Only three games — and not the high-quality games we are used to on the Thursday night showcase stage due to the NCAA Tournament — so we’ve got one guy from each team that notched a victory.
Third Star: Tyreke Evans (21 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds)
The Kings won this game with a 13-2 run in the fourth quarter that gave them a lead the Timberwolves could not overcome. And Tyreke Evans was the key to the Sacramento fourth quarter with 11 of his 21 points, including seven in a row at one point. On the night Evans got those points on 8-of-11 shooting on the night, which was huge. By the way, the Kings are 6-5 in their last 11 and playing much better.
Second Star: LaMarcus Aldridge (28 points, 8 rebounds)
LaMarcus Aldridge had a huge first half in getting the Blazers a quality win on the road. He had 10 first quarter points, then when he returned in the second quarter the Blazers went on an 18-8 run that was when the Blazers ran away and hid in this game. But really the key was how he played — he wasn’t stationary but moving against the Bulls defense. He flashed, cut and when he got the rock he shot quickly. It worked for Aldridge and it worked for the Blazers.
First Star: Corey Brewer (29 points, 5 steals)
The Nuggets win streak is 14 games and they can thank Corey Brewer. He won that game for them, finishing it off in a way fitting of the drama of the first day of the NCAA Tournament.
It wasn’t just that he scored the last six points — including drawing (and selling) a foul on a three with 2.1 seconds left, then sinking all three free throws to lock up the win. But it was more than that — the Nuggets were flat early, he came in and scored 13 points in the second quarter to stabilize things. Normally Brewer comes in to stabilize the defense, but he can have hot offensive nights and the Nuggets have won 14 in a row because they know to ride the hot hand. Thursday that was Brewer.
This is how the salary cap game is played.
Mo Williams is dead money, owed $2.2 million this season by the Cleveland Cavaliers, he decided he didn’t want to play anymore. The Cavaliers kept Williams on the roster and the books in case they could use that salary in a trade, and they did shipping him to Atlanta as a throw in with the Kyle Korver trade. Atlanta then traded him to Denver, because the Nuggets wanted to add $2.2 million to their payroll and bring them closer to the salary floor. But they didn’t want him on the roster, so they waived him.
Enter the Philadephia 76ers.
But the Sixers were not done.
Now we see if one of the handful of teams with a worse record than the Sixers decides they would rather have the salary on their books.
To be clear, teams under the salary floor still have to pay that money to the players. Let’s say a team ends up $2 million under that floor, then the team pays $2 million to be divided among the players on that roster. So, bringing in a player like Williams just saves them cash.
The Knicks were down 113-110 with just 13.7 seconds remaining when Carmelo Anthony passed to an open Courtney Lee, who passed up a clean look at a 3-pointer from the corner, instead passing to Brandon Jennings, who turned the ball over, and the Wizards got the win.
After the game, Lee said he didn’t shoot because he felt and heard what he thought was a defender near him, but it turned out to be Wizards assistant coach Sidney Lowe, who came onto the court and barked words implying he was switching out onto Lee.
The NBA’s Last Two Minutes Report sides with Lee, saying the Wizards should have gotten a technical. From the report:
A WAS assistant coach stands on the floor close to Lee (NYK) for several seconds and should have been assessed a technical foul.
This is an area the NBA needs to crack down on, coaches walk out onto the court all the time. Far too often. Frankly, I have an issue with coaches on the bench stomping their feet or yelling at shooters near their sideline, but Lowe took it a step further.
Much like telling a six-year-old to stop licking their shoes this isn’t something NBA officials should have to deal with, it should be common sense, but the league needs to crack down on coaches stepping onto the court. Maybe this will push the league to start enforcing that rule.
Should Russell Westbrook have been a starter for the All-Star game over Stephen Curry? Sure. Going on stats from the first half of this season — when Westbrook is averaging a triple double — Westbrook deserves the nod. But I have a hard time getting worked up over the fans choosing the two-time MVP to start the All-Star Game.
The real snubs are coming.
When it comes to choosing the All-Star Game reserves, the coaches are facing some tough choices. How many point guards in the East? Does Joel Embiid deserve to go? Kristaps Porzingis? Out West the questions shift to Mike Conley, Damian Lillard and others.
I talk about those tough choices and who I would pick in this latest PBT Extra.
The Bucks reportedly already planned for Greg Monroe to opt in after this season, a reasonable conclusion considering they tried to dump him in a trade all summer and found no takers.
But Monroe has quietly boosted his stock this season. Coming off Milwaukee’s bench, he’s still a skilled interior scorer. But he’s defending and rebounding better, using his quick hands to strip opponents and taking plenty of charges.
Could he even decline his $17,884,176 player option?
Monroe, via Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
“I’m not thinking about anything like the off-season right now. There is a time and place for everything. If and when I have to make a decision, that time is not right now.”
The time might approach more quickly than Monroe expects. If the Bucks shop him again, potential trade partners will want to know Monroe’s intention. Some might prefer the flexibility created by him opting out, and others would like the certainty of having a productive player at a reasonable-enough cost next season. But all would want to know where they stand.
That said, it’s hardly a give Milwaukee moves Monroe. Though he has backed up John Henson and Miles Plumlee, Monroe (21.2 minutes per game) plays more than both. He’s a valuable contributor on a team jockeying for playoff position.
Most importantly, Monroe appears to complement Bucks franchise player Giannis Antetokounmpo well. Antetokounmpo scores more (23.5 to 26.3 points per 36 minutes) and more efficiently (59.0% to 65.7% true shooting percentage) from when he plays without Monroe to when he plays with Monroe, and Milwaukee’s offense improves accordingly (104.3 to 114.6 points per 100 possessions).