Monday night NBA grades: Jefferson, Cousins with big nights against good defenders

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while having another coffee but just to help your memory….

source:  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.

source:  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.

source:  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.

source:  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.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.

DeMarcus Cousins on Confederate statues: ‘Take all them motherf—ers down’

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DeMarcus Cousins grew up in Alabama, played collegiately at Kentucky and now plays in New Orleans.

So, yeah, the Pelicans star has an opinion on Confederate statues.

Cousins, via TMZ:

“Take all them motherf*ckers down,” Cousins said … “Take ’em all down.”

These statues glorify people because they fought a war against the United States in the name of preserving the racist institution of slavery.

Not whom I want to honor, either.

Kevin Durant: Kyrie Irving-LeBron James situation ‘just a regular NBA problem’

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Kevin Durant knows something about star teammates not always getting along.

So, the Warriors forward is not freaking out about the disconnect between Kyrie Irving and LeBron James and Irving’s subsequent trade request.

Durant, via Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“It’s just a regular NBA problem, right? A lot of teams have gone through this before,” Durant told ESPN. “They’ll figure it out. That’s a great organization, a championship organization. They’ll figure it out.”

“It’s not the end of the world,” Durant said. “Both of those guys won a championship together. They love each other. If Kyrie wants to do something else, that’s on him. I’m sure whatever happens, it’ll work out for the best for both of them. But it’s just a normal NBA problem. It’s just two big stars that it’s happening to.”

Durant is definitely right in the larger sense. Teammates spat and requests trades more often than we realize. Remember, both Irving and the Cavaliers probably prefer this never became public.

But I’m not sure Cleveland will figure this out with the ease Durant suggests. David Griffin, who had proven so adept at putting out these fires, is gone. LeBron’s free agency looms. This could be extremely destructive to the Cavs.

The fact that this “regular NBA problem” became public only intensifies it – and raises it something greater.

Report: Heat signing Jordan Mickey

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Jordan Mickey – the No. 33 pick by the Celtics in 2015 – became the first second-round pick in memory to sign the year he was drafted and receive a higher initial salary than first-round picks.

He’s keeping the checks coming.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Mickey will be the Heat’s 16th player with a standard contract, though Matt Williams (unguaranteed) will likely be waived to meet the regular-season roster limit.

I’m not sure where Mickey fits on this team, which already has several bigs. Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk will likely play ahead of him. Miami also has A.J. Hammons (who might be just dead salary) and Udonis Haslem (who might provide nothing more than veteran leadership).

The Heat could just see Mickey as someone they can develop. At that point, how he fits into the current roster doesn’t really matter.

Mickey – 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan – is a mobile defender with nice timing for blocking shots inside. He even possesses a work-in-progress 3-pointer in his arsenal. There’s plenty for Miami to help mold.