Welcome to the Atlantic Division version of Three Stars of the night. We don’t need your other five divisions, you can keep them.
Third Star: Jonas Valanciunas (24 points, 10 rebounds)
Coming into this season, there was a lot of hope in Toronto around Valanciunas, that the rookie could be a key part of their future in the middle. But he was raw — he still is raw, for example watch him bite on pump fakes (especially a second one). But he does bring a defensive presence, and in this game his energy and explosiveness was key for Toronto’s offense — and right from the start, he had 9 points in the first quarter.
Second Star: Jeff Green(34 points, 6 rebounds)
Jeff Green was very efficient in this game — 13-of-19 shooting — and that was big for him and the Celtics (who clinched a playoff spot). He also drained the dagger three late in this one. The question with Green has always been whether he’d be aggressive or passive and of late he certainly has been attacking more. But also he has developed a more rounded offensive game over the years. Sure, attacking by going right and ideally dunking is preferred, but he can go left and has a nice little elbow jumper. It makes him that much tougher to guard.
First Star: Carmelo Anthony (40 points, 5 rebounds)
One night after dropping 50 on the Heat he dropped 40 on the Hawks. Somebody is gearing up for the playoffs. This game was different than the Heat one — against Miami it was all jump shots but against the Hawks he was attacking the rim from the start, using his strength to bully his way there. With the threat of the drive he was able to get to his spots on the floor (the elbow) and knock down midrange shots. He also just hit some ridiculous shots while Josh Smith played solid defense. Anthony was 17-of-27 shooting and showed why he is thought of as one of the best scorers in the game today — and that has been key to the Knicks’ 10-game winning streak.
Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver
That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.
Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.
What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.
Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.
By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.
Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.
How’s that going?
(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.
Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks
Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.
So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.
“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….
“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.
“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”
Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.
Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.