Pacers players hold locker room meeting after getting crushed by Rockets

28 Comments

Even after three straight losses, the Indiana Pacers remain the team with the league’s best record, though they’re now tied with Oklahoma City for that honor while sitting at 46-16 in the standings.

But the last two losses have been troubling.

On Wednesday, Indiana lost by 22 points to a Bobcats team that is five games under .500, and managed to hold Paul George to just two points in 34 minutes on 0-of-9 shooting.

Friday night in Houston, the Pacers held it together for a half before being run out of the gym in a third quarter which saw them outscored 38-16, and turned the final period into nothing more than extended garbage time.

This sequence of events caused the players inside the visitors locker room in Houston to take stock of the situation following the 26-point loss.

From Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:

It started with Paul George and David West, two of the Indiana Pacers’ veteran leaders, crowding inside the small visiting coach’s locker room.

With their ankles still taped and their uniforms still on, there was an impromptu meeting taking place with hushed tones and grim faces. Sitting with his shoulder in ice at his locker, George Hill noticed and went over and slipped into the room. Then Roy Hibbert got up from his seat and stuck his head in.

Ten minutes passed, then 15. The team with the NBA’s best record is in its first legitimate funk of the year and it’s shaking the players up.

Losing to Houston on the road is nothing to be ashamed of, considering they’ve been hot lately and have the league’s best record since the first of the year. But for a team with championship aspirations, consecutive blowout losses, no matter the circumstances, is definitely cause for concern.

Indiana leads the league in defensive efficiency, but has seen its offense slip in recent weeks, dropping to a level below the league average. It’s tough to bring the intensity on the defensive end every single night like that, especially during the long grind of the regular season, and especially when the Pacers are no longer sneaking up on their opponents.

“Every team we play is playing above themselves,” Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said. “Our guys can talk about being the hunted but it’s a different thing to feel it. These teams are coming at us with great force and we’re going to have to rise to the challenge.”

After Thunder win, Russell Westbrook trolls Joel Embiid, waves goodbye, tells him to “go home”

Associated Press
7 Comments

Joel Embiid was making friends all over the court on Friday night.

First, he got into a jawing match with Carmelo Anthony. Also during the first overtime, Embiid blocked Russell Westbrook‘s driving attempt at a game winner.

After the Thunder, Westbrook trolled Embiid by waving goodbye to the Sixers’ center, who was yelling back at him.

When asked about it, Westbrook said Embiid was talking a lot so he told the Sixers center to go home.

That can have some serious connotations — Embiid was born in Cameroon. Westbrook may have meant “go to the locker room” or “go to where you live,” but considering Embiid is an immigrant it comes off very poorly for Westbrook.

Embiid threw a little fire back at Westbrook.

The league office is going to be looking into this one.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline

Getty Images
2 Comments

The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?

If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.

Cousins himself doesn’t think he is going anywhere, as he told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.

Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers.  DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.

But first he has to get past the trade deadline.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

Associated Press
7 Comments

Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience. After the game he said this.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.