Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while watching Jeopardy to see what all the Arthur Chu fuss is about….
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.
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.
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.
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.
LeBron James is usually the guy handing out chasedown blocks. He’s famous for them, and has carted out his signature move in the biggest moments of his career.
He’s also not used to having his own shots blocked from behind, and certainly not by opposing point guards.
Enter Elfrid Payton.
During a play halfway through the first quarter against the Orlando Magic on Thursday, LeBron was on a drive to the hole with Elfrid trailing far behind.
Thanks to a pinch by two Magic defenders, LeBron had to try and use brute force a bit deeper in the paint than he wanted to.
That allowed Payton — running at full speed — to catch up and pin The King on the glass.
Cleveland still got the best of the Magic, as Isaiah Thomas hit a clutch free throw to win the game with 11 seconds left, 104-103.
For about as long as we can remember, Joel Embiid has famously thirsted after Rihanna on Twitter. Fans have tried to boost his standing with the singer, but it apparently that has not been enough.
In 2014, Embiid mentioned on social media that a “famous girl” — presumably Rihanna — told him to “Come back when you’re an All-Star.”
Well, today is that day.
Embiid is a starter out of the Eastern Conference, and on Thursday night he had his chance to speak to Rihanna (or whomever) via national TV on TNT.
Did Embiid decide to reach out to this famous person? Apparently he’s off it.
This is like that scene from Private Parts when Howard Stern hits No. 1 and he tells Paul Giamatti’s character to get lost.
Embiid had the chance to curve Rihanna (or whomever) and took it. Long live The Process.
NBA All-Star voting is over, and now we have the results. The starters are in, and what’s left is for us to wait until they announce the teams after they are picked in double secret ceremony.
Of course, the NBA did release the full voting results via their PR website this week, and as such there are some head scratchers. My boy Patrick Redford over at Deadspin did an excellent job rounding up some of the players who got exactly one (1) vote from other players.
The gag here is that these guys presumably voted for themselves.
Of course, what I found most interesting was actually the guys who got multiple votes from their compatriots without being All-Star caliber players.
My favorite list of player-voted non-All-Stars includes: Michael Beasley (4), Gordon Hayward (2), Boban Marjanovic (2), Jahlil Okafor (4), Quincy Acy (2), Tyler Zeller (4), T.J. McConnell (2), Elfrid Payton (2), Zaza Pachulia (3), Taj Gibson (6), Zach Randolph (5), Maurice Harkless (2), Deyonta Davis (3), Lonzo Ball (9), Mike Conley (3).
There’s a whole smattering of guys in there who either didn’t play enough, aren’t stars, are injured, or who aren’t very good.
That multiple players took time to vote for these guys really speaks to the frivolity of the NBA All-Star Game. At least outside of player contract incentives.
Bring on February!
LeBron James is one of the best passers the NBA has ever seen, but even this is too hard to believe.
During Thursday’s game between the Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron through a ridiculous behind-the-back pass that nutmegged Orlando’s Aaron Gordon.
The result of the play was a bucket for Dwyane Wade.
I mean, that’s just … insane.