Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while realizing just how far down in the ocean that missing Malaysian flight 370 really is…
Indiana Pacers reserves. Wednesday night Frank Vogel benched Paul George, David West, Roy Hibbert, three of the Pacemates dancers, George Hill, two boys that mop the floor and Lance Stephenson. He sent a message, he got them some rest. He trusted his reserves to get the job done — yes, against the lowly Bucks, but still an NBA team. And it worked. Indiana won. It wasn’t pretty, but the reserves played hard and won. Frank Vogel didn’t solve the enigma that is the Pacers starting five right now, but he got them some rest and the Pacers got a victory — and thanks to the Grizzlies beating the Heat the Pacers are in first place in the East again with a big showdown Friday vs. Miami.
Charlotte Bobcats. I don’t care how much they have slumped of late you do not want to draw the Heat or Pacers in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The 7 and 8 seeds are a sparring partner for the East’s elite. However, any of the East’s 3-6 seeds has a shot to advance (some more than others, but you have a chance). The Bobcats went into Washington and beat the Wizards and moved into a tie with them for the six seed (Charlotte has the tiebreaker now). Al Jefferson in the post and Steve Clifford coaching defense makes this an interesting team.
Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls. This is your first team All-NBA center. Name another center better than him at both ends of the court this season. On defense Wednesday night Noah held Kevin Love to 17 points on 20 shots. On offense Noah remains the fulcrum of what the Bulls do and he’s more than a jump shooter, he will put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. He ended up with 15 points (to go with his 13 rebounds and 10 assists). Noah just seemed to do it all. Again.
Randy Foye, Denver Nuggets. With injuries keeping some of their top scorers down, the Nuggets have turned to Randy Foye at points this season to carry the offense — and there are nights like Wednesday when he drops 30 and adds 15 assists that he shows he can do it for a stretch.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder. The Clippers turned their defensive attention to Kevin Durant and Westbrook made them pay the price — he got into the lane at will and started out shooting 7-of-8 on his way to 30 points, plus he pulled down 11 rebounds and had 6 assists. Westbrook’s athleticism was hard for even the Clippers to deal with and by the time the Clippers did adjust they were trying to dig out of a hole that turned out to be too deep.
Tributes have poured in all over the NBA world since Kevin Garnett announced his retirement on Friday afternoon — from other players, commissioner Adam Silver and media members who covered him. Garnett and Tom Thibodeau have a lengthy history together: Thibodeau coached Garnett in Boston as an assistant under Doc Rivers, and they won a championship in 2008. This spring, Thibodeau took over as head coach and president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team that drafted Garnett, saw his best years and saw him end his career. Thibodeau released a heartfelt statement on Saturday congratulating Garnett:
“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank Kevin for all of his great accomplishments and contributions to the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves organization, and for me personally with the Boston Celtics. Kevin combined great talent with a relentless drive and intelligence. I will always cherish the memories of the way in which he led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA Championship. His willingness to sacrifice and his unselfishness led us to that title. Kevin will always be remembered for the way in which he played the game. His fierce competitiveness, his unequalled passion for the game, and the many ways in which he cared about this team was truly special. KG is without question the all-time best player to wear a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey, and he is also one of the best to ever play this game.”
It’s a shame that Thibodeau didn’t get to coach Garnett again in Minnesota, but the team is in good hands with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Indiana Pacers have been a franchise for 50 years — 10 in the ABA and 40 in the NBA. To celebrate this anniversary, they’ve unveiled a new patch that they will wear on their uniforms this season. You can check it out below:
It looks pretty sleek, combining the Pacers’ logo with the zero in “50.” It’s subtle and well-designed.
This summer, three of this generation’s defining NBA players, and three of the greatest players of all time, called it a career: Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. The latter two in particular had a lot in common, as psychotic competitors and polarizing personalities. They had many memorable battles over the years, including the Lakers-Celtics Finals in 2008 and 2010 (they each won one) and the playoffs in 2003 and 2004, when Garnett was in Minnesota. On Saturday afternoon, a day after Garnett officially announced his retirement, Kobe paid tribute to him with a tweet.
The next time they’ll be together is 2021, when they go into the Hall of Fame together.
With the NBA season around the corner, there are a lot of eyes on how teams and players will handle the national anthem protests that have become prominent in the NFL. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers wholeheartedly supports the notion of his players participating, and hopes the whole team can figure out a statement to make together. Via Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:
“Listen, we need social change. If anyone wants to deny that, they just need to study the history of our country,” he told the Southern California News Group on Friday. “… I’ve said it 100 times. There’s no more American thing to do than to protest. It’s the most patriotic thing we can do. There are protests I like and protests I don’t like. It doesn’t matter. …Protests are meant to start conversation. The conversation, you hope, leads to acknowledgement, and the acknowledgement leads to action. We’re, right now, still in the conversation.”
“I hope we do it as a group. I know whenever you protest as one solid group, the protest has more teeth if you want to protest,” he said. “… I’m supporting our guys’ right to protest. I’m saying that up front. My hope is you believe it and do it for the right reasons and not just because it’s a hot topic on Instagram.
Rivers has a unique perspective — his father was a police officer, but he’s seen plenty of racism in his life. This won’t be his first time leading a team when it comes to social issues — he was able to unite the Clippers in the spring of 2014 when the Donald Sterling racism scandal broke. It’s encouraging to see NBA coaches trending towards fostering open dialogue on their teams about these issues.