Sunday night NBA grades: It’s Kevin Durant’s world we just live in it

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while watching Jeopardy to see what all the Arthur Chu fuss is about….

source:  Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. If you are going to win the MVP award you need a couple monster games on national television. Durant delivered that on Sunday — 41 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists as the Thunder beat the Knicks. Durant would have had a triple double if Serge Ibaka could have finished a dunk. Durand has seven 40-point games this season. He is your MVP, having pulled away in the race while Russell Westbrook has been out.

source:  Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers. He’s back. After missing 18 games with a separated shoulder CP3 was returned to the court in the Clippers powder blue (they wore the sleeved throwbacks). That’s not the reason the Clippers utterly destroyed the Sixers on Sunday night, but he did look solid with 7 points and 8 assists for Los Angeles. The Clippers went 12-6 without him and Blake Griffin among others stepped up their game, now can they take the next step with him in the lineup.

source:  Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers. He certainly was making plays – 28 points on 17 shots, including the game-tying layup that sent the game to overtime, then he had four points in OT to lead the Cavs over the Grizzlies. He also had six assists. Still, I watch him play and I wonder how much better he would look in a different offense — he looks good, better than he did earlier in the season when he was forcing shots and plays, but he still doesn’t seem to be on the career trajectory expected of his this season (despite the fans voting him an All-Star starter). I just wonder how much of that is the offense he is playing in right now.

source:  Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic. Orlando came from behind to upset the Pacers in large part because of the rookie — he had 12 of his team-high 23 points in the first minutes of the fourth quarter when the Magic went on a 17-2 run to come back and take the lead from a Pacers team that had been up 16 in the third quarter at one point. (To be fair, Indiana helped out that comeback with some uncharacteristic sloppy play, and when Orlando went smaller with Tobias Harris at the four the Pacers chose to settle for jumpers rather than attack.) What I really liked about Oladipo’s game is that he kept relentlessly attacking the rim — which resulted in him getting five shots blocked and shooting just 3-of-7 inside 8 feet, but he kept attacking. He plays with an aggressive energy that is infectious.

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Rumor: Grizzlies had to choose between Marc Gasol and David Fizdale

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David Fizdale has been linked to most of the NBA’s head-coaching vacancies.

He developed a legion of backers as lead a Heat assistant, and he did good things guiding the Grizzlies before they unexpectedly fired him. He deserves consideration.

But he also must explain his fractured relationship with Memphis star Marc Gasol. They weren’t speaking for a while.

And maybe the problem was even worse than that.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

According to a source close to Fizdale briefed on the Grizzlies’ decision, it was ownership having to make a choice — trade their All-Star center Marc Gasol, who has fallen in love with its small-market city, or fire the coach. Their relationship had gotten that bad.

If Grizzlies ownership felt it had to choose between Gasol and Fizdale, it’s not clear why.

Fizdale benched Gasol down the stretch during the coach’s last game, and Gasol publicly expressed his frustration.

But Gasol denied issuing a me-or-Fizdale ultimatum. Fizdale said focus on his relationship with Gasol was “overblown,” adding he cared far more about whether he could win with a player than whether they got along personally.

Memphis obviously sided with Gasol – probably too strongly.

LeBron James bought Cavs teammates matching designer suits to wear to game tonight

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I’m still trying to decide if this is cool or a little too Stepford.

The Cavaliers rolled into the Bakers’ Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis tonight wearing matching designer suits, all paid for by LeBron James and custom fitted to each player.

If a college team rolled into a game in four-digit designer suits, the NCAA would have questions. And not about the vests.

The Cavaliers are LeBron’s team, and if he wants to buy his teammates suits and tell them to wear them it’s going to happen. Is it a bonding thing that helps bring them together? Sure. Is it in place to make sure LeBron remembers which ones are his new teammates? Probably not.

Do the suits help on the court? No. And the Cavaliers better bring it in Game 3 because if they go down 2-1 in this series — something that is a realistic possibility — the whispers of doubt are going to get a lot louder.

Report: Knicks to discuss coaching vacancy with Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer

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Mike Budenholzer is restless in Atlanta, seeing a rebuild coming and looking at other jobs (something Hawks management is fine with). He went down the road a ways with the Suns before pulling out of that process, but he’s still looking around.

The Knicks are casting a wide net in their search, talking to virtually everyone looking for coaching jobs.

So, this seemed inevitable, right? Budenholzer and the Knicks are going to talk, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This will be very preliminary. The Knicks have already had some level of conversation with Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, David Blatt, Mike Woodson, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith (Jackson and Fizdale are the rumored early leaders). Budenholzer has established a style and culture in Atlanta, giving the franchise a path forward. New York could certainly use that.

However, the Knicks job comes with real challenges, too. That starts with James Dolan as owner and the erratic, at times paranoid culture he has created there. Also, expectations in New York are always high, but the team will be without Kristaps Porzigis for at least half (maybe all) of the upcoming season as he recovers from an ACL injury, and that puts a ceiling on the team in the short term. Is all that worth leaving Atlanta for?

 

Stephen Curry to begin “modified” practices with Warriors

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Golden State has flipped the switch in the first round, going up 3-0 on overmatched San Antonio. The Warriors have been outscoring the Spurs by 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the series, allowing less than a point per possession on defense and scoring when and where they want. Kevin Durant is averaging 27.3 points per game, Klay Thompson is shooting 63.3 percent from three and scoring 25.7 points per game, and the Warriors are clicking.

But they are not yet whole — they need Stephen Curry back. Not for this round, but before the Western Conference Finals for sure.

Curry was re-evaluated Friday and will begin practicing with the team in a limited — or “modified” to use the team’s term — way.

The target has always been a return somewhere during the second round, and that still seems to be on track. That is also a little faster than traditional for a Grade 2 MCL sprain, which can take up to two months to heal (not the 4-6 weeks of the Warriors timeline), but the Warriors are being cautious here for now.

Eventually, the Warriors will need him back — their offense is built around Curry and his ball movement and movement off the ball. Curry’s gravity to draw defenders, even when he doesn’t have the ball, opens up the floor for others. Put simply, if he’s 28 feet from the bucket on the weak side defenders still have to watch and be near him, and help defenders need to be aware, which pulls the defense to wherever he is. Without Curry and the Warriors take more midrange jumpers, it’s just in the first round series against the Spurs they are hitting them.