Atlanta Hawks vs Miami Heat

Monday night NBA grades: LeBron James flashes his MVP credentials

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while reading about NBA Jam legend Mike Iuzzolino

source:   LeBron James, Miami Heat. No Dwyane Wade. Chris Bosh left late in the game after Paul Millsap elbowed his jaw. Other Heat players struggled (we’re looking at you, Mario Chalmers). Yet there was LeBron James to carry the Heat to a win — 38 points on 28 shots, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. There are other guys in the early MVP discussion — Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Paul George or LaMarcus Aldridge — but games like this remind you that LeBron is the best player on the planet and he has set the bar for the MVP trophy.

source:  The Knicks’ bodies. Maybe this should have been an incomplete grade, but basically the Knicks’ bodies are failing them. This team has not stayed healthy this season long enough to get any chemistry, now they have Metta World Peace getting the Kobe treatment to his knee, Carmelo Anthony left Monday’s game with a sprained ankle, and now Raymond Felton could be out with a groin injury. The Basketball Gods have punished the Knicks enough this season, time to ease up on them.

source:  Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks. Dirk was in vintage form — 31 points on 18 shots against the Rockets Monday. As tends to be the case he was on fire from the midrange, hitting 7-of-10 from there (mostly from the left side of the court). With this 31 Nowitzi passed Alex English for 13th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list

source:  Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats. He was just one rebound shy of a triple double — 25 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds. Seven of those points came in overtime to assure the Bobcats the win. Yes, he did it against the lowly Bucks but it still counts.

source:  Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Hornets. Tyreke Evans went back home to Sacramento and reminded Kings fans he is pretty good — 25 points on 7-of-14 shooting, 12 assists and 5 rebounds off the bench. Evans had 13 of those points in the third and fourth quarter, when he was key to the Pelicans pulling away for a win.

Kings’ Rudy Gay suffers apparent torn left Achilles tendon, would be done for season

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This not only changes the Kings dreams of making the playoffs in the West, it also alters the trade deadline and free agency.

Rudy Gay, the Kings wing and second-leading scorer, has been diagnosed with a torn left Achilles tendon, according to the team. During the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers, Gay drove out of the right corner and, untouched, fell to the floor hard. He had to be helped off the court by teammates.

Team doctors made the initial torn Achilles diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed by an MRI scheduled for Thursday. He would be out not only for this season but likely the start of the next one as well.

Without Gay, a lot more will fall on Matt Barnes and, once he returns from his calf injury in a couple of weeks, Omri Casspi. Those two are a drop off from what Gay brought to the Kings,  and with that team’s playoff chances have taken a hit (they are 1.5 games out of the eight seed after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers). Don’t be surprised if the Kings look to add a scorer at the trade deadline.

Gay was not happy in Sacramento and said he planned to opt out of the $14.3 million final year of his contract to be a free agent next summer, which made him someone potentially traded before the deadline (although the Kings being in the playoff hunt impacted that). Gay averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for the Kings, and while his game was a little old school — more isolation and midrange shots than teams prefer — he put up points. Enough that he was drawing trade interest heading toward the deadline from Oklahoma City and other squads.

That is all off the table now. At age 30, if Gay does still opt out of his contract for next season this will impact what he would make on the free market.

Zaza Pachulia lays out Russell Westbrook, stands over him (video)

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Kevin Durant playing the Thunder invites extra emotions.

Russell Westbrook felt them – in the form of a flagrant foul by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who stood over Westbrook for emphasis.

Pachulia is really embracing his role doing the dirty work for star-studded Golden State.

Report: 76ers’ Ben Simmons sitting entire season still on table

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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That rumor No. 1 pick Ben Simmons won’t play this season?

It just won’t die.

Even after Simmons tried to quash it, even after the 76ers’ CEO outright denied it, even after Simmons returned to practice, even in an otherwise optimistic report.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

76ers rookie forward Ben Simmons could make his much-anticipated NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.

Barring a setback in his recovery, sources say the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has a chance to take the hardwood near March. There still remains the possibility Simmons sits the entire season, sources said, but his situation will continue to be thoroughly evaluated throughout his comeback quest.

76ers coach Brett Brown said there’s “no chance” Simmons plays in Philadelphia’s nationally televised game against the Rockets next week. Other than that, there isn’t much clarity.

It mostly sounds as if Simmons is still too far from returning to say something definitive.

Roy Hibbert passes ball into hoop, reacts with perfect facial expression (video)

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The Hornets did so much right in their 107-85 win over the Trail Blazers, even a bad pass went through the hoop.

Roy Hibbert reacted fantastically to blunder/basket (blasket?).