Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while playing with your Simpsons LEGO figures…
Philadelphia 76ers efforts to tank. This is not about the players on the Sixers, those guys went as hard as they could (it was 43-43 at one point), they are simply overmatched. That’s because GM Sam Hinkie and Sixers management has a plan — stockpile draft picks and get the highest picks in the draft they can. That means losing. So they assembled a roster that wasn’t very good to begin with then traded Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner at the trade deadline to make sure they are even worse this season (I pity poor Thaddeus Young who was stuck there). And through management’s prism, this team is doing what it was built to do. Maybe even a little more efficiently than they wanted. But they built a team designed to get a high draft pick, and they have succeeded. With some painful side benefits.
James Harden, Houston Rockets. Yes, it still counts against the Sixers — Harden had a triple double of 26 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. All in 31 minutes on the court. He was attacking and shot 5-of-7 inside 8 feet, plus he was hitting threes. Oh, and feeding Dwight Howard for easy buckets. The Beard was smart and efficient.
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers. Dallas seemed in control of this game at one point in the fourth quarter, before the Clippers changed tactics and just attacked the rim (in the final minutes the Clips just kept getting buckets there). Chris Paul orchestrated it — he had 31 points on the night but 9 points and two assists in the fourth quarter to help spark the Clippers come-from-behind victory. Great bounce back game for CP3 after a rough outing in New Orleans. There’s been a lot of talk about Blake Griffin as the Clippers MVP this season, and with reason. His game has improved by leaps and bounds and he carried this team with CP3 out. But this is Chris Paul’s team, how far they go in the playoffs starts with him (and DeAndre Jordan’s defense, but that’s another discussion.
Brandon Knight, Milwaukee Bucks. His game has matured this season and you saw some of that against the Lakers, where he dropped 30 points. He did it in a very Knight way — he was 7-of-10 in the paint and looked good when he attacked, plus he knocked down a couple corner threes. He took more midrange shots (3-of-7) than some coaches was like, but what can frustrate is just the lack of doing the little things to guide a team that the Bucks do when Ramon Sessions has the rock. Knight still feels like a guy learning, but going up against the Lakers is a test he knew he could pass. Easily.
The Pelicans have needed this.
There is not one simple reason the Pelicans stumbled out of the gate this season and might as well be booking late April tee times now (they will not recover and make the playoffs). It’s a combination of issues. But at the top of any list needs to be injuries, and specifically the injury to Tyreke Evans, who had his knee scoped back in training camp.
Evans will suit up for the Pelicans Tuesday. This had been rumored for a while, but Evans himself confirmed it on Instagram.
The Pelicans desperately need his shot creation. Anthony Davis is an unquestionable beast, but he’s not a guy you can just throw the rock to and watch him create for himself and others out on the wing. Jrue Holiday can’t really do that either. The Pelicans have looked better with Ish Smith at the point of late because he can create a little thanks to his quickness.
Evans is better at this than anyone else they have. Getting him back in the mix helps.
Norris Cole, who played fantastically for the Pelicans last season, also is expected to return to the rotation tonight.
With those two back and the team starting to find a groove, they can become respectable to dangerous. But I just can’t see them climbing out of the hole they are in and find a way into the playoffs.
If you were going to name the Western Conference Coach of the Month for November, there was only one choice to make — the coach of the undefeated Golden State Warriors.
So congratulations Steve Kerr, since he gets the credit for those 19 and counting wins… er, wait.
The NBA announced it has given November Coach of the Month award to Luke Walton, the interim Warriors’ coach who has guided the team while Kerr is recovering from back surgery. The league also announced Cavaliers’ coach David Blatt as the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month.
As the NBA explained earlier in the day, they see the Warriors as still Kerr’s team — he was the architect who put in the systems and built the foundation, while Walton is just living in the house for a while. Walton is a housesitter. So the fact the team was undefeated under Walton is moot, he gets no credit for the wins, they all go on Kerr’s resume. But Walton can win the Coach of the Month award for guiding the Warriors with their league-best point differential of 15.4 points per game.
This was expected, but now it is official.
He could win it again for December, unless Steve Kerr decides to come back
DeAndre Jordan tied his personal best with 12 made free throws Monday night against the Trail Blazers.
But that’s not what anybody is talking about with Jordan’s trips to the free throw line Tuesday.
So you don’t have to do the math yourself, Jordan hit just 35.3 percent of his free throws. When the Clippers pulled away with a mini-run in the fourth quarter, Blazers coach Terry Stotts responded with hack-a-Jordan, and Doc Rivers refused to take him out. The result was nine intentional fouls and trips to the free throw line in less than two minutes.
It was ugly to watch.
The purist’s answer here is “if he hits his free throws this never happens, so learn to shoot them.” That’s the camp Adam Silver is in, and it’s his voice (and that of the other owners) that matters. There is no appetite around the league to change the rule, even though more and more players are being subjected to it.
I would argue that fouling intentionally off the ball in the first place is outside the spirit of the game — it’s not playing basketball — and unsportsmanlike. I think it’s bad for the sport, much worse than missed free throws and a dragged out game. I would like to see any time there is an off-the-ball foul the aggrieved team having a choice of free throws or the ball out-of-bounds.
But I’m in the minority. The rule isn’t changing soon. Which means Jordan — or Dwight Howard or Rajon Rondo or someone — is going to get the chance to set a new free throw futility mark soon. That will be fun to watch.
While it does happen — and the ones that do happen tend to be bigger names — December is not a time the NBA does a lot of trades. Team GMs are always willing to talk, listen, and get a feel for the market, but it’s not until after the first of the year — and closer to the February trade deadline — before the market picks up momentum.
But there are always trade rumors, and the well-connected Steve Kyler over at BasketballInisiders.com had an interesting one — the Houston Rockets might be open to moving Ty Lawson.
The Rockets have been sniffing around the league for deals and there is a belief among other teams that Lawson could be had in trade, and had cheaply. Lawson is owed $12.4 million this season with the final $13.21 million of his deal being fully non-guaranteed.
As the Rockets search for ways to change, there is a belief that Lawson could be the first Rocket player moved. But given how poorly Lawson has played in Houston and his troublesome off-the-court history, it’s hard to imagine that Lawson alone is going to yield much in return. But as teams start to get desperate, Lawson does have a career assist average of more than 6.5 assists per game and averaged 9.6 per game last season for the Nuggets.
The Rockets are 10.4 points per 100 possessions better this season when Lawson is on the bench rather than starting. Lawson and James Harden — both of whom need the ball in their hands to be most effective — get outscored by 9.3 points per 100 possession when they are paired. Pair Lawson with Dwight Howard and the Rockets are -11.4 per 100.
The Rockets clearly need to shake things up, and firing coach Kevin McHale and bringing in J.B. Bickerstaff has not been the answer. They have serious effort issues, which leads to real locker room chemistry questions. If they move Lawson, with that salary they should get a player of some value in return. If a good team loses a point guard to injury, Lawson could be a viable alternative.
Moving Lawson would be no magic bullet for Houston right now, but don’t be shocked if you hear a lot Lawson rumors as the trade deadline nears.