Monday NBA grades: Tyreke Evans has found the beat in New Orleans

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while watching the Mad Men season 7 trailer…. 

source:   Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Pelicans. When the roster was full and they asked him to come off the bench earlier this season, Evans struggled to find a comfort level with the Pelicans. It wasn’t pretty But with the roster thinned by injury and him moved into a starting role he has looked good. Against the Nets he had a ridiculous line of 33 points on 19 shots, 10 rebounds and 7 assists. Yes, he also turned the ball over 7 times, but we’ll forgive that. What the Pelicans learned over this long season is that Evans is better in the starting role for them than Eric Gordon.

source:   LeBron James, Miami Heat. At this point in the season this is the LeBron James Miami needs just about every night. Especially on nights like this web the Dwyane Wade is on the knee maintenance program. The normal “pass first and let the game come to me” LeBron start was gone as he had 15 first half shots. He finished the night with 32 points on 23 shots. LeBron had a couple late turnovers (one of them an offensive foul trying to drive on Damian Lillard) but made up for it with this.

source:   Indiana Pacers offense. Yes, the Chicago Bulls defense is very good (and with the win Chicago moves into a virtual tie for the three seed). However, if you fancy yourself a contender who wants to play grinding, defensive basketball then you have to score in the half court. Indiana cannot. Paul George was 8-of-22 and played without purpose. Roy Hibbert was 0-of-5 and just took up space. David West was 4-of-12 shooting. Lance Stephenson was 3-of-9 and didn’t record one assists. The only good thing in the Pacers future is that they also will get the first round of the playoffs to figure out what is wrong.

source:  Austin Daye, San Antonio Spurs. Nobody saw this breakout coming — he had 22 points and 6 boards, he was knocking down open looks, he played within himself, and it is the second game in a row he has looked good. In Toronto this season Daye was 0-of-8 from three, in San Antonio he is 8-of-12. So, to recap, the Spurs picked up another guy no other team knew what to do with and have him looking good in their system. Shocking. Daye will probably have a big playoff game or two.

source:  Philadelphia 76ers. Ugh. That’s 25 straight losses. The NBA record is 26 and they can equal it Thursday night against the Rockets. They pretty much will. And then Sixers fans will rejoice as they are all on board with the tanking.

source:  Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons. This is what everyone hoped the future would look like in Detroit (in the pre Josh Smith era). Drummond was a beast inside on offense and finished with 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting plus had 14 boards. Monroe finished inside, knocked down midrange jumpers and ended the night with 18 points and 11 boards. When those two are paired there are defensive issues, but there is potential.

NBA reacts to Suns’ Devin Booker dropping 70 on Celtics

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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.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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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.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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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.

Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah to be suspended 20 games for violating league drug policy

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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).