Sometimes you watch a game and a certain player just jumps off the screen at you. These were the three who did that for me on Tuesday. And yes, I know that Kyrie Irving has not yet been named an All-Star, but I think that changes Thursday. He’s going to get Doc Rivers vote.
Third Star: Ersan Ilyasova(27 points, 16 rebounds)
Ilyasova is one of those players you don’t hear or think much about, then your team plays the Bucks and you turn to a buddy midway through the third quarter and say, “I wish we had a guy like that.” In this game he knocked down a couple threes and was putting up points, but where he did the real damage was on the offensive glass, where he had seven offensive rebounds. He may have had the dagger shot in this game with his tip in off missed free throw. He had his way with the Philly front line.
Second Star: Kevin Durant(32 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists)
After a pretty “meh” first half (by his standards) Durant looked like an MVP in the final 24 minutes — 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting, 5-of-5 from three, five assists. The best scorer walking the planet was feeling it and just carved up the Clipper defense. There was nothing the Clippers could do. Every time he got just a sliver of daylight it became two points.
First Star: Kyrie Irving(40 points, 5 assists)
Irving has the full arsenal of shots and he seemed determined to show them all to Celtics. He knocked down threes, pulled up for midrange jumpers, and drove to the rim where he hit every kind of contested layup. Irving had 19 first quarter points to help the Cavaliers off to a fast start, but it was his play in the fourth quarter that was most impressive. With just under a minute to go he had a fantastic end-to-end drive for a twisting layup late. Then with 22 seconds left he got an isolation set against Rajon Rondo, blew him and drew a foul for the game-clinching and-1. He was the best player on the court and the Cavs won because of him.
There are 1,230 NBA games in a season, and decent amount of those come down to which team executes better in a close game late. (By the way, the best teams don’t win the most close games, the best teams have the most blowouts and aren’t in as many close games.)
What that means is there are a lot of game winners, a lot of clutch shots every season. The folks at NBA.com compiled them for you, and what else do you have to do on a Sunday night but watch 13 minutes of them.
Some NBA officials contend he signed with Milwaukee and rejected overtures from a handful of teams, including the reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, because of potential playing time.
“He wants his minutes,’’ said an NBA executive, whose team had shown some interest in signing Terry. “He didn’t go there (Milwaukee) to sit on the bench.’’
Terry’s agent denied this, saying he wanted to be part of the Bucks.
If minutes was a key part of his decision, so what? Guys choose teams for money (usually), wins, to play with friends, lifestyle, and weather, plus other reasons — how much run they get is in that mix. It’s never just one thing. And playing time matters.
Other teams have called Sacramento GM Vlade Divac since the day he took office to inquire about the availability of DeMarcus Cousins — however, only George Karl took those calls and tried to run with it. The Kings know they have a franchise player, the best traditional center in the game right now, in Cousins and that is hard to come by. While it may not be easy — Cousins has always been demanding of those around him — they need to make it work.
Enter coach Dave Joerger, the guy who had success with difficult personalities in Memphis and got that team to the conference finals a couple of times.
“They’re fooling themselves if they think he’s sticking around,” said one league executive. “The good news for them is his value will always be high. There isn’t a point of no return in which you’re not getting high value for him. Teams will bid against each other in the trade market. Maybe [Cousins] doesn’t go for the biggest money in free agency but you’d love to have that card to play.”
The Kings aren’t giving up on being able to keep Cousins. They hope Joerger, the Olympics experience, some winning, a new building, and a trip to the playoffs will have Cousins thinking Sacramento is his home, where he wants to stay and build something.
I’d be surprised if the Kings seriously considered any move before next summer. But if Divac and company get the sense after this contract that they may not be able to keep Cousins — and let’s be clear, up to this point the organization has given him little reason to put his faith in them, Cousins is not unreasonable here — they have to make a move. This is not Oklahoma City where they can just turn the team over to Russell Westbrook, if Cousins goes it’s a rebuild in Sacramento (for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in a decade).
Celtics fans (and the rest of you convinced Cousins is coming your way), you need to wait it out. This is not going to be some quick move this summer.
But the vultures are circling.
Harrison Barnes says Mavericks are Nowitzki’s team, he has to prove himself to German
Harrison Barnes is the new gun in Dallas — a four years, $94 million contract says so. Dallas is betting the No. 4 option in the Warriors attack is ready to blossom as the No. 1 option with the Mavericks.
“Out of respect, this is Dirk’s team,” Barnes said. “He’s put in the years and won a championship. But I have to go out and earn that. People assume that just because you get paid a lot of money and have a lot of attention that all of the sudden you’re guaranteed this many shots. I have to prove that every day in practice. I have to prove that to the coaching staff, and ultimately, if I’m going to be the guy taking shots, I’ve got to prove it to Dirk.
“You have to have that balance of scoring and playmaking, and learn how to be a closer. I think that’s the beauty of it, that I get to learn from one of the best to ever do it in Dirk Nowitzki. You talk about guys closing games, he’s got to be top-five all time. I’m just looking forward to learning from that guy.”
That’s exactly what he’s supposed to say. Well done by Barnes.
There is going to be an adjustment period in Dallas. Barnes may be able to handle being a No. 1 option — don’t let his rough Finals or riding the bench in the Olympics cloud your judgement — but we will have a better sense of that in February and March rather than November. He needs time to grow.