Our grades for what happened around the NBA Sunday, or what you missed while watching Jean-Claude Van Damme do the splits between two moving trucks…
Brooklyn Nets first quarter offense. With all that talent on the roster we expected some big nights from Brooklyn and it looked like we would finally get one (even if they didn’t have Deron Williams or Brook Lopez, both out injured). There was ball movement, player movement and screens. Kevin Garnett jumped in the hot tub time machine and played like his Minnesota days, just scoring from all over the court on LaMarcus Aldridge — KG had 12 of the first 14 Brooklyn points on 6-of-6 shooting. Shaun Livingston used his height advantage to score 10 over Damian Lillard (and drive past him once for an impressive dunk). Brooklyn attacked and got to the line 11 times. The Nets put up 40 points and shot 73.7 percent in the quarter. They looked like a force of nature.
Brooklyn Nets second half offense. And this is why they are now 3-7 — the Nets devolved quickly into what has made their offense so easy to defend of late. Brooklyn went into isolation basketball that was stagnant — nobody would set screens, nobody moved off the ball, it was just iso basketball. You can defend that, and the Trail Blazers did. The Nets scored 35 points (less than the first quarter) on 22 percent shooting. Paul Pierce was 1-of-7, Garnett 1-of-8, Joe Johnson 1-of-6, Jason terry 0-of-4. The Nets are 3-7 and have some real issues to work out.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. He mostly gets this grade for that shimmy-shake dance he did after a key three in the final two minutes — I love the emotion from Durant. He had missed three from three leading up to that, shots that could have been like daggers, so when he finally got one to go he had to dance. Durant had 38 points on 11-of-27 shooting, plus he had 13 in the fourth quarter when they needed it most. He helped key the OKC comeback and win. But mostly it was about the dance.
Mark Gasol and Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis has gone 4-0 on their road trip, beating the Clippers on Monday night, and the reason is these two are executing at a high level again. Randolph had 26 points and 15 rebounds, while Gasol pushed a triple-double with 23 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists. More than just the numbers they are hustling on the boards, Gasol is being a defensive anchor, and Randolph is just taking rebounds away from people. These two simply out executed the Clippers front line of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan down the stretch and Memphis pulled away for the win.
Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.
Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.
Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.
“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”
He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.
The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.
Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.
He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.
“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”
All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.
New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.
JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.
He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.
But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.
This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.
I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.
At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.
But not right now. He remains silent.
This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.
In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.