Associated Press

Three things we learned on Monday: Otto Porter, Wizards figuring out how to win

1 Comment

We know you didn’t keep up on all 11 NBA games Monday night because you were busy checking on a meat pie floating out in space, so we’ve got you covered with the big stories.

1) Otto Porter drops 32, Wizards win and starting to look like a playoff team. This July, you will be able to tell people who follow the NBA closely from the casual fan by how they react to what Otto Porter gets paid. Because he’s going to get PAID. Like north of $20 million a year, near the $24 million max number. People who follow the league closely know it’s coming.

Porter is having a breakout season, averaging 14.1 points per game, shooting 43.5 percent from three, and grabbing 7.1 rebounds a night. His PER has jumped to 18.1. He’s become the steady glue guy on a Wizards team where John Wall is the star and Bradley Beal is paid to get buckets.

Monday night Porter was the man keeping the Wizards close to the Bucks for three quarters — he had 26 points in the first 36 minutes of the game, and with that the Wizards hung around with a team that blew them out just before Christmas. Porter was getting most of his looks (13 touches) as a floor-spacing spot up guy, and he’s a dangerous catch-and-shoot threat from three, but he also now has the handles to spend time as a pick-and-roll ball handler (as he did eight times Monday, according to Synergy Sports). Porter was also the guy guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo most of the night and he did as good a job as could be expected (the Greek Freak finished with 22 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists). Milwaukee stretched their lead to double digits early in the fourth — the Wizards bench strikes again — but Beal had 10 of his 22 in the fourth, Wall was dishing out assists (16 for the game and was mostly driving and kicking in the fourth), Porter added another six — including a key three — and the Wizards got the 107-102 win.

That was exactly the kind of win the Wizards need if they are to make the playoffs, beating one of the teams they are chasing in the crowded third tier of the East — just three games separate Charlotte as the four seed and Orlando at 12. Washington has won 7-of-10 and at 14-16 on this season has turned around their slow start to be just half a game out of the playoffs. The Wizards are all offense right now, but the defense has picked up to average, and that has been good enough most nights.

Washington can be a playoff team if they can stay healthy and keep playing this way. And if Porter can continue to be the glue that holds the odd-fitting Wizards roster together.

2) Jeremy Lin injures hamstring again, but Randy Foye steps up and saves the day.
Jeremy Lin had played seven-of-eight games for the Nets since returning from a left hamstring injury that sidelined him for 17 games.

Which is why Nets fans (and Lin fans) got a punch to the gut when Lin left the third quarter of the Nets game against Charlotte with a left hamstring problem. Lin had driven the lane, was fouled, and landed awkwardly in the third and limped after that point. He stayed in the game for a play, but quickly took himself out of the game. There are not a lot of details yet, but expect Brooklyn to be cautious with their star point guard, not rushing him back.

Lin on the sidelines meant Randy Foye was getting run and was in on the final play of the game, with the Nets down one to Charlotte. Foye had taken and missed one shot all game, until this happened.

The Nets have scored more than 100 points in 11-of-12 games (and they scored 99 in the other) but haven’t been winning because they struggle so much on the defensive end. For one night, that didn’t matter and Brooklyn celebrated.

3) DeMarcus Cousins, Joel Embiid mutual admiration society expressed through butt slaps. It was some old school basketball down low in Sacramento Monday — DeMarcus Cousins and Joel Embiid where pushing, bodying up, and going at each other in the post. Cousins likes what he sees in the young Sixers star.

Cousins and Embiid expressed that admiration through slapping each other’s behind.

Of course, when it mattered Cousins was sinking threes.

And blocking Embiid’s attempted game winner (Embiid and the Sixers wanted a whistle on this one, they may have a point).

Bonus thing we learned, stat of the night: ESPN’s researchers with an interesting nugget pointing to LeBron James’ importance (after the Cavaliers lost with him resting Monday).

Report: Suns inform Josh Jackson he will not be part of any Kyrie Irving trade

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Cleveland Cavaliers want an elite young player back in any trade of Kyrie Irving.

The Phoenix Suns have come up as a trade partner, because of Eric Bledsoe‘s salary, fit with Cleveland if Irving is gone, and the fact he and LeBron James share an agent.

And those suns have an elite young player — Josh Jackson. Taken fourth in the last draft, Jackson showed fantastic athleticism at Summer League, disruptive defense, the ability to make plays around the rim, and while his jumper needs some work there is genuine promise.

Which is why the Suns are not going to include Jackson in any Irving trade.

If the Suns are involved in an Irving trade, it’s likely as part of a three-team deal. Bledsoe would still go out, and Phoenix might be willing to throw in young players such as Marquese Chriss or Dragan Bender, depending on what they got back.

That is the key — the return. Phoenix is rebuilding, Bledsoe is their best trade chip, and if he is going out the door, they are going to want real quality back in return. They are not in this to be a salary dump location, the Suns are going to want young players who can make a difference and picks. Most of the trade scenarios floating around in public forums use Phoenix as the dumping ground in the three- or four-team deals, just know that is not going to happen. The Suns want value for their best trade asset.

Rumor: Are these the new Cleveland Cavaliers Nike uniforms? (PHOTOS)

Getty
2 Comments

Nike will be taking over the NBA uniforms for the 2017-18 season, and now it looks like we have some leaked photos of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ new look.

A photo posted to Twitter on Tuesday showed a mannequin dressed in what appears to be Cleveland’s new wine-colored uniforms.

Nike released some information about their new uniforms recently, including the naming conventions which will be associated with certain editions of team uniforms. Those editions are called The Association, The Icon, The Athlete’s Mindset, and The Community.

The wine edition of the Cleveland uniform would fall under the category of the Icon.

Via Twitter:

Those certainly seem to go along with some of the uniforms that were released during Nikes original release. It’s also hard understand why someone would have a full dress mock up on a mannequin with the Nike logo on it, especially as it is so close to what we have seen from Nike.

Conrad over at Sports Logos has been kind enough to mock up what the Cavaliers uniforms should look like for both the icon and association additions.

Via Sports Logos:

What do you think? I am liking them so far.

Mike Muscala signs 2-year, $10 million deal to remain with Hawks

AP
Leave a comment

ATLANTA (AP) The Atlanta Hawks have re-signed power forward Mike Muscala to a two-year, $10 million deal.

The 6-foot-11 Muscala, who was an unrestricted free agent, could play a bigger role as he returns for his fifth season following the departures of Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard.

Muscala set career highs by averaging 6.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in 70 games, including three starts, last season. He scored in double figures in 20 games and ranked second on the team by making 50.4 percent of his shots from the field.

The team announced the signing Tuesday.

More AP NBA: https://www.apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

With Allen Crabbe in Brooklyn, what do the Blazers do now?

Getty
Leave a comment

Allen Crabbe is now a member of the Brooklyn Nets, this time for good.

The Portland Trail Blazers a traded Crabbe to the team that signed him to a massive four-year, $75 million restricted free agent deal in the summer of 2016. In exchange for Crabbe’s services, the Trail Blazers received Andrew Nicholson, a struggling young big man who the Blazers will reportedly waive using the stretch provision.

The move gets Portland closer to the tax line, shaving off and estimated $43 million off of their luxury tax bill. That’s the primary motivation for this trade of a young, talented 3-point shooter and it sort of begs the question: Just what are the Blazers doing?

To understand the Crabbe trade in context, you have to go back to last summer. Portland was in the hunt for several big name players, including Pau Gasol, Hassan Whiteside, and Chandler Parsons.

Portland, never a big free agent destination, missed out on all three, instead having to panic at the last second. The Nets extended a huge offer sheet to Crabbe on July 7, the same day that Portland agreed to a similarly huge contract with Evan Turner.

With their free agent targets gone, Portland had to do the next best thing: retain talent.

After signing Turner, the Blazers matched Crabbe a few days later. They also signed contracts with Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless, and extended C.J. McCollum. Between Turner, Leonard, Harkless, and McCollum the Blazers have committed $62 million to just four players in 2017-18. That’s after wiping Crabbe’s $19 million off the books.

There’s little doubt President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey has been trying to find trade suitors for Crabbe once he got past the RFA trade moratorium. Likewise, the team seems to have soured on Leonard, coming off of a shoulder injury and who told NBC Sports last season that he didn’t feel fully healthy until the end of winter.

The team was massively disappointing compared to their magical run in 2015-16. Still, there hasn’t been reason to panic in Oregon given that Olshey’s plan with this team since last summer was to swap their assets for a powerful starting lineup.

That plan began to flounder when Crabbe didn’t play up to expectations and when Leonard and Harkless didn’t show continued growth on expectations from seasons past.

Crabbe is an excellent 3-point shooter, but he is also thought of as a potentially great defender. In 2016-17 he looked lost at times on defense, especially when it came to defending top-level players or when he was in weak side situations off the ball. His value plateaued.

A post shared by CJMcCollum (@3jmccollum) on

That’s to state nothing of the rest of the team’s performance, specifically by Al-Farouq Aminu. Aminu was vastly important to Portland’s bottom-feeding defense, but he became a liability as a 3-point shooter, allowing teams to help off of the pick-and-roll involving Lillard and McCollum. Turner, never a good fit on paper, didn’t really figure out how to play with the team until he returned from injury later in the season. Rumors around Portland have been that Turner has been favored over Crabbe to remain with the team because of the ball-handling relief he could bring to Lillard and McCollum. Jusuf Nurkic came at the deadline, and was a savior for the team until he fractured his leg late in the year.

Portland’s first cause for concern came during June’s draft. Olshey, flush with three first round draft picks, a burgeoning guard in Crabbe, and several players with deflated trade value, could not find a suitable deal. Olshey had to settle, trading two of his first round picks to move up and take Gonzaga’s Zach Collins as Leonard’s replacement.

That move signaled that Portland’s assets weren’t as valuable as Olshey was hoping they would be. Part of that is due to the performance of the players involved, and part was due to the lower standing of Portland’s draft picks. There’s also something to be said about the NBA’s cap not expanding to the level teams projected, making the salaries of Turner, Crabbe, Leonard, and Harkless less palatable.

This is how we end up with a talented but flawed young player like Crabbe getting moved for a salary dump.

No doubt Olshey’s expectation when he matched — which was the right thing to do, by the way — was to use him and his picks in a future deal to return a third or fourth piece to the starting lineup for Portland. But the tone has swung, and now many are suggesting it was commendable that Olshey did not have to include a first round pick in order to offload Crabbe. That is really a head-scratching way to look at things, and a huge swing in expected value.

Portland is in a tough position given that none of their recommended moves from last year seem to have gone their way. Still, Olshey has been a good GM for the Blazers. He spun wheat into gold by trading for Robin Lopez, and grabbed Nurkic, a potential franchise building block center when he’s healthy for a non-championship caliber big man in Mason Plumlee. He locked down Aminu on a descending salary deal. He has done quite a bit.

Portland still has the ability to be a trade partner in deals including Carmelo Anthony, which could net them usable players or potential future assets. But what is getting harder to understand is how Portland is going to get any better outside of the roster they have now given salary considerations, team fit, and ceiling.

Drastic internal development or relenting on either Turner or the Lillard-McCollum backcourt pairing are likely the only two realistic ways the Blazers will be able to make a dent next year. Or perhaps fans in Portland can hope that Olshey will be able to work his magic yet again and turn one of their role players into a playoff spot.

The 2017-18 season has been weird enough as it is. Portland can head south of their competition or finagle their way to the postseason. At this point, neither would surprise me.