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

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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.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

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Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.

Veteran NBA official Monty McCutchen to be head of referee development, training

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After 25 seasons running up and down the NBA hardwood and refereeing more than 1,400 games, NBA official Monty McCutchen got a promotion.

He officiated his last game Thursday night in Minnesota and will move to a desk at the league office where his new title is Vice President, Head of Referee Development and Training.

“Monty has earned the respect of players, coaches and his peers during an exemplary career as an NBA official,” said Senior Vice President, Head of Referee Operations Michelle D. Johnson (who started on the job in October).  “He understands as well as anyone what it takes to be an outstanding referee and how the league can best support its officials.  With his wealth of insight and experience, Monty is uniquely suited for a leadership role in our officiating program.”

“I’m excited for the opportunity to channel my passion for the officiating profession in a new way,” McCutchen said.  “While I’ll miss officiating games, I’m grateful to continue working with our incredibly talented referee staff as part of an organization so dedicated to excellence and innovation.”

Despite what some fans like to blast on Twitter (especially during the playoffs), NBA officials are the best trained and flat-out best basketball referees in the world (if you don’t think so, watch the college/scab referees from the last lockout of the refs, it was painful). Could they improve? Sure. Hopefully, McCutchen can help do that in his new position.

Kristaps Porzingis officially day-to-day, questionable vs. OKC

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Knicks fans can exhale now.

There was understandable concern after face of the franchise Kritaps Porzingis had to leave the game in Brooklyn Thursday night following a non-contact injury.

Turns out there is nothing to worry about. After the game, Porzingis spoke to the media and was standing on the leg, a good sign. By Friday, after a day of treatment, he was doing well. Officially Porzingis is day-to-day and may sit out Carmelo Anthony‘s return to Madison Square Garden Saturday, but the injury is nothing serious. Ian Begley of ESPN has the details.

Porzingis’ knee was “worked on” on Friday and the discomfort in his knee decreased, league sources told ESPN. It is unclear if Porzingis underwent an MRI or had X-rays to further determine the extent of the injury but sources say he did not undergo significant testing because it wasn’t warranted based on the state of the injury.

Good. We don’t need another star down with a major injury this season.

Especially Porzingis, who has led the Knicks to a 15-13 record (sixth in the East, in the playoffs) while putting up All-Star numbers: 25.5 points per game, shooting 39.5 percent from three, plus grabbing 6.6 rebounds a game. Maybe more impressive is how he has anchored a solid Knicks defense this season with his rim protection. Stay healthy and he should make his first All-Star team this season.