Golden State Warriors v Cleveland Cavaliers

Monday night NBA grades: Time to stop shoveling dirt on Anthony Bennett


Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while thinking this may be the best soccer goal celebration ever….

source:  Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers. You don’t know how a draft pick is going to pan out for three years. You just don’t. Some guys start fast but never really develop beyond that (Tyreke Evans, for example) and some guys start slow and find their game. Anthony Bennett is finding his game — 19 points and 10 boards as the Cavs beat the Kings. Bennett showed a real variety in his game — he knocked down threes, he attacked the rim and drew and and-one on DeMarcus Cousins. Bennett was injured all summer, was nowhere near in shape for the season, doesn’t bring his best energy every night, but he has skills. And he’s young, he has good shooting form and he could turn out to be a good pick for the Cavs.

source:  Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls. David Thorpe likes to say “energy is a skill” and Joakim Noah has it in bunches. That skill brought him a triple-double Tuesday — 19 points, 16 rebounds and 11 dimes to lead the Bulls past the Hawks. He may be the ultimate Tom Thibodeau player with his defense, his grinding style and an ugly shot that just works.

source:  Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats. Charlotte was really moving the ball well against the usually stout Memphis defense — 42 assists on the 45 made baskets — and the big beneficiary of that Tuesday was Al Jefferson. He finished with 30 points on 14-of-23 shooting, he was getting the ball where he likes it — on the block, preferably left, about 8-10 feet out with his back to the basket — and was getting in close and finishing. He has played very well this year.

source:  LeBron James, Miami Heat. He apparently enjoyed his vacation in Utah — did you see him that game? — because he came back refreshed and with a new energy on Tuesday night. He played like a guy who might someday belong on NBA’s Mount Rushmore. LeBron finished with 37 points on 22 shots, plus he pulled down 9 boards. With Dwyane Wade out (migraine) more is expected of LeBron, and he delivered.

source:  Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City. His hot streak continues — 36 points on 15-of-28 shooting. It’s almost just expected. Durant gets his grade dinged a little for the 8 turnovers he had, but the man got buckets. He was just 5-of-9 inside eight feet but hit 7-of-13 from the midrange.

source:  Michael Jordan. Congratulations, new father. His wife gave birth to twin girls Sunday. Savor every moment, your daughters will grow up fast and you want to be present (in the Zen sense of the word Phil Jackson used to tell you about in meditations before games) for every minute of it. Also, I hope you can get by on less sleep.

Warriors’ interim coach Luke Walton’s car stolen

Luke Walton
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If you’re looking for a “when are things going to go wrong for the Warriors” moment, we have one for you. But it may not be what you had hoped for.

Warriors’ interim head coach Luke Walton — the guy on the sidelines for the 15 (soon to be 16) game winning streak — had his car stolen during a crime spree, reports

One of the cars stolen during an Oakland Hills crime spree belongs to Golden State Warriors coach Luke Walton, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said late Monday.

Walton’s Mercedes Benz was stolen Tuesday by two suspects, who police believe are also responsible for a violent attack on a 75-year-old woman outside her home on Thursday. The suspects also took the woman’s car during the attack, according to police.

Yikes. That’s serious.

I’m sure Steve Kerr has like 14 cars, he can loan one to Walton.

Pacers guard George Hill returns Tuesday against Wizards

Paul George, Marcus Morris
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Pacers guard George Hill returned to the lineup Tuesday night against Washington after missing three games with an upper respiratory infection.

Hill is averaging 14 points and just under 37 minutes in 10 games this season. He was on the bench in case of emergency in Saturday’s victory over Milwaukee.

Coach Frank Vogel said Tuesday Hill’s infection had improved “to the point where he’s fine to play,” but would keep an eye out for fatigue after an 11-day layoff.

Hassan Whiteside on intentional fouls: “It’s not working, so keep fouling me”

Hassan Whiteside

Remember how Adam Silver was preaching that the league didn’t want to change the intentional foul rule — the hack-a-Shaq strategy — because it was really about two players (DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard) and a handful of others now and then. The fact that it’s not basketball didn’t matter.

Well, it’s not just two — Miami’s Hassan Whiteside has gotten the treatment this season. He’s a 53.4 percent free throw shooter this season.

And he says bring it on. From Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post:

“I’m enjoying this,” he said. “Foul me so I can get a double-double and we can win. It’s not working, so keep fouling me.”

He’s even smart at not getting fouled.

Whiteside also is liking that teams are looking at their options against the best defense in the NBA — yes, Miami at 94 points allowed per 100 possessions, is the best defense in the NBA right now — and deciding to attack Whiteside.

“There’s teams that’s out there that say ‘Stay away from Hassan,’ and there’s teams that say, ‘We don’t care if Hassan’s down there. Attack Hassan.’ I love them teams that do that. God bless them coaches. I love them teams.”

Whiteside is not as great a defender as the block totals would indicate — if he doesn’t see a block in it, his rotations can be a bit slow. One scout recently called him a selfish defender to me recently, suggesting he is in it for the numbers, not the sacrifices needed for an elite defense. True or not, the Heat have an elite defense and Whiteside is at the heart of it.

And if the strategy is to try to exploit him, Whiteside plans to make people pay.

LeBron James: Spend less time comparing, more appreciating the greats

Michael Jordan, LeBron James

Monday night, LeBron James joined Oscar Robertson as the only two players in NBA history to be in the top 25 all-time in assists and scoring. Somewhere this summer (maybe late last season), Stephen Curry passed LeBron James and the best player walking the face of the earth. Don’t even get started on trying to compare LeBron or Kobe Bryant to Michael Jordan.

No, seriously, don’t. LeBron thinks we spend to much time comparing and not enough time appreciating the great players of sport, such as comparing him to Robertson (or Magic). Here is what LeBron said to Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

“I think what we get caught up in, in our league too much is trying to compare greats to greats instead of just accepting and acknowledging and saying, ‘Wow, these are just great players,'” James said. “I think in the NFL when you talk about great quarterbacks, they don’t really compare great quarterbacks. They say, ‘Oh, Joe Montana is great.’ You know, ‘Tom Brady is great. Aaron Rodgers is great. Steve Young is great.’ (Terry) Bradshaw, all those great quarterbacks they never compare them as much, but when it comes to our sport we’re so eager to say, ‘Who is better, Oscar or (Michael) Jordan?’ or, ‘Jordan or LeBron or Kobe (Bryant) or these guys?’ instead of just accepting greatness.”

He’s right.

I admit I can get as sucked into this as the next person, it’s a fun barstool argument to have, but in the end it can suck the joy out of watching great players. This is not a new position for me, I was a Laker blogger back in the Kobe/Gasol era and tried to tell those fans to enjoy it while they could. Be a fan of the game has been my mantra.

No player has had to deal with this level of scrutiny like LeBron, the first NBA superstar of the social media age. LeBron is a lock Hall of Famer, he will go down as one of the greats to ever play the game, maybe the most physically gifted ever (him or Wilt), yet while he is still just 30 years old we try to rank him against MJ, Dr. J., Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and a host of others. It’s been going on since he was 24. Probably earlier.

Can you imagine the online heat Jordan would have faced online when the Pistons rolled him and the Bulls in the playoffs three straight years, up to his age 26? But now in the mythology of Jordan those times are almost forgotten. They were dissected at the time, but not with the venom found on twitter. Not with the level of scrutiny LeBron faces.

Does Kobe suck this season? Maybe. But there are flashes of the great player and as fans we should try to savor those moments (even if we question now Byron Scott uses him). Same with Tim Duncan (who doesn’t suck). Or Kevin  Garnett. Plus there are all these great players on the rise like Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns and on and on, yet the NBA world is critical first.

We all need to savor these players, these moments more.

Even if we know LeBron is not MJ, it doesn’t mean LeBron isn’t special.