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.
This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.
After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.
Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).
Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.
Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.
But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.
He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.
LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.
Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?
In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.
But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.
Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.
“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”
It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)
With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.
President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.
“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”
There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.
It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.