The Nuggets have a couple of young bucks running their front office.
There is Masai Ujiri, who got hired in the general manager role this summer (even though the formal title is vice president of basketball operations, he’s still a GM). But he answers to the guy with the ultimate power, soon-to-be-owner Josh Kronke, who has worked his way up through the Nugget front office. Two young guys who are getting their first real chance at the big time.
Of course, if you listen to the whispers of other teams dealing with the Nuggets on Carmelo Anthony, there was not once clear voice out of Denver, nor one clear mind and vision. It felt like they needed some guidance.
Enter Pete D’Alessando, who was hired as a consultant by the team today, according to a tweet from Sam Amick of Fanhouse.
D’Alessandro was the general manager of the Golden State Warriors and has been in NBA front offices for years. He’s a lawyer, a guy who understands and can work the cap, and a voice of experience the Nuggets may well value. Of course, he’s also a guy who gave oversized contracts to Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy, so you may not want all his wisdom.
Of course, that’s another voice and another set of ideas in the Denver brain trust. We’ll see if a veteran voice can get them all on the same page.
J.R. Smith on Celtics start: “We don’t start paying attention until after All-Star break”
I’m not sure any LeBron James team can fly under the radar, but the Cavaliers have relatively quietly won five in a row. Most importantly, in those five games, Cleveland’s defense is 8.6 points per 100 possessions better than their season average (and eighth in the league in that stretch). The Cavaliers may be finding their groove.
Not that anyone is noticing because Boston has rattled off 16 wins in a row to have the best record in the NBA.
“Nah,” JR Smith told B/R when asked if they’re paying attention to the league-leading Celtics. “It’s too early. Too early. We don’t start paying attention until after All-Star break when you see teams spacing out (in the standings). You start getting your best shot after the All-Star break.”
Cleveland, even after the win streak, is 5.5 games back of the Celtics. While it’s too early to say anything with certainty, much like last season it seems probable that Boston will be the No. 1 seed and the Cavaliers will need to go on the road to secure another trip to the Finals. Which is just fine with the Cavs if they can be healthy and rested when the postseason rolls around.
Healthy means getting LeBron a little more rest at some point — he leads the NBA in minutes played at 37.9 per game, and he’s in his 15th season. He’s played more regular season games than Michael Jordan. At some point, the Cavaliers need to get him some rest.
But LeBron said postgame he’s not playing the hard minutes, yet.
“Are all 40-minute (games) created equal?” James repeated.
Dwyane Wade elaborated: “If you play 40 minutes and you’re banging around, or you play 40 minutes, an easy up-and-down? You still play 40 but it’s different.”
James: “Forty minutes in a playoff game and 40 in a regular-season game is totally different. For me and him, we don’t just sit on the perimeter. We’re slashing.”
Bucks’ Mirza Teletovic out 4 weeks; Henson to miss Suns game
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) After beating Bulls, if playoffs started today Lakers would be the eight seed. The Lakers have been better than advertised this young season… but a playoff team?
Yes. If the playoffs started today, the Lakers would be the eighth seed.
While everyone seems to focus on Lonzo Ball’s lack of a jumper (he was 3-of-13 Tuesday, 2-of-8 from three), the Lakers have produced the fourth-best defense in the NBA, allowing just 100.3 points per 100 possessions. It’s a shocking improvement from the team with the worst defense in the NBA last season, they are allowing 10.3 points fewer per 100 possessions than a season ago. Los Angeles runs out a long, athletic lineup with a well-positioned backstop big in Brook Lopez in the paint. Maybe fourth in the NBA is not sustainable (teams are shooting just 31.9 percent from three against L.A., and that’s not so much defense as luck), but the Lakers are improved defensively.
That defense keeps the Lakers in games, then thanks to flurries from an inconsistent offense the Lakers 8-10 to start the season after knocking off the Chicago Bulls 103-94. Chicago led by 19 in the second and early third, but the Lakers rallied behind Julius Randle and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
The Western Conference that was expected to be so deep going into the season is watching good teams stumble (Oklahoma City) and other teams struggle with injuries (Memphis, Utah, L.A. Clippers). It has opened the door for now, and the Lakers have stepped in. Or, at least not fallen out.
I still don’t expect the Lakers in the postseason when we get to April, and their young core is still a work in progress, but this start is a big boost to the confidence of the team. It’s a step in the direction they want to go.
2) Denver loses Paul Millsap for three months due to wrist surgery. Last season, Denver had one of the worst defenses in the NBA. This season they are middle of the pack — a substantial improvement. Paul Millsap is a big part of that, the Nuggets have been 4.5 points per 100 possessions better when Millsap has been on the court this season.
Which is why it’s going to hurt so much that he is out to have wrist surgery, he is out three months or so (think return after the All-Star Game).
Millsap inked a team-friendly three-year, $90 million contract with Denver over the summer (the third season is not guaranteed). He is averaging 15.3 points and 6.2 rebounds a game, numbers are down a little from previous years (as were his shots as he adjusted), but things have looked up lately. Millsap seemed to be finding a groove during the recent streak when Denver won 4-of-5. He and the Nuggets were figuring out how to play together. Now that is on hold, and Denver goes from a team that looked like a playoff lock in the West to one to watch. Injuries are shaping the West playoff race right now in a massive way.
3) Worst. Free throw. Ever. This was on Shaqtin’ last week, but it is too good not to post, in case you haven’t seen it.
“I gave him his birthday because they didn’t know how old he was,” Mackey, now a scout with the Indiana Pacers, told ZAGSBLOG.
But Mackey says Bol was probably much older and could have been in his 40s or even 50s when he played in the NBA. According to Wikipedia, Manute played in the NBA from his early 20s until his early 30s for various teams, including the Washington Bullets, Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers.
“The immigration people were in the office [at Cleveland State] and they thought it was great. They loved it. And they were big fans of Cleveland State, they used to come to all our games. They wanted to cover themselves because Manute was starting to get so much publicity. His picture was in the paper. He was on the 6 o’clock news because he was a such a different looking guy than everyone else. At that time, no one had ever seen anything like it.”
So at that point, Mackey worked with the local immigration office to come up with a birthday for Bol, Oct. 16, 1962
“It was in October, I wanted to make it after Sept. 1,” Mackey said. “I wanted to make sure he was young enough because he didn’t have an age. I think he was [in his 40s], I really do. But there’s no way of ever really knowing.”
Bol didn’t end up playing at Cleveland State, reportedly because his English was not good enough. He wound up playing at the University of Bridgeport before getting drafted by the Washington Bullets with the 31st pick in the 1985 NBA Draft.
Mackey is now a scout with the Indiana Pacers, and he is so far the only person telling this story. If it is true, it would have been an incredible feat for Bol to play in the NBA into his 40s.