Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while checking out how the Earth will die…
Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets. It all started because Jeremy Lin played well, pushing the tempo for the Rockets — Dwight Howard was the beneficiary of that as he got some easy buckets simply because he moved well. Howard peaked and had 12 points in the third quarter when the Rockets put the game away. Late in the game trying to find a way back in Boston went to hack-a-Howard, but the big man hit 10-of-18 from the stripe killing that attempt. This game was how the Rockets pictured things when then went out and got Howard.
Alec Burks/Trey Burke, Utah Jazz. Utah won against Denver because of their backcourt — these two combined for 52 points, 13 assists, 5 Rebounds, and only 3 turnovers. They got a lot of help from the Jazz bigs in this one — Utah’s front line was making plays, which forced Denver’s guards to start sucking down into the paint to help, and that left guys good looks at a lot of shots. Credit Burks and Burke for hitting them.
Denver Nuggets. This is the least consistent, hardest to pin down team in the NBA. The Nuggets lost eight in a row and seemed to be coming apart. Then they won five in a row and looked like a playoff team again in a crowded West. Then they go on the road to Utah and get their head handed to them by the lowly Jazz (who maybe aren’t that lowly, after their slow start they’re basically a .500 team). Denver played like they could win just by showing up, they are not that good.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. That is five wins in a row for the Knicks and Carmelo Anthony was at the heart of it with 29 points, 16 rebounds and four assists (he led the Knicks in every one of those categories). He wasn’t terribly efficient (9-of-24 shooting) but he was moving the ball — his assist to Raymond Felton for a three with :53 seconds left was huge. ESPN stats noted the Knicks are 11-2 when Anthony has four or more assists. Not a coincidence.
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.