Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while freaking out about how much time you wasted on Facebook….
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. What is there left to say? Call him KD like he prefers, call him the Slim Reaper, call him whatever you want just make sure you add MVP race leader to the sentence. Durant got his first half points mostly in transition as LeBron James and the Heat defense made things tough, but in the second half Durant was the guy we have watched the last dozen games (the streak for 30+ is up to that) — he drained a 27 foot three to silence the crowd when Miami threatened a run. Then he drained shots from everywhere this side of Epcot Center on his way to 33 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists to lead the Thunder to their ninth straight win. Durant is playing the best ball of his career right now, and that is saying something.
Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings. This is not just about his 23 points on 16 shots (although that is a good night), rather it’s that his 23rd point gives him 10,000 for his NBA career. We’ve poked fun at Gay’s efficiency in the past (he’s been much better in Sacramento) but the guy can score and 10,000 points in the NBA is a milestone to be celebrated.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors. Too bad the voting is already done because Lowry made his “put me on the All-Star team” statement against the Magic with 33 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds. He was on fire in the first quarter with 17 points on 8 shots. As for getting his ticket punched for New Orleans, he either makes the team or is one of the guys talked about as a snub — he’s right on the bubble.
Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats. While you haven’t been watching Al Jefferson has been playing well — he’s averaged 26.9 points a game on 55.7 percent shooting, plus 11.9 rebounds a game his last 10 games — and against the Nuggets he had 35 point points on ¬ not many doubles were coming and Jefferson made the Nuggets pay for that.
The list of traditional ball-handling point guards who liked and thrived in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense is a short one. While guys who could initiate the offense then play off the ball did well (Derek Fisher, for example), traditional points used to controlling the flow of the game chaffed in the system. Ask Gary Payton about it.
So how are things going with Derrick Rose as he adjusts to the triangle in New York?
If Phil Jackson were going to be any of the seven dwarfs, it would be Grumpy.
The Knicks are going to run a hybrid version of the triangle that will incorporate coach Jeff Hornacek’s preferred up-tempo style and the offense Jackson wants in the halfcourt.
Slotting in a number of new players — Rose, Joakim Noah, Brandon Jennings, etc. — with a new system likely means some early-season struggles on offense for the Knicks. The team’s offense should smooth out as the season stretches out — so long as they can stay healthy. But that’s a different discussion.
Three all-time greats retired from the NBA this year.
What’s next for Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett?
Kobe is making movies and babies. Duncan is hanging around Spurs practice and is expected to join the franchise full-time.
Garnett? Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, who was an assistant coach for the Celtics when Garnett played in Boston, wants him to join his staff.
Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:
“I talked to him about it,” Lue said Thursday, following the Cavs’ practice. “I know his wife is pushing for it a lot. Brandi is pushing for it, trying to get him to come and coach. He says he’s not ready yet. He goes back, ‘I might do it,’ but he’s back and forth. We’ll see.
“But I’d definitely make a spot for him if he wanted to come back and coach.”
Lue said Garnett would be in Cleveland for the Cavs’ opening night ceremonies, which will include the raising of the franchise’s first championship banner.
I’d be surprised if Garnett joins Cleveland’s staff, but I’m also surprised Garnett is joining the Cavs to celebrate a title he played no part in winning. So, maybe ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
More importantly, has Lue checked with LeBron James about this idea? LeBron might not like it.
The ProBasketballTalk Podcast at NBC Sports is done with its summer hiatus, and there will be a couple of podcasts a week now running through the NBA season, trade deadline, playoffs, and eventually free agency. We’ll talk about it all.
We start with NBA season previews, going division by division, and we start that tour on the West Coast. Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News joins Kurt Helin of NBC to talk about the Lakers and their rebuild. From there the conversation goes to questions such as can anyone beat the Warriors? Are the Clippers contenders? Plus we talk about the building processes going on in Sacramento and Phoenix.
As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (check there to see all the NBC Sports podcasts), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.
The Rockets created a little roster confusion by giving Gary Payton II a fully guaranteed deal, bringing Houston to 15 players (the regular-season roster limit) with guaranteed salaries plus restricted free agent Donatas Motiejunas.
This won’t clarify the situation, but P.J. Hairston will give the Rockets another intriguing piece.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
Hairston was a first-round pick just two years ago, and at age 23, he still presents upside. He has at least stopped producing negative headline after negative headline after negative…
Now, we can focus on just Hairston’s major on-court flaws. He misses a lot of shots and does little else. But he has some raw tools, even if they barely showed with the Hornets and Grizzlies.
If the Rockets make a roster-clearing move, they could take a chance on keeping the talented/troubled wing around. More likely, he heads to the D-League, where Houston can develop him in its system.