Wednesday night NBA grades: Don’t look now, but Brooklyn is playing with heart

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while getting your dinner out of the burrito vending machine….

source:  Brooklyn Nets. For the first third of the season the Nets were listless, seeming adrift, and continually beset by injuries. Well, the injuries are still there but these Nets are playing with a real fire and winning — four in a row now, capped off by beating Golden State and snapping their 9-game win streak. Joe Johnson has been key to this resurgence and he had 27 against the Warriors, 10 in he fourth quarter. We’ll see how long it lasts but this is more what we expected out of the Nets this season.

source:  James Harden, Houston Rockets. The Beard makes the list not just for the 38 points he dropped on the Lakers, and not just for his 17 points in the third quarter when the Rockets blew this game wide open. He’s also here because he’s the first Rocket player to score 37 or more points in three straight games since Hakeem Olajuwon back in 94-95 (one of the Rockets’ title seasons).

source:  Indiana Pacers’ offense. They shot just 40 percent and put up 87 points against a fairly average Hawks defense, with an offensive rating of 89.7 points per 100 possessions. The problem is this hasn’t been a one-game thing — Indiana has an offensive rating of 92.7 points per 100 possessions in its last five games, which ranks 27th in the NBA in that span. As good as their defense is — and it’s very good — the offense needs to find a better groove in the second half of the season.

source:  LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers. In the first half (more than that, really) the Magic single-covered Aldridge to stay home on the Blazers’ shooters, and the result was a 14-point first quarter for Aldridge and 21 points by the break. Still, when Orlando switched strategies — double Aldridge, make outside shooters make their threes. That failed miserably. The Blazers took the lead and Aldridge came in late to seal it. He finished with 36 points.

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.