Gerald Henderson; Patrick Patterson

Charlotte Bobcats, surprisingly good defenders, want to buckle down on defense

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There was a decent amount of debate about the Charlotte Bobcats before the season.

Would they compete for the NBA’s best lottery odds, or would they slip lower in the lottery?

Instead, Charlotte has shocked the Eastern Conference by starting the season 14-15, not a great mark but still fourth-best in the conference.

And it’s totally because of defense.

The Bobcats’ offense ranks 29th in the NBA, ahead of only the Bucks. Their defense ranks third, behind only the the Pacers and Thunder.

But Charlotte has slipped a little, allowing its last three opponents – Bucks, Jazz and Pistons – to score more points per possession than they’re each averaging for the season.

So, with a few days off between games, Bobcats coach Steve Clifford is preaching defense. Clifford, via Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer:

“We worked on it today – just getting our defense organized,” Clifford said Thursday. “When we’ve gotten back, for the most part, our defense has been good. The other night we did a poor job of that. So today we watched film, worked on it, and hopefully it will get better.”

“We are making mistakes on cuts and coverages that we haven’t had,” Clifford said after the game. “I told them you can’t get away from that.”

Clifford, a first-year coach, has done an incredible job implementing his defensive system – and this shows exactly why.

The Bobcats have plenty of room to improve offensively, but that’s not where they’re focusing. They’re all about defense, something they already do well.

It really seems the entire team has bought into a defense-first approach, and that was the first step to reaching this level. The next step is ironing out the kinks.

And then maybe the Bobcats will get around to repairing that ugly offense. Or maybe they’ll work more on their defense.

Lou Williams hits halfcourt buzzer-beater (video)

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Yeah, the Lakers lost to the Rockets, 134-95, Wednesday. But consider how lopsided that margin would’ve been without Lou Williams‘ halfcourt buzzer-beater.

And if this headline looks familiar, it is.

LeBron James, Cavaliers do water-bottle challenge on bench during blowout win over Knicks (video)

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, and Cavaliers forward Richard Jefferson entertain themselves by flipping a water bottle trying to get it to land on it's flat bottom during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. The Cavaliers defeated the Knicks 126-94, and most starters left the game for the bench at the end of the fourth quarter. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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LeBron James did his part – scoring 25 points (on just 10 shots!), dishing seven assists and grabbing six rebounds – to give the Cavaliers an insurmountable lead over the Knicks through three quarters. So, he didn’t even play in the fourth quarter.

As Cleveland put the finishing touches on its 126-94 win, boredom set it. LeBron and a few of his teammates tried to flip a water bottle and have it land upright on the floor. LeBron even dove onto the court to pull the bottle back in after an errant flip!

No, Phil Jackson should not have used the word “posse” to describe LeBron’s business associates and friends. But this is the most disrespectful thing I’ve ever seen – and I love it.

DeMarcus Cousins says Mavericks’ rumored interest flatters him, but he loves Kings

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) receives a blow to the head from Dallas Mavericks' Dwight Powell as Cousins works to get to the basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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The Mavericks’ long-rumored interest in DeMarcus Cousins took its most direct public turn before the season, when Dallas signed Cousins’ brother, Jaleel Cousins. Jaleel is now on the Mavericks’ D-League affiliate, and I bet he will remain there as DeMarcus approaches 2018 free agency.

Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News:

So, DeMarcus Cousins, what do you think about the Mavericks’ long-rumored interest in acquiring you?

“It’s flattering,” Cousins told me, with a laugh, after the Kings’ Wednesday shootaround at AAC. Then, turning serious, he added of the Mavericks, “I respect them.”

“But,” I said, “I’ve also heard that you like it in Sacramento.”

“No,” Cousins corrected, “I love Sacramento.”

Cousins is getting good at this, toeing the line between appreciating another team’s interest and expressing his satisfaction with the Kings.

And give Cousins credit. He keeps producing at a star level for a team that hasn’t provided him with the proper support. Sacramento again appears headed toward the lottery, even as Cousins averages 29-10.

Questions remain, though: How much of Cousins’ attitude is him trying to make the best of an inescapable situation, and will expanded options in the summer of 2018 test his loyalty?

LeBron James dunks, struts past camerapeople and toward crowd, spooks fan (video)

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LeBron James is dominating, and the Cavaliers are rolling over the Knicks.

It’s almost as if something has LeBron particularly riled up. But maybe ease up a little? That cowering fan isn’t Phil Jackson.