Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while watching Lionel Messi be Lionel Messi….
Masked LeBron James, Miami Heat. The rest of the teams may petition the NBA asking that LeBron not be allowed to wear any mask again. In the three games since coming back and wearing a mask he is shooting 67.1 percent and has scored 31, 20 and on Monday night 61 against the Bobcats. And that’s a good defensive team in Charlotte — seventh best in the league this season (in points allowed per possession) and a couple nights ago Kevin Durant shot just 8-of-24 against them. LeBron hit 22-of-33 and had eight three pointers in a vintage efficient night. This was just his night.
Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats. He had a really good game against LeBron and company — 38 points on 18-of-24 shooting plus 19 rebounds. It just got overshadowed. Jefferson scored 26 points in the first half and completely worked Chris Bosh and others. Jefferson has played well for much of the season, but like this game it just got overshadowed.
Mike D’Antoni, Los Angeles Lakers coach. He takes an unholy amount of abuse from Lakers fans — and he deserves some of it, but he’s also the coach of what was not a great roster to start with then has lost more man games to injury than any other team. He deserves a pat on the back for the Lakers win in Portland — down one with six seconds left he drew up the inbounds play that won the game. It’s a play the Lakers have used before (in Detroit) where Jordan Farmar runs a little misdirection then sets a back pick that freed Wesley Johnson to sprint to the rim. LaMarcus Aldridge got hung up on Farmar’s pick just enough that he was a step behind and Johnson was able to catch the lob and lay it in. Portland’s response (they had six seconds left) was to run a Damian Lillard isolation that led to a contested 24-foot shot that had no chance. D’Antoni had the better late play — the Lakers ran an actual play.
Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee Bucks. Ilyasova had complained lately about the way the Bucks had a playoff team last season but rather than build on it they tore it down (they needed to, the Brandon Jennings/Monta Ellis combo didn’t work). He took those frustrations out on the court Monday night and dominated the Utah Jazz, dropping 31 on 13-of-14 shooting to lead a blowout Bucks win. He was doing it all, driving the lane and knocking down threes. He tends to have strong second halves to the season, this seems to be a sign of another one.
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves. It was a vintage Minnesota win — they didn’t play a lick of defense but were able to get the win with a flood of offense. Love led the way with 33 points on 10-of-21 shooting, plus pulling down 19 rebounds. It’s amazing how numbers like this can seem unremarkable from him; he just does it so often. With the win Minnesota went 4-1 on its road trip, they continue to make a late (but likely futile) push to make the playoffs.
Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.
The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”
NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.
Booker himself responded this way.
There was no hesitation. None was expected.
After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.
Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.
Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.
The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.
And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.
Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”
Jerry West said he loved him like a son.
Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”
The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.
Check out the highlights above.
Joakim Noah hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since Feb. 4, and his season was all but ended when he had knee surgery at the end of February. Last summer, Phil Jackson took a $72 million gamble on an aging Noah that has not worked at all, and left New York with an anchor of a contract for three more seasons after this one.
Tomorrow it will be official Noah is done for this season, but not because of the Knicks or his injury.
During his recovery, Noah violated the NBA’s drug policy and will pay for a 20-game suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
Noah tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement that is prohibited under the outgoing Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources said.
Noah, 32, is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out the 2016-17 regular season and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season, league sources said.
The National Basketball Players Association’s investigation concluded that Noah hadn’t “knowingly or willingly” violated the policy and cooperated fully with the league’s probe, league sources said.
According to reports, this is not a substance banned in the new CBA that kicks in July 1, but was covered in the previous CBA. Over-the-counter supplements could be something put in his regular workout recovery drinks that he was unaware of, although we are unsure of the details.
Traditionally, the player has to be healthy enough to play before the league starts the suspension. Noah has been out for more than a month, but if a league doctor says he is healthy enough to play the then the clock on the suspension can start. The 10 games this season is no big deal for the Knicks, he wasn’t going to play anyway, but the 10 at the start of next season could sting (depending on how they plan to use him).