James Harden

Three Stars of the Night: Digging the long ball


How important is the long ball to the modern NBA offense? If the season ended today, four teams would place in the all-time top-40 for best team 3-point percentage – the Spurs, Knicks, Thunder and Heat. The best offensive teams seem to manufacture plenty of looks from behind the arc, and in that spirit, we’re honoring some of the best individual 3-point displays from Wednesday night’s action. And James Harden, because, well, you’ll see. To the stars!


Dorell Wright – (28 points, 5-for-8 from 3)

It’s not easy to drop 28 points on the Grizzlies – it’s even tougher if you’re a perimeter player. Dorell Wright has been more down than up this year (he’s shooting 35 percent from the field on the season), but tonight he found his stroke when the 76ers needed it most. With Evan Turner scoring just a single point in 41 minutes of play and Jrue Holiday missing everything around the basket, Philadelphia got five huge 3-pointers from Wright and a few freebies from the line. The 76ers may not have very many consistent contributors offensively, but guys like Nick Young and Wright can heat up in a hurry.

Corey Brewer – (27 points in 24 minutes, 6-of-7 from 3)

Anytime you can tie a career-high for points in just 24 minutes, you’re doing something right. When he wasn’t cutting backdoor and baffling a Lakers defense that played both stupid and lazy, Brewer was spotting up in the corner to hit 6-of-7 from behind the arc. Brewer practically had enough time to check the weather on his spot-up attempts, but give him credit for knocking them down. Brewer’s 27-point scoring barrage spoiled a really strong offensive effort by the Lakers, but also epitomized all of the real struggles the Lakers have on the defensive side of the ball.

James Harden – (30 points, 15 of the last 17 in the 4th quarter)

This is exactly what you want from your star in a clutch situation – no 21-foot fadeaway garbage – just assertive drives straight to the front of the rim. Harden scored 15 of the last 17 points in the fourth quarter for the Rockets just by putting his head down and blowing past Minnesota’s big men to score in the paint. Whether it was in a pick-and-roll or in straight isolation, Minnesota had no answer for Harden’s aggressiveness off the bounce. This was the good kind of hero ball.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry
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The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.

Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks

Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.

Kobe shotchart season

So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.

They just need to get Kobe better looks, Scott told the Los Angeles Times.

“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….

“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.

“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”

Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.

Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.

Is Stephen Curry the Lionel Messi of the NBA?

Lionel Messi

Stephen Curry has reached the transcendent point in his career. We’re now talking about if he has passed LeBron James as the best player on the planet (he has), and we’re starting to think about his legacy as the perfect point guard for a modern NBA small-ball, space-and-pace offense. Plus he’s just a joy to watch play.

Does that make him the Lionel Messi of the NBA?

Curry was asked to compare himself to the Barcelona/Argentinian player who (arguably) is the greatest soccer player in the world, certainly as elite a finisher as that sport has ever seen. Here is his answer, via the Sydney Morning Herald of Australia. Is Curry the bigger international star now?

“I don’t know – it’s a chicken and egg kind of conversation,” Curry said while laughing.

“We both have a creative style, a feel when you are out on the pitch or the court. I’m trying to do some fancy things out there with both hands, making crossover moves and having a certain flair to my game and that’s definitely the style Messi has when he is out there in his matches.”

I love Curry, but Messi is the bigger international star.

But I love the comparison in terms of the must-watch nature of the two stars, the flair in their games, the sense that you have to keep an eye on them at all times because the spectacular could happen any time they touch the ball. When the ball comes to them, everybody leads forward in their chairs. That is the sign of a real superstar.