Oklahoma City Thunder v Denver Nuggets

Three Stars of the Night: The Nuggets are still very odd

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If you needed further confirmation that the Denver Nuggets are in fact very strange, tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder provided some material.

Andre Iguodala, the All-Star swingman, the Gold Medalist, the highest paid player on the Nuggets, didn’t play in the fourth quarter and barely played in overtime.

JaVale McGee…did JaVale McGee things. He tried playing point-center on one possession and headed up a fast break that eventually, predictably, ended up in a turnover. A few possessions later, he ducked out of the way of a pass headed right for him.

Andre Miller, who shoots a flinging set shot (and 19 percent from 3), acted as the team’s crunch time shooting guard.

Put it all together, throw in some big buckets by one of our stars, and what do you get? A win over one of the best teams in the league. I don’t understand the Nuggets, and I’m not going to try to. Let’s get to the Three Stars from Sunday’s action:

Third Star: Russell Westbrook – (36 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 blocked mascot shots)

Remember all the stories about how Michael Jordan used to look for perceived slights so he could have the motivation to go tear an opponent up? Russell Westbrook is like that, except he doesn’t have to manufacture the criticism. Seeing Westbrook sort of embrace the fact that he’ll never be the “true point guard” fans want has become one of my favorite things about this season. For all intents and purposes, he’s the NBA’s new super villain. He’s demonstrative, he robs fans of free queso, and you can tell he genuinely enjoys getting under everyone’s skin. Westbrook was in full-blown bad guy mode on Sunday against the Nuggets, driving to the rim with reckless abandon and throwing his body in defenders to get to the free throw line a whopping 17 times. Westbrook’s a momentum player, both in the sense that’s he unstoppable when he gets to full speed, and that once he gets a few shots to go down, he usually gets on a roll. The Nuggets survived a comeback spurred by Westbrook that included a huge deep 3-pointer, but if Westbrook is truly the villain he portrays, he won’t forget this game the next time these two teams meet up.

Second Star: Jose Calderon – (22 points and 9 assists in 30 minutes)

Was the Lakers defense deplorable? Of course. But a lot of credit also goes to Calderon, who really saw the floor brilliantly and probed in the pick-and-roll for the Raptors all night. Toronto shot a ridiculous 54 percent from the field against the Lakers, and Calderon’s 22 points magnified the big weaknesses of the Lakers’ defense. The Raptors were great in transition, but even when the game slowed down, Calderon moved the ball to the open man and always made the correct swing pass. If Calderon really is available come trade deadline time, some contender would be very lucky to have his decision making and shooting abilities added to their team.

First Star: Corey Brewer – (26 points, 6 rebounds, 15 points in the 4th quarter)

George Karl went with his gut, and Corey Brewer rewarded him in a serious way. When he wasn’t harassing Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook defensively, Brewer was spotting up in the corner and letting ’em rip from deep. For a team that has both struggled to shoot from the perimeter (29th in 3-point percentage) and put away games in clutch situations, every one of Brewer’s 15 points were like manna from heaven (the non-Darko Milicic variety) for Karl and the Nuggets down the stretch. Although Oklahoma City eventually caught them in regulation, Brewer’s hot shooting and aggressive nature kept Iguodala on the bench in overtime, which was probably a good thing on a night where he clearly didn’t have it. That’s the luxury Karl has with this deep roster, and although questions about their title chances remain, players like Brewer make the Nuggets a very tough out during the regular season.

Joel Embiid was dunking, blocking, leading Sixers past Bucks (VIDEOS)

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Joel Embiid is making his case to be in the All-Star Game in more places than Twitter.

He made it on the court Monday with a dominant second half — 18 points on six shots — to lead the Sixers to a 113-104 win over the Bucks. The Sixers are 5-2 in 2017, and this gives them a couple of quality wins.

Embiid was both throwing it down with authority — as you can see above — and he was racking up blocked shots as well. He was also showing Jabari Parker you need to go strong to the rim against him, or you get sent home without lunch.

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Carmelo Anthony says he hasn’t spoken to Jackson, wants to remain a Knick

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 12:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks during a stop in play against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden on January 12, 2017 in New York City. 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 Elsa/Getty Images)
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When Phil Jackson (sometimes through his surrogates) starts working his mind games, things are not often clear. However, out of the whole “trade Carmelo Anthony saga” circa 2017 (there have been 2014, 2015, and 2016 versions), two things should be clear:

1. Carmelo Anthony isn’t looking to leave the Knicks.

2. He would rather talk to management and end this rather than have a back-and-forth with the press as conduits.

Anthony reiterated as much Monday at Madison Square Garden, where the Knicks had a heartbreaking loss to the Hawks (where New York got hosed on the last call, but Anthony missed a bunny or the game winner). Via Al Iannazzone of Newsday and Ian Begley of ESPN.

Carmelo Anthony was asked about how “much” he wants to remain a Knick and about his loyalty to the franchise: “I think I’ve proven that. I don’t have to speak on that. I think I’ve proven that over the years day in and day out.” Anthony says he’s shown that by being a professional every day in his approach and handling the duties of being the public face of the franchise every day. He’s handled that well, in my opinion.

Anthony chose New York (and a few more wheelbarrows full of cash) over his other free agency options, and he didn’t do that looking to bail. He wants to win in New York.

It’s fair to question if Anthony can win in New York with the direction the Knicks are headed. It’s fair to suggest Anthony should be moved and this team rebuilt around Kristaps Porzingis, but then that should have happened last summer. Instead, the Knicks brought in Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Also, because Anthony has a no-trade clause and doesn’t actually want to be traded, the Knicks would need to put together a nearly impossibly perfect deal — with a contender in a major market willing to pay ‘Melo’s massive salary — for a trade to get done.

Anthony and the Knicks are frustrated. Monday’s loss to the Hawks isn’t going to help that.

Jackson and Anthony should sit down and talk it out. I’d say that’s what happens in a well-run organization, but in a well-run organization it would have already happened. Will it happen in New York? This is the Knicks, they pretty much live in “the upside down” so who knows.

Report: Heat say Hassan Whiteside not available in trade

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside, right, and Los Angeles Clippers forward Wesley Johnson reach for a rebound during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 98-86. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Hassan Whiteside is the Heat’s franchise player.

But Miami is also 11-30, and Heat president Pat Riley has acknowledged a need to rebuild.

Where does that leave Whiteside with a potential trade?

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

This is likely based on the Heat’s understanding of the trade market. If another team offered a favorable return for Whiteside, I bet Miami would trade him in an instant. The Heat just haven’t gotten – and seemingly don’t expect – a suitable offer.

Whiteside gives Miami a starting point. It will be more difficult to build through free agency with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement giving greater incentive for stars to stay with their current teams, but what choice do the Heat have but to try? They can still offer a state without income tax, warm weather, nightlife, a winning history and – if they keep Whiteside – a star teammate.

Goran Dragic is the Miami player more likely to be traded.

Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony miss on Knicks’ controversial final possession against Hawks (video)

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Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony scored the Knicks’ last eight points, but on New York’s final possession, the Hawks found a way to stop them:

A lot of contact and a little luck.

Paul Millsap blocked/hacked Rose on the guard’s drive, but the referees swallowed their whistles. Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek was rightly irate afterward, and the NBA’s two-minute report is now highly anticipated.

The ball still trickled to Anthony, who missed his point-blank follow-up without any similar excuse. Joakim Noah even got a tip attempt, though that had little chance.

After those three misses on New York’s final possession, Dennis Schroder‘s 3-pointer stood as the game-winner in Atlanta’s 108-107 victory: