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.
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 …”