Nets court Barclay Center

Thursday And-1 links: Jay-Z says he had to fight to get Nets herringbone court


Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points more than I love a good barbecued brisket (well, maybe not that much, but close)…

• I like the Nets new herringbone pattered court. It’s a Jay-Z idea, but he says the league hated it and tried to block it, saying it would mess up television screens. And it might your grandpa’s television with the tubes, but I think you are safe with an HD flat screen.

• Speaking of the Nets, Andray Blatche says he might resign with them after they win the championship. Good luck with that. (Actually, credit where credit is due, Blatche is playing his best basketball of his career this season.)

• Here is a fantastic breakdown from our old friend Rob Mahoney (now at SI) of what Kobe Bryant are doing different this year to have him scoring more efficiently than in years.

The Kobe Assist — when other teams are so focused on the shooter that guys get the offensive rebound off a miss and it’s like an assist.

• Kobe Bryant just reached the 30,000 point plateau, becoming only the fifth NBA player ever to get there. What current players are likely to join him?

• Mike Brown wishes Kobe Bryant and all the Lakers well. He wants to see them win. Brown says he is comfortable and happy. If I was going to get $10 million to sit around my house I’d be comfortable and happy. too.

• Metta World Peace insists the Lakers can still go 72-10 this season and tie the Bulls all-time record. Even though they would need to go 63-0 the rest of the way. I think he just triggered an automatic league drug test.

• A fascinating statistical journey into the land of expected points per shot and shot location.

• Fans around Philadelphia are taking pictures of Andrew Bynum out and about in town, doing pretty much everything but playing basketball. There still is no timeline for that. But he is playing pop-a-shot.

Ken Berger at CBS says that there seem to be signs of progress between Royce White and the Houston Rockets. Slow progress, but progress. I hope so. (Berger also has some “what if the Lakers want to trade Pau Gasol scenarios.)

• Another report that Greg Oden is thinking about trying to make an NBA comeback.

• In case you didn’t see it last night, Bismack Biyombo blocked a shot then did the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. 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 Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
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Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.