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.
Back in July during the pre-Olympics USA Camp in Las Vegas, I asked Kyrie Irving what had changed for him, what was different for him after winning an NBA title. His answer was about the doors it opened, the possibilities that suddenly felt available to him. A month after winning the title he still seemed a little overwhelmed by the experience, and he hadn’t fully processed it yet. Which is completely understandable.
Now, as training camp is set to open for the Cavaliers and their defense of that title, Irving clearly has gotten used to being a champion — and he feels validated. Look at what he told Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
“Yes, my life’s changed drastically,” Irving told cleveland.com Saturday, during Irving’s friendship walk and basketball challenge downtown for Best Buddies, Ohio — an organization that gives social growth and employment opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“It’s kind of, you’re waiting for that validation from everyone, I guess, to be considered one of the top players in the league at the highest stage,” Irving said. “That kind of changed. I was just trying to earn everyone’s respect as much as I could.”
It’s amazing to think of the impact one shot — Irving’s three over Stephen Curry with 53 seconds left in Game 7 — can have. If he misses, there is less pressure on the Warriors to answer with a three, maybe they come down and get a bucket inside for two (one could argue they should have done that anyway rather than hunt for the three), from there maybe the Warriors win. If so, that could change everything from Kevin Durant‘s summer plans to what the Cavaliers’ roster looks like today — there’s a good chance Cleveland’s lineup would have changed if they lost to the Warriors two Finals in a row.
One shot can have that kind of impact on a player, too.
Kyrie Irving was one of the top five point guards in the NBA for a while, a score first guy but one who had some floor general in him and got some steals. A lot of time seemed to be spent focusing on his flaws defensively and passing. But with that shot, he feels validated. If he carries that confidence into next season, the Cavaliers just got better.
First Kobe Bryant. Then Tim Duncan.
Now Kevin Garnett. The Hall of Fame class in five years is going to be stacked.
But before we move on from Garnett’s announcement this week that he is retiring after 21 years in the NBA, let’s look back at his greatest plays (compiled by the folks at NBA.com). Enjoy this for 11 minutes rather than watching your NFL fantasy team flounder. Again.
Did anyone ever fire up NBA 2K9 back in the day, decide to be the soon-to-be-champion Lakers, look at a roster with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom then say “I’m going to be Luke Walton”?
D'Angelo Russell says he did.
The Lakers young point guard has praised the new Laker coach at every turn — Russell and Byron Scott did not get along, the point guard is much happier now — and that includes talking about Walton’s playing days to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.
“I told him I remember playing with him on (NBA) 2K; I used to always play as him. I’m a fan. I’m definitely a fan. Because he was a point forward. I can’t speak on Elgin Baylor and all those guys, but my era, I know he was a point forward.”
Really? NBA veteran and current analyst Stephen Jackson called Russell out on that.
Jackson has a point.
What is with the ridiculous, unrealistic Philadelphia 76ers rumors of late? Last I checked recreational use was not legal in Pennsylvania. Not that the law is stopping anyone.
The latest silliness follows this logic:
This summer the Sixers made runs at veteran guards such as Jamal Crawford and Manu Ginobili (and they forced the Spurs to pay up for the Argentinian to keep him).
The Cleveland Cavaliers and J.R. Smith are in a staring contest, and Smith remains a free agent.
The Sixers have more than $22 million in cap space still.
No. Not happening.
Or, we could have just asked Smith who has said he is not talking to other teams and doesn’t want to play anywhere but Cleveland.
I can get why Sixers management would want to bring a veteran and beloved, hard-working pro such as Ginobili in to lead and mentor a young team. Does Smith bring that same demeanor? I get that Smith in Cleveland has developed his game, and that he has matured and backed off his hard-partying ways (he gets a hall pass for the days after winning a championship), but is Smith the veteran you bring into a young locker room?
Can we move on from the ridiculous in Pennslyvania? Well, probably not until after the election, that is a battleground state.