Our grades from around the NBA Thursday night, or what you missed while figuring out how to win at The Price is Right…
Andrea Bargnani, New York Knicks. He’s played a few good games in a row now… I’m still not fully going to buy into him yet but if you want to make the case he’s finding his groove you have a legit argument. Bargnani finished with 24 pints on 9-of-12 shooting plus he played good man defense in the post against Dwight Howard. He’s not getting an A because his help defense was non-existent and that’s one of the reasons the Rockets won, but he played a generally good game.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. It was basically Carmelo Anthony vs. the Rockets — and Anthony almost won. Check out his shot chart from the first half.
Anthony finished with 45 points on 17-of-30 shooting, he had 10 boards, and if you ask me that was a continuation foul with five seconds left (Harden did get an early slap and bump in there but those didn’t strike me as a fouls you call that late in the game, plus you could argue ‘Melo had started his motion). Anthony is going to have to carry this team for a while and this kind of effort would have won most nights.
Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets. He got pushed out of his position and couldn’t get comfortable in the post; he couldn’t get the ball and make plays, while guarded by Andrea Bargnani. The Knicks did throw doubles at him in the first half trying to get the ball out of his hands (which worked but just opened driving lanes) but by the second half Knicks coach Mike Woodson thought just Bargnani would be enough to control the guy thought of as the best center in the game. And it was. Howard can’t disappear like that on offense. His grade bumps up thanks to his 15 rebounds and defensive presence, but we expect more.
Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors. Grades can come down to how you did on your finals. How did Iguodala do on his final shot?
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder. Anyone want to tell me again how he is not all the way back? This was his best game since his return, with 31 points hitting 13-of-20 shots, plus 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Plus he almost had a game winner, if Iguodala hadn’t spoiled everything. It’s just good to see Westbrook back and playing like this.
LeBron James is already there. So is Kevin Durant. Same with a lot of other old-school GMs and coaches around the league.
Their response to the rapid rise in hack-a-player (shouldn’t it always be hack-a-Shaq?) instances is “tell the guy to hit the free throws.”
Add Kobe Bryant to their ranks, reports Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is starting to feel differently. He realizes he runs an entertainment business and a parade of guys to the free throw line without because of a non-basketball play — you can’t begin to tell me fouling a guy 50 feet from the ball is a basketball play in the spirit of the rules — is bad for that business. It is unwatchable. And while every coach in the NBA “I hate to do it” they all do it with more and more frequency, there will be more than twice as many instances this season as there were a year ago, with more and more players involved. Because it works, and because they are paid to win, not play beautiful basketball.
Change is coming. Old-school types always bemoan change, and that’s not just a basketball thing. But the rest of the world has rules in place to stop this because they realize it’s not basketball, it’s gaming the system. And it needs to change.
On this play the Sacramento Kings played defense like only they can — and you wonder why George Karl’s job is in danger — and gave Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov a wide-open lane right down the middle for an easy dunk.
LeBron James had a triple-double (the 40th of his career) and the Cavaliers got a needed easy win, but this is the play you’ll remember.
Karl-Anthony Towns is a beast.
While the Timberwolves have plenty of question marks around him, but Towns has been exceptional. Coming into Monday night, he was averaging 21.6 points (on 59.9 percent shooting) and 12.7 rebounds a night in his last 10 games.
Then Monday he did that to Dante Cunningham.
The Pelicans went on to win the game 116-102, but Towns continues to play well.
The summer of 2016 is all about Kevin Durant — and we don’t know what Durant is going to do as a free agent because Durant doesn’t yet know what Durant is going to do as a free agent. Stay in Oklahoma City, bolt to the Bay Area or maybe Washington D.C.? These playoffs, meetings with teams and his advisors, plus personal factors all will play a role in Durant’s decision. Which he will get around to announcing in early July sometime.
But the sense around the league is that while Durant may very well stay in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook was drawn to the bright lights of big markets. If an elite player were to bolt OKC, this was the more likely guy. Westbrook is a free agent in 2017.
In an article about Phil Jackson and the Knicks in the wake of Derek Fisher’s firing, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the Knicks have a real shot at Westbrook in a couple of summers.
The Knicks have a real chance to sell Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in 2017 – New York and Porzingis have his attention, yes – and Jackson ought to start constructing an elite coaching staff to begin that process with Westbrook and with free agents beyond him.
Come 2017, expect Westbrook to meet with a number of big market teams on both coasts, and then make a decision. The summer of 2017 is a couple of NBA lifetimes away, it’s impossible to say what Westbrook will do (he may well decide to stay in OKC if they win enough), but the big market teams looking for a star will get their turn in the batter’s box.
Which is why I still think Durant signs a 1+1 deal this summer to stay in Oklahoma City for another season — he’s going to give everything another chance to come together for the Thunder, then when the salary cap is at its peak in 2017 (an estimated $108 million) he makes his peak seasons decision. He and Westbrook and Serge Ibaka will all be free agents at the same time, and they can make their calls.
And the Knicks could be involved in all of it.