Our grades from Sunday around the NBA, or what you missed while watching your Ferrari get run over by a delivery truck…
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City. He returns and the Oklahoma City offense, particularly in the fourth quarter, looks better. (Not great by any stretch, there’s still work to do, but better). It’s not a coincidence. Westbrook looked explosive but rusty on the finish, which is why his 21 points came on 5-of-16 shooting, but he was getting to the line and dished out seven assists. He looked like his old self. There is rust to shake off but the rest of the West should worry.
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves. Another big line: 34 points on 10-of-19 shooting, plus 15 boards. He was attacking inside with 9 of his 19 shots coming in the restricted area (he hit seven and got to the line for 15 free throws), but he also drained an off-balance jumper then got a high-five from Spike Lee. Love also had 9 points and 5 rebounds in the fourth quarter when the Knicks made the game interesting but the T-Wolves hung on. Love and Kevin Martin (30 points on 9-of-12 shooting, 5-of-5 from three) led the Timberwolves to an offensive rating of 110.4 (points per 100 possessions) against a Knicks team that had a strong first two games defensively.
Washington Wizards defense. This isn’t just a grade earned tonight — although the Heat certainly abused them — this is one for the season. Think they miss Emeka Okafor? Washington has given up at least 100 points in all three of its games. The Wizards have allowed 108.1 points per 100 possessions in their first two games (that would have been third worst in the NBA last season) then let the Heat rack up 113. Miami shot 52.9 percent, the Heat’s “big three” had 69 points. Washington isn’t going to come close to their goal of the playoffs if they don’t clean up that end.
Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns. He had an unimpressive first half (1-of-5) shooting, but after Goran Dragic left the game with an ankle sprain he stepped up — 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting in the second half. Bledsoe finished the game with 26 points and 14 assists. He kept Phoenix ahead for much of the third and the start of the fourth quarter, until Oklahoma City did what it does and pulled away. Bledsoe has struggled on the season (40.9 percent shooting) but this half was a glimpse of what he can be for Phoenix. He just needs to attack and get the threes to fall if he’s going to keep gunning them.
JaVale McGee hasn’t liked Shaquille O’Neal targeting him, and the Warriors center sure disliked the above video.
Due to the All-Star break, there was no fresh content for Shaqtin’ A Fool. So, TNT ran that spoof video with Shaq mocking McGee lowlights.
After Golden State beat the Clippers, McGee and Shaq engaged on Twitter:
And attention was received by all.
Vlade Divac said the Kings wouldn’t trade DeMarcus Cousins, and then two weeks later, once they dealt their franchise center, the general manager said, “character matters.”
Though he’s clearly trying to move on, Cousins, now with the Pelicans, can’t escape how he was treated in Sacramento.
Cousins, in a Q&A with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:
Is there any part of you that wants to talk to Ranadive or Divac?
Nah. For what? It was a coward move, so I’m pretty sure I will get a coward response. For what? And I’ve seen this happen before. I’ve been there through all same types … I was there with [coach] Mike Malone’s [firing]. I’ve seen how they operate. I know what kind of answer I will get anyway. So, what is the point?
When did the Kings tell you that you wouldn’t be traded?
A week before the trade. The sick part about it is that Vlade came in my house with my agent [Jarinn Akana]. We sat in my theater and just talked. That was maybe three weeks ago. We sat there and [he] told me what moves he wanted to make. All of that. I just didn’t understand.
I got a text from the owner right before I went to All-Star. He was asking me about a player, how I felt about him and making a move. The owner! When it happened, I was just in shock. I didn’t understand.
The Kings might differ on how well they informed Cousins of their intentions as the trade deadline approached, and it’s perfectly reasonable of owner Vivek Ranadive to consult Cousins while his front office explores a trade.
But the Kings stated often enough that they wouldn’t trade him, including offering him a designated-veteran-player extension, that he can rightfully feel aggrieved.
The Kings torched Malone after dismissing him, and Cousins has already gotten similar treatment. There’s little reason for Cousins to expect anything other than a rocky relationship with Ranadive and Divac from here.
The Hawks dealt before the trade deadline with an eye on winning this season.
That mission will start without their starting point guard, Dennis Schroder.
Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schröder has been suspended by the organization for one game without pay for failure to report to the team on time after the all-star break. He will serve his one-game suspension tonight when the Hawks host the Miami Heat.
“Dennis has played an important role for our team and been a significant contributor to our success this season,” President of Basketball Operations/Head Coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We are disappointed that he did not return to the team on time and we have discussed this with him. We look forward to him rejoining the team in Orlando tomorrow night.”
Schroder missed Wednesday’s practice, and Budenholzer attributed it to a travel issue. The guard corroborated that with this Instagram post:
Ultimately, the responsibility was on Schroder to get back to Atlanta. Extenuating circumstances might have offered him a reprieve, but the Hawks clearly believed he didn’t deserve a break.
The Wizards trading for Bojan Bogdanovic pushes Sheldon McClellan even deeper on the bench.
Actually, “McClellan” is now off the team entirely.
Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic:
Yes, the player formally known as Sheldon McClellan is now officialy Sheldon Mac. The 24-year-old returned to Houston, Texas over the past week and, with the blessing of his mother, changed his name.
Mac expects to have his jersey changed at some point and he will now be referred to in print as ‘Sheldon Mac.’ He said the reason was because ‘McClellan’ was a name he got from his father, whom he has no relationship with.
“I just added a little swag to it.”
If this makes him happier, I’m all for it.