Tuesday night NBA grades: DeMar DeRozan is the Raptors go to guy


Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while wishing you had watched the Winter Olympics in a snow fort…

source:   DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors. He is the guy the Raptors go to in the fourth and what’s different than the Rudy Gay era is how he gets his points — it’s not isolations. He’s coming off picks and getting the handoffs, or he’s working off what Kyle Lowry is doing, but the bottom line he is getting it out of sets. Tuesday night DeRozan delivered — he had 16 points in the fourth quarter (33 for the game) including an impressive driving reverse slam and the Raptors beat the Cavaliers because of his play. He may settle for too many jumpers but when they fall good luck stopping him.

source:   James Harden, Houston Rockets. Most players get pumped to play in Madison Square Garden or the Staples Center — James Harden was up for Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. Harden dropped 22 points in the first quarter, pushing the Rockets out to an early 25-point lead over the Kings. From there it was basically over — Harden had 43 points and didn’t even play the fourth.

source:   DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings. DeMarcus, just between you and me, you’ve done a better job this season of letting the bad calls and injustices on the court — perceived and real — roll off your back. You really have, you’re becoming one of the game’s top big men. Call it maturity, call it needing to lead your team, call it whatever you want. But when you have setbacks like you did Tuesday night it hurts the team and you (they needed you to body up Dwight Howard to have any chance of a comeback). That’s 15 technicals now, one more this season and you get a forced vacation from the league. I know it’s not in your nature, but you can’t let the refs or opponents get under your skin like that. You can’t get in the referee’s face.

source:  Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks. His team lost but his 11 fourth quarter points — 10 of the team’s 13 at one point in the final frame — kept the in it at all. But then he made a couple mistakes that sabotaged the Hawks hopes — getting stripped when the Hawks were going for a tie. Or stepping out of bounds with less than 20 seconds left. Don’t let that completely overshadow a strong game — 26 points (on 10-20 shooting) and 7 assists — but he just couldn’t close and neither could the Hawks.

source:  Indiana Pacers in third quarter. Whatever it is Frank Vogel tells his team at halftime, he could make him a mint with it on the motivational speaking circuit. In the third quarters this season the Indiana Pacers have outscored their opponents by an NBA best 4.9 points on average — more than double what the second best team does (Portland at +2.2). Or to look at it another way the Pacers outscore their opponents by an average of 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the third quarter. Or, you can just ask the Lakers — Indiana outscored Los Angeles by 18 in the quarter, shooting 58 percent while holding the Lakers to 33 percent. It went from a close game to a rout where the Pacers starters got a lot of rest.

By the way, Evan Turner looked pretty good for the Pacers — 6-of-12 shooting and he was doing it within the offense.


Hornets’ coach gives savage, frank assessment of Willy Hernangomez

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When Willy Hernangomez was not getting much run with the Knicks this season, especially as injuries opened up space in the front line rotation, there were questions as to why. Then the #freeWillyHernangomez movement popped up.

Eventually, Hernangomez was traded to the Hornets where… he barely plays. He’s gotten more than 10 minutes just once since coming to Charlotte.

What gives? Hornet’s coach Steve Clifford didn’t hold back when answering that question to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“If you were in one place and didn’t play much, if you want to play more in the next place, I’d say work harder and kill myself,” Clifford said at the Hornets shootaround at the Players Association’s midtown headquarters. “The reality is he wasn’t playing here for a reason. He’s got to change things…

“He’s not up to speed on what we’re doing to play a lot,” Clifford said. “It’s been a little bit of a struggle for him. He’s smart, but he’s not this high-flier, phenomenal, natural athlete able to make up ground. He’s got to be on top of things, especially on the defensive end. If he’s not detailed defensively, he’s not that [athletic] guy…

“To be an every-night player, and I’ve told him this, he’s got to improve his shooting,” Clifford said. “He is right now, in my opinion, a back-to-the-basket player who can pass. But the reality is his passing doesn’t come into play until they have to get close to him and know he’s not going to knock down a shot. And he’s not a knockdown shooter.”

Well then.

Just to be clear he’s got to put in a lot more effort, become smarter on the defensive end, and improve his shooting. That’s a healthy off-season checklist.

Hernangomez has another year on his contract at a very reasonable $1.5 million before the Hornets have to make any kind of decision on him, which means whoever is the new GM in Charlotte he will choose to keep Hernangomez around. For now. He flashed potential his rookie season with the Knicks, when asked to play strictly to his strengths, but Clifford and the Hornets — and basically every other team in the NBA — is going to ask more of him.

Clifford was clear, as no doubt he has been clear to Hernangomez (Clifford is as straight a shooter as the league has). The ball is in Hernangomez’s court.

Glen “Big Baby” Davis denies drug charges while eating Popeyes on a charter plane

Via Twitter

Best. Denial. Ever.

Last month, former NBA player Glen “Big Baby” Davis was arrested last month at a hotel in a suburb of Baltimore by Jimmy McNulty and Lt. Daniels with 126 grams of marijuana and more than $96,000 in cash, according to a police report. He has been charged with possession and intent to distribute.

Davis has declared his innocence in the best denial video ever — eating Popeyes chicken and flashing cash and a championship ring.

I have no idea whether Davis is guilty or not, I was not at a Hampton’s Inn outside Baltimore last month. The court system will sort that out, that is what it’s there for.

But I know a brilliant video when I see one. This is it.

Report: Michele Roberts to seek second contract as players’ union head

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Michele Roberts entered the NBA’s player union in a tumultuous time — long-time union president Billy Hunter had been ousted in a rancorous fight, the union felt adrift, and negotiations with the NBA on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement were looming (and players felt they had been screwed in the last CBA, following the lockout).

Roberts, the first female head of a professional sports labor union, settled things down. She cleaned up the union finances and made them more transparent to players, she worked hard to establish relationships with the players, and while she rattled some sabers with the NBA in negotiations, she also worked in a non-combative way with Adam Silver and team (unlike the Billy Hunter/David Stern relationship) and got a deal done the players liked without a lockout or labor mess.

Roberts’ contract with the union is up, but she is going to ask for a new deal — one she likely gets — reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

With an original four-year agreement set to expire in September, Michele Roberts plans to seek a new contract as the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, sources tell ESPN…

Roberts had strongly considered staying in the NBPA’s executive director role for only the length of her original contract — and expressed that to the union’s senior membership — but has recently decided to pursue a longer tenure, sources said.

NBPA president Chris Paul played a significant part in Roberts’ hiring in July 2014 and he has built a strong working relationship with Roberts.

Roberts also has a good relationship with the star-heavy executive committee of the union — CP3, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and others — making it likely she gets a new deal.

As for what’s next, at the front of that list Roberts is working with Silver and others on reforming the NBA’s one-and-done rule (it was supposed to be part of the CBA negotiations but was too big and complex an issue to fold into that timeline).

Neither the owners or players can opt out of the CBA for four more years (and if neither side does it runs a couple more beyond that) so labor peace will continue in the NBA for a while.

Isaiah Thomas rewarded on epic flop with offensive foul call vs. Heat

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Why do NBA players flop on defense? Because it works.

While there is less of it than there was a couple of years back — when the NBA made a big show about calling more flops and warning (then eventually fining players a pittance) for the move — it still exists. Case in point, this impressive one from Isaiah Thomas of the Lakers on Tyler Johnson of the Heat Friday night (hat tip AminElHassavag at NBA Reddit).

Was there a little contact, sure, but Thomas fell back like he was shot by the second gunman on the grassy knoll. He exaggerated the contact, which is the definition of flopping. Thing is, he got the call (the ref who made the call, from his position, might only have seen the contact and not necessarily the extent of exaggeration, but that’s where the other officials need to step in).

Not that everything went Thomas’ way Friday night.