In what is a deeply political issue, Popovich sounded the populist tone of “a pox on both their houses” in a well spoken way. (And I fully agree with him on the broad point, having long thought Washington is about people fighting what they see as a zero-sum game for power and any policy, whether you like it or hate it, is just a byproduct of the fight.)
“We talk about a lot of things with the team. We haven’t gotten really specific with the shutdown… Most foreigners think we’re pretty silly, and they’re correct. It’s children fighting over their toys, so to speak. It’s got nothing to do with the public or what’s good for the country. It’s about winning and losing, and that doesn’t do any of us much good. Hopefully they’re going to get to some sort of agreement in the next couple of days that might be good for the American people.
“It’s funny how each of them talks about what the American people want. The leaders from one side, they talk and say ‘The American People want…’ How the hell do these people know what they want? They live in a fishbowl. And then the other side says the same thing. It’s kind of comical, if it wasn’t so dramatically devastating for so many people.”
This is a good move executed in seemingly the most ham-handed way possible.
The Knicks couldn’t have traded Jennings for a second-rounder last week? He’s on a one-year contract worth just $5 million, which should have made it easy to line up salaries. He’s overrated, because his flashy moments and presence in a big market dwarf erratic play overall. Still, for teams ready to win now that needed a backup point guard, Jennings could have added value.
And even if potential Jennings trades wouldn’t have cleared a roster spot, the Knicks could have waived Sasha Vujacic instead. Vujacic is washed up, but he’s a Jackson favorite.
Still, the Knicks are better off now. They open playing time for promising rookie Ron Baker and add the 24-year-old Randle, who shined in limited minutes with the 76ers earlier this season. New York has circled Randle since went undrafted out of Standford in 2015. He played for the Knicks in summer league and the preseason, but they cut him once he got hurt.
For a team headed back to the lottery, better to emphasize youth — though it would have been even better to do so before the trade deadline.
Jennings is also better off, likely to join a better team. I wouldn’t rule out the Nuggets or Jazz claiming him on waivers, but he most likely clears waivers and picks his next destination.
Three Things We Learned Sunday: Are we taking Westbrook’s destruction of NBA for granted?
Sunday around the NBA, everyone who earned a win was announced as such, here are the three big takeaways.
1) Have we started to take Russell Westbrook’s destruction of the league for granted? Sunday Russell Westbrook had 41 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists — his fourth 40-point triple double of the season— and enough highlight plays to fill his own segment on SportsCenter. Yawn.
On the season he is averaging 31 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 10.3 assists per game, he’s very likely going to be the first player in five decades to average a triple-double over the course of a season. Whatever.
It seems like we’ve become numb to what Russell Westbrook is doing this season. He has 29 triple-doubles, he is carrying the Thunder to the playoffs (they are on pace to win 47 games). When he is on the court, the Thunder outscore their opponents by three points per 100 possessions, when he sits they get outscored by 10.5. Sunday against the Pelicans he scored 21 of his points in the fourth quarter when his team needed the buckets to get the win.
We can’t do that — we are never going to see another season like this. Westbrook has been nothing short of phenomenal. Does he occasionally hunt triple doubles? Sure, but he’s actually in the position to hunt them, and his team gets wins because of it. Is he turning the ball over more than coach Billy Donovan would like? Sure. It’s not like has the ball in his hands every time down and is the only reliable shot creator on the team… oh, wait, it’s exactly like that.
Step back and savor this. It’s a season for the ages.
2) The flip side of item No. 1: Pelicans lose again, DeMarcus Cousins picks up technical 32 seconds in and will miss next game. Since the trade that was going to turn their season around, the New Orleans Pelicans have lost three in a row — the latest Sunday to Westbrook and the Thunder — and slid farther out of the playoff picture in the West, 3.5 games back of Denver (they could make up the ground, but they need to leapfrog four teams now to do it). Cousins also picked up technical No. 18 just 32 seconds into the loss Sunday for a silly retaliation move on Steven Adams — meaning Cousins is suspended for the Pelicans upcoming game against the Pistons (after 16 techs you sit out for every other one).
New Orleans is not a playoff team, not this season. They aren’t turning this around fast enough. We knew it would take a little time for Cousins and Anthony Davis to mesh, and was painfully obvious in this game: Davis scored 24 in the first, Cousins zero; then in the second quarter it flipped and Cousins had 19 while Davis scored zero. At the end of the game Davis and Cousins combined for 69 points, the next highest Pelican player had 10. Cousins is putting up numbers — he has averaged 23.3 points and 13 rebounds per game since coming over — but the Pelicans are not a team yet. And may not be until next season.
3) Jusuf Nurkic is tougher than you — has two teeth knocked out, stays in game. We found out after the game they were two crowns, but still. Nurkic, a new Blazer since the trade deadline, fouled Toronto’s P.J. Tucker with a couple of hands to the back, but as they came down Tucker swung his arm and caught Nurkic in the face, knocking out some teeth/crowns (Tucker did get a technical for that).
TORONTO (AP) DeMar DeRozan scored 33 points, Serge Ibaka added 18 and the Toronto Raptors beat the Portland Trail Blazers 112-106 on Sunday night.
The Raptors won their third in a row and wrapped up a second straight season sweep of Portland. They previously had beaten the Trail Blazers 95-91 in Portland on Dec. 26.
Damian Lillard scored 28 points for the Trail Blazers, who got 18 from Maurice Harkless.
Up 98-96 with 4:41 remaining, the Raptors scored the next six points, with back-to-back jump shots from Ibaka and a pair of free throws from DeRozan putting them up by eight with 3:16 remaining.
The Trail Blazers answered with six straight converted free throws sandwiched around a three-point play from Cory Joseph, before Lillard drove on Ibaka and converted the layup to cut the lead to 107-104 with 1:42 to play.
But DeRozan scored the next four points, hitting a jump shot and two free throws to put the Raptors up by seven with 30 seconds to play.
In a back-and-forth first quarter featuring 11 lead changes, Portland took control, overcoming 12 points from DeRozan to emerge with a 28-25 edge after 12 minutes.
Al-Farouq Aminu led the way for the Trail Blazers in the second with nine points as they extended their advantage to 12 points with 4:52 to play in the half. But the Raptors shot 61 percent in the period and went on a 15-2 run to close out the quarter and head into halftime lead 53-52.
Toronto scored the first six points of the third quarter to extend its lead, but Lillard had 10 points in the period to the Trail Blazers stay close. They retook the lead with 1:47 to play, before the Raptors surged back to enter the fourth up 82-80.
Raptors: G Kyle Lowry (right wrist) missed the game. Joseph made just his third start of the season in his place. . Toronto has now completed season sweeps against five teams this season (Brooklyn, Denver, Utah and the Los Angeles Lakers).
LACK OF LOWRY
Toronto coach Dwane Casey said Lowry’s sore right wrist was assessed over the weekend and it was still structurally sound.
“The images weren’t significant, there was no significant showing,” he said. “So it’s going to be day-to-day, treated symptomatically. Swelling’s gone down, so that’s a good sign. So we’ll see. He’ll be a day-to-day thing. It wasn’t broken, so that helps.”
Trail Blazers: Visit Detroit on Tuesday looking to snap a three-game losing streak against the Pistons.
Raptors: Visit New York on Monday aiming for a sixth straight win over the Knicks.
Late 5-point possession lifts Celtics over Pistons 104-98
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) Jaylen Brown sank a 3-pointer from the right corner while being fouled with 37.6 seconds remaining, part of a five-point possession for Boston that lifted the Celtics to a 104-98 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday night.
The Celtics were down 96-95 when Brown connected while being fouled by Marcus Morris. Brown missed the ensuing free throw, but Detroit couldn’t come up with the rebound, and Tobias Harris was called for a loose-ball foul. Marcus Smart added two free throws to put Boston up 100-96.
Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 33 points. Andre Drummond had 17 points and 15 rebounds for the Pistons, but he went 1 of 11 on free throws and was taken out for some key possessions toward the end to prevent Boston from fouling him.
Detroit went 16 of 35 from the line, while the Celtics were 24 of 30.
The Pistons rallied from a 15-point third-quarter deficit and led 96-95 when Reggie Jackson missed a 3-pointer with just under a minute remaining. That gave the Celtics a chance to take the lead, and Brown capitalized.
The Pistons retired Richard Hamilton’s No. 32 during a halftime ceremony attended by several other players from Detroit’s 2004 championship team.
Celtics: Thomas has scored at least 20 points in 43 straight games. … Boston led 54-50 at halftime and began the third quarter with a 13-2 run. … The Celtics were without G Avery Bradley, who was out with a sore right Achilles tendon.