Three things we learned on Monday: The New York Knicks know drama

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It was a light NBA schedule with just three games, so as not to distract from Clemson’s comeback, but the Knicks never give up the spotlight easily.

1) Derrick Rose goes AWOL, Phil Jackson doesn’t talk, and the Knicks are still the Knicks.
Drama — often unnecessary drama — just follows the Knicks around. They are their own reality series, throw in a “tribal council” and some tiki torches and you’ve got a hit.

Monday night the Knicks had a chance to snap their recent slide when they took on the Pelicans, but the news became about point guard Derrick Rose — he just didn’t show up for the game. He had been at shootaround Monday afternoon, but when he didn’t show up for the game the team was left scrambling. Team executives didn’t know where he was, they were calling him but to no avail. Nobody seemed to know where he went.

After the game, Rose’s long-time teammate Joakim Noah was able to get in touch with him and find out he was okay. Rose reportedly texted other friends he was fine as well, and the organization had some level of contact with him and told the media he had a “family situation.” The good news is that Rose is safe. However, “family situation” is vague (and something the media will be careful with, NBA players are people with real lives, and not all of that needs to be public). We don’t know what happened yet, the Knicks themselves don’t seem to know.

The reality is two possible things are going on here.

One, Rose did have some kind of family crises that required his attention (and reported return to Chicago). In his haste to deal with the situation, Rose didn’t bother to contact the team. While that is a fairly big oversight — it’s not just Rose who didn’t call the team, it was those close to him as well — it is possible. Even coach Jeff Hornacek said after the game the organization didn’t have enough information to say what had happened.

Second, Rose is frustrated and quit on his team. Rumors of Rose being frustrated with his role have been making the rounds in the league for weeks. Rose has put up decent numbers this season for the Knicks (17.3 points per game) and is moving better than he has in years, but don’t confuse that with him being so good he should be a key focal point of the Knicks offense — New York is 1-12 when Rose takes 17 shots or more. This needs to be Kristaps Porzingis’ team — he is their best player now. Rose was benched in the fourth quarter against Milwaukee Friday because the undrafted Ron Baker was playing better — and the Knicks came from behind to win that game. Rose and Hornacek’s relationship is reportedly getting tense because of how Rose is being used. Did Rose just decide to walk away in frustration?

If he did just walk, Rose needs to be done in New York. You can’t just walk away. His teammates and the organization should not tolerate that — lord knows Knicks fans won’t. Those people value effort and hard work.

Most likely it will be spun as the former, regardless of reality. Rose will be back playing point guard for the Knicks soon enough. However, between this, Rose missing training camp to deal with a civil rape trial (of which Rose was found not liable), plus his play this season, the entire situation has the feeling of a one-and-done with Rose and New York (he is on a one-year contract). The Knicks don’t need the added drama.

One other thought here: Where was Phil Jackson in all of this? On almost any other team the team GM/President — who was in the building — would at least make a statement to the media about what was going on, not just throw his coach out there to deal with it (Hornacek was busy coaching a game, he had little information about what was happening). Jackson went out and got Rose and Noah this summer — a win now move, rather than a slower build for the future around Porzingis — so this is his guy. Jackson should be the one addressing the situation.

2) Also in New York, Anthony Davis put up 40 and showcased his skills, while Carmelo Anthony got tossed. Rose’s disappearing act overshadowed Anthony Davis dropping 40 and looking every bit the top-five NBA player that he is. The Pelicans won 110-96, and it wasn’t that close, thanks to Davis.

Carmelo Anthony didn’t want to stick around for this disaster and got himself ejected.

3) Russell Westbrook outduels ailing Jimmy Butler to get Thunder win. This felt like it could have been a showdown, but it ended up being more of a showcase. Jimmy Butler wasn’t feeling well, and having Andre Roberson draped all over him certainly didn’t help matters — Butler shot just 0-of-6 from the floor. Without him, the Bulls didn’t stand a chance — not with Russell Westbrook doing Russell Westbrook things. He had 21 points, 14 assists, and nine rebounds, plus shot 50 percent from the field.

However, the real difference was in the front court — the Thunder were far more athletic and talented, outworked the Bulls frontline, and that decided the game. Steven Adams’ 22 points led the Thunder in scoring, while Enes Kanter came off the bench for 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting, plus he pulled down 11 rebounds. The Thunder were +24 points in the paint, they owned the inside, and that was the biggest difference Monday night.

Three Things to Know: Rockets extend win streak to 10, Thunder… not so much

Associated Press
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Here’s a roundup of Monday night’s action you might have missed while paying for a $14,000 Uber ride.

1) Rockets fall behind in a shootout, but come back from 13 down late in the third to extend win streak to 10. This was as good a game as the Pelicans could play without Anthony Davis — they put up 103 points on 58.7 percent shooting and hitting 17 threes. DeMarcus Cousins was a beast in the paint, while Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore couldn’t seem to miss from beyond the arc. Late in the third the Pelicans were up 13, and they were up 10 at the start of the fourth.

It was not enough.

James Harden had 12 points in the fourth (and finished the game with a career-high 17 assists).

Chris Paul added 11 in the fourth, and the Rockets stormed back winning the fourth 37-20 and the game 130-123, extending their win streak to 10 games.

The Rockets are 21-4 and are outscoring teams by 11.4 points per 100 possessions this season — they are the best team in the NBA right now. CP3 and Harden mesh on offense — the Rockets are +7.8 points per 100 when they are on the court together — and Houston surprisingly has the fifth best defense in the NBA this season. None of this is a fluke. This team is playing hard right now, establishing an identity, and establishing themselves as a contender.

Can they beat a healthy Warriors team in a seven-game series? I am not going that far, I think there are things that can be exploited in a series, but we are five months away from the Rockets needing to answer that question. What Houston has shown is it is the team best suited to challenge Golden State — the Rockets can play at pace and thrive, they have multiple elite scoring playmakers (and coach Mike D’Antoni staggers them so one is almost always on the court), they have a switchable defense that can attack the Warriors wings, and they have the right mindset. GM Daryl Morey put together a team to go after the Warriors, and he did it better than anyone. They are a legit threat to the title holders, and the Rockets should only get better as the season moves along.

2) Celtics lose with Kyrie Irving out. Thunder lose because… you tell me? There were a couple of upsets Monday night in the NBA, but only one was easy to excuse.

The lowly Chicago Bulls have not been quite so lowly the past week, winning three straight games, the latest one handily against the Boston Celtics 108-85. Credit best friends Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis (*cough*) who combined for 47 points, plus the improved play of Kris Dunn lately continued as he had a dozen points. We would normally call this a terrible loss for the Celtics, and you can be sure Brad Stevens didn’t like it, but with Kyrie Irving sitting out with a left quad contusion, there is at least a good reason for the off night.

There is no good reason for the Thunder — fully healthy — to lose at home to the Charlotte Hornets 116-103. The Hornets hit 13-of-25 from three, and Dwight Howard outplayed Steven Adams all night on his way to 23 points, Kemba Walker had 19 points and 9 assists, but this is the kind of game the Thunder should win. After a Russell Westbrook highlight slam over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the game was tied 66-66, but then the Hornets went on a 22-2 run. Of late, the Thunder looked like they were turning a corner with three straight wins, but then followed it up losing 2-of-3 now and needing to go to overtime against a shorthanded Grizzlies team to get that one win. Royce Young re-tweeted himself and hit the nail on the head.

There is no one thing wrong with the Thunder, but more and more focus is turning to Carmelo Anthony. Not just his lack of defense or his shooting slump — he had 11 points Monday and is shooting 33 percent overall and 16.7 percent from three his last five games — but the roster depth OKC gave up to get him. Paul George and Russell Westbrook have a grove together (the Thunder are +4.8 per 100 when they are paired) but things slow when Anthony is added to the mix and another star sits while Anthony plays. In ‘Melo’s last five games OKC is -1.8 per 100 with Anthony on the court.

The Thunder still have time, but each day the inconsistent play and losing get more concerning. As George said after the game, “We can say we’re going to figure it out, we can say all that, but at some point it’s got to stop.”

3) Matt Barnes retires. Barnes announced Monday on Instagram that his 15-year NBA run was over.

For a lot of fans, mention Barnes and they think of the guy who tried to get in a fight with Derek Fisher. Or the New York nightclub incident with Cousins. Or the guy who was a pest on the court and seemed a magnet for technical fouls and fines from the league office. But Barnes was the kind of guy you wanted coming off the bench on your team and hated to play against — he went hard, he could shoot threes, he defended, and he brought a spark to the game. He was the kind of opponent you hate to go against.

Barnes was a second-round pick out of UCLA who played for nine teams during his career. He was the guy teams turned to for a spark off the bench — both because he could shoot the rock and because he played a fiery, emotional game. Barnes finished his career averaging 8.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Barnes won an NBA title with the Warriors last season, and he played well after Kevin Durant went down with a knee injury and Barnes was thrust into a larger role (the Warriors went on a 14-game win streak in that time).

While he had a rough exterior, off the court he was one of the more thoughtful basketball interviews out there — ask him about the game and he gave smart, calm, intelligent answers, not just clichés. He was active with charities and gave of his time and money, it wasn’t just a tax write off for him. He’ll be missed by some of us, but he’s a guy ready for life after basketball.

Rockets’ Clint Capela dunks, blocks, plays DeMarcus Cousins to standstill (VIDEO)

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Welcome to Clint Capela‘s big night.

Going toe-to-toe with DeMarcus Cousins — who has been playing at an All-NBA level this season and had 24 and 14 on Monday night — the Rockets’ athletic big played Cousins to a standstill. Capela had a career-high 28 points on 13-of-14 from the field with most of his shots being dunks (every one of this shots was at the rim), plus he had five blocks, most of Cousins.

It was the best game the Swiss national has had as a pro, who also had eight rebounds on the night. Check out his big night above.

Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis lead way, Bulls blow out Kyrie-less Celtics 108-85

Associated Press
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CHICAGO (AP) — Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis are starting to draw attention for their play together instead of their fight with each other.

Mirotic scored 24 points, Portis added a career-high 23 and the Chicago Bulls blew out Boston 108-85 on Monday night with Celtics star Kyrie Irving sidelined because of a bruised left quadriceps.

Owners of the NBA’s worst record, the Bulls (6-20) built an 18-point lead in the second quarter against the Eastern Conference leaders. And when Boston cut it to 12 in the fourth, the Bulls simply pulled away for their third straight win.

Leading the way were two players who made headlines for all the wrong reasons before the season started.

Their fight at practice left Mirotic with facial fractures, causing him to miss the first 23 games. Portis served an eight-game suspension.

But the two have played well together the past two games.

“We need to give the credit to (coach Fred Hoiberg),” Mirotic said. “Fred is the one who is making us play. He’s the guy who is calling the plays for us and putting us in the right spots to play.”

As for the fight?

“Man, that situation’s over,” Portis said. “Everybody’s talking about that. But that doesn’t matter anymore. We’re just trying to win games.”

Mirotic made his first start of the season with leading scorer Lauri Markkanen sidelined because of back spasms and shot 9 of 14 with eight rebounds. Through three games, the 6-foot-10 forward is averaging 16.3 points.

Portis shot 10 of 15 and nailed all three 3-pointers.

Al Horford scored 15 for Boston (23-6). Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier added 13 points apiece in the Celtics’ most lopsided loss of the season.

“Sometimes you get your butt kicked. It was simple as that,” coach Brad Stevens said. “Chicago dictated the whole game. They played harder than we did. They played with more presence than we did. They played more competitive than we did. They played with more authority than we did. You’re not going to win many games when you play like that.”

 

Russell Westbrook threw it down all over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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A rough night for the Thunder will not stop the Russell Westbrook highlights.

The Thunder had another poor game and fell to a Hornets. Westbrook tried to push the team back, but the Thunder defense that has kept them in games all season was not good enough against Charlotte, and the OKC offense was once again up and down.

Westbrook had 30 points on 22 shots on the night, and none of them were as impressive as this transition throwdown on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.