Thursday night NBA grades: That Chris Paul guy is pretty good

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Our grades from Thursday night around the NBA, or what you missed while listening to bad British announcers call Game 7 of the Heat/Spurs Finals last year….

source:  Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers. That was the kind of performance that reminds you CP3 is the very best point guard in the NBA — 42 points, 15 assists, and 6 steals. Before 1974 the league didn’t track steals but since they have no player has put up that stat line in a game. Nobody. Not Jordan, not Magic Johnson, not John Stockton, not anybody. The steals were key — the Clippers forced turnovers, got out and ran and the easy buckets got them the win.

source:  Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls. He hit the game winner with five seconds left, and like acing your final that raises your grade. But lets not pretend he had a great game — 7-of-23 shooting and down the stretch he had some key turnovers (he has shot 11-of-38, or 28.9 percent, through two games). Rose was aggressive and showed flashes of his old self but mostly he looked rusty… he says that he’s not rusty he is just missing shots. Whatever. Define it however you wish Derrick. The question will pretty soon become how long before the shots start to fall?

source:  Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors. He is the best shooter in the game today — 38 points, 9-of-14 from three, he can knock it down off the dribble or catch and shoot. His range stretches out into the 300 level seats. He put on a shooting clinic and helped carry the Warriors Thursday night against the Clippers. So why a “B”? He’s also the team point guard and had 11 turnovers by himself (the Warriors had 24) — do that against the Clippers and the run you into the ground. That’s what happened here and the Clips won.

source:  Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. This was the classic, divisive Carmelo Anthony game. He had a team best 22 points and hit the shot that capped the 12-0 Knicks run in the fourth quarter, giving them the lead. He made some plays. But he also needed 24 shots to get those 22 points and he was a terrible 4-of-14 from the midrange. He said again in an interview on TNT he’s not really looking to leave NYC as a free agent next summer… but can you build a contender around him?

source:  Clippers defense. For the second game in a row the Clippers allowed 109 points per 100 possessions and they let a team get hot from three (12-of-21 for Golden State). The Clippers got the win so a lot of this will be overlooked, especially since the Warriors will make a lot of defenses look bad this season, but that’s two less than stellar defensive games for the Clippers in two attempts. DeAndre Jordan is very active, but it’s not enough. This is just something to watch going forward.

Report: Knicks to discuss coaching vacancy with Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer

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Mike Budenholzer is restless in Atlanta, seeing a rebuild coming and looking at other jobs (something Hawks management is fine with). He went down the road a ways with the Suns before pulling out of that process, but he’s still looking around.

The Knicks are casting a wide net in their search, talking to virtually everyone looking for coaching jobs.

So, this seemed inevitable, right? Budenholzer and the Knicks are going to talk, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This will be very preliminary. The Knicks have already had some level of conversation with Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, David Blatt, Mike Woodson, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith (Jackson and Fizdale are the rumored early leaders). Budenholzer has established a style and culture in Atlanta, giving the franchise a path forward. New York could certainly use that.

However, the Knicks job comes with real challenges, too. That starts with James Dolan as owner and the erratic, at times paranoid culture he has created there. Also, expectations in New York are always high, but the team will be without Kristaps Porzigis for at least half (maybe all) of the upcoming season as he recovers from an ACL injury, and that puts a ceiling on the team in the short term. Is all that worth leaving Atlanta for?

 

Stephen Curry to begin “modified” practices with Warriors

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Golden State has flipped the switch in the first round, going up 3-0 on overmatched San Antonio. The Warriors have been outscoring the Spurs by 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the series, allowing less than a point per possession on defense and scoring when and where they want. Kevin Durant is averaging 27.3 points per game, Klay Thompson is shooting 63.3 percent from three and scoring 25.7 points per game, and the Warriors are clicking.

But they are not yet whole — they need Stephen Curry back. Not for this round, but before the Western Conference Finals for sure.

Curry was re-evaluated Friday and will begin practicing with the team in a limited — or “modified” to use the team’s term — way.

The target has always been a return somewhere during the second round, and that still seems to be on track. That is also a little faster than traditional for a Grade 2 MCL sprain, which can take up to two months to heal (not the 4-6 weeks of the Warriors timeline), but the Warriors are being cautious here for now.

Eventually, the Warriors will need him back — their offense is built around Curry and his ball movement and movement off the ball. Curry’s gravity to draw defenders, even when he doesn’t have the ball, opens up the floor for others. Put simply, if he’s 28 feet from the bucket on the weak side defenders still have to watch and be near him, and help defenders need to be aware, which pulls the defense to wherever he is. Without Curry and the Warriors take more midrange jumpers, it’s just in the first round series against the Spurs they are hitting them.

 

Kenyon Martin: I once played high

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Former NBA commissioner David Stern said the league began testing for marijuana because players complained of other players playing high. Chauncey Billups said he knew teammates who played better high.

But Stephen Jackson is the rare former NBA player who admitted to playing high.

Now, he has company.

Kenyon Martin – who played for the Nets, Nuggets, Clippers, Knicks and Bucks in a 15-year career – via Bleacher Report:

We were playing in Indiana one day. I wasn’t feeling well. I had a hamstring, a hip or something. So, I smoked. I wasn’t going to play originally. So, we got to the arena, and I’m like, “I feel good.” I went and told the trainer, “I’m going to go today.” I went out there and had a great game.

If you want to guess which game this was, here are the possibilities.

This was part of a great feature on marijuana in the NBA and NFL. Matt Barnes, Al Harrington and Gary Paton also participate. I highly recommend (pun intended) watching it in full.

Nuggets president Tim Connelly: Next season playoffs or bust

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The Nuggets have steadily improved over the last four years – 30-52 to 33-49 to 40-42 to 46-36.

But even 46 wins weren’t enough to get Denver into the playoff this season, extending the postseason drought to five years.

Nuggets president Connelly, via Gina Mizell of The Denver Post:

On if next season is “playoffs or bust”:

“I think we’re there. How many times can you be the bridesmaid? Our young core, three of our best players are 23 (Gary Harris), 22 (Jokic) and 21 (Jamal Murray), and they’ve proven they’re capable of doing it at the highest level. I think all of us are, quite frankly, sick of this time of the year having a press conference.”

There’s certainly something to be said for injecting urgency. The Nuggets are already good enough to make the playoffs. They just happened to play in a historically deep Western Conference. But that doesn’t mean they can’t take more responsibility.

Denver lost to the Hawks (twice), Grizzlies (twice without Mikey Conley), Mavericks, Kings and Nets this season. Flip any of those games, and the Nuggets would have made the playoffs.

But I’m not sure what “or bust” means.

Connelly said Michael Malone would return as coach next season. If Denver misses the playoffs, would he get fired? Would Connelly come on the hot seat? What if the Nuggets again produce a record that typically qualifies for the postseason?

Even if Denver misses the playoffs next year, the 2019-20 team would have a 22-year-old Jamal Murray, 25-year-old Gary Harris and probably a 24-year-old Nikola Jokic under contract. That’s still a pretty good place to be.

Because of Jokic’s rapid ascent, the Nuggets are trying to accelerate the timeline. They most notably signed Paul Millsap last summer. (Injury cost him most of the season and contributed to Denver falling short.) They could also emphasize the present by re-signing Will Barton this offseason.

But playoffs or not next year, the Nuggets have a bright future. Connelly just doesn’t want them leaning on that excuse, though following through on his edict could create complications if Denver again narrowly misses the postseason with a good record.