There were so many people who could have made three stars of the night tonight we could have done 10 stars of the night. But, for the sake of my sanity (such as it is) we are keeping it at three. So how do you separate the top three? It’s not just numbers, but who also put up the numbers against the best.
Honorable mention goes to Carlos Boozer (31 points and 11 boards against Orlando), Paul George (29 points, 14 rebounds), Stephen Curry (31 points, 8 assists), James Harden (31 points, 7 assists) and DeMarcus Cousins to had 18 points, 16 rebounds and 6 assists against the Cavaliers.
Third Star, Jrue Holiday(16 points, 10 rebounds 10 assists)
He lived up to Steve Nash’s proclamation and put up a triple-double on the second night of a back-to-back. He looked every bit the All-Star, and when you put up a triple-double (the second of his career( we’ll put you in three stars even if it was in a losing effort against the Suns. He has taken over the 76ers offense this season — the one that was supposed to flow through Andrew Bynum — that is something. This is Holiday’s second career triple double.
Second Star: Joe Johnson(33 points, 5 assists)
P.J. Carlesimo has his first signature win as Nets coach, beating the Thunder in OKC, and he can thank Joe Johnson for much of that. Johnson had 12 first quarter and 20 first half points and was at the heart of the reason the Nets led 55-32 at one point.
Then when the Thunder made their run — and you knew they would — Johnson scored 8 straight in the fourth (including a shot to break a tie) and finished with 10 in the final frame. Johnson gets flack for his contract (really the Hawks should, they offered it) but the guy can score the rock and when he’s on — like Wednesday with 33 points on 19 shots — not even a good team can slow him.
First Star: David Lee(24 points, 13 rebounds, 7assists)
Lee was at the heart of the Warriors picking up a statement against the Clippers. Yes, he put up some quality numbers and looked great running the Golden State offense out of the high post, but he is on top of this list because he played a complete game — Lee was assigned Blake Griffin on defense and had a strong night against the dunking machine (Griffin finished with just 10 points). The Warriors raced out to the early lead and it was Lee’s efforts on both ends of the floor that helped Golden State maintain that distance from the Clips and cruise into the win. He earned this.
Report: Cavaliers trading Kevin Love ‘not even remotely a consideration’
While there are no shortage of suitors who would take on Love’s contract, sources close to the Cavs say moving him is not even remotely a consideration.
Some parts of the equation haven’t changed since the last trade deadline:
Love is a good, and probably now underrated, player who can’t reach his full potential while playing with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. That’s OK. Most players must sacrifice to fit their team’s needs.
Love helps the Cavaliers against most teams. As I said above, he’s really good.
The Warriors – the overwhelming championship favorites – present a particularly difficult matchup for Love. The Cavs didn’t quite win the Finals in spite of Love, but his contributions were limited.
But a few things have changed:
Cleveland proved it could win a title with Love. There is no longer any doubt.
The championship also affects perception. Teams are reluctant to break up their cores coming off a title. It’d be surprising to see Cleveland make a major move until after the 2017 postseason.
Specifically, LeBron’s relationship with Love might have improved. Winning cures all ills. After previousreservations, LeBron might feel a stronger connection with Love due to their experiencing a title run together.
So, I buy that the Cavs are firmly against trading Love. The question: Will that stance change once they lose in the playoffs, whether that’s in 2017 or beyond?
Report: Blake Griffin’s camp ‘adamant’ he’ll re-sign with Clippers
Sources close to Griffin have been adamant that he is planning to re-sign in L.A. and that he’s not open to going anywhere.
Sources close to the situation say win or lose, Rivers is not open to trade talks on Griffin or Paul and that he’s not worried about either walking away in July.
There are two possibilities:
1. Griffin is truly intent on re-signing with the Clippers.
2. Griffin is not truly intent on re-signing with the Clippers.
The second could be true if Griffin wants to spend the upcoming season in Los Angeles before evaluating his options. If Griffin states anything less than a firm commitment to stay, Rivers might trade him.
But let’s take Griffin at his reported word. Even if he honestly plans right now to re-sign, a lot can change in a year. The pressure for the Clippers to advance at least to the conference finals is only mounting. If the Clippers fall short, the resulting fallout could affect Griffin’s thinking.
At minimum, this is bad news for the Thunder – who hoped to pair Griffin with Russell Westbrook – and good news for the Clippers. Griffin leaning one direction now means something, even if it’s not definitive.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement makes it prohibitive for Griffin to sign an extension with the Clippers. So, whatever he thinks today about re-signing, he’ll have to play out the season and evaluate July 1.
Report: Timberwolves signing Toure’ Murry and John Lucas III
The Timberwolves already have 15 players – the regular-season roster limit – with guaranteed salaries, including three point guards: Rubio, Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones. Keeping Murry or Lucas would require a roster move.
It could be Kevin Garnett retiring, buying out Nikola Pekovic or some smaller trade. But unless that minor deal involves Jones – Dunn, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, isn’t going anywhere – Minnesota would still have enough point guards. Most teams carry three.
The Timberwolves obviously aren’t trading Rubio because they have Murry and Lucas. But Murry or Lucas would help if Minnesota trades Rubio.
Lucas had his best season with Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls, and he can create instant offense in Thibodeau’s grind-it-out scheme. Murry has the length to make an impact defensively.* Most importantly, both play extremely hard – an especially big deal to Thibodeau.
*Murry’s size also allows him to play the wing, which offers him another avenue for sticking. But his frame, special for a point guard, is merely ordinary at shooting guard or small forward.
The Timberwolves still might not be quite ready to trade Rubio. But if Minnesota does deal him to slide Dunn into the starting lineup, Murry or Lucas would provide a decent contingency with Jones in reserve.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey: James Harden ‘only a polarizing figure to people who don’t watch’
Harden’s Rockets, projected by some to contend for a championship, struggled to a 41-41 record last season. A fair share of their downfall could be pinned on him.
His defensive disinterest is appalling, and it sets a tone. His leadership is questionable, which matters a great deal for someone so empowered. He relies on tricking referees to draw fouls, frequently hooking his defender to create contact.
But I still put him on my All-NBA team, because his offense was so darned effective.
Elite individual offensive contributions are incredibly valuable. Harden’s defensive shortcomings can be hidden in a better team scheme. His leadership issues would matter less in a better team culture. But you can’t simply create what Harden provides offensively.
Long story short, Harden can be tricky to assess no matter how deeply you dive into his plusses and minuses.
Unless you ask Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.
“He’s only a polarizing figure to people who don’t watch,” Morey told Basketball Insiders. “Players voted him MVP [in 2014-15] for a reason. He’s had a winning team every season of his career, with multiple Conference Finals appearances.”
Morey has longdefendedHarden. That’s what general managers do for the superstar they acquired in tenure-defining trades.
But Morey also put his money where his mouth is. The Rockets will pay Harden an extra $20 million over the next two seasons just to get him locked up one extra year – and that extra year will cost about a max salary.
For better or worse, the Rockets are all in with Harden.
I think that’s a good plan given the alternatives, but I’m also not so sold on Harden that I find it foolproof.