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.
In the last few years, NBA head coaching salaries have skyrocketed, and new Lakers coach Luke Walton is no exception. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan, Walton is getting $25 million over five years, which is the same as Steve Kerr’s deal with the Warriors, now-former Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s deal in New York, and Fred Hoiberg’s deal with the Bulls.
This kind of money has become standard for head coaches who don’t also have front-office power. Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy both get between $7 and $8 million annually to do both jobs. Given how good Walton’s current situation with the Warriors is, the Lakers probably had to be on the high end of the coaching spectrum to get him to leave.
On Friday night, the Lakers announced that they’re hiring Luke Walton as their next head coach, effective as soon as the Warriors’ playoff run is over. It’s a good hire, but it’s especially interesting given Walton’s close relationship with Phil Jackson and the rumors that never seem to go away, that Jackson might be set up to return to the Lakers to run the team alongside fiancée Jeanie Buss after next season, when he has an opt-out in his contract with the Knicks.
But that doesn’t mean Walton will be running the triangle, as he said in his first comments to reporters since the news broke.
Via the Orange County Register‘s Bill Oram:
Regardless of whether Jackson eventually gets back in the picture in Los Angeles, Walton has been a successful assistant in Golden State and has the right temperament to lead the Lakers into the post-Kobe era.
Stephen Curry might be back sooner than expected. It’s been one week since he suffered the sprained MCL in his right knee that led the Warriors to rule him out for at least two weeks, but head coach Steve Kerr said Saturday that there’s at least an outside chance he could play Tuesday in Game 2 of Golden State’s second-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Via ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:
Obviously, the smart money is on Curry not playing this early in his timetable. But the fact that it’s even on the table would seem to indicate that, barring a setback, he’ll be back for at least some of the series, which tips off Sunday.
Since Chris Paul withdrew from this summer’s Olympic team, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James are the only players left from the 2008 team. If they played this summer in Rio de Janeiro, they would have the chance to be the only men’s basketball players ever to win three gold medals. But James is still undecided, and Anthony tells The Vertical‘s Michael Lee that he is also still weighing it:
USA Basketball has provided Anthony his only opportunity to win at a high level since he became a professional. Anthony sounded optimistic in March that his surgically repaired left knee wouldn’t prevent him from going after an unprecedented third gold medal. But since then, Chris Paul withdrew, citing the need for rest, and left Anthony and LeBron James as the only players from the 2008 team remaining in the Team USA selection pool. “It definitely would help,” Anthony said, if James decides to make one more run, but Anthony isn’t close to making a final decision.
“That’s at the top of the sport, of any sport. I think if you have the opportunity to do it, and enjoy it, and take advantage of it, I think you should do it. [The Olympics are] the throne for sports as a whole,” Anthony told The Vertical. “I’m going to take a little more time to think about it. I’m not in a rush. NBA season is still going on, so I’m going to see how I feel physically. Am I ready to take on – I don’t want to say burden, but – that load? If I’m ready, I’ll do it. If not, my body won’t lie to me.”
Anthony turns 32 next month—if he does play, it will undoubtedly be his final run with the national team. But his concerns about rest are valid, even though he was healthier this year than he was last season, when he had season-ending knee surgery. James’ decision will be even more interesting: he cares deeply about his place in history, but he’s had absolutely no time off since 2011, between five straight Finals runs (and likely a sixth) and the 2012 gold-medal run with the Olympic team.
If Anthony ultimately decides not to play, it would open up another spot for a forward, which could go to the likes of Draymond Green, Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler. All of this is worth keeping an eye on as July’s training camp gets closer.