Monday night NBA grades: Shawn Marion jumps in hot tub time machine

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while getting sucked into a replay of Shawshank Redemption…

source:  Shawn Marion, Dallas Mavericks. Apparently pregame Marion hopped in the Hot Tub Time Machine and the 2003 version of himself showed up for this one — 32 points on 14-of-19 shooting, plus he pulled down six boards. Marion had 21 of those points in the first half including a buzzer beater to have Dallas up 19 at the break. But the theme of the night was Dallas giving away leads and they did that one, so Dallas needed someone to make plays in the fourth quarter. Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki combined to go 3-of-14 in the fourth, but Marion hit two key threes to give Dallas the lead back. Oh, and to top it all off it looks like he got away with a foul on Kevin Love on an attempted game tying shot.

source:  Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans. The final shot, the game winner, was all Tyreke Evans (props to Monty Williams for not calling the timeout, if you have guys who can create don’t let the defense set). But Pelicans were in a situation for that shot to matter due to Holiday — 31 points in the game, 15 of them in the fourth quarter plus he had a key assist for an Anthony Davis dunk. Plus he had 13 assists. Not the most efficient night ever (14-of-28) but he was creating and making plays.

source:  Phoenix Suns’ defense. At the start of the season the season the Suns were winning game in large part because of a strong defense (5th best in the NBA through the first 10 games). Then it went to… well, I can’t use that word here. Let’s just say the defense fell apart for a stretch and the Suns won because their offense was clicking. But the last five games heading into Monday night the Suns had a top-10 defense again (allowing 97.8 points per 100 possessions). Against a good Clipper offense the Suns allowed them to shoot just 36.5 percent and have an offensive rating of 85.9 points per 100 possessions. They played well and look legit. Count me among the many eating crow about how well the Suns would do this season.

source:  Detroit Pistons. The Pistons are just falling apart. They have lost five of six and each of those by double digits — and Tuesday’s loss to the Wizards may be the ugliest of the group. The Pistons led by 9 entering the fourth quarter and then proceeded to get outscored by the Wizards 28-12. The Pistons shot 20 percent in the fourth. Even in the East this slump has Detroit close to falling out of the playoffs at 14-19 (tied for the 8 seed) and it looks like they could keep dropping.

Reports: Rockets think Chris Paul could be sidelined for up to a month

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The Rockets’ opening night win over the Warriors was a boost to their confidence — they believe they can challenge the Warriors next May in the playoffs.

Chris Paul is a big part of that plan, which is why we may not see him for up to a month (even though he is listed as day-to-day, and officially only out Saturday). With that, the Rockets are considering adding another point guard to the roster. Marc Stein of the New York Times and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news Friday afternoon.

At the top of the free agent point guard list is Jameer Nelson, the veteran was just waived by Denver to make room for Richard Jefferson, and the Rockets have reached out to him. C.J. Watson and Trey Burke also are available.

Chris Paul and Harden still need to smooth out playing together, something that will take time on the court together. CP3 being out until mid-November is not ideal, but the Rockets are thinking about May, and ideally June, so they will sacrifice a few games now to have him healthy then.

Dwight Howard still feeling ‘super’ expectations with Hornets

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DETROIT – Dwight Howard went from leading Orlando in the NBA Finals to playing in star-studded Los Angeles to joining a Houston team that also fancied itself a contender to being the highest-paid player in his hometown Atlanta to… landing in Charlotte, a small-market franchise with modest ambitions.

The spotlight finally off the former No. 1 pick, Howard doesn’t feel reduced pressure.

“Everybody expects me to be Superman every single night,” Howard said.

Howard is diving into his new situation – his third team in three years – headfirst. He’s leading pregame huddles and the Hornets onto the court.

“I have the most experience,” said Howard, in his 14th season. “So, it’s not to come in and fit in. It’s to come in and be a leader.”

This is the latest referendum on Howard. Despite eight All-NBA selections (most of them first-team) and three Defensive Player of the Year awards, he faces relentless criticism of his legacy.

His exit from the Magic was so ugly, it’s known as the Dwightmare. His feuding with the Lakers great is the stuff of legend in Kobe Bryant mythology. Howard never clicked with James Harden with the Rockets. The Hawks unloaded him for a paltry return in what was more salary rearrangement than salary dump, and his former teammates reportedly cheered.

Howard just seems to rub people the wrong way.

That makes his latest test in Charlotte so interesting. Howard is supplanting maybe Kemba Walker as the face of the team and definitely Cody Zeller as starting center. The Hornets have found success with Zeller, going 63-53 when he starts and 57-73 otherwise the last three seasons.

“The nature of his game, he plays in a way to help other people play better,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said of Zeller. “He is a screener. He is a ball-mover.”

In other words, the type of player teammates love.

Is Howard?

Howard is still solidly productive. In Charlotte’s season-opening loss to the Pistons, he posted 10 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks – and ruffled a few feathers. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

https://twitter.com/Vincent_Ellis56/status/921100491362365440

Dirty-work players who irritate opponents are revered. High-priced players who irritate their teammates are loathed.

Howard walks a fine line.

He returned to Atlanta with emotion and expectations. By the end of his time with the Hawks, everyone seemed unhappy. Still, Howard says he’s grateful for the opportunity to play in front of people, especially his grandparents, who watched him grow up.

“Atlanta is going to be my home,” Howard said. “The Hawks is always going to be my favorite team.”

It’s just never easy for Howard.

Even a career Basketball Reference pegs as 99% likely to end in the Hall of Fame based on his tangible accomplishments stirs controversy.

“He’s a Hall of Famer right now if he never played another game,” Clifford said.

Said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who coached Howard in Orlando: “It’s mind-boggling to me that would be any debate there.”

It’s probably easier for Van Gundy and Howard to recall their time together fondly than it was to enjoy it while partnered. Clifford, who was an assistant in Orlando and Los Angeles while Howard was there, is just getting into his time as Howard’s head coach.

It’s those middle moments, in the throes of long seasons, that have proven difficult for Howard and those around him.

Here he is in Charlotte, hosting the Hawks tonight, and facing another challenge. The Hornets would probably be happy just making the playoffs and ecstatic advancing, which would be their first playoff-series victory since reemerging as the Bobcats in 2004. Howard, who has reached three conference finals, is counting on himself to lead them there – even if nobody else is anymore.

Kobe Bryant still has it, bounces shot in from near half court

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This was a Nike gala, an event with a basketball theme. The court was lit up from below, there were tables at half court, and people had drinks in their hands.

Kobe Bryant was there, stylishly dressed in black. So was famous model Winnie Harlow.

Know that regardless of the setting, Kobe still has game.

Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala cleared to play vs. Pelicans Friday

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Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.

Bad news for the Pelicans: Green and Iguodala have been cleared to play in New Orleans Friday. Green had an MRI and it came back negative.

Green admitted he was concerned that the injury, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Now it is the Pelicans who should be concerned. The Warriors will want to wash the feeling of that opening night loss off them.