Orlando Magic

Three Stars of the Night: It’s your world, baby.


After trading Dwight Howard and not getting a heck of a whole lot in return, the Orlando Magic were left for dead by everyone — yours truly included. But after taking out a hot Minnesota team and improving to a very respectable 11-13 record on the season, Glen “Big Baby” Davis made it clear in a postgame rant (that likely included quite a bit of spittle) that the Magic will compete, no matter what. With that in mind, we’ve got Monday’s world-beaters all lined up for you in a pretty row. To Three Stars:

Third Star: Jeremy Lin – (22 points, 8 assists, 9-for-15 shooting)

You can’t talk about underdogs without mentioning Jeremy Lin, right? It’s funny. Leading up to the game, there was plenty of talk about how the Knicks dodged a serious bullet, how much better Raymond Felton was, and how this whole Linsanity thing was a fluke. You would think we would have learned our lesson in doubting Lin the first time around, no? Lin was electric in his return to Madison Square Garden, breaking out of his slump to score 16 points in the first half and propel the Rockets past a Knicks team that struggled to get up and down the floor. Am I implying that everything is just fine with Lin based on this one game? Of course not. I would suggest, however, that there’s a very good chance Lin won’t be as bad as he’s been early this year, just like he probably won’t be as good as he was during that magical run in New York. The truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.

Second Star: Serge Ibaka – (25 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks)

With Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin licking their chops against a Spurs team with no Kawhi Leonard or Manu Ginobili out on the wing, what are the odds that Serge Ibaka would lead the Thunder in scoring for the first time all year? As unlikely as it seems, Ibaka has very quietly been a really good offensive player this season. Ibaka’s scoring averages have spiked from 9.1 a game last year to 14.2 this season, and he’s shooting a ridiculous 49 percent from 16-23 feet — which is approaching Dirk Nowitzki territory (51 percent in 2012). Ibaka’s leap and Oklahoma City’s 20-4 record have both oddly gone under the radar, but this big night against Tim Duncan and company should at least temporarily divert some eyeballs from the disaster in Los Angeles and redirect them towards the team that’s playing the best basketball in the league right now.

First Star: Glen “Big Baby” Davis – (28 points on 13-for-17 shooting)

You won’t find many players who will balk at the chance to be their team’s top scoring option, but it’s a heavy burden to carry. Defenses game plan specifically for you. Double-teams come your way, help defense is a little faster. There’s a big target on your back. Glen Davis has never really experienced that until this year, and it’s been an interesting exercise to watch him deal with it alongside Arron Afflalo. A primary result of the increased touches has been a lot more long jumpers this year — a somewhat necessary evil given Orlando’s lack of players who can penetrate. That said though, when Davis has a lane to drive or can get the ball in good position, he’s half walrus/half ballerina in the paint, dancing around and bouncing off defenders to throw in tough flip shots. Davis was able to dominate the paint offensively, eschewing jumpers for layups all night to help the Magic pull off a big comeback at home. It was rarely pretty for Davis — and it rarely will be for Orlando — but there’s a beauty in not needing that to be successful.

Good news: Anthony Davis listed as probably vs. Utah Saturday

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Watching Anthony Davis fall to the court clutching his knee, not being able to put any pressure on his leg as he was helped to the locker room, it was frightening Friday night in Los Angeles.

It turns out it’s not that bad. After the game the injury was described as a “knee contusion” and not the serious damage that was feared. Saturday the Pelicans said Davis was good to go.

Whew. Nobody wants to see Davis miss time.

The Pelicans had won three in a row until they ran into the Clippers Friday night. Davis has played better of late — the New Orleans defense is 7.2 points per 100 better when he is on the court — and New Orleans has gotten better point guard play out of Ish Smith.

Stephen Curry abuses Sun’s Price with behind-the-back, pull-up three (VIDEO)

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That is just cruel.

An on-fire Warriors team dropped 44 on the Suns in the first quarter Saturday, and Curry had 19 of those points going 5-of-6 from three. The Suns’ had no defender who could begin to hang with him. Certainly not Ronnie Price, who came in off the bench and got abused for his efforts.

Curry finished with 41 points, never had to set foot on the court in the fourth quarter, and the Warriors improved to 17-0 on the season. Just another day at the office for them.

Philadelphia has dropped record 27 in a row dating back to last season

Brett Brown

We tend to think of record streaks having to be in one season, not broken up across two.

But if you can suspend that, the Philadelphia 76ers are now the owners of the longest losing streak in NBA — and major professional sports — history.

With their tough two-points loss to Houston Friday night, the Sixers have lost 27 in a row. The Sixers dropped their final 10 last season and with the loss to the Rockets are 0-17 to start this one.

That bests the 26-game losing streaks of the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers and these same Sixers from 2013-14. Looking across sports, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 1976-1977 also lost 26 in a row, which when you consider the length of the NFL season is pretty embarrassing.

The Sixers struggles are born from a plan by GM Sam Hinkie (and approved by ownership) to get better long-term by being bad now and hoarding draft picks. It’s a strategy that can work if Hinkie nails the draft picks (the book is out on how Hinkie is doing on that front). And they are committed to it through at least this draft.

But don’t think for a second the players and coach are trying to lose.

If you have watched the Sixers play their last few games you know the players are trying hard to get that victory (and almost have a couple of times). The effort is there, they are just outmatched and lack the kind of presence at the end of games to execute under pressure (something a couple of quality, regularly-playing veterans might help, but that’s another discussion). They have the point differential of a team that should have a couple wins; they just haven’t been fortunate. It happens. Go ahead and blame management if you think this plan is an abomination. Just don’t question the desire or effort of the players or coaches, that is not in doubt.

The Sixers play at the Grizzlies Sunday, then have maybe their best shot at a win for a while when they host the Lakers on Tuesday.



Byron Scott, is it time to bench Kobe Bryant? “That’s not an option.”

Kobe Bryant, D'Angelo Russell, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant‘s shooting woes this season have been well documented. Let me explain… no, there is too much. Let me sum up. Kobe is shooting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three, all while jacking up more threes than ever before. He was 1-of-14 shooting against Cleveland, and that’s as many shots as rookies D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle got combined.

If Kobe keeps shooting like this while dominating the ball, is it time to bench Kobe? Coach Byron Scott laughed at the idea, as reported by Baxter Holmes at ESPN.

“I would never, never, never do that,” Scott said after practice at the Lakers’ facility. “That’s not an option whatsoever. No, that’s not an option.”

It’s not an option because this is the guy the fans have paid to see, at home and on the road (the Lakers have still sold out every road game this season, the only team to have done so). Kobe is the draw, he’s going to play.

That doesn’t mean Scott is handling all this well, Kobe has no repercussions for his actions.

Byron Scott is an enabler with Kobe. In his mind Kobe has earned the right to play poorly because of his career, which is just hard to watch.

The real issue I have with Scott enabling Kobe is the double standard — minutes for Russell and the other young players get jerked around when they make mistakes. Scott sounds and acts like a guy with a couple rookies on a veteran team where the objective is to win as many games as possible.

This can’t be emphasized enough: the primary goal for the Lakers this season is to develop Russell, Randle, and Jordan Clarkson (and Larry Nance Jr., who has impressed). But Russell has sat a lot of fourth quarters, and when Scott is asked if playing in those blowout minutes might help develop the young point guard faster, he says, “Nah.” Scott has benched Clarkson at points and called him out in the media.

Reduction of minutes can be a valuable teaching tool with young players — if the conditions of them getting those minutes are precisely laid out. Clear rules with rewards and consequences. That is not the case in Los Angeles, where Russell has said Scott has not spoken to him much about what he’s doing wrong and why he’s spending the ends of games benched. That’s not coaching a guy up; that’s not player development. There need to be clear guidelines and structures for young players to follow.

The only guideline in LA seems to be “Kobe has carte blanche.”