Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while playing table tennis against a robot…
Paul Pierce, Brooklyn Nets. In a game against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, The Truth was the best player on the court. He couldn’t seem to miss on his way to 29 points on 9-of-12 shooting including 5-of-7 from three. He did most of his damage in the third quarter, but with the game on the line he did hit a driving lay-up that broke a 92-92 tie. Early on in the game the Heat played back daring Pierce to shoot a jump shot, then he started to nail them. Miami adjusted and closed out, so Pierce went the fake and it opened up drives and more. Since going to the four he has sparked the Nets and he was key to them getting their biggest win of the year.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. Drama swirls around the Knicks — Phil Jackson will be in, which means Carmelo Anthony will be in or out, depending on who you ask — yet through it all Carmelo Anthony busts it hard on the court. He did that again Wednesday with 34 points on 25 shots to lead the Knicks to their fifth straight win, doing a lot of his work early in the game. It says a lot about Anthony that he has brought this effort and played this well through it all. To quote Kipling:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…
Philadelphia 76ers. They have lost 18 straight games — they sent the Sacramento Kings to the free throw line 50 times Wednesday, which is a good way to extend a losing streak. The NBA record is 26 and if the Sixers were going to avoid tying that they needed to beat the Jazz, Knicks or Kings this week. They didn’t. Now their schedule goes Pacers, Grizzlies, at Pacers, Bulls, Knicks, at Bulls, at Spurs, at Rockets. Hard to see a win in that stretch. Lose those games and the Sixers are at 26 having tied the league record for consecutive losses. That could make March 29 against the Pistons (potential loss 27) very interesting.
Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies. Remember those people who said “who is going to take the last shot, the big shot” when the Grizzlies traded Rudy Gay? Meet Mike Conley. He led Memphis with 16 points in a key win over New Orleans that puts the Grizzlies two clear of the Suns in the race for the final playoff spot in the West. Oh, and he also did this to get the win.
Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.
Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.
Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.
“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”
He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.
The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.
Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.
He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.
“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”
All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.
New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.
JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.
He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.
But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.
This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.
I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.
At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.
But not right now. He remains silent.
This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.
In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.