Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while mourning the loss of Harold Ramis (RIP)…..
Philadelphia 76ers on the court. My. Lord. They. Are. Terrible. The Sixers have lost 11 in a row after getting just routed by the Milwaukee Bucks 130-110. That would be the 11-win Milwaukee Bucks, which shot 57.1 percent as a team (67.2 true shooting percentage) and had an offensive rating of 130 (points per 100 possessions). They play poor transition defense, which is a big issue for a team playing at the fastest pace in the league. I’d say this is rock bottom but I don’t know that it is —Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner are gone and it’s Thaddeus Young, a rookie Michael Carter-Williams and not much else against the world. It’s hard to watch. Honestly if the 15-42 Sixers get to 20 wins this season I’ll be shocked.
Philadelphia 76ers’ rebuilding plan. If you’re going to rebuild by being bad, then be very bad. This is what organizational tanking looks like — it’s not that the players are not trying (Michael Carter-Williams was +6) but there is no depth of NBA talent on this team. Which is what Sixers GM Sam Hinkie was going for — he has loaded up on picks and as of right now the Sixers would have the second most Ping-Pong balls in the lottery. They stand a very good chance of a top three pick and can’t go lower than four. That’s what they should do in this draft — and even if they draft a real star he and Carter-Williams will learn more hard lessons next year and be bad. But after a few drafts and a few seasons it will start to come together. At least that’s the plan.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. You can’t question the man’s effort — 44 points on 14-of-29 shooting, plus he pulled down nine rebounds. He hit the trailing three that got the Knicks going, he found his groove and carried them. Every night on a roster that has deteriorated around him (don’t tell me this is all on Woodson, he didn’t make Raymond Felton take a step back, or J.R. Smith, or trade for Bargnani) Anthony is bringing it like an All-Star. An increasingly frustrated All-Star. And even when he does things right such as play good man defense on Dirk Nowitzki in the final seconds of the game, it doesn’t matter because the bounce goes the other team’s way. But you have to admire Anthony in the face of this disaster of a season.
Knicks perimeter defense. Dallas just carved it up. Yes, Mike Woodson’s odd love of switching everything and scheme (such as it is) doesn’t help matters, but he has just terrible perimeter defenders to work with (and that includes the now waived Metta World Peace, who moves in molasses and is a shadow of his former self). The Knicks play with no defensive IQ. How the heck is Vince Carter left that open all night long to drain threes? The Knicks pick-and-roll defense is atrocious — it leads to open threes or passes to open cutters every time down. I could go on and on, but watch this defense and tell me again how the Knicks are going to make up 6 games in their remaining 25 and make the playoffs.
The moniker of the “best two-way player” sounds more like something an agent made up to gain a little leverage contract negotiations. It’s a nebulous concept. It’s an intentional dig at whomever is perceived as a better player, suggesting they don’t play enough defense.
But it’s part of the NBA lexicon now, and Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel thinks he has the best two-way player in the game in the resurgent Paul George. Tuesday night George dropped 40 points on Wizards and Vogel said this after the game, via the Washington Post.
“It’s tough to quantify in words,” Pacers Coach Frank Vogel said. “I mean, he just does so much. He’s capable of going for 40, carrying the offensive load and being the best defensive player on either team. He’s a special player, and the best two-way player in the game. We’re a different team with him out there.”
Paul George’s return to an elite level of play is one of the best stories of this young NBA season — for nine straight games now he has scored at least 25 points, he has pushed the Pacers to a 9-5 record with a top 10 NBA offense and defense. Tuesday night John Wall talked about how George’s improved jumper has made him a far more dangerous, more difficult to guard player. And he’s still a lock-down defender.
But George is not the best two-way player in the game — that’s Stephen Curry. George does not have the offensive impact that Curry brings to the Warriors, plus Curry has developed into a solid NBA defender. Curry gets steals, plays smart, and is a positive on defense, plus he’s the best offensive player in the league right now.
That doesn’t make the return of Paul George any less fun, any less good for the game. It’s great to see George back. Whatever you want to call him.
Sometimes a picture can tell the story better than words.
That’s why above you can see all of Kobe Bryant‘s shot attempts against the Warriors Tuesday, a night where he went 1-of-14 from the floor (and “facilitator Kobe” had two assists). If you want another picture, here is Kobe’s shot chart for the game.
On the season, Kobe is shooting 31.1 percent overall, 19.5 percent from three, and he has a career low true shooting percentage of 41.5 percent. It’s hard to watch. On a team that is supposed to be developing their young stars, Kobe took as many shots as D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle combined. Laker coach Byron Scott is good with Kobe doing whatever he wants.
But Kobe is worried about his shooting performances, right? Not so much. From Baxter Holmes of ESPN.
If Kobe can figure out the Lakers’ system this season, he will be in a club of one.
I could go on a longer rant here, but the bottom line is this is just a sad spectacle to watch. And there’s a lot of season left to watch it.
Pat Riley compared the Warriors backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to one of the legendary guard tandems the game has ever seen — Jerry West and Gail Goodrich. Two Hall of Famers who led the 1972 Lakers to an NBA title.
That West/Goodrich team also won 33 straight games that season.
The Warriors are off to the fastest start in NBA history at 16-0 after destroying the hapless Lakers on Tuesday night, and the question of “when will they lose?” Kobe Bryant thinks these Warriors could get to that legendary 33 mark, as he told Sam Amick of the USA Today.
“Yeah, they could do it – because they’re good,” Bryant said afterward. “It’s a very young league, and they’ve managed to put together a team of extremely intelligent players and extremely versatile players, and great shooters. And so I see no reason why they couldn’t continue to extend (the record).”
The Warriors are not even halfway there and have shown some flashes of one-game vulnerability of late (a rough game against the Nets, for example). They have an upcoming seven-game road trip with a couple back-to-backs where they likely stumble at least once.
Then again, look at their next dozen opponents: Suns, Kings, Jazz, Hornets, Raptors, Nets, Pacers, Celtics, Bucks, Suns, Bucks, Jazz. Teams such as the Raptors and Pacers are certainly playing well, but there is no team on that list that makes you step back and say “that’s a loss.” Get through that dozen and the Warriors are at 28-0 and the Lakers’ record is within shot. The Warriors are not going to stop doing what they do — if the wearable science tells them Curry needs a night off, he’ll sit — but if they can get close, for a team trying to establish a legacy of greatness this would be a step in that direction.
The 16-0 mark already is.
In a disastrous Lakers season, one thing can be counted on (besides Byron Scott saying absurd things about Kobe Bryant): Nick Young will always be able to lighten the mood. He brought some levity to the Lakers’ blowout loss to the Warriors on Tuesday night with a blast from the past: a pair of gold shoes formerly worn by his ex-Wizards teammate Gilbert Arenas.
These shoes, like Swaggy, and like Gilbert before the injuries and the guns, are awesome and should be celebrated.