Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while trying to find Stephen Colbert’s cameo in “Hobbit 2”….
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers. This is what Blake Griffin looks like when his midrange jumper falls. Griffin was 7-of-10 from the midrange and even nailed a three on his way to 31 points — check out his shot chart.
People who don’t think Blake Griffin is still evolving as a player — anyone who tells you “all he can do is dunk” — isn’t watching him. His jumper is not as consistent as you would like, he can be too hesitant to make his move when he gets the ball on the block, he’s got work to do on the defensive end, but he and his jumper are improving — and he does make plays. Besides there is nothing wrong with dunks.
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors. The Raptors traded Rudy Gay and have been 9-3 since then counting the big win Wednesday over the Pacers. Apparently missing his former teammate, DeRozan did his full on Rudy Gay impression in this one — in the first three quarters he was 6-of-18 shooting for 16 points, just an inefficient gunner with Paul George defending well and forcing him into bad midrange shots. Then in the fourth DeRozan started hitting those tough shots — he had 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting and was key in Toronto owning the final six minutes and winning. DeRozan finished with 26 points on 24 shots and he was making the tough ones from the midrange. All very Gay like, but it worked for a night.
Denver Nuggets. Just when you think they have hit rock bottom, they find a new bottom. A struggling, tanking Sixers team came to Mile High and make it eight straight losses for Denver. Once again you can’t say it was either the offense or defense for the Nuggets as both were bad — over their last five games Denver has the 29th ranked offense and 29th ranked defense (in points per possession, via NBA.com). They used to run teams out of the building at altitude, but that starts with getting turnovers or stops and that isn’t happening. Plus their offense is stagnant and seems to be a lot of dribbling around, or a Ty Lawson/J.J. Hickson pick-and-roll, and not much else. Denver is 1-8 since Brian Shaw banned pizza and junk food from the locker room, time for someone to make a call over to Lucky Pie Pizza and Taphouse and get a delivery.
During the ProBasketballTalk podcast with Sixers coach Brett Brown, you could hear the frustration in his voice. He has all these talented young front line players — Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Jahlil Okafor — but he can’t begin to figure out how they all fit together if he can’t get them on the court at the same time.
That problem just got worse.
The Sixers announced that Nerlens Noel will miss time following surgery to deal with soreness in his left knee. Here is the word from the press release itself:
During the normal course of evaluation and treatment for his left adductor strain, which was identified on October 6, Noel reported localized soreness in his left knee. After consulting with multiple specialists, the source of the soreness was identified as inflamed plica. Noel has elected to address the injury via a minor surgical procedure in the coming days.
The team gives no timeline for Noel’s return. Soreness from the plica — a band of tissue around the knee that is not important following birth — happens in some players and can be fixed by an arthroscopic surgery that removes the area being irritated. While the surgery is minor, it usually takes around six weeks to bounce back from this.
That likely means a little more run for Jahlil Okafor (just coming back from an injury of his own) and Richaun Holmes. But it’s just another injury setback for a Sixers team plagued by them.
The Sixers also announced that Jerryd Bayless will not have surgery on his wrist, but will remain out and be evaluated in two weeks.
This was flat out incredible.
After a back-and-forth, even series between the Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks, it came down to the final seconds (although maybe it shouldn’t have, the WNBA admitted Friday the referees missed a call with 1:14 left, giving the Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike a bucket on a shot after the shot clock expired).
The biggest stars took over at the end, as you can see in the video above: L.A.’s Candace Parker drives and scores with 19 seconds left putting the Sparks up 75-74; Minnesota responded with a Maya Moore jumper to take the lead back, then it came down to Ogwumike (the WNBA’s 2016 MVP) getting the ball after a block by Sylvia Fowles and following it up with a fadeaway bucket that gave Los Angeles the title.
Congrats to Candace Parker on the win, after how she’s been overlooked on the awards circuit in the WNBA this season, this is some sweet revenge.
Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday is away from the team as his wife, Lauren Holiday, battles a brain tumor.
First, Lauren gave birth to a healthy daughter.
Now, more good news.
John Reid of The Times-Picayune:
Hopefully, the Holidays continue to find good health.
A Jones fracture — the broken bone in the foot that Philadelphia rookie Ben Simmons recently has surgery to repair — is difficult to put on a recovery timeline. That part of the foot (the outside of the foot closer to the ankle) does not get good blood flow and that can slow recovery. Plus with a prized rookie, the Sixers have a history of being cautious — and Simmons’ agent may want to be even more cautious.
But Brett Brown, the Sixers coach, said Friday afternoon he expected Simmons back on the court in January. Here is what he told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“It’s not doom and gloom,” Brown said when asked when asked how his team is adjusting to its various injuries at the moment. “Ben is coming back in January. We are still trying to find information on Jerryd [Bayless]. Jahlil [Okafor] is still trying to touch the court in his first preseason game.”
Within a couple hours, Brown had backtracked off that timeline. Here is his pregame quote Friday night, via CSNPhilly.com.
“I did mention a January hopeful return, and that was premature. That was a coach doing a lot more wishing than receiving instruction…
“We will play this out,” Brown said of Simmons. “Everything is on track with his rehab. It’s only been two weeks since the surgery. Over a short period of time, we will be better prepared to give a statement that will map out his future.”
While it is certainly possible Simmons is back in January, the Sixers history shows they are not going to push this. Even if it takes longer — maybe closer to the All-Star break — Brown would certainly work with it. As Brown told us when he joined PBT for a podcast, he wants to spend a lot of this season seeing how his young, athletic front line can play together? Can Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, and Dario Saric all play together in a big front line? How do Simmons and Embiid mesh? Simmons and Saric? Where does Nerlens Noel fit in all this once he returns from his latest injury?
Until Brown gets guys healthy and on the court it’s impossible to know.
For all our sakes, I hope Simmons is back in January. And if he is, the possibility of him still winning Rookie of the Year exists.