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Three Things to Know: Andre Drummond, Pistons show start no fluke in Boston

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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.

1) East shakeout: Andre Drummond, Pistons show start no fluke in Boston; Cavaliers remind 76ers who is the power right now. There are no statement games in November. Not really. We are four-and-a-half months away from the playoffs even starting, teams will evolve and grow between now and mid-April. Any “statements” made now are long forgotten by the time the second season starts.

What we did see Wednesday was some shakeout in the East: Detroit’s start is no fluke and they proved that in Boston behind a monster game from Andre Drummond; and Cleveland reminded upstart Philadelphia who is the team to beat in the East.

Drummond has saved some big games for the Celtics in the past, but Tuesday night he looked like the best traditional center in the game (which he might just be the way he’s played this season): 26 points on 83.3 percent shooting, 22 rebounds, six assists and four steals. He was a beast, quieting the Boston faithful when he his 6-of-8 free throws, and the Celtics had no answers.

Drummond had a lot of help. Tobias Harris continued his impressive season with 31 points on 68.8 percent shooting (including 5-of-6 from three) and eight rebounds. Avery Bradley reminded the Celtics he is one of the best on-ball defenders in the game and pushed Kyrie Irving into a 6-of-16 shooting night. It was an all-around game from Detroit that said they belong in the top half of the East, and that this 13-6 start to the season is no fluke.

Down the Eastern seaboard a little in Philadelphia, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers came to town as a measuring stick for the upstart 76ers… and the Sixers were reminded they are still a young and developing team.

Ben Simmons was assigned LeBron James to start the game, and LeBron put up 15 points in his first 10-minute run of the game as he attacked aggressively from the start. Simmons was overwhelmed, and so were the Sixers as a whole. LeBron finished the night with 30 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, and he got to rest the end of the fourth because the game was out of reach.

Cleveland has won eight in a row and that has been sparked by better defensive play, something Philly saw first hand. Of course, the Sixers helped out going 0-of-11 from three in the first half (that wasn’t all Cavs’ defense). Cleveland’s bench was dominant (Dwyane Wade had 15 points, Jeff Green 14), and the Sixers’ Simmons finished the night with 10 points on 11 shots. Joel Embiid was the lone bright spot, he had a monster third quarter on his way to 30 points and 11 boards on the night.

2) Grizzlies shock NBA world, fire coach David Fizdale. There had been long-simmering tensions between coach David Fizdale and his star center Marc Gasol in Memphis, and those bubbled to the surface Sunday when Fizdale benched Gasol during the fourth quarter of an ugly loss to a shorthanded Brooklyn team — Gasol made it clear he was not at all happy watching the end of the game.

Less than 24 hours later, Fizdale was fired.

Gasol isn’t the kind of player who goes to management and says “him or me,” but Grizzlies management took the opportunity to show who it backed. The Grizzlies have lost eight in a row and are fading from the playoff picture, even in a West where a lot of teams are stumbling, and management was sending a message that they still want to win. Memphis management thinks this thing can be turned around, that they put together a playoff team (one that has been beset by injuries). From the outside, there are a lot of “do the Grizzlies trade Gasol and/or Mike Conley?” questions, looking ahead to a rebuild. Internally, this move says Memphis isn’t there yet.

Around the league there was a lot of support for Fizdale, who is well-respected by players and coaches. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Damian Lillard and others expressed surprise at the firing. Gregg Popovich said Fizdale “did a helluva job, and I don’t think he’s going to have any problem landing someplace.” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said “It’s not right. He’s done a great job, take that team to the playoffs last year and was in a dogfight with San Antonio. Did an unbelievable job, especially when no one expected them to even make the playoffs.”

Apparently, Memphis management did — and they expect to make the playoffs again. Realistic or not. Fizdale is out because the Grizzlies were losing — even though that falls more on management and the roster he was given, which was thin and can’t handle being without the injured Conley — and combine that with he didn’t have a great relationship with the team’s best player and you have a recipe for a firing. That’s happened to a lot of coaches in the NBA.

The questions about the future and what kind of team Grizzlies management is trying to build remain. Their rebuild-on-the-fly thing hasn’t impressed so far, and that wasn’t about the coach. But management has sent its statement.

3) Warriors without Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant, Kings have Bogdan Bogdanovic so they get win. Sacramento isn’t a better team than Golden State (not by a long shot), but they took Monday night’s meeting more seriously. Golden State was short handed without its two former MVPs due to injury — Curry and Durant — and that opened the door.

Bogdan Bogdanovic walked through it when, with the game on the line, he isolated against Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green and got the bucket.

There’s no big-picture takeaway from this game, but the Kings are a feisty team and the Warriors are not invincible. At least when not at full strength.

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.

Carmelo Anthony returns to face improved Knicks (but without Porzingis)

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NEW YORK (AP) — Carmelo Anthony is coming to Kristaps Porzingis‘ house.

Three months after the Knicks traded Anthony to Oklahoma City, their former All-Star is gone and quickly forgotten. Porzingis is playing nearly as well as Anthony ever did in New York and seems to enjoy unyielding support from both fans and the front office that Anthony never had.

Porzingis has something else Anthony doesn’t: a winning record.

The Knicks welcome Anthony back on Saturday, trying to extend their surprising start though perhaps without the new main man in Madison Square Garden.

Anthony said after a triple-overtime victory in Philadelphia on Friday that he expected a fun night in New York.

“I think it’ll be an appreciation. It’s not like I was there for a year or a season or two seasons. I spent a lot of time there, almost seven years there,” he said. “There was great times, there was bad times. Regardless, I always stuck with it. I always remained professional. I always came and did my job whether people liked that or not. Hopefully people recognize that.”

Unlike team management, Porzingis didn’t want his friend to leave.

But it sure looks like it was the best thing for him and the Knicks.

“Well obviously, I would love to have had him here to continue to learn from him,” Porzingis said. “But without him this year I’ve had more of an opportunity. I am featured more, which is normal.”

Porzingis is listed as questionable to play after he left the Knicks’ game in Brooklyn on Thursday in the third quarter with a sore left knee. New York held on after he left, improving to 15-13 with its third straight victory.

If Porzingis plays, count on the usual raucous ovation when he’s the final starter announced, the spot that previously belonged to Anthony.

And what of the reception for Anthony, who led the Knicks to three straight playoff appearances after arriving in 2011, led the league in scoring when they won 54 games and a division championship in 2013, and always made it clear that he loved New York and didn’t want to go?

“I don’t think he deserves to be booed, but you never know,” Knicks forward Lance Thomas said. “Regardless, he is going to bring his `A’ game and we’re going to bring ours as well.”

Former team president Phil Jackson longed to unload Anthony last season, but the Knicks weren’t sure what to expect when they finally did make a deal on the eve of training camp. He was their leading scorer and team leader, and coach Jeff Hornacek had already said Anthony would be in the starting lineup if he remained on the team.

But new president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry found a trade the next day and it’s been a good one for the Knicks. Enes Kanter is giving them 13.4 points and 10.3 rebounds a game as the starting center while providing positivity that for years rarely existed in the home locker room. Doug McDermott is bringing another 8.5 points a night off the bench.

Anthony is struggling right along with the Thunder, a top-25 scorer in NBA history potentially on his way to the worst season of his career. He went into Friday’s game averaging just 17.7 points on 40 percent shooting before scoring 24 points.

And after placing him with MVP Russell Westbrook and fellow All-Star Paul George for the NBA’s latest Big Three, the Thunder were under .500 before Friday’s victory.

“I didn’t know that to be honest,” Thomas said. “But regardless, (they) will figure it out. I am not worried about them. I am worried about the Knicks.”

There’s less reason to worry than in Anthony’s final years in New York. Jackson alternated between trying to win and trying to rebuild seemingly every season, and his insistence on running the triangle offense appeared out of touch in an era when NBA teams are pushing the pace. And his stance toward Anthony last season angered teammates who appreciated the veteran’s efforts on and off the court.

Mills and Perry took aim at the culture and signaled a desire to build behind Porzingis, whose average of 25.5 points would be even higher if not for a sprained ankle that forced him to leave one game after 2 1/2 minutes. He looks happy after he was so disillusioned by the atmosphere under Jackson that he blew off his exit meeting last spring.

And while the Knicks appear on the rise, Anthony is trying to keep the Thunder from getting down.

“For the most part what I like about it, guys are trying to figure it out,” he said earlier this week. “Guys are trying to make it work. Guys are trying to be unselfish and figure this thing out and we’re sticking with it.”