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.
With Rajon Rondo out 4-6 weeks with a sports hernia, the New Orleans Pelicans were looking for a solid backup point guard.
This week, to make room to sign Richard Jefferson, the Denver Nuggets waived veteran Jameer Nelson.
While other teams such as the Rockets were calling, the Pelicans and Nelson have reached a deal, reports both Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports added this.
Nelson, in his 14th NBA season, became the top free agent on the market and received interest from contenders such as the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder and several other franchises that hoped to add the respected and accomplished veteran. But for Nelson, the Pelicans represent an opportunity to play significant minutes and provide leadership.
The Pelicans had a full roster of 15 players, they could have waited until next Tuesday and gotten a disabled player exception to add a 16th player, but they decided to go with something more permanent.
Jrue Holiday starts at the point for the Pelicans but with Rondo out — he was supposed to start next to Holiday — there is no depth at the position. The Pelicans can have Nelson step in and get minutes from the first time he steps on the court.
Nelson is still a solid pick-and-roll point guard, but what he brings to the table the Pelicans need more is shooting — he shot 38.8 percent from three last season and is a good spot up player. He can penetrate and make plays off handoffs as well, but it’s his shooting on a team that needs it that will be most valued.
The Pelicans have started the season 0-2 with losses to Memphis and Golden State. They take on the Lakers in Los Angeles Sunday night.
Near the end of New Orleans’ season-opening loss in Memphis, DeMarcus Cousins started getting into a war of words with a female Grizzlies fan, an exchange where allegedly “F-bombs” were dropped in both directions.
That’s going to cost Cousins.
Saturday the league announced that the Pelicans’ center has been fined $25,000 for “directing inappropriate language towards a fan.”
Cousins got a technical foul during this exchange, and that has been rescinded.
Cousins has averaged 31 points and 10 rebounds a game through two games this season, but it hasn’t been enough as New Orleans has started the season 0-2.
Shoes? Kevin Durant don’t need no stinkin’ shoes.
Early in the second quarter of the Warriors win in New Orleans Friday, Durant came out of his shoes on a layup in the lane. He then picked up his shoe, carried it to the other end, flipped it to the bench, and played defense without it, and while he got moved out of the way allowing an offensive rebound for the Pelicans he then proceeded to block Tony Allen twice at the rim.
Durant — after deciding to play the rest of the game in shoes — had seven blocks on the night, to go with 22 points.
Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.
He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.
Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said. “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”
I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.
His second frustration came from the loss to the Celtics on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”
He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. That will work especially well against teams going small (for example, the Cavaliers with Kevin Love at the five), although Friday night Boston had big man Aron Baynes starting at center (in part because of Embiid, in part because Marcus Smart was out injured). Still, Embiid can score on Baynes.
Take a look at Embiid’s shot chart from Friday night.
Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.