Kevin Durant, after dropping 32 points on Wednesday night, was likely going to win the NBA scoring title. For Kobe Bryant to catch him, the Lakers star was going to have to score 38 in a meaningless game against the Kings Thursday.
Which he is not going to do because Lakers coach Mike Brown said Kobe is resting this game to prepare for the playoffs, reports Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated.
Durant finishes the season averaging 28 points per game to Kobe’s 27.9. This is Durant’s third consecutive scoring title, the last player to win three in a row was Michael Jordan.
In recent days both Kobe and Durant had downplayed the scoring title race, saying they were more concerned with being right for the playoffs. With this season’s short turnaround between the playoffs and regular season — the Lakers open at home on Sunday against likely Denver but maybe Dallas — many coaches are resting players the final game of the regular season. Kobe could have forced Mike Brown to play him and could have scored 38 points on what passes for defense in Sacramento (even if Kobe had to take 41 shots to get there) but he chose to focus on the big picture.
With the Thunder and Lakers favored to meet in the second round, both of these guys would trade a scoring title for a win in that series.
Giannis Antetokounmpo – one of the NBA’s best players – won’t help new Bucks teammate Eric Bledsoe in a revenge game against the Suns tonight.
Not only is Milwaukee missing Mirza Teletovic and John Henson (and Matthew Dellavedova and Jabari Parker), Antetokounmpo is out.
Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Antetokounmpo will miss Wednesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns due to right knee soreness.
Antetokounmpo says his knee soreness is the same injury he dealt with in the off-season, which caused him to withdraw from the Greek national team.
“It feels good,” Antetokounmpo said after sitting out shootaround. “I’m just trying to be careful with it and not make any damage. That’s it, because it’s a long season and I’m trying to be careful.”
The Bucks have been outscored by 18.6 points per 100 possessions without Antetokounmpo this season (and are +2.3 without him). Phoenix isn’t good, but neither is Milwaukee without Antetokounmpo.
I don’t think Bledsoe will mind a chance to get more aggressive tonight, though.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said his league would look into placing a franchise in Mexico City.
Meanwhile, the NBA’s minor-league has affiliates for 26 of 30 NBA teams and counting. The league also has youth academies in China, India, Australia and Senegal – and also counting.
Jonathan Givony of ESPN:
The NBA will announce a new basketball development and training academy in Mexico City during the Global Games December 7th and 9th, in conjunction with CONADE (Mexico’s National Commission for Physical Culture and Sport) and the Mexican Basketball Federation, sources told ESPN.
Mexico City could emerge as the 31st G League franchise, where prospects from the seven academies graduate up to, according to sources.
A minor-league team in Mexico City could be a nice testing ground for an NBA franchise. An unaffiliated minor-league team is also an interesting wrinkle, especially how it’d be stocked.
Ultimately, experimentation is a purpose of the NBA’s minor league. This would be running multiple test cases at once.
Lonzo Ball‘s shooting woes this season have been well chronicled. Maybe even beaten to death — but when your father is a hype man, and Magic Johnson says you’re the “face of the franchise” it invites a whole new level of scrutiny. Doesn’t matter if it’s fair, it’s reality.
Rather than a cold recitation of the numbers, a look at Ball’s shot chart for the season says a 1,000 words worth.
Ball has admitted frustration but has said throughout he expects things to turn. He reiterated that in an interview on the Mason and Ireland Show on ESPN LA Radio. He likes the looks he’s getting, thinks they will start to go down. (Hat tip Lakers’ Nation.)
“I’m just missing shots. I definitely like the looks I’m getting. Most of them are wide open, people are going under screens. I feel like they’re going to fall. Just have to keep shooting and shooting with confidence.”
Ball is right. He is shooting 28.2 percent on shots where the defender is 4-6 feet away (22.9 percent from three on those), and 21.3 percent when the defender is 6 or more feet away (19.1 percent from three).
Those shots may start to fall — Luke Walton has preached the same thing to Ball, just keep shooting and it will come around. Right now Ball is in his own head about this, maybe guiding the shots rather than just firing away, but the Lakers aren’t going to rebuild his shot mid-season. He should just keep shooting.
Maybe of more concern is that 42.5 percent in the restricted area — if he isn’t a decent scoring threat on drives, it will hamper his entire passing game. He’s a rookie, he needs time to adjust to the speed, length, and physicality of the NBA, it’s far too early to say what he is and isn’t yet. But those finishing numbers are ones to watch.
After Kevin Durant missed the Warriors’ last game with a sprained ankle, there was some question about whether he would play on his latest return to Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
Doubt no more, he will play. Like we all expected.
Durant has a ring now and says he wants to move on from the drama surrounding his departure from Oklahoma City, but you can be sure plenty of Thunder fans don’t feel that way. KD will again have boos rained down on him all game.
This is obviously a very different Thunder team than the one Durant left, with the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. While the Thunder have stumbled and blown leads (in six of their nine losses OKC had double-digit leads) this is a team with a lot of potential, as Durant discussed.