Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while watching Jimmy Fallon, Idina Menzel (or Adele Dazeem if you prefer) and The Roots sing “Let It Go”…
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder. Tell me again how this team is better off without him? Westbrook had a triple double — 13 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists — in less than 21 minutes. Yes, it was against the hapless 76ers, still. That is the fastest anyone has done that since Jim Tucker did it in 17 minutes in 1955 (hat tip to Royce Young at DailyThunder for that one). Kevin Durant dropped 42 and the Thunder got the blowout win and what Westbrook did was more impressive.
Klay Thomson, Golden State Warriors. Basketball is a game of matchups. Indiana chose to stick Paul George on Stephen Curry and it worked as he shot just 7-of-18 on the night. But that meant George Hill had to cover Klay Thompson — that gave Thompson a five inch advantage and he could get his shot off whenever he wanted and he finished with 25 points, including this little bucket to win the game.
Houston Rockets starting five (Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones, Dwight Howard). Houston played a real team game in beating Miami… well a starting five game. Their bench was pretty bad. But the starting five each scored in double figures, plus they did a good job attacking the Heat inside with Howard (22 points) and with point guard Patrick Beverley (19). They exploited the mismatches and they got a couple stops when they needed it (not many, this was not a defensive game) and generally looked like a five that could go somewhere in the playoffs… if they get some help from the bench.
Los Angeles Lakers defense. The Pelicans were on the last day of and eight-day road trip and had lost eight in a row, they are without their starting point guard and their key floor spacing power forward, yet the Lakers let the Pelicans shoot 59.7 percent on their way to 132 points. The Pelicans had an offensive rating of 131 points per 100 possessions. Part of that is the talent (or lack thereof) the Lakers put on the court, part of it is the coaching and the system, but a lot of it is the Lakers just not putting out the effort. It’s good for tanking, I guess. But it’s hard to watch.
Kevin Durant has not made up his mind about what he will do as a free agent this summer. Until his playoff run ends, whenever that may be for the Thunder, his focus will be on bringing a title to Oklahoma City.
But even he admits he can’t help but think about free agency a little.
The buzz around the league is Golden State is at the front of the line if Durant decides to leave OKC, and he has done some research, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.
The Warriors play in front of an intimidating Oracle Arena crowd and are expected to debut a new San Francisco arena in 2019. Durant has quietly done his due diligence on the Bay Area, too, sources told Yahoo Sports.
His people — specifically agent Rich Kleiman and personal manager Charlie Bell — would be stupid not to have done some research on not only Golden State but on every other team he might consider: Houston, Miami, Washington, both teams in Los Angeles, the Knicks, and on down the line. Golden State, playing with Stephen Curry, certainly would have its attractions.
I’m still in the camp that Durant signs a 1+1 deal to stay in Oklahoma City (meaning he can opt out after one more season, in 2017), and it’s all about the cash. While he could get 30 percent of a $90 million cap this summer (about $27 million a season to start), with one more year of service in 2017 Durant could get 35 percent of $108 million ($37.8 million to start). That’s a lot of cash. Plus he gets one more chance at a ring with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, who both are 2017 free agents.
But you can be sure whatever Durant decides, it will be well researched and thought out. And he’s not going to announce it in a live special on ESPN.
When we talk about Lakers’ coach Byron Scott’s questioned player development skills with young players Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and particularly D'Angelo Russell, it is his old-school lack of communication that comes into question. It’s what is different from what Gregg Popovich or Quin Snyder or other guys developing strong young players have done. From the outside (we’re not in practices/film sessions), we see Scott was not letting Russell play through mistakes — feeling that was rewarding bad behavior — but then not doing a good job communicating what the player is doing wrong.
This comment from Scott, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, sums it up perfectly.
Scott plans to start Russell after NBA All-Star weekend (Feb. 12-14). But Scott said the two have not talked about that issue.
“He’s not old enough for me to have a meeting and discuss, ‘What do you think?’” Scott said.
I would say you should have that meeting — it’s called a teachable moment. “What do you think? Well here is what I see that is different.”
Part of what is going on with Scott and Russell is the concern from some in the Lakers’ camp that Russell is a little too full of himself, that his ego is too big, and it could become a problem. So they are trying to take him down a peg. I would say that for a smart player — and Russell is that — the game is humbling and will take care of the ego issue. But you’ve got to give him run to develop him.
Play him, and then communicate with him. It’s a system that does worth with modern players.
The Hawks almost came back and won this — Atlanta went on an 8-0 run in the final minutes to tie the game at 94-94 with Orlando. The Magic had one last chance with 2.2 seconds left.
Nikola Vucevic nailed it.
Can’t blame Al Horford‘s defense on this one, he pushed Vucevic out and contested the shot. But in a make-or-miss league Vucevic nailed the game winner, Orlando wins 96-94.
If that looks familiar, Vucevic knocked down pretty much the same shot against the Lakers earlier this season.
We know Stephen Curry — who spent many of his formative years in Charlotte and still thinks of the city as his hometown — is all in on the Carolina Panthers today against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 30.
On this, he and LeBron James agree.
LeBron sounded like the politically cautious, image-conscious version of himself at the start of this quote from Uninterrupted on Facebook, but as he gets going, you can quickly see who he wants in this game (hat tip Eye on Basketball).
“I don’t know if I quite got a prediction but I definitely want to see a great Super Bowl,” James said in the video. “But if it was a life and death situation and I had to choose one team and one player, I got to go with Killah Cam. Got to go with the Carolina Panthers, they’ve been playing the most consistent football all year round. Both offensively, defensively and special teams. Got to go with Cam and one of my boys plays for them too as well, Ted Ginn Jr., that’s been showing out all year as well.
“No disrespect to the Broncos. I love their team. They got the legend at quarterback, they got that defense that’s out of control. They got some receivers that be balling out as well. They’re really well coached as well and that’s the reason they are in the Super Bowl. But I’m rolling with the Carolina Panthers today.”
A lot of NBA players like the way Cam Newton plays — with exuberance, wearing his heart on his sleeve, dancing and celebrating. That’s how Curry and LeBron and other NBA players want to play their game, and they feel reined in by the league. They relate to Cam Newton and the ridiculous role model/celebration debate.
We’ll see how much celebrating the Denver defense lets Newton do.