Our grades from Wednesday around the NBA, or what you missed while watching a man attack a taxi with a didgeridoo…
Tony Wroten, Philadelphia 76ers. Rookie sensation Michael Carter-Williams was out and Wroten got thrown in the fire with his first ever start against Houston — and he responded with a triple double. Wroten finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists — the first person since Elias sports started tracking triple-doubles (1971) to get one in his first start. Wroten is a guy who has really developed his game over the past few years and it showed Wednesday.
James Anderson, Philadelphia 76ers. Yes, two Sixers make the list (it could have been three, Spencer Hawes had a big game as well). You have to stay tuned with this team — they are now 4-3 in games in which they trail by 10 points going into the fourth quarter. Anderson sparked that comeback with 13 of his 36 points in the fourth, and on the night he took just 16 shots. Anderson also hit six threes, but none bigger than this.
Brooklyn Nets. What. Was. That. Brooklyn was off to an ugly 2-4 start this season but was getting a Kings team that had lost five in a row — and Brooklyn got just blown out. I’m a stats-minded guy, I don’t like to say “the game was won with energy” but the Kings simply outworked the Nets for most of the night, getting to lose balls, trying harder on defense and generally just seeming to care. The Nets are 2-5 and while getting better is a season-long process that process will not work without effort. For the second time in seven games the Nets just didn’t show up.
Arron Afflalo, Orlando Magic. He’s really best suited to be the No. 2 or 3 guy on a good team, but he played like a No. 1 on Wednesday with 36 points on 11-of-15 shooting including 8-of-11 from beyond the arc. The bigger thing was 29 of those points came in the second half to lead the Magic back from 19 down to get a win. The Magic are still willing to shop veterans on this team and you can’t tell me there are not good teams that couldn’t use what Afflalo brings.
Memphis Grizzlies defense. This was a team that made it to the Western Conference Finals on the strength of their defense, and they brought back pretty much the exact same roster… so why is the defense so terrible? Toronto came into Memphis and dropped 103 points on them putting up 116.8 points per 100 possessions. Last season teams shot 43.5 percent against them and 33.8 percent from three, this season it is 46.6 and 38.2. Memphis needs to turn it around on the defensive end to turn this team around.
Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president.
Not just today, but also in 2012. A year later, he was again running a front office (Indiana’s).
Could he make an even quicker leap back into NBA team presidency – with the Magic?
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
This strikes me as more as Orlando’s search firm trying to prove its usefulness than a viable option.
Whether they’re trying to generate excitement, getting used for leverage or actually serious, the Magic keep getting linked to big-name replacements for the fired Rob Hennigan – Doc Rivers, David Griffin and now Bird. If the Magic are willing to pay major money for name recognition, they could get plenty of people to at least listen. But I’m unconvinced about that spending.
It’d be a little weird for Bird to inherit Frank Vogel, whom Bird fired as the Pacers’ coach. But Bird did everything he could to show that was more about seeking change than losing faith in Vogel.
Larry Bird put his stamp on the Pacers in the last year – firing Frank Vogel and trading for Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young to join hand-picked Monta Ellis and Myles Turner as Paul George‘s supporting cast on an up-tempo, offensively dynamic team.
The plan fell flat.
Indiana played at a below-average pace and produced a middling offense. The Pacers got swept by the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.
Now, Indiana’s uncertain future – with Paul George a year from free agency and the Lakers courting – gets even more chaotic.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
Bird had already resigned once as Pacers president, in 2012. He returned the following year.
Bird’s patience and pain tolerance for the job due to lingering back issues from his playing days has long seemed to waver. I wouldn’t write him off for good.
Indiana promoted Kevin Pritchard in 2012, when Bird previously stepped down. Pritchard previously worked as the Trail Blazers’ general manager, and he’s a qualified replacement.
The work begins immediately with a decision on George. If he doesn’t make an All-NBA team, the Pacers won’t gain as much financial advantage in his contract offer. That could open the door to a trade and rebuilding around Turner — or making a last-ditch push to convince George he can win in Indiana.
Chris Paul reportedly verbally committed months ago to re-sign with the Clippers. There have been mixed signals about Blake Griffin‘s intention to re-sign.
But they can’t formalize the deals until July, and the Clippers are now one game from another demoralizing first-round exit.
Where do they stand now?
Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:
Sources close to the Clippers say that they expect Paul to re-sign with the Clippers. He’ll be eligible for a five-year contract in excess of $200 million. Griffin’s return is less certain, sources say. This summer is his first foray into unrestricted free agency. Given his snakebitten tenure with the team and the possibility of another early exit, the prospect of exploring what’s out there will be alluring. One premise volunteered in good humor suggests that Paul is more likely to take a slew of meetings in a public process but ultimately re-sign with the Clippers, while Griffin is more likely to mull the decision privately under the guise of night, but announce he’ll be playing elsewhere in 2017-18.
Clippers president/coach Doc Rivers has made clear his desire to re-sign Paul and Griffin, and the playoffs won’t change that. This is the right call. It’s so difficult to assemble a team this good, the Clippers shouldn’t throw it away for the sake of change. Just because the Clippers haven’t gotten the breaks in previous seasons doesn’t mean they won’t get the breaks in future seasons.
But Paul and Griffin – and J.J. Redick, who’ll also be an unrestricted free agent – will determine the franchise’s fate. If they want to leave, they’ll leave.
Can the Clippers lure them back? They apparently think they’ll keep Paul, but there’s an uncertain dynamic in L.A. that Arnovitz explores in great depth. I highly recommend reading his full piece.
NBA teams reportedly aren’t dinging potential No. 1 pick Lonzo Ball over all the wild stuff his dad says and does.
Shoe companies are apparently taking a different approach.
Darren Rovell of ESPN:
An endorsement deal with Nike, Under Armour or Adidas is not in the cards for Lonzo Ball.
Ball’s father LaVar confirmed that the three shoe and apparel companies informed him that they were not interested in doing a deal with his son. Sources with the three companies told ESPN.com that they indeed were moving on.
In his meetings with the three, LaVar insisted that the company license his upstart Big Baller Brand from him. He also showed the companies a shoe prototype that he hoped would be Lonzo’s first shoe.
“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”
“Just imagine how rich Tiger (Woods), Kobe (Bryant), Serena (Williams), (Michael) Jordan and LeBron (James) would have been if they dared to do their own thing,” LaVar said. “No one owned their own brand before they turned pro. We do and I have three sons so it’s that much more valuable.”
Is there more upside in this approach? Yeah, I guess.
But the traditional shoe companies bring valuable infrastructure and experience. There’s value in forfeiting upside for those resources. Lonzo Ball, who has yet to play in the NBA, is also missing out on guaranteed life-changing money.
On the risk-reward curve, this seems like a mistake.