Three Stars of the Night: Sunday Scorers

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On a night where scoreboards were getting lit up like Christmas trees, it’s probably prudent to celebrate some of the league’s best scorers. Of course, any talk of scoring has to include league leaders Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, who both put up some gaudy totals (34 for Kobe, 27 for Durant) despite off shooting nights. That just illustrates how good those guys really are, but they still weren’t good enough for the Three Stars of the Night. Who was? Ignore your open co-worker and read on:

Third Star: Mo Williams – (22 points, 8 assists, 8-for-11 shooting)

Ah, a nod to efficiency. The Jazz dropped 117 points on the hapless Lakers defense, and Williams was the one orchestrating it all. Williams rarely gets enough credit for his ability to run an offense, which seems silly, especially when you consider Utah’s main sources of scoring are so dependent on him providing the ball in good spots. Williams was nearly flawless in that regard tonight, dishing out 9 assists to just one turnover in a relatively mistake-free game. Although he didn’t really get to show it after the Lakers oddly decided not to foul until there were four seconds left on the shot clock down 5 points, Williams provided a calming influence for a Jazz team that hasn’t produced quality road wins all year long.

Second Star: Carmelo Anthony – (34 points, 6 rebounds)

Sweet, sweet revenge. George Karl didn’t exactly bite his tongue after Anthony headed out to New York, so it’s not a surprise that Melo came back healthy right in time for this juicy revenge game. Anthony didn’t disappoint, as he bullied his way to the rim all night and drew contact whenever humanly possible (16 free throw attempts). Anthony’s performance seemed to reinforce two themes: he’s a matchup nightmare at the power forward when surrounded by shooters, and that the Nuggets have an issue when it comes to crunch time scoring. Although Danilo Gallinari (the main piece in the Melo trade) played very well for the Nuggets, Anthony outscored him 11-3 in the game’s final period to help keep the Knicks undefeated at home this season.

First Star: Brandon Jennings – (26 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals)

Ever since draft night, Jennings has had an infatuation with stealing the show in New York. Unfortunately for the Nets, that also extends to them now as well. Jennings put up a killer line, out-dueling Deron Williams with the aid of the PUJIT (pull up jumper in transition) that would make fellow lefty jump shooter and teammate Beno Udrih pretty proud. The East is a jumbled mess between seeds 4-8, and Milwaukee is included in that, but the Bucks have an identity that seems pretty bankable. They share the ball much more than you’d think, they block a ton of shots at the rim, and they seem to enjoy playing with each other. The future for Jennings in Milwaukee is still undecided, but it might be time for the Bucks to go for broke and acquire a smart frontcourt player who can really score in the post, share the ball, and add another element to their offense. Hmmm. Know of anyone who fits the description?

Devin Harris’ brother dies in car crash

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Just awful news for Devin Harris.

Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News

The brother of Mavericks’ guard Devin Harris died Thursday afternoon after an early-morning crash on Central Expressway, officials said.

According to police, at about 1:40 a.m. Thursday morning Bruce Harris, 38, and a 36-year-old male passenger were in their disabled vehicle in the north bound lane of Central Expressway just south of Walnut Hill. A 23-year-old male driver of an Acura sedan and a 23-year-old male passenger were traveling north bound on Central Expressway and struck the back of the disabled vehicle. The impact caused the gas tank of the disabled vehicle to rupture and catch fire. All occupants were transported to Presbyterian Hospital.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban details his two lottery-reform ideas

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NBA lottery reform passed 28-1-1 with the Thunder opposing and Mavericks abstaining.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wasn’t against changing the system. He just had his own ideas of how to do it.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Cuban pitched other members of the league’s board of governors on a system in which the draft is abolished, with teams getting a pool of money to sign rookies based on their records.

“The team with the worst record gets the most money and the team with the best record gets the least money,” Cuban said. “It’s like a free agency. It makes it a lot harder to tank because you don’t know if you get the best players if you’re horrible all the time. “Nobody liked that at all, not a single person.”

Cuban’s other idea was to lock the team with the worst record into a draft slot — either third or fourth — to force teams to compete to avoid being at the bottom. That idea never got discussed in the board of directors meeting.

“Now all of the sudden, if it’s close at the end, you’re going to see teams play as hard as they can because if they end up with the worst record, they don’t get the best pick,” Cuban said, explaining the logic of his idea.”You basically eliminate them from getting the best player. Everybody else would just be the way it is now.

“Adam didn’t like that. That never got to the board of directors, but that one was my favorite. I brought up [the other proposal], but after that one got shot down, I didn’t bring up the other one. When I got no response on the one, I just dropped the other because it was obvious that what they had proposed was going to pass.”

Strange tactic to introduce the most radical plan first and then not propose a more moderate solution because the first idea gained no traction. It’s almost as if Cuban just wants to be a contrarian

Neither of Cuban’s plans would completely solve the issue, because both still incentivize losing.

In the first, worse teams would still get more money to spend on rookies. There’s also stronger incentive to tank when an established successful franchise is positioned to do so for a single year. Rookies won’t be scared off by an injury-plagued season that devolved into a horrific record. Armed with money to spend and banked credibility, those teams can swoop far down then vault right up.

It’s also important to remember the NBA isn’t simply 30 teams competing against each other. It’s also a single business competing against other forms of entertainment. It’s bad financially for the league to have markets that feel hopeless, even if they’re poorly managed. Giving bad teams a little extra money to spend on rookies might not be enough for them to land young players who instill hope.

In the second idea, teams would still jockey to be second-worst vs. third-worst, third-worst vs. fourth-worst, etc. – just as they do now. Bad teams would have to be more careful, but there’d still be plenty of late-season games where a team is clearly better off losing – the same games that create a perception problem now.

Are either of these plans better than the current system? Maybe. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey believes there’s still time to implement reform better than the just-passed measure.

I’m convinced the league will let several years play out under the new system before even considering an alternative – Cuban’s or otherwise.

GM Bob Myers: Steve Kerr can coach Warriors ‘as long as he wants’

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Rick Carlisle coached 13 seasons, including seven in Dallas, when the Mavericks stated he could coach them as long as he wanted.

Steve Kerr needed just three seasons with the Warriors.

Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:

Kerr has done an amazing job in Golden State, implementing a pace-setting offense predicated on movement and fine-tuning a quality defense.

It helps to have great players like Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and eventually Kevin Durant. But Kerr has maximized them. He has also played a prominent role in establishing a productive culture throughout the entire organization.

Of course, health is the big catch. Kerr has missed significant time the last two years due to complications from back surgery. He’s looking forward to a long career, but those headaches and pains aren’t far in the rearview mirror.

Kerr clearly knows how to win with this super team, not necessarily as easy of a task as it appears. He has more than earned the right to stay on the bench for the Warriors’ next iteration, whenever that comes.

Hotshot coaches can fade quickly, but Kerr has established an unprecedented amount of goodwill so quickly. Hopefully, he stays healthy enough to take up Myers on his pledge.

Report: NBA not headed toward 1-16 playoff seeding

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league would continue look at 1-16 playoff seeding.

Ken Berger of Bleacher Report:

Silver is well-intentioned on this issue, and open-minded, too—as he is on most agenda items that could, in theory, make the league better. But despite his willingness to discuss postseason reformatting, multiple people familiar with league discussions say it’s not anywhere near the top of the agenda.

After its analysis of the issue in ’15, the league concluded that, for a variety of reasons, it wasn’t sensible to change the playoff format. The two key factors, according to league sources, were 1) travel; and 2) a belief among league officials that conference imbalance was a temporary trend that would correct itself, as it typically has in the past.

For playoff qualification to truly be fair, teams would have to play a balanced schedule. As is, teams play teams in their own conference 52 times and teams from the other conference 30 times.

More 10 p.m. starts on the East Coast and 4 p.m. starts on the West Coast would hurt TV ratings.

Plus, as relative conference strength exists now and has existed for several years, 1-16 playoff seeding would make it harder for bigger Eastern Conference markets and easier for smaller Western Conference markets to qualify for the postseason.

Quality of competition matters, and there would be value in the NBA building a playoff field of its 16 best teams. But follow the money. There isn’t nearly enough urgency with this issue to overcome the direct financial setbacks reform would cause.