There are great all-around performances, and then there are singular plays which rise above all else to define a day of NBA basketball. DeAndre Jordan’s dunk over Brandon Knight falls into the latter category, and (spoiler alert) it earns him our top spot in the nightly rankings.
Third Star: Dwight Howard (16 points, 21 rebounds, 4 blocked shots in win over Bulls)
Dwight is getting healthier with each passing game, and as a result, he’s looking more and more like the defensive monster he’s proved to be in previous seasons. Howard was active defensively and dominated the glass, while helping the Lakers beat the Bulls and move into the playoff picture officially for the first time all season.
Second Star: Mario Chalmers (26 points on 9 shots, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals)
The Heat won their 18th straight game on Sunday against the Pacers, and anytime the leading scorer in Miami isn’t named LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, you know they turned in a special performance. 26 points on nine shots is about as efficient as it gets, and the fact that guys other than James, Wade, and Chris Bosh can step up like this for the Heat is what makes them heavy favorites to repeat as champions.
First Star: DeAndre Jordan (Soul-crushing dunk that broke the Internet)
DeAndre Jordan finished with 13 points on 5-5 shooting, to go along with seven rebounds and two blocked shots in the Clippers’ 32-point win over the Pistons. But when this happens, not much else matters.
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.