Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while singing “If I had a hammer” in honor of Pete Seeger….
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans. He had 8 blocks in this game, giving him 15 blocks in his last two games — he is a defensive beast. He protects the rim but his length lets him block shots all the way out to the arc. By the way, he also had 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting, and in his spare time pulled down 7 rebounds. On an injury note, he tweaked his finger in the fourth quarter and seemed to be in quite a bit of pain, but said after the game he was “good” and will play Wednesday for the Pelicans.
Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers. He had 15 points and 8 rebounds, both career highs, in the latest ugly Cavs loss. Good to see a guy who had a rough year taste a little success. Don’t read too much into one decent night, lots of players have had one decent night. But also, there are a lot of players who had slow starts to their rookie season and went on to nice, long, healthy NBA careers. Maybe not the kinds of careers that people expect of a No. 1 pick, but it’s too early to write him off completely.
Portland Trail Blazers defense. Terry Stotts will not be coaching the All-Star Game for the West and Portland’s defense is why. They had played better on that end for a stretch (not great but better), however in their last five games heading into Tuesday night Portland had allowed 111.3 points per 100 possessions (almost six more than their season average) which is 29th in the NBA in that stretch. Then against the Grizzlies they allowed a team that wins with defense to put up 107.2 points per 100 possessions with a true shooting percentage of 56 percent. If they have dreams of getting out of the first round of the playoffs they have to be tighter on that end of the court.
Houston Rockets defense. Lets get the caveats out of the way right up front — San Antonio was without Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter then Manu Ginobili left the game in the third quarter. The Spurs are depleted. That said the Spurs were sharp on defense, their rotations were crisp, they are athletic and can switch, Dwight Howard was moving well, as a team they were aggressive. The Spurs, even shorthanded, destroy a lot of teams with their execution and for a night the Rockets were more than up to the task. As always, the issue in Houston is consistency — can they do it again?
The Lakers must drop two players before the regular season. The four primary candidates:
- Nick Young, the only one of the four with a guaranteed salary. There was talk of waiving him anyway, but he has seemingly played his way onto the team in the preseason.
- Yi Jianlian, who has the highest salary of the group. His partially guaranteed, incentive-laden contract makes him an intriguing trade chip.
- Thomas Robinson, the youngest of the bunch. The 25-year-old might be the best center in a few years of anyone on the Lakers’ roster.
- Metta World Peace, the oldest player on the team. He turns 37 next month and hasn’t been productive in years.
The Lakers face one tough choice. Waiving World Peace should be the easy one – and it seems they know it.
Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:
The odds are against Metta World Peace making the Los Angeles Lakers’ Opening Night roster, but the Lakers have interest in keeping the veteran forward around as an assistant coach if they can’t make room for him as an active player, according to league sources.
If the Lakers want to keep World Peace to mentor young players, assistant coach is the right role for him. It’s not worth wasting a roster spot on someone who’s no longer NBA caliber.
World Peace wants to keep playing, and he could lobby other teams. I’d be surprised if he gets another NBA contract, but I was also surprised the Lakers signed him the last two years.
More likely, World Peace must decide between being a Lakers assistant and playing overseas again.
The Heat and Kings reportedly discussed a trade that would send Goran Dragic to Sacramento for Rudy Gay and Darren Collison.
Could such a deal happen?
Miami is clearly sending out word from its end: No.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:
Dragic on Erik Spoelstra, via Ira Winderman of the South Florida SunSentinel:
“He just said those rumors, they’re not true.”
Reminder: Mario Chalmers said the Heat told him they would keep him shortly before they traded him.
Teams get the most from players when they’re happy, and job security pleases most people. So, teams often assure players they won’t be traded. If a team violates that trust by dealing a player anyway… that’s no longer the team’s problem. The player is fuming elsewhere.
I don’t know whether the Heat will trade Dragic this season. Their assurances and signals mean something, but only so much.
I do know Dragic is on the wrong side of 30 and has a long-term contract that makes little sense on a rebuilding team.
The Cavaliers should be fine at point guard in games that matter.
Kyrie Irving is an excellent starter. When Irving rests, LeBron James – in addition to his minutes at forward – can serve as primary ball-handler with an extra wing on the floor.
But Cleveland wants to limit LeBron’s and Irving’s playing time to preserve them for another long playoff run, which means finding a more traditional backup point guard for the regular season.
The Cavs have Kay Felder, but the transition from the Horizon League to the NBA is a difficult one for anyone, let alone a 5-foot-9 rookie who was drafted No. 54 overall. Mo Williams is somewhere between injured and retired. They might like to add Mario Chalmers, but he’s not healthy enough yet.
Another option: Trade.
Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:
The Cavaliers are pursuing a trade to acquire a backup point guard and are hoping to make a deal before the season starts Tuesday, sources told cleveland.com.
The Cavs are in advanced discussions with at least one club, according to a source, and could make one or multiple trades to fill the one, glaring need on a team otherwise built to defend its 2016 championship.
Whom are the Cavaliers targeting? Your guess is as good as mine.
Whom could they trade? That’s much easier to predict, but far from certain. Shumpert could be the odd man out, especially since J.R. Smith re-signed. Cleveland will probably drop one of Jordan McRae, Dahntay Jones or John Holland before the regular season, but I doubt any of those three would return much. The Cavs also have multiple trade exceptions and draft picks, though they have already dealt some picks.
This situation was predictable as soon as the Cavaliers let Matthew Dellavedova leave for Milwaukee. Did they not see it coming, or do they have an ace up their sleeve at the last minute?
Anthony Davis missed a chunk of the preseason after spraining his ankle in a game against the Rockets during the league’s tour of China. He was considered questionable to return for opening night.
He came back faster than that, in time for New Orleans’ final preseason game Thursday night — and he looked good doing it. Very good.
Davis had 33 points, 13 rebounds and four assists’ in the Pelicans’ 114-111 overtime loss to Orlando. He was red hot from the start as he scored 16 points in nine minutes of the first quarter.
This is a good sign for the Pelicans, who are going to need Davis (and rookie Buddy Hield) to carry the scoring for the team to start the season as they are without Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans for an extended period.