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.
Rajon Rondo reportedly threw towel toward Bulls assistant during game, and they fedued more after
Rondo had an emotional exchange with an assistant coach during and after Saturday’s loss to the Mavericks, according to a source. One source said Rondo threw a towel in the direction of associate head coach Jim Boylen during the game and the situation escalated postgame.
Rondo has already apologized to the coaching staff and his teammates, the source said. He met with coach Fred Hoiberg on Sunday and also attended a team function that day.
Rondo has long been notoriously difficult to coach. That reputation has only intensified in recent years as his play has declined, which is probably not a coincidence. Struggling on the court – Rondo had two points, two assists and five turnovers against Dallas – will only lead to frustration. Plus, tolerance for players acting out exists on a sliding scale with their ability.
But it’s also worth noting teammate Jimmy Butler and coach Fred Hoiberg continue to speak positively about Rondo:
Butler said following Monday’s shootaround that Rondo “has been great” during his stint with the Bulls.
“I think this is just another bump in the road,” Butler said. “He’s a phenomenal damn teammate and I back him on everything.
Hoiberg refused to get into details about the suspension but echoed Butler’s opinion on Rondo’s stint with the Bulls.
“Rajon, as we’ve all said, has been great,” Hoiberg said. “A great teammate. I’ve enjoyed the relationship that we developed, and … it’s not going to change moving forward.’’
This could explain why Rondo got a one-game suspension for throwing a towel at a coach when Markieff Morris, who was already feuding with the Suns, got two games just last year (as could the fact that Chicago is not Phoenix and can administer discipline differently).
Player-coach feuds happen over a long season. The reaction is often telling. Some get ignored. Some result in suspensions.
The Bulls are treating this like an isolated incident from an otherwise model player – but a situation serious enough to warrant a suspension. Rondo will eventually prove that approach right or wrong.
Matt Barnes’ rep says Kings forward acted in self-defense in nightclub fight
A rep for the NBA star tells us … Barnes was having a good time at Avenue Nightclub with his teammate, DeMarcus Cousins, when he went to sit at his VIP booth and accidentally “butt bumped” a woman who was at the next booth over.
Barnes claims the woman reacted by slapping him in the face, hard — and that’s when all hell broke loose.
Barnes claims the woman’s crew — which included several men — jumped in and began to get violent. Barnes was knocked to the ground in the melee and one of the men began to choke him.
We’re told Barnes got physical in an effort to protect himself. Cousins also jumped in to defend Barnes.
We spoke with Barnes’ attorney Alex Spiro who tells us, “We do not believe a crime was committed and are hopeful no charges will be pressed.”
By this telling, it sounds as if a crime was committed – with Barnes as the victim. I have no idea whether this account is accurate – what else would Barnes’ representation say? – and it’s reasonable for Barnes not to desire charges even against the other side. But it’s a little strange to hear Barnes’ lawyer give the other side such a quick reprieve while Barnes’ camp circulates this story of Barnes as a clear victim.
But I doubt that’s the detrimental conduct the Bulls are referring to.
Chicago’s other starters have been dynamite with Grant instead of Rondo, outscoring opponents by 28 points per 100 possessions (relative to +10.6 with Rondo, still a robust mark). That’s a small sample with Grant, but we’ll get another opportunity to learn how this team meshes without Rondo.