Remember just a week or so ago when the Denver Nuggets had lost seven in a row and looked like a team destined to fall far out of the playoff picture in the West?
Now the Nuggets have turned it around with four straight wins, and while they are not in a playoff spot yet they are back in the picture.
The latest of those wins came over a sleepy, uninspired Thunder team on Thursday night, 101-88. It wasn’t that Denver was particularly brilliant, their offensive rating on the night was a tic below their season average — although Randy Foye was hot on his way to 24 points and Denver knocked down 14-of-31 three point attempts.
It’s just that Denver was solid and that was much better than whatever the Thunder were doing out there. (Insert your own “marijuana is legal in Colorado” joke here… or just find the copies of Kevin Durant’s deleted tweets from after the game Thursday night.)
Durant had 30 points on 18 shots, but without Russell Westbrook that is not going to get it done. That’s not meant as a dig at Durant, it’s just a night when the Thunder bench shot 28.6 percent, led by Jeremy Lamb going 1-of-12, Durant is going to have to have a monster scoring night to keep the Thunder in it. And he didn’t. Durant was good but just 1-of-7 from three.
By comparison the Nuggets looked as composed, like the team that has tripped up so many visitors to altitude over the years. Denver had a 9 point lead at the half then opened the third quarter on a 10-2 run, and that was pretty much your ballgame.
Ty Lawson was in great form, using his quickness to get 16 points for himself and create open looks for others. Randy Foye was 6-of-9 from three, which really opened up the entire Nuggets offense, and je finished the night with a team-high 24 points. Evan Fournier had 19 points and the kind of game that demands more minutes soon.
This isn’t a game you read anything into — the Thunder miss Westbrook terribly but we knew that already, and Denver is a team that gets hot and is pretty much right now. They just need to stay hot if they want to make the playoffs. The Nuggets will take the win just the same.
The Nets went 20-62 then traded their best player (Brook Lopez) for a worse player (D'Angelo Russell). Brooklyn’s biggest free-agent signing this summer (Otto Porter) plays for the Wizards. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert are nice developmental pieces but hardly seem on the verge of breakthroughs.
Still, Nets guard Jeremy Lin expects big things next season.
He set expectations in an Instagram Live video (hat tip: AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today):
We’re making the playoffs. I don’t care what anybody else says.
The Nets are on the right track given their asset constraints. Though worse than Lopez now, Russell – eight years younger and on a low-paying rookie-scale deal – is more valuable. Brooklyn made the favorable swap by absorbing Timofey Mozgov‘s awful contract, a wise use of assets considering the difficulty of attracting free agents. An aggressive offer sheet for Porter was a reasonable swing in that situation, as well.
But that’s all helpful in the long run. In the short term, the Nets are almost certainly stuck as lousy. Maybe they can sneak into the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference, but even that is a huge longshot.
Not that Lin cares what I say.
When you think of Summer League basketball, sharp defensive rotations is not the first thing that comes to mind. Defense, in general, tends to be an after thought.
But there were some great blocks.
Here are the top 10 blocks from the Las Vegas Summer League. Enjoy the flashes of defense from Vegas.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The Memphis Grizzlies have signed former Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, a second-round pick in last month’s NBA draft.
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:
Brooks was selected by the Houston Rockets with the 45th overall pick. The Grizzlies acquired him in exchange for a future second-round pick.
Brooks, 21, averaged 16.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a junior at Oregon last season. He was named the Pac-12 player of the year and helped Oregon earn its first Final Four berth since 1939.
Carmelo Anthony was reportedly willing to waive his no-trade clause for the Rockets or Cavaliers. Cleveland never seemed overly interested, but Houston was. Anthony became set on the Rockets, even reportedly expecting a trade to Houston.
Then, Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the Cavs.
That has thrown everything for a loop. Maybe Cleveland is more keen on trading for Anthony now? The Knicks are reportedly interested in trading Anthony and draft picks for Irving.
But any deal still depends on Anthony’s approval, and it’s now unclear he’d still grant that for the Cavaliers.
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:
However, a source close to Anthony said late Friday that the All Star forward is focused on getting a deal done with Houston.
Consider this another indication LeBron James will leave Cleveland next summer. Of course, Anthony might have other reasons for preferring Houston. But when reading tea leaves on LeBron’s future, this is a clue.
I doubt LeBron has completely decided his plan, and he hasn’t even necessarily shared his thinking with Anthony, a close friend. Remember, LeBron edited his coming-home essay while on a flight with an unknowing Dwyane Wade, another close friend. But it was one thing for LeBron to strand Wade in Miami, a desirable city where Wade was happy even before LeBron arrived. It’d be something else entirely for LeBron to ditch Anthony in Cleveland. If LeBron is considering leaving, maybe he’d tell Anthony to stay clear.
Anthony could also be operating without hearing directly from LeBron. But if LeBron’s friend believes LeBron might leave, that’d still say something (though obviously not as much).
Back to the possibility that Anthony prefers the Rockets for other reasons. What happens if New York and Cleveland agree to a trade? Does Anthony still hold out for his top choice? Or does he relent and accept what was once his second choice? For now, it seems as if he’s still angling for Houston and will cross other bridges if he reaches them.