Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while watching frigid NFL playoff games while wearing shorts in the comfort of your heated home…
Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder. No pressure Reggie, all you have to do is replace an All-Star guard who is probably one of the five best athletes in the game… have fun with that. Jackson had been a quality backup all season, rounding out parts of his game in his third season, however with Russell Westbrook out Jackson got thrust into a much bigger role. It took a few games but it looks like he’s adjusting to the role. Sunday he had a career-best 27 points — he started out 4-of-4 from the field and just seemed to gain confidence from there. He’s never going to be Westbrook, but if he can play closer to the level he did Sunday night OKC isn’t going to slip as much as some think.
LeBron James, Miami Heat. He was a force early in the game attacking the rim, then he picked up 10 of his 30 points on the night in the fourth quarter when the Heat needed him. We can nit pick this if you want and note LeBron should have attacked Amir Johnson in the fourth quarter and not settled for pull-up jumpers, but once again LeBron was simply the best player on the floor and led the Heat to a nice win over Toronto.
Washington Wizards third quarters. Is Randy Wittman letting his players eat a Big Mac and have a beer during halftime? Probably not, but that would explain what is going on with Washington. Friday night the Wizards were in a close game in the first half against the Raptors, then Toronto opened the third quarter on a 25-8 run and that was pretty much it. Sunday against the Warriors the game (in Washington) was tied at the half and Golden State opened the third quarter on a 19-3 run. Washington was down 25 before the third quarter ended. Whatever the Wizards are doing at halftime the last few games it’s time to go George Costanza and do the opposite.
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors. One of the reasons the Raptors have looked so good since the Rudy Gay trade is that DeRozan just looks like he has the space to do what he wants and attack. He looks comfortable now. DeRozan was matched up on LeBron and had 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting, plus dished out seven assists. He looked strong in the first half (but seemed to wear down at the end). He just needs to keep
Joel Embiid could be the best player on the Philadelphia 76ers in a couple of years — many scouts had him the highest rated of all the first-round draft picks the Sixers have had in recent seasons.
But after two foot surgeries and two seasons sitting on the sidelines, we don’t know how good Embiid can be. We should find out starting in October when Embiid is part of the Sixers training camp. Embiid says he feels 100 percent, but he expects there will be restrictions on him at first, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com during the Sixers Beach Bash community event this weekend.
This is the smart move by the Sixers — they are not competing for a title, the games in November have minimal meaning long term, bring him along slowly and make sure he can make each step along the way. Let’s see what he can do, then worry about how much run he can get in games that matter.
It’s going to be interesting to watch how Embiid, Ben Simmons, Nerlens Noel, and Jahlil Okafor all fit together up front — and which one of them gets traded this season.
Avery Bradley was first-team NBA All-Defensive team last season, and his coach Brad Stevens lobbied for him to get the honor. Bradley picks up guys full court, pesters, and plays physical — we can debate if he is as good defensively as his reputation, but guys like Damian Lillard think he’s tough to go up against.
Bradley, for his part, says he has no fear going up against the best. Here is what he said to Tom Westerholm of Masslive.com.
“I love the challenge,” Bradley said on Friday, making an appearance at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. “I love going up against the best players. I don’t care who it is. I don’t care about getting embarrassed. I don’t care. Kyrie Irving, none of those guys scare me. I know some players in the NBA probably get butterflies before the game, but not me. I’m licking my lips. I come excited. They need to prepare for me at the end of the day. That’s how I think.”
That’s exactly the attitude you want an elite defender to have.
Bradley injured his hamstring in the first game of the playoffs last April and sat the rest of the Celtics’ one series. Then this summer his name came up in potential Jimmy Butler trade rumors (that deal never actually came close to getting off the ground). Expect Bradley to put that all behind him by the time training camp opens.
LeBron James was dominant — the clear best player on the planet — when the Cleveland Cavaliers needed him most. That’s the reason Cleveland got its first major sports title in 52 years.
It’s the dead part of the NBA season — training camps don’t even open for a month — so why not enjoy a look back at LeBron’s amazing run to a legacy-defining NBA ring. Like you don’t have 15 minutes for this. What are you going to do, watch more preseason football?
It’s a summer tradition — tall NBA players swatting away the shots of young kids at camps/clinics.
Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid has yet to step on an NBA court — this fall, finally? — but he is part of the youth tradition now, destroying this young man at the Sixers Beach Bash event Saturday.
This summer Embiid has arm wrestled Justin Bieber and looked good working out in an empty gym, and to add to that list here is Embiid overpowering an average guy at Beach Bash then throwing it down. The man at least provided a little more resistance than a chair.