Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while being mesmerized by head-banging Taylor Swift…
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. At this point, I’m beginning to question if Durant is human. Maybe a Terminator sent back from the future to take over the NBA? Maybe an X-Men style mutant? Whatever he is, I really enjoy watching him play basketball. He dropped 41 on the Hawks — and that includes the game winner. It was a tie game with 22.5 seconds left, OKC was going to go for the final shot and everyone in the building — heck everyone not in the building, too — knew the ball would end up in Durant’s hands. When it did the Hawks sent an immediate double team, Durant drove right to find a little space and a third defender showed up. None of it matters. Durant drilled the game winner. Seriously, I’m beginning to question if he’s human.
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves. Minnesota has crawled up to .500 once again, and they did it with 31 points from Kevin Love, who was efficient with just 17 shots. He got some of those points late when Chicago had pulled within five — he made 31 on 17 shots from the field, and making some big plays including a strong move underneath and later knocking down a couple free throws. Another game like this from Love on Wednesday against the Pelicans and the Timberwolves could finally break .500.
Brooklyn Nets in the final seconds. This is a punch to the gut the Nets need to absorb and move past. Brooklyn was up one with :12 seconds left in the game and had the ball — all they have to do is inbound the ball, hit their free throws then defend the arc and this win is theirs. Instead they end up turning the ball over on an ill-advised inbound pass by Deron Williams into the backcourt, which set up a Patrick Patterson game winner (as Williams bought a little fake and slid right past him). The Raptors closed this game out on an 8-3 run — Brooklyn blew it. They would have been half a game behind Toronto for the Atlantic Division lead, now they are 2.5 back and have a lot more ground to make up.
Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns. The Suns picked up another win on the road out East and Green was a main reason, scoring 30 points on 10-of-12 shooting. He had a dozen points in the first quarter when the Suns pulled away, then he had 11 in the fourth quarter holding off some Sixers runs. He’s always been athletic but he is showing a more rounded game this season in the Valley of the Sun.
With Rajon Rondo out 4-6 weeks with a sports hernia, the New Orleans Pelicans were looking for a solid backup point guard.
This week, to make room to sign Richard Jefferson, the Denver Nuggets waived veteran Jameer Nelson.
While other teams such as the Rockets were calling, the Pelicans and Nelson have reached a deal, reports both Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports added this.
Nelson, in his 14th NBA season, became the top free agent on the market and received interest from contenders such as the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder and several other franchises that hoped to add the respected and accomplished veteran. But for Nelson, the Pelicans represent an opportunity to play significant minutes and provide leadership.
The Pelicans had a full roster of 15 players, they could have waited until next Tuesday and gotten a disabled player exception to add a 16th player, but they decided to go with something more permanent.
Jrue Holiday starts at the point for the Pelicans but with Rondo out — he was supposed to start next to Holiday — there is no depth at the position. The Pelicans can have Nelson step in and get minutes from the first time he steps on the court.
Nelson is still a solid pick-and-roll point guard, but what he brings to the table the Pelicans need more is shooting — he shot 38.8 percent from three last season and is a good spot up player. He can penetrate and make plays off handoffs as well, but it’s his shooting on a team that needs it that will be most valued.
The Pelicans have started the season 0-2 with losses to Memphis and Golden State. They take on the Lakers in Los Angeles Sunday night.
Near the end of New Orleans’ season-opening loss in Memphis, DeMarcus Cousins started getting into a war of words with a female Grizzlies fan, an exchange where allegedly “F-bombs” were dropped in both directions.
That’s going to cost Cousins.
Saturday the league announced that the Pelicans’ center has been fined $25,000 for “directing inappropriate language towards a fan.”
Cousins got a technical foul during this exchange, and that has been rescinded.
Cousins has averaged 31 points and 10 rebounds a game through two games this season, but it hasn’t been enough as New Orleans has started the season 0-2.
Shoes? Kevin Durant don’t need no stinkin’ shoes.
Early in the second quarter of the Warriors win in New Orleans Friday, Durant came out of his shoes on a layup in the lane. He then picked up his shoe, carried it to the other end, flipped it to the bench, and played defense without it, and while he got moved out of the way allowing an offensive rebound for the Pelicans he then proceeded to block Tony Allen twice at the rim.
Durant — after deciding to play the rest of the game in shoes — had seven blocks on the night, to go with 22 points.
Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.
He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.
Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said. “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”
I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.
His second frustration came from the loss to the Celtics on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”
He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. That will work especially well against teams going small (for example, the Cavaliers with Kevin Love at the five), although Friday night Boston had big man Aron Baynes starting at center (in part because of Embiid, in part because Marcus Smart was out injured). Still, Embiid can score on Baynes.
Take a look at Embiid’s shot chart from Friday night.
Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.