PBT’s Tuesday night NBA Winners/Losers: The Spurs are playing like the Spurs again

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Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while playing with a salmon cannon

source:  San Antonio Spurs. After Monday night’s win over the Clippers, Gregg Popovich called the game the best one his team had played all season. That lasted about 24 hours. The Spurs were even better on Tuesday night, playing the second night of a back-to-back on the road and not resting Tim Duncan, Tony Parker or anyone else. They took on the team that had been playing the best basketball in the league the first week or so of the season and behind 28 points and 7 assists from Tony Parker — who is the best point guard in the game again? — showed them why the standard is. And they did all this without their starting center or a couple other rotation players who are out injured. The Spurs are not yet playing like team we saw in Miami last June (a standard Popovich said he just hopes they can get back to) but they are not coming back to the pack. The Spurs are the bar to clear. Want to win a title? You have to be better than San Antonio.

source:  Dirk Nowitzki. The future Hall of Famer became the highest scoring player in NBA history born outside the USA on Tuesday, passing Hakeem Olajuwon, fittingly with a midrange jumper. Nowitzki is a 7-footer who has knocked down 1,487 career three pointers, he has an iconic fade away that is probably the most unstoppable shot the game has seen since the skyhook, and he can score in the block or fem the midrange. There have been few scorers of his quality to grace the NBA. Ever. And in a few years we’re going to miss him.

source:  Gary Neal. Charlotte had blown a 23-point lead against Portland and now had 3.5 seconds to score and send the game to overtime. They got the play they wanted — Gary Neal at the top of the key isolated with Damian Lillard on him. Neal blew right past Lillard, got in the lane and had a clean look at the game-tying shot — except he let it go a fraction of a second too late. Blazers win.

source:  Toronto Raptors. The Drakes don’t want to make things easy on themselves, DeMar DeRozan called the team “drama queens” last week for all the close games (insert your own Drake joke here). The Raptors did it again Tuesday. They fell behind Orlando early — note to teams playing the Magic: Don’t leave Channing Frye open at the arc — and after three quarters they were down 11 points. Then they started the fourth quarter on an 11-0 run. The Raptors went on to pick up a 104-101 win to improve to 7-1 on the young season. Patrick Patterson had 9 points and was +15 in the fourth, while for the game Kyle Lowry had 19 points and 7 assists.

LeBron James finishes left-handed alley-oop with head behind backboard

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We have reached the point with LeBron James and his legendary career that the incredible almost seems ordinary — he has made our jaws drop so many times it’s hard for him to clear the bar of amazing anymore.

He did Saturday night against Utah.

In transition, LeBron gave up the ball to Jeff Green, who returned the favor with an alley-oop pass. Just not a particularly good one, it was behind James.

So he reaches back with his left hand and throws it down as he ducks his head under the backboard. Then LeBron stops and stares at his left hand, like he can’t believe what he just did.

We can’t either.

Carmelo Anthony standing ovation in return to Madison Square Garden

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Knicks fans may have had their frustrations with Carmelo Anthony, but they know how much he has meant to the franchise over the years. He pushed to be a Knick and chose to stay, he carried the franchise for years.

Saturday night he returned to Madison Square Garden in an Oklahoma City Thunder uniform after a trade this summer, and he was welcomed with a retrospective video followed by a standing ovation from the crowd (you can see all of it above).

Well done Knicks fans. Well done.

Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will not travel with team for 25 days due to legal issue

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The Lakers’Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed his new team’s first two games this season due to a suspension for a DUI case in Michigan.

But that was not all. Caldwell-Pope’s came with probation, and to get out of it early the Lakers’ forward has to go through an intensive rehab program — one that does not allow him to leave California with the team for 25 days. He did not play against the Cavaliers and that is just the first of multiple games he will miss, a story broken by Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Caldwell-Pope was originally cited for operating a vehicle while intoxicated but pleaded guilty in May to the lesser charge of allowing someone to operate his vehicle while under the influence, which carried a 12-month probation.

On Thursday, Caldwell-Pope had to return to California to begin an intensive program over the next 25 days that will result in some travel restrictions and could cause him to miss additional games but will end his probation early.

The Lakers are in a home heavy part of their schedule, and by my calculations KCP would only miss one or two games (for sure against Houston Dec. 20, then maybe against Golden State Dec. 22, but that is in California). The Lakers next road game after that is Dec. 31 in Houston again.

Caldwell-Pope signed a one-year, $18 million deal with the Lakers last offseason, and he has gone on to become one of the few reliable three-point shooters on the team, hitting 36.1 percent from beyond the arc, taking 6.1 shots from there a game. He’s been solid on defense and a player the Lakers’ need, although his overall efficiency is closer to average.

If the Lakers are successful with their big game hunting during free agency next summer, Caldwell-Pope will not return to the team. In a tight free agent market, he may once again not see offers near what he sees himself worth next summer. That said, his play in Los Angeles has been good. And now he will not have this legal issue hanging over his head during free agency.

LeBron James is good with televising All-Star team selections

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From the moment the NBA announced changes to the All-Star Game team selection format for this season, most NBA fans — as well as most media members I know — have wanted a live team selection show.

As a reminder, this year (as in past years) fans will vote for their favorite All-Stars, and those votes will be combined with media and player votes to name the five starters from each conference. Then the coaches will vote to select the teams.

What’s different is the top vote-getters from each conference — let’s be honest, it will be LeBron James in the East and Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant in the West — will be named captains and they will then pick their teams from the pool of other selected players. No East vs. West. If LeBron gets to choose first and he picks James Harden, then Harden is on that team. Curry can go second and select Giannis Antetokounmpo or whoever he wants from the starters pool, then the captains move into the reserves pool. Old-school playground style team picking.

Who wouldn’t tune it to watch that selection show?

The NBA officially has not decided yet if the selection process will be broadcast, but it probably won’t be. The reason is some player is not going to like being picked last (or next to last) and his agent will like it less. It gets political (would Curry have to choose Durant or Draymond Green first to keep his teammates happy?).

LeBron basically said Saturday why not televise it? From Nick Friedell of ESPN, when LeBron was asked if it would bother him to go against teammates in the All-Star Game:

“I hope not,” James said after Saturday’s shootaround. “We’re all grown men. It doesn’t stop their paycheck from coming. It won’t stop you from playing time once the season starts.”

And is he good with the pick order being made public or done live.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” James said. “It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, if I’m rewarded to be a part of the All-Star Game again, that’s cool for me. It doesn’t matter. All that other stuff is extracurricular.”

That’s the right attitude, and whoever got picked last would say that publicly. But privately… who knows? Depends on the guy.

That selection show would be must-watch television. The NBA needs to broadcast this. But it won’t. Politics will win out.