shots. I have to prove that every day in practice. I have to prove that to the coaching staff, and ultimately, if I’m going to be the guy taking shots, I’ve got to prove it to Dirk.
“You have to have that balance of scoring and playmaking, and learn how to be a closer. I think that’s the beauty of it, that I get to learn from one of the best to ever do it in Dirk Nowitzki. You talk about guys closing games, he’s got to be top-five all time. I’m just looking forward to learning from that guy.”
That’s exactly what he’s supposed to say. Well done by Barnes.
There is going to be an adjustment period in Dallas. Barnes may be able to handle being a No. 1 option — don’t let his rough Finals or riding the bench in the Olympics cloud your judgement — but we will have a better sense of that in February and March rather than November. He needs time to grow.
By the way, good on Mark Cuban for using the cap space he had to make Nowitzki the highest paid player on the team at $25 million — reward the guy who has been loyal to you.