Monday NBA grades: Pacers don’t even play and still get good marks

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while thinking the French don’t really get the point of the smartphone…

source:  Indiana Pacers. They had the night off and are still winners. Early in the season their focus was getting the top seed in the East and make everyone come to them in the playoffs. Now with Miami’s loss to the Wizards Monday night the Pacers got their wish. They will have the best record in the East. Indiana has home court through the conference playoffs, which is huge for a Pacers team that is 35-6 at home but 20-20 on the road this season.

source:  Milwaukee Bucks. With their loss they have locked up the worst record in the NBA and with it they will have more ping pong balls (really random number combinations, but that’s not exciting to say) than any other team. Maybe the best news is they can’t fall farther than fourth in the lottery — no matter what happens they are going to add a quality player to a young core of Giannis Antetokounmpo, John Henson and Larry Sanders. The Bucks may be building something for the new owners coming to Milwaukee this summer.

source:  Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Pelicans. Coach Monty Williams didn’t want him to play because of a balky knee, even pulled him out of shootaround. Tyreke begged and it worked out pretty well — Evans took over the second half scoring 32 of his 41 on the night. He sparked the Pelicans to an upset win over the Thunder Monday. Evans also had 9 boards, 8 assists, 3 steals, and only one turnover. The Pelicans need more of that Evans next season.

source:  Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies. When he is scoring like this, and Memphis is grinding on defense like they did Monday night against the Suns, the Grizzlies are very hard to beat. Which is why nobody wants to face them in the first round. Randolph had 32 points on 15-of-25 shooting and he was doing his damage in close — he was 12-of-18 inside 8 feet. He was scoring around the rim because that is what Randolph does.

source:  Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves. He had 22 points… in the first quarter. He finished with 40 points and 14 rebounds. And the Timberwolves lost in spite of it. Again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

source:  Nick Young, Los Angeles Lakers. I don’t know where Swaggy P will be playing next season (he is expected to opt out of his contract), but the guy has carved a niche out for himself with the Lakers. He has become vintage sixth man material, in sort of the same way J.R. Smith has been for the Knicks — he will come in off the bench firing. He’s going to miss more than he makes some nights, but on the nights he has got it going — as he did dropping 41 on the Jazz Monday — he is fun to watch. Even if his outbursts are hurting the Lakers’ lottery odds.

Jordan Clarkson on Lakers’ win over Knicks: ‘We just kept the foot on their nut and just kept pushing’

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The Lakers outscored the Knicks by one in the first quarter, three in the second quarter, four in the third quarter and 12 in the fourth quarter en route to a 127-107 victory yesterday.

What’s one way to describe that?

Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson in his on-court, post-game interview:

We just kept the foot on their nut and just kept pushing.

That quote is obviously fantastic on its own. Making it better: The NBA published it!

Video of the key moment is above.

Report: Kawhi Leonard disconnected from Spurs

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Spurs star Kawhi Leonard missed most of the season with a vexing quad injury, returned, went out with a shoulder injury and is now sidelined indefinitely with the quad injury.

San Antonio (30-18) has played well without Leonard, but apparently this saga has taken a toll behind the scenes.

Adrian Wojnarowski and Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

Months of discord centering on elements of treatment, rehabilitation and timetables for return from a right quadriceps injury have had a chilling impact on San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard’s relationship with the franchise and coaching staff, league sources told ESPN.

Under president and coach Gregg Popovich and general manager RC Buford, the Spurs have a two decades-long history of strong relationships with star players, but multiple sources describe Leonard and his camp as “distant” and “disconnected” from the organization.

Beyond the current rehab for the right quadriceps injury that has caused Leonard, an All-NBA forward, to miss most of the regular season, there is work to be done to repair what has been until now a successful partnership.

In an interview with ESPN, Buford rejected the reporting of turbulence between the franchise and Leonard.

This is extremely vague. Leonard has always looked like a dutiful follower in the Spurs’ strong Popovich-led culture. Is this just frustration from injuries? Frustration from injuries causing other minor issues to boil over? Something else major entirely?

The Spurs spent big on long-term contracts for Pau Gasol and Patty Mills last summer, arguably jeopardizing Leonard’s chances of winning another title in San Antonio. Leonard is an elite two-way player in his prime (at least when healthy), and the Spurs were seemingly locking into a team that will likely top out at very good, not great.

So, what’s going on with Leonard now? Aldridge’s situation might be illustrative. Everyone in San Antonio denied a problem, as the Spurs are doing now. But Popovich revealed a couple weeks ago that Aldridge requested a trade. Popovich didn’t panic, though. He met with Aldridge, communicated and found a workable solution. The same can and probably will happen with Leonard.

But that’s no guarantee, and Leonard can opt out next year. Until this is settled, it’s a huge issue with potential to shake up typically stable San Antonio – and maybe beyond.

Wizards’ players-only meeting doesn’t go well

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The concept of a “team meeting” is sort of silly. At what does players discussing the team – something that happens nearly every day – rise to “meeting” status?

But these team meetings happen ever year, usually when a team is struggling. The Cavaliers, Thunder and Lakers have already had confabs labeled a “team meeting” this season. Teams usually emerge saying they’ve found solutions to their problems. Sometimes, it translates onto the court. Usually, there’s not a significant turnaround.

I’ve never seen a public response to the meeting itself like with the Wizards, though.

John Wall, via Cam Ellis of NBC Sports Washington:

“At our team meeting, I think a couple guys took it in a negative way,” Wall said after the team’s win in Detroit. “It hurt our team. Instead of using it in a positive way like we did in the past and using it to build our team up, it kind of set us back a bit.”

Bradley Beal, via Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:

“It was tough. I try to keep all our stuff as personal as possible but I think in a way not everybody got a chance to speak whenever they wanted to,” Bradley Beal said. “They didn’t want to bring up an issue or something they had a problem with on the team. Regardless of what may be going on, as men we’ve got to be able to accept what the next man says, be respectful about it and move on from it. I think it was one of those situations where we didn’t necessarily get everything that we wanted to get accomplished.

“Honestly, it was probably — I won’t say pointless,” Beal continued, “but we didn’t accomplish what we needed to accomplish in that meeting.”

Yeesh.

Nobody seemed to remember exactly when the meeting occurred, which says something. It sounds as if airing grievances actually hurt team chemistry.

The Wizards (26-20) are good, but not as good as hoped/expected. They too often coast against bad teams, and coach Scott Brooks has openly questioned their effort. So, what’s the solution?

Wall, via Buckner:

“Front office got to figure it out.”

If you’re one of Wall’s teammates who clashed at the meeting, and now you’re hearing him bring it up publicly and imply roster moves might be the solution, how would you feel about your future in Washington?

Rajon Rondo invites Ray Allen to 2008 Celtics reunion

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The 2008 Celtics are finally doing something that isn’t petty.

Rajon Rondo was planning a reunion vacation for that championship team while specifically not inviting Ray Allen. Allen ruffled feathers by leaving Boston for the Heat, and many Celtics held a grudge.

But Paul Pierce eventually said it’s time to move on, and now Rondo is also ready.

Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:

Rondo said Allen has an open invitation to join his former teammates this summer.

“Everybody [on the team] is invited,” he said.

This is how it should be. Allen was a free agent, free to sign with Miami or wherever he wanted. Not that it should matter here, but the Celtics tried to trade him before he left. And Pierce and Kevin Garnett also left Boston, Pierce talking Garnett into waiving his no-trade clause to facilitate a move to the Nets.

It’s not clear how Garnett, another leader in the charge against Allen, feels about welcoming him. But, presumably, he’ll take a cue from Rondo. Garnett probably won’t be the one calling Allen with the trip details, though.

The big question now: Who gives Scot Pollard the itinerary?