Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while listening to Sir David Attenborough narrate curling for the BBC as if it were Planet Earth….
LeBron James, Miami Heat. A lot of us — players and some of the media (myself included, damn Sazerac) — have been fighting off a post New Orleans hangover, but not LeBron James. He entered the game in the fourth quarter and Miami went on a16-1 run where they pulled away from the Mavericks to win 117-106. LeBron had 12 points in the fourth and 42 for the game. LeBron shot 4-of-6 from the midrange and 4-of-8 from three — when his outside shot is falling there is just nothing a defense can do. He was also 8-of-9 inside eight feet.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors. This is why so many teams are trying to trade for him. It was a six-point lead at the half but in the third quarter Lowry scored 14 of his 24 in the quarter when the Raptors pulled away. What was really impressive is Lowry was dishing — 10 assists. He was weaving off the pick-and-roll and he found rolling bigs like Amir Johnson or finding John Salmons in the corner. Lowry looked good and that’s why Toronto is keeping him.
Detroit Pistons defense. No offense intended to a very good player in Al Jefferson, but if you have the size up front of Detroit with Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith then Jefferson should not have 32 and 12 and own key stretches of the game. The Bobcats as a team shot 52 percent in this game. Detroit’s personnel is not a great defensive fit — Brandon Jennings, Kyle Singler, and Greg Monroe are not exactly plus defenders and Josh Smith struggles against threes — but they also do not play cohesively in a system. Watching them against Charlotte, who has less talent but does play hard within their system, Detroit’s flaws were obvious.
Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns. He had a career high 36 points but the important part was the 10 in the fourth quarter then the eight in overtime that lifted the Suns to a needed win over Denver. Green just carried the Suns offense for a night. Oh, and he threw down a couple monster dunks.
Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs. He’s the guy thrust into the starting spot with Tony Parker out, and in his first game in that roll he gets to face off against Chris Paul. All Mills does is own the fourth quarter — he scored the first nine Spurs points of the quarter and finished the final period with 16 points (25 for the game) leading the Spurs to a win over the Clippers. It’s play like this that lets the Spurs get Parker fully healthy for the playoffs and not feel pressure to rush him back.
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James‘ playing status for Tuesday’s season opener against Boston remains unclear.
James has been slowed by a sprained left ankle for more than two weeks and it’s still not known whether he’ll be on the floor when the Cavaliers take on the Celtics and Kyrie Irving, who asked to be traded by Cleveland this summer.
Following Monday’s practice, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said “I really don’t know” when asked if James will play.
James took part in some post-practice shooting drills with teammates. He did not speak with the media as the Cavaliers prepared for their opener, a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals.
James has never missed an opener in his NBA career, and teammate J.R. Smith doesn’t expect him to miss this one.
“Oh, he’s going to go,” Smith said. “He’s going to go, trust me that. I don’t care what he’s got to do, he’s going to play.”
Update: The Nuggets will waive Jameer Nelson, according to Wojnarowski:
It looks like Denver will ride with the younger Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay at point guard — a risky proposition. Nelson stabilized the position in the event Murray or Mudiay weren’t ready for bigger roles. The Nuggets aren’t hedging their bets now, which puts plenty of pressure on Murray and Mudiay.
Murray should be fine eventually. Mudiay’s promise is far less certain. But this is a team trying to reach the playoffs now, and it might have to ride out growing pains from its point guards without Nelson as a safety net.
Richard Jefferson became a late entrant into free agency when the Cavaliers traded him and the Hawks waived him.
But the forward is landing on his feet.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Jefferson could help the Nuggets, who look primed to end a four-season playoff drought. They were set to squeeze backup small-forward minutes behind Wilson Chandler out of the undersized Will Barton and oversized Juan Hernangomez. Jefferson is far more comfortable at the position.
He’s 37 and doesn’t offer long-term upside, but he’s a savvy defender and still pretty athletic. He picks his spots well enough offensively to help on that end, too.
But Denver also has a deep roster that already had 15 players on standard contracts. There’s not an obvious cut to make room for Jefferson, though the Nuggets clearly have something planned.
Joel Embiid wants to get on the court, he wants to unleash himself on the NBA this season. After three seasons of being bottled up — even in the 31 games he has played there was a minutes restriction — Embiid wants to impose his will on the league.
He’s going to have to do that in less than 20 minutes a night, at least to start the season.
Sixers coach Brett Brown says to start the season there will be a tight minutes limit on Embiid, who averaged less than 15 minutes in two preseason games after finally being cleared to play. Embiid does not like that. Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia has the quotes.
“I don’t really know if there’s a solid number,” Brett Brown said Monday after practice. “I can tell if you were to choose a number, it’s somewhere in the teens.”
“I didn’t know about that, but that’s very disappointing,” Embiid said Monday of the minutes restriction. “I feel great and hopefully that changes based on today’s practice and tomorrow’s practice.”
The Sixers being cautious with Embiid is about as surprising as the last Transformers movie sucking.
That said, if any particular game is close going into the fourth quarter don’t be shocked if Embiid breaks his minutes limit — this is a team that wants to start winning, and that means keeping their best players on the court longer. If Saturday night against the Raptors Brett Brown thinks giving Embiid 22-23 minutes helps get them the win, he will. The goal will be to get him up to the high 20s by the end of the season.
The real test for these Sixers will not be how the offense fairs with Embiid sitting — they have guys that can create and knock down shots if needed, such as Ben Simmons or J.J. Redick – instead it’s how well they can defend with him resting.
From troubled to extended, LaMarcus Aldridge‘s Spurs tenure has changed directions in a hurry.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Piecing this together, Aldridge is exercising a $22,347,015 player option for 2018-19. That means his extension is worth $50 million over two years will carry him through age 35. All in all, Aldridge is now under contract for four more seasons.
Aldridge is a borderline All-Star, and he raises San Antonio’s floor. His back-to-the-bask mid-range games remains reliable, and he’s a willing defender. Him signing this deal should end pining for greener pastures, but it certainly won’t force him into diligent acceptance of his role forever. Players can become discontent whenever they please.
This extension significantly limits the Spurs flexibility the next two summers and maybe even in 2020, depending on Aldridge’s guarantee in the second year of his extension. They seem fine with that, perhaps believing they already have enough to topple the Warriors if Kawhi Leonard is healthy.
With Aldridge, Pau Gasol and Patty Mills all under contract for the few years around Leonard, San Antonio should remain stably good. But will these deals for aging veterans limit the Spurs’ ceiling? That’s the risk for an organization that has built its identity on championships and already has a young, in-his-prime superstar who has proven capable of being the best player on a title team.