Marcus Morris

Marcus Morris injury hampers Day 4 of the NBA D-League Showcase

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The eighth annual NBA Development League Showcase came to an end on Thursday night after 16 teams played a total of 16 games over four days in lovely Reno, Nevada. The final day may have been the least uneventful — at least as far as top prospects were concerned — but an injury to Houston Rockets assignee Marcus Morris had onlookers fearing for the worst.

Morris suffered a left ankle injury early on in the Rio Grande Valley Vipers loss to the Springfield Armor when the fourteenth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft came down on his defender’s foot less than two minutes into the D-League Showcase’s penultimate game (video here). Morris didn’t return to action after having to be helped off the court, but it sounds as though he shouldn’t miss much more than a week — pending an MRI this weekend.

Morris has shown that he’s above the level of D-League competition he’s facing — the 6-foot-9 forward went into Thursday’s game averaging 29.7 points and 12.3 rebounds over three games  — but Rockets general manager Daryl Morey believes having Morey develop in the D-League while transitioning to the wing is going to hurry up the process. D-League development is something that’s expected to become more frequent, too, Morey told Pro Basketball Talk on Wednesday.

“I think the D-League is going to eventually become like Triple-A baseball where pretty much every rookie spends some time there,” Morey said. “Obviously we’re not there yet, but I think over time that’s going to be how it’s looked at. It guys the ability to work on their game early, it allows them to work on parts of their game the coaching staff is emphasizing and we’re obviously big believers in the whole system.”

Rio Grande Valley ended up losing with Morris out of the lineup, but it came down to the final seconds. The Vipers took a three-point lead with 15.2 seconds left in the game when former New Jersey Nets guard Ben Uzoh sank a pair of free-throws, but a foul before Springfield was able to inbound the ball on the ensuing possession gave JamesOn Curry a free-throw to cut the lead to two before newly-acquired Preston Knowles sank a game-winning three-pointer with 5.6 seconds left on the clock to secure a 100-99 victory.

The three other games didn’t all end in spectacular fashion, but there were a few prospects that certainly stood out.

  • Dakota Wizards swingman Edwin Ubiles looked excellent on offense with 22 points, but his team lost thanks to a group effort from the Austin Toros. All five Toros starters scored in double digits with point guard Justin Dentmon scoring 27 points in a starring role. Both players
  • The Tulsa 66ers picked up a blowout ‘W’ over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants behind excellent play from the D-League’s leading rebounder as power forward Marcus Lewis scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while making 11 of his 12 shot attempts. Teammate Larry Owens, formerly of the Washington Wizards, scored 19 points while the Mad Ants were led by Walker Russell with 19 points of his own.
  • “Money” Mike Efevberha showed why he earned that nickname at this year’s Drew League by pouring in 20 points in the final game of the Showcase as the Iowa Energy picked up a victory. The Canton Charge had a balanced effort with five players scoring in double figures, but it was former Cleveland Cavaliers guard Manny Harris and his 14 points that made foor the most interesting prospect.

By and large, the Showcase should be considered a success this season. Call-ups in the coming months will largely determine whether it was worth it for scouts from all 30 D-League teams to converge on Reno this week. A full recap of the week will be posted on Pro Basketball Talk on Friday.

Draymond Green tells Kyrie Irving: ‘I know your moves’ (video)

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Only Draymond Green can endearingly brag about his defensive intelligence while admitting getting fooled on a play.

In the Warriors’ blowout win over the Cavaliers last night, Green guarded Kyrie Irving and anticipated the Cleveland guard would go one way. After Irving went the other way to score, the two shared a moment during a stoppage.

“I know your  moves,” Green said.

“I know,” replied Irving, whose vast offensive repertoire allowed him to find an unexpected counter.

Thaddeus Young shakes backboard with dunk on Terrence Jones (video)

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Terrence Jones isn’t much of a rim protector.

Thaddeus Young took advantage.

This ferocious jam helped the Pacers beat the Pelicans, 98-85.

Rudy Gobert block secures Utah’s win over Phoenix (VIDEO)

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At the season’s midway point, Rudy Gobert is probably the leader frontrunner in the Defensive Player of the Year race. Kawhi Leonard will have a say, and there is a lot of basketball yet to play, but Gobert anchors the NBA’s best defense and he is a force in the paint.

Just ask the Phoenix Suns.

Down three with 13 seconds left Monday night, the Suns wanted a three to tie, but when that was not easily open Eric Bledsoe decided to drive for two (then the Suns would foul and extend the game), he was cut off so Bledsoe dished to rookie Marquese Chriss, who went in for the layup — and found the long arms of Gobert. Blocked shot and game over.

Utah is for real, folks.

Three Things We Learned, Cavaliers/Warriors edition: What can we take away from Monday to NBA Finals?

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 16:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers holds his face after being fouled by Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on January 16, 2017 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The NBA goes big on Martin Luther King Jr. day — as they should — but if you missed the action because you were busy counting to 100,000 for no reason, we’ve got you covered with the key takeaways from the biggest game on the schedule.

And we’re doubling our usual three things we learned to six for a day.

Six things from Warriors’ thrashing of Cavaliers that could play out in NBA Finals.
 Nothing that happens in the regular season guarantees anything come the NBA playoffs, let alone the Finals. Last season’s 73-win Warriors were just the latest in a long line of teams to prove that. Which means we need to be careful reading much into Golden State’s thrashing of Cleveland on Martin Luther King Jr. day. The Finals are a little less than six months away — both of these teams will be different by then (the Cavaliers hope to have a healthy J.R. Smith and Kevin Love by then, for example).  Remember, in January one year ago the Warriors thrashed the Cavaliers on national television, and how did the following Finals turn out?

However, when these teams meet some strategies are tested, little things in the game that we could see — or teams will need to at least account for — come the Finals meeting we all expect. Here are six things from Monday’s game that could well play out in June in the NBA Finals.

1) In the four straight wins the Cavaliers had in this series prior to Monday, they were very aggressive in defending Stephen Curry — they trapped him off picks, were physical, tried to pressure him into decisions to give up the ball, then when Curry tried to make the playground passes that worked against other teams the Cavaliers help defenders made steals and were off in transition the other way. All of that made Curry passive — remember the guy floating on the perimeter taking just 11 shots on Christmas Day?

On Monday night Curry took that pressure in stride, attacked Kyrie Irving from the opening tip (remember Curry’s first possession he blew right by him), used his handles to create space, used his gravity to draw defenders to him, then he whipped smart passes around the floor. In the first half, Curry had 10 assists and zero turnovers. For the game Curry had 20 shots. If he can match that, or even come close, in the Finals, the Cavs are going to struggle to slow this offense down. Like every mortal team has.

2) In January 2016 the Warriors thrashed the Cavaliers on national television, and that was a critical step in the Cavaliers deciding they needed to let David Blatt go, hire Tyronn Lue, and make changes that put them on Golden State’s level. With Monday’s loss, one thing that was evident was the depth of playmaking options the Warriors have and how that can be difficult to guard. Cleveland has two playmakers right now, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. Cavs’ GM David Griffin has talked about wanting to add playmakers, LeBron has called for a backup point guard, but it’s clear whatever position they could use to add another playmaker or two heading into the trade deadline.

3) Can Kevin Durant guard LeBron? Chris Haynes of ESPN with an interesting stat:

The Cavaliers were on the last night of a six-game, 12-day road trip — they were not at their best. LeBron clearly wasn’t. However, if KD can even do a reasonable job on LeBron — or can switch on to him without getting torched — the Warriors will be a lot more comfortable and have more options on defense.

4) How did Warriors handle Kyle Korver? They went right at him and made him play defense, which has never been a strong suit (to put it kindly). The Warriors have enough playmakers that whoever Korver was guarding just went at him, and it worked — particularly during the stretch that saw the Warriors first push their lead north of 20. Korver didn’t have a great shooting night, by June he likely is far more comfortable, but if the Warriors can expose him on the other end it will be hard to keep Korver on the court for extended periods.

5) When JaVale McGee checked in for the Warriors, Tyronn Lue countered with Channing Frye. JaVale is not a strong defender, doesn’t step out away from the basket if he can help it, and the Cavs saw an advantage. JaVale’s offense covered that in this game scoring inside, but it’s something to watch.

6) DeAndre Liggins is a good defender, but he’s more focused on-ball than off, and in the fourth quarter Klay Thompson torched him a few times making Liggins chase him off screens away from the ball. You can be sure Steve Kerr noticed and filed that away.