Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while having another coffee but just to help your memory….
Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats. He made every Knicks front line player look bad — you’d think Tyson Chandler had never seen a pump fake before. Once Jefferson got his post moves going (he was 8-of-10 inside three feet) and got his confidence up he stepped out and hit 3-of-6 from the midrange. That’s when you knew it was his night. Jefferson finished with 35 points on 14-of-20 shooting plus pulled down 8 rebounds in the best game the Bobcats big man has played in a while.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings. He is for real. If you haven’t been watching Kings’ basketball this season (and can’t blame you if you haven’t) you have missed him evolving into a beast. Tuesday night he had to go up against the wall that is Roy Hibbert and the Pacers’ elite defense and he put up 31 points on 21 shots, and he pulled down 13 rebounds. Cousins had 19 of his points in a strong third quarter — Hibbert was playing good defense, Cousins was just making shots.
Los Angeles Lakers’ defense. At the start of this season the Lakers played pretty much league-average defense and that was the key to them exceeding early expectations. Those days are long gone. The Cavaliers scored at a ridiculous 126 points per 100 possessions pace on Tuesday night. In their lat five games, the Lakers have allowed 117.9 points per 100, 29th in the NBA — their season average is 105.9, which is still bottom 5 in the league. But of late defense is an afterthought for the Lakers, which is a bad thing for a team heading out on a 7-game road trip.
Luol Deng, Cleveland Cavaliers. Deng had his best night since being traded to Cleveland. They are figuring out how to use him properly, which is more and more in the pick-and-roll. He can handle the ball, giving the Cavaliers another ball handler, plus he worked well off the ball when Anderson Varejao had the ball at the elbow. Deng was 5-of-5 from three on his way to 27 points, plus he had some key defensive plays (in a game with little other defense) to help the Cavs get the win.
Joel Embiid‘s minute limit of below 20 bummed out everyone (especially Embiid).
But good news could be on the way.
Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:
The 76ers look like a borderline playoff team, Embiid’s health the biggest variable. There’s a direct correlation between his ability to stay on the court and Philadelphia’s postseason chances.
Plus, he’s just so darn fun to watch. The more he plays, the bigger victory it is for every viewer not rooting for the 76ers’ opponent that night.
John Henson was on the trade block. Greg Monroe seems permanently affixed there.
Another player the Bucks apparently want to deal? Rashad Vaughn, who was the No. 17 pick in 2015.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Milwaukee has been working to trade several players to clear salary-cap space, including guard Rashad Vaughn and center John Henson, league sources said. The Bucks have been willing to attach a second-round pick in offers for Vaughn, league sources said.
It’s unclear whether the Bucks are still as motivated to move Vaughn. They slid under the luxury-tax line by stretching Spencer Hawes. One-time target Richard Jefferson already signed with the Nuggets. A roster vacancy and cap savings might not matter as much anymore to Milwaukee.
But Vaughn has struggled in two NBA seasons. The Bucks might be better off trying to develop someone else, even a D-League player, over the 21-year-old Vaugh.
Vaughn is due $1,889,040 this season. He faces a $2,901,565 team option for next season, which his team must decide on by Oct. 31. It seems unlikely that will be exercised.
This is what happens when you draft players for the wrong reason.
Richard Jefferson announced his retirement after the Cavaliers won the 2016 championship, changed his mind, re-signed with Cleveland then played another season there. He played big playoff minutes for the Cavs both years.
But they traded him to the Hawks (who waived him, allowing him to sign with the Nuggets) in a rather abrupt end to his Cleveland tenure.
His exit could have been far more strained.
Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
Then he was nearly traded the summer after the championship because he revealed what the Cavs’ rings looked like on his Snapchat account before the team was ready to release them to the public. Then-GM David Griffin was so ticked that he was ready to ship him out of town, sources told ESPN, before eventually calming down and accepting Jefferson’s apology.
Talk about some petty nonsense. And Griffin was known for soothing tension!
Thankfully for Jefferson – at least if he wanted to stay in Cleveland – he revealed the ring design in September. As a newly signed player, he couldn’t be traded until Dec. 15. That gave Griffin time to cool down.
Carmelo Anthony wanted to be traded to the Houston Rockets. Badly. (Whether that was good for Houston is a different discussion.) His time in New York was over by mutual consent, but now was time to move on, however, thanks to a no-trade clause Phil Jackson gave him, Anthony had leverage. And he wanted to be a Rocket with James Harden and Chris Paul.
It looked at one point like a deal would get done between New York and Houston, then it fell apart. So what happened?
Phil Jackson was booted, that’s what happened, Anthony told Marc Stein the New York Times.
The delay to find a workable trade, in Anthony’s view, stemmed from the fact that Jackson was willing “to trade me for a bag of chips,” while Scott Perry, who became the Knicks’ new general manager after Jackson’s departure, took a harder line in trade talks with Houston and Cleveland that eventually fizzled.
“They went from asking for peanuts to asking for steak,” Anthony said with a laugh.
‘Melo can laugh, he landed in a good spot with Oklahoma City. He’s on a potential contender.
As for his feelings on Jackson and leaving the organization? Still some hard feelings there.
“There was no support from the organization,” he said. “When you feel like you’re on your own and then on top of that you feel like you’re being pushed out …”