It’s an exciting time in the NBA when some of the league’s fresher faces are able to dominate the headlines at times and, more importantly, lead their respective teams to victory. On a light three-game slate in the Association, we had one of the younger guys playing a key role in all three contests.
Third Star: Avery Bradley (22 points on 10-15 shooting, 7 rebounds, 5 assists)
The Celtics beat the Sixers in Philadelphia, which isn’t really news considering how bad the Sixers have been in recent weeks. But Bradley leading Boston to victory was different. He’s been known for his perimeter defense, but starting at the point guard spot, he lead Boston in scoring in this one, and the Celtics are now 12-4 since Rajon Rondo went down for the season with the ACL injury.
Second Star: Kenneth Faried (19 points, 12 rebounds, game-high +20)
It’s almost not fair to reward a player for going off against the Kings, considering Sacramento is 29th in the league in defensive efficiency, giving up an unconscionable 108.9 points per 100 possessions. But somebody has to be the one to contribute to win those games, and Faried was all over the place in this one, leading his team in rebounding and finishing a game-high plus-20 in his time on the floor.
First Star: Russell Westbrook (37 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists)
The Lakers aren’t exactly a great matchup for the Thunder at this point, but Westbrook had a below-average outing the last time these teams met, and it resulted in Oklahoma City losing in Los Angeles. Tuesday at home, Westbrook made sure to come out strong, and scored 13 first quarter points to ensure this one was never in doubt.
After Thunder win, Russell Westbrook trolls Joel Embiid, waves goodbye, tells him to “go home”
That can have some serious connotations — Embiid was born in Cameroon. Westbrook may have meant “go to the locker room” or “go to where you live,” but considering Embiid is an immigrant it comes off very poorly for Westbrook.
The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?
If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.
While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.
“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….
“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.
The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.
Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers. DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.
But first he has to get past the trade deadline.
Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)
Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.
Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.
I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience. After the game he said this.
Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.
Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert still needs to undergo an MRI on injured left knee, but early evaluation suggests a Grade 1 MCL sprain, league source tells ESPN.
If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.
The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.
Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.