Tuesday night NBA Grades: John Wall has found his groove

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Here’s a quick swing through the NBA for a Tuesday night, or you missed while seeing how far you could launch a pumpkin

source:   John Wall, Washington Wizards. No Bradley Beal so they need big games from him and they got it Tuesday in a win over a Lakers team that had been playing good defense — Wall had 31 points on 18 shots, plus 9 assists. More importantly, he had 13 points in final 4:30 of game, including seven straight at one point. However, Wall really gets the high grade because this is three straight games with 30 or more points (the last two are Washington wins).

source:   Pelicans offense not getting Anthony Davis the ball more. Do the other Pelicans players realize how good Anthony Davis is? Because you don’t see the Clippers ignore Blake Griffin for extended periods, or Portland forget LeMarcus Aldridge exists. As seems to happen at times, for stretches on Tuesday night the Pelicans forgot about Davis. Why? In 30 minutes Davis had 9 shots (and had just 2 free throws) while Jason Smith had 14 shots, Eric Gordon had 12, Jrue Holiday 16, Ryan Anderson 17 and Tyreke Evans 11. At one point in the fourth quarter guard Nemanja Nedovic had been switched onto Davis on a pick, Davis went to the block with a clear mismatch, and nobody got him the rock. It was sad. On the season Davis leads the team in shot attempts per game, but at times they just seem to forget him and you can’t do that with your best player.

source:   Arron Afflalo, Orlando Magic. He had 26 points on the night including 10 in the third quarter when the Magic went on a run to pull away. Afflalo is having a career year — 21.6 points per game with a true shooting percentage of 62%. Plus he plays solid defense. All he’s really doing is improving his trade value for Orlando (he’s one of the veterans on the block).

source:   Toronto Raptors’ final shot. Down 2 with 11 seconds left to Brooklyn at home, Toronto got the ball to Rudy Gay and ran a 1-4 flat (Gay has the ball out top, everyone else basically stands on the baseline and stays out of the way, then slides into position for a kick out or to get a rebound). You see that play a lot at the end of games but it is a pet peeve of mine, I am not a fan of that play unless you have LeBron/Durant, Gay doesn’t qualify. Run a damn play. But that’s not really the biggest problem with Toronto’s last shot — Gay makes his move, the defense collapses and he kicks it out in the corner to a wide-open… Amir Johnson. A power forward who shouldn’t be in the prime kick-out spot on the floor. That  is the real problem — with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry on the floor, why is Johnson the one with the corner three shot? He is a 27.8 percent shooter from three. Just not a well designed play. And with that Brooklyn gets the win.

Rumor: NBA executives think Rockets have shot at signing LeBron James

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LeBron James is now rumored to be headed to about 29 NBA teams this summer when he can opt out of his current contract and become a free agent. Earlier this week, we heard rumblings that LeBron could be interested in sharing a Los Angeles Lakers roster with Dallas Mavericks center-at-large Nerlens Noel.

Now we’re hearing that NBA executives think the Houston Rockets have a chance of nabbing The King in the summer of 2018.

All aboard the Banana Boat.

According to USA Today’s Sam Amick, both the Rockets themselves and rival execs think Houston is a real landing spot for James thanks in part to how well they are playing this season. James Harden is having another MVP-caliber year, and Chris Paul has played beautifully in his return.

Via USA Today:

While James has made it clear that he won’t deliberate his uncertain future until the Cavs’ season is complete, there is strong belief in Rockets circles that they’ll have a legitimate shot at landing the four-time MVP this summer. Rival executives also believe the Rockets will have a real chance. And once you really look at it, when you get past all the noise about the Lakers and even the compelling case for the up-and-coming Philadelphia 76ers, it makes all sorts of sense.

The only team we haven’t heard connecting rumors about is the Cleveland Cavaliers themselves. LeBron — whose family lives in LA — recently bought a new house there and all signs point to James heading to the Western Conference. Well, unless he goes to the Philadelphia 76ers, of course.

Then again it felt like a certainty that LeBron would head to the New York Knicks nearly a decade ago, an idea that seems hilarious in retrospect. The NBA is weird, and if LeBron dips from Cleveland expect it to get even weirder.

Sixers’ Robert Covington to miss at least one game after crashing into stands

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NBA fans love hustle from their players, but sometimes things go awry.

That’s what happened on Saturday night after Philadelphia 76ers forward Robert Covington dove into the stands to try to save a loose ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The play came in the fourth quarter with under two minutes left and the Sixers down by just one point. Covington leapt into the far sideline just near the Cavaliers bench. He appeared to turn his ankle and land awkwardly on his back. The Cleveland floor has a small lip after the first row of seats that may have played a part in the injury.

Cleveland would go on to score on the play, and Covington had to be helped off the floor. The Cavaliers went on to win, 105-98.

Meanwhile, the 76ers will play Sunday in New Orleans against the Pelicans. According to NBC Sports Philadelphia, Covington will miss the game with a lower back contusion.

Via NBCSN Philadelphia:

X-rays and a CT scan came back negative. Covington is with the team in New Orleans and is doubtful for Tuesday’s game in Minnesota.

Covington tumbled out of bounds and over courtside seats while he tried to save a possession during a Sixers comeback attempt. There is an approximate four-to-five inch drop between the court and the area where Covington landed. Many of his teammates were unaware of Covington’s injury at first because it was out of their vision.

“It’s scary to see your teammate like that,” guard JJ Redick said. “They said he fell on his back. I wanted to make sure he’s walking and not in too much pain. But I just wish the best for him and hope he’s OK.”

Back injuries can be a complete hassle to recover from, especially when you’re deep in the middle of the season. Let’s hope the Sixers get Covington back soon.

Giannis Antetokounmpo dunked all over Rudy Gobert (VIDEO)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks a lot. The Milwaukee Bucks forward is big, strong, and aggressive when it comes to attacking the rim.

But he doesn’t typically dunk this hard or this emphatically over perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidates like Rudy Gobert.

That’s what made this one special.

As time was winding down in Milwaukee’s eventual 117-100 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night, Antetokounmpo put the exclamation point at the end of the sentence for the Bucks.

Gobert took the brunt of it. Via Twitter:

Goodness.

Gordon Hayward on playing this season: “It’s definitely in the back of my mind”

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Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has been going through some grueling physical therapy to aid his recovery from a horrible leg injury he suffered during his first game with the team back in October. Hayward wound up breaking his ankle, likely putting him out for the season.

Meanwhile, whether Hayward plays or not during the 2017-18 campaign is still up for debate. Hayward is making progress in his recovery — he recently was able to take his walking boot off and go for a smaller ankle brace.

For his part, Hayward has said that he is still thinking about the possibility of returning this season to the Celtics, who have earned themselves the top spot in the Eastern Conference in his absence.

Speaking to Adam Himmelsbach over at the Boston Globe, Hayward detailed not only his recovery routine but his thinking when it came to planning his return.

Via The Boston Globe:

“It’s definitely in the back of my mind,” Hayward said. “I’m definitely pushing to get back as fast as I can, while making sure that I still have a lot of good years of basketball in me. And coming back early and hurting something else is not part of that plan. So I’m making sure that if I come back, I’m 1,000 percent confident in myself and my leg. I hope more than anything I can play this season. That would be awesome. But that’s not something I’m stressing about. I’m stressing about what I can do today to help myself get better.”

That’s smart thinking on Hayward’s part. Too often it seems like guys are jonesing to come back, and when they do it’s cause for concern that they’re damaging their long-term playing health.

Hayward is making some real progress — the Globe story details him doing tasks like picking up marbles with his toes and shooting baskets from a chair as part of his PT — but whether he’ll be ready this season is doubtful.

It doesn’t sound like Hayward wants to rush things, but you never know. His agent did say that his return this year is unlikely, but another report has said that his earliest return would be March. Just in time to make a run for an Eastern Conference Finals showdown against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers?

We’ll have to wait and see.

UPDATE: Shortly after this story and the Boston Globe one was published on Sunday morning, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said the team isn’t planning for Hayward to come back. The plot thickens!