LeBron James is the best basketball player walking the planet earth right now.
Kevin Durant is, in my opinion, the best pure scorer walking the planet right now.
Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski is a smart man. He knows what an unstoppable force those two guys are — so he started playing them off each other.
I tweeted about this during the USA’s throttling of Spain: There is no way to really defend the two-man game Durant and LeBron have started to play. LeBron is the pick-setter and Durant comes off him, although unlike a classic pick-and-roll this is more LeBron with the ball out high and Durant coming off him and taking a handoff.
Our own Rob Mahoney wrote about the challenges this presents at the New York Times.
From the moment Durant curls around James’ screen and accepts the handoff, the defense is at an incredible disadvantage. James is a threat to flare, dive, or catch a pass and act as an intermediary, and yet opponents have no choice but to close the space that Durant now has at his disposal. Both players are threatening at every step in this sequence, giving it a sustained life that normal pick-and-roll scenarios lack.
This kind of arrangement adds potency to Team U.S.A. Each player on this roster can score in isolation, but the glory of this team’s construction isolation isn’t necessary. There’s too much potential such as the pick-and-roll above, and too many brilliant juxtapositions of talented players to succumb to inefficiency.
Mahoney’s point is that Team USA is a collection of talent but like any team improves the longer they play together. It’s one of the advantages that teams like Spain and Argentina have, where their national teams have largely played together in tournaments since they were teenagers — they have a comfort level we ask our guys to pick up on the fly. No sport works like that.
But the guys on Team USA are quick learners. The team that beat Spain in the final exhibition game was better than the one that played the Dominican Republic in Vegas a couple weeks before.
And the one in the gold medal game will be better still. And will need to be.
The Boston Celtics are on a roll, the likes of which not even the faithful fans at the TD Garden would have predicted.
After dropping their first two games of the season — and losing Gordon Hayward for the season due to a gruesome leg injury — the Celtics have ripped off 15 straight victories. They sit at 15-2 on the year, including signature wins over the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Toronto Raptors, and defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
Boston’s effort has been lauded as the combination of a quick meshing of the roster in the absence of Hayward (and Isaiah Thomas) as well as the drafting skill of Danny Ainge and the coaching prowess of Brad Stevens.
Indeed, Stevens is an early frontrunner heading into the beginning of the holiday season for Coach of the Year.
Meanwhile, Boston has a few highlights to their name. Lucky for us, the NBA has put some of the best video clips together during their fall run.
Watch the full video above.
Blake Griffin almost got away with it.
During Friday’s matchup between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Griffin gave Cavs forward Jae Crowder an unhelpful knee to the groin during a post isolation.
Griffin wasn’t whistled for anything on the play, and in fact Crowder was assessed a foul after Griffin made his move to the basket.
Now, the NBA has given Griffin a Flagrant 1 for unnecessary contact.
Video of the incident can be viewed above the article here, but it’s pretty egregious and indeed the Cavaliers announcers even suggested at the time that it might warrant a flagrant.
Looks like the NBA agreed.
Cleveland beat LA, 118-113, in OT.
LeBron James totally dissed New York Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina. Or maybe he was just complimenting Dennis Smith Jr., and Enes Kanter likes to get in the middle of things? Or perhaps it was a barely-veiled shot at former Knicks president Phil Jackson?
No matter which way you view this little NBA drama, there’s some kind of silver lining to take away for New York after LeBron got a little too close for comfort with Ntilikina during a recent matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
According to Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek, that silver lining is how well Ntilikina, Kanter, and the rest of the squad did when standing up to James.
Via the NY Post:
“I thought it was great,’’ he said on the newest edition of “The Jeff Hornacek Experience” that debuts Friday night on MSG Networks after the Knicks face the Raptors. “When we played back in the day, there was a lot of that. So you don’t see as much now in today’s game.
“But, you know, whether the comments from LeBron were aimed at Frank or the Knicks or Phil [Jackson] or whatever it was, I was happy that Frank gave him a little shove and then when LeBron stood in front of him and Enes jumped in there. That’s kind of the chemistry that gets developed when guys are playing for each other. You saw Enes jump right in the middle of this and said, ‘Nah you’re not gonna do this to my young guy.’ So that’s a great sign to see the togetherness of our guys.”
So to recap:
1. LeBron was taking a shot at Phil.
2. Enes Kanter didn’t like that.
3. Jeff Hornacek likes that.
Clear? Ok, good.
Joel Embiid has a reputation around the league already, and for good reason.
The man who continuously lobbied Rihanna to give him a chance for a date has other NBA players hoping they beat the Philadelphia 76ers just to avoid Embiid’s trash talking.
Indeed, the Golden State Warriors beat Philly on Saturday night, 124-116, thanks in part to a huge rally in the second half. A 22-point deficit had to be overcome for Golden State, and not just to add to their win column.
The team also wanted to sidestep Embiid’s silver tongue:
Both Draymond Green and Kevin Durant said they wanted to keep Embiid at bay. Durant’s comment was particularly funny, and can be seen in the video at the top of the article (fair warning, Durant used some NSFW language).
The Process is now The Reputation.