Our grades from Wednesday night around the NBA, or what you missed while securing funds in advance of twitter’s IPO …
Larry Sanders. Apologies for starting things off on a negative note, and even more so for discussing someone who didn’t even play in Wednesday night’s action. But signing a contract worth a guaranteed $44 million in the offseason comes with it a certain amount of responsibility, and getting into a fight at a random club which results in an injury that prevents you from playing is as boneheaded a move as possible. We understand that young millionaires can be targets at times, but it’s up to the players to be smart enough not to put themselves in compromising positions. We’ll wait to reserve further judgment until all of the facts come out, but the history of technical fouls and the benching in the early part of this season combined with this off-the-court incident doesn’t bode well for Sanders’ overall reputation.
Nikola Vucevic. Orlando beat the Clippers, and did so in impressive fashion. The Magic gave back all of an early 19-point lead, but regrouped and played calm, consistent basketball down the stretch to come away with the victory. Vucevic was a huge part of that effort, finishing with a game-high 30 points and 21 rebounds against the respected inside presence of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin.
The Pacers defense. Indiana held Chicago to under 20 points in three of the four quarters during their win on Wednesday, and stifled the Bulls’ front line players in the process. Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah combined for just 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting, and Roy Hibbert was touchdown dancing on Twitter afterward (shoutout to my man Marc Spears) while proclaiming his Defensive Player of the Year worthiness.
Tony Parker’s fourth quarter. The Suns were threatening to beat the Spurs on their home court, and despite the general public’s view that Phoenix should be losing on purpose to secure a better chance at a higher draft pick, in the early part of the season the Suns have been one of the more competitive teams of them all. But Parker would have no part of that, and scored 15 points in less than nine fourth quarter minutes on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting to ensure his team didn’t come away with the loss.
Vince Carter, and the elbow that got him ejected. A veteran like Carter simply isn’t going to accept elbows to his face from a rookie like the Thunder’s Steven Adams, even if they were inadvertent and if Adams himself clearly had no intention of inflicting any damage. Carter’s response was both warranted and expected, as was his ejection for his actions. But now in his 16th NBA season, it was good to see that Carter has that competitive fire still burning within.
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.
Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.
His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.
Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.
Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.
As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.
Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.
Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.
Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.
Maybe a little too pumped.
That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.
Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.
(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)
The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.
While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”
Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”
We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.
Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.