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.
The Lakers have given 15 players – the regular-season roster limit – a guaranteed salary for next season.
But they could open a roster spot by trading (ha!) or waiving Nick Young.
Who could fill it? One candidate: Undrafted Notre Dame big man Zach Auguste.
Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders:
Auguste is probably getting a partial guarantee, but I wouldn’t pencil him in for the regular-season roster just yet – even if the Lakers waive Young. I expect the Lakers to sign multiple players to partially guaranteed deals and bring them to camp to compete.
If they waive Auguste, the Lakers could assign his D-League rights to their affiliate, the D-Fenders. Ideally, though, he’d make the regular-season roster – but that outlook will probably be true for multiple Lakers by the time training camp begins.
Auguste is a skilled interior scorer who excels in the pick-and-roll and can also post up. He improved greatly as a rebounder last season, but how much of that is due to outgrowing his competition as a senior? He’s already 23. Auguste has shown no range on his jumper, and he’s not a rim protector. Despite his mobility, his pick-and-roll defense is also lacking.
Good for the Lakers getting him in their pipeline, but don’t expect too much.
Jim Boeheim urged Carmelo Anthony to leave the Knicks in 2014. The Syracuse coach suggested the Bulls for his former player.
At the heart of Boeheim’s pitch: He wanted Anthony to win an NBA championship.
Well, Anthony discarded Boeheim’s advice and re-signed with the Knicks. So, Boeheim is predicting the outcome he always predicted if Anthony returned to New York.
Boeheim, via Mike Walters of Syracuse.com:
“He’s unlikely to win an NBA title,” Boeheim said. “He’s never been on a team that even had a remote chance of winning an NBA title. As a player, all you can do is try to make your team better and every team he’s been on he’s made them a lot better. Denver hadn’t done anything prior to him getting there and he took them into the playoffs. They weren’t going to beat the Lakers or the Spurs. In those years, they won the championship most of the time.
“But he’s always made his team better,” added Boeheim. “It’s obvious. You look back on your total basketball experience and he had a great high school team, he won the NCAA championship and he’s won three gold medals in the Olympics. That’s a pretty good resume.”
This is a classic controversy. Boeheim caused it by being honest.
Anthony probably won’t win a title.
He’s 32, playing for a team with a middling-at-best supporting cast and seems content remaining in New York. His most valuable teammate, Kristaps Porzingis, is so young, his prime might not overlap with Anthony’s. The Knicks limited themselves in the next few seasons by guaranteeing 31-year-old Joakim Noah more than $72 million over the next four years.
Most players are unlikely to win another championship. Most of exceptions play for the Warriors. I’m not even sure LeBron James is more likely than not to win another title.
Anthony sure isn’t.
That’s not the end of the world, and as Boeheim – and Anthony – said, Anthony can still have a good résumé. But it has to sting for such a prominent basketball figure in the state of New York and proud Anthony supporter tell the truth so bluntly.
Derrick Rose called the Knicks a super team, which is absurd. When people called the absurd comment absurd, Rose doubled down.
How else can Rose show his absurd confidence in the Knicks?
Rose, via Nick DePaula of Yahoo Sports:
I think we have a chance to win every game, and in the league, that’s rare.
Let’s give Rose the benefit of the doubt. I think he meant the Knicks are capable of winning each time they take the court, not that they’ll go 82-0.
That’s probably true.
I can’t, today, call any single game on the Knicks’ schedule a guaranteed loss. Sure, some games are harder than others. The Knicks probably won’t win at Golden State in their sixth city in 10 nights. But they could. The Lakers beat the Warriors last season. Anything is possible.
Which is to say the Knicks being capable of winning every game is not rare. Nearly every team – and maybe even every team – can, on August 23, point to each game on its schedule and call it winnable.
But Derrick Rose is gonna Derrick Rose.
At one point, Festus Ezeli was predicted to land $50 million over three years in free agency.
But even in this wild market, injury concerns forced him to settle for just $8.4 million guaranteed from the Trail Blazers.
Their calculated risk isn’t paying off so far.
Portland Trail Blazers center Festus Ezeli had his left knee injected with a bone marrow aspirate concentrate and Orthovisc today in Chicago.
The injection, performed by Dr. Brian Cole, is intended to alleviate pain and improve function.
Ezeli will be sidelined for six weeks.
This timeline would have Ezeli out for the beginning of training camp but back well before the regular season begins. Even if this puts Ezeli behind schedule, Portland has center depth in Mason Plumlee, Meyers Leonard and Ed Davis.
The Trail Blazers had to know they couldn’t completely depend on Ezeli to remain healthy.
Still, he’s a rim protector unlike Portland’s other options. The Blazers lose versatility and the ability to play better defense while he’s out.