Stephen Curry

Thursday night NBA grades: Golden State get a couple “A” grades

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while worrying about what was really in your donkey meat

source:  Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors. When he is going like he was in this game — especially in the third quarter when he had 14 of his 36 — there is nothing you can do. Miami tried switching defenders, even doubled him a few times, but it didn’t work. Curry’s quick release was too much for Miami. However it wasn’t just the hot shooting (those 36 points came on 22 shots) it was the 12 assists — he was the catalyst of some fantastic ball movement from the Warriors. This was his best game of the season and the Warriors looked like the team they were in the playoffs last year for the first time in a while.

source:  David Lee, Goden State Warriors. Golden State clearly had a plan early to punish Miami inside and it was David Lee who took the most advantage — he had 13 points in the first 12 minutes as Shane Battier had no answers for him. Lee finished 32 points on 17 shots, plus he pulled down 14 rebounds. Lee the last few weeks is playing as well as I can remember him playing.

source:   Orlando Magic’s last 50 seconds of regulation (and overtime). If you have a nine point lead with one minute left in the game, you should not lose it. This was an ugly loss, there were so many mistakes at the end. Like Jameer Nelson fouling Jarrett Jack on a three point attempt. Or how E’Twaun Moore missed two clutch free throws (a guy shooting 90 percent from the stipe the rest of the season). Or there was Dion Waiters driving layup to tie the game — he blows by Arron Afflalo and there is just no help. It was a lot of mistakes that opened the door for the Cavaliers to come back.

source:  Brooklyn Nets. A come from behind win on the road to beat Oklahoma City? I don’t care who the Thunder were without, that’s the Brooklyn Nets we thought we were getting this season. The turnaround was sparked with Paul Pierce at the four and Deron Williams dropping a season-best 29. Then Joe Johnson capped the whole thing off in dramatic fashion.

source:  Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. He is not getting this grade for the 27 points, although it showed how much the Knicks needed him back. He’s not getting this grade for the dozen rebounds. No, he is getting this grade because he was drawing the double then sharing the rock with the open man. His four assists on the night don’t do justice to how he was sharing the rock and how the rest of the Knicks followed his lead. That ball movement exposed a night of slow Spurs defensive rotations (uncharacteristic of them) and it all started with Anthony.

Gregg Popovich pins Spurs’ effort problems on players: ‘I don’t remember playing tonight’ (video)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gives instructions against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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The Spurs fell behind by 18 and eventually lost to the Bulls, 95-91, last night – which begged the question:

Does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich bear any responsibility for his team’s lack of early intensity?

Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:

Popovich:

I don’t remember playing tonight. I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. If a doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.

Like it or not, motivation is part of an NBA coach’s job.

But that’s also precisely what Popovich is doing.

His credentials dwarf any other coach’s. He can play to his own ego and absolve himself of responsibility – and players will seek to please him. His years of success have earned him the ability to motivate this way, a method no other coach could use without alienating his team.

Donatas Motiejunas signing four-year, $35 million contract with Rockets

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets is helped to his feet by teammates James Harden #13 and Patrick Beverley #2 of the Houston Rockets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. 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.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Once the Rockets let Donatas Motiejunas back into free agency, this was only a matter of time.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This sounds remarkably similar to the salaries and incentives set in the original offer sheet from the Nets. But remember, the Rockets didn’t match some of those bonuses that Brooklyn would have been bound to.

So, why not hold Motiejunas to what became a four-year, $31 million offer sheet once matched? Houston got something in return – a later trigger date on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ 2017-18 salary. Originally, that decision had to be made March 1 – which would’ve meant dropping Motiejunas from the team this season to prevent his salary from counting next season. Now, the Rockets can make that call in July, after this season is complete.

The following two Julys, Houston will also have a choice on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ upcoming salary or dropping him.

Essentially, Motiejunas is signing the most lucrative Hinkie Special in NBA history. If he plays well and stays healthy, the Rockets have Motiejunas at an affordable rate. If he struggles or his back injuries flare up, they can drop him with little to no penalty.

After they backed themselves into this corner, Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, didn’t do so bad. Considering the similarity between this contract and the Nets’ original offer sheet, it seems Houston helped Armstrong save face after a bungled free agency (which is easier to accept when you’re adding a talented reserve to a formidable team).

But for how little is guaranteed and how much control the Rockets hold over the next four years, wouldn’t Motiejunas have been better off accepting the $4,433,683 qualifying offer?

Report: Rockets return Donatas Motiejunas to restricted free agency, working on new contract with him

Donatas Motiejunas, Kenneth Faried
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Rockets had Donatas Motiejunas in a bind.

He was beholden to them on a four-year, $31 million deal and unable to sign with other teams. Motiejunas’ choices: Report for a physical or wait in limbo.

But apparently Houston has allowed him out of that constraint.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

This means Motiejunas can’t sign with the Nets, who signed him to the original offer sheet, for one year.

I bet it also means Motiejunas and Houston have agreed to a new contract. Otherwise, why release him from the offer sheet? The Rockets would be giving up a tremendous amount of leverage out of the goodness of their hearts – unless this is just a prelude to a new deal with Houston.

John Wall pushes down Jusuf Nurkic from behind in retaliation (video)

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John Wall didn’t like how Jusuf Nurkic bumped him, so Wall shoved the Nuggets center from behind and sent him to the floor.

An overreaction to the bump? Probably. Wall got hit with a technical foul.

But I’m mostly just impressed Wall was strong enough to push over Nurkic.