Dan Feldman

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

James Harden scores 51, but Chris Paul leaves Rockets’ loss to Lakers with leg injury

Leave a comment

The Rockets have ridden a simple plan to victory:

  • Excel when James Harden and Chris Paul play together
  • Play even better when Harden plays without Paul
  • Absolutely dominate when Paul plays without Harden

But, in a 122-116 loss to the Lakers tonight that snapped a 14-game win streak, Houston lost a key component of all-star-guard-all-the-time rotation.

Rockets broadcaster Craig Ackerman:

Paul missed 14 games earlier this season with a left-knee injury. It’s unclear whether this injury is to the same area of his leg.

Harden can carry the Rockets for a while if necessary, as he did earlier in the season. He scored 51 points tonight. (Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma scored 38.)

But Houston is a title contender because of the Harden-Paul pairing. We’ll learn more about Paul’s status, but the stakes are high.

Danilo Gallinari out rest of calendar year

Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images
2 Comments

Danilo Gallinari missed significant time this offseason after injuring his thumb while punching an opponent during an Italy game. Then, he missed 13 games with a glute injury. Now, another glute injury has sidelined him for five games – and counting.

Clippers release:

L.A. Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari will be held out of further game action while recovering from an injury of his gluteus maximus. Gallinari suffered a contusion to the left glute muscle, and subsequent imaging revealed a partial tear. Gallinari and the Clippers’ medical team will continue the rehabilitation process and intend to re-evaluate the injury in January.

Ouch.

This will sideline Gallinari at least another six games. With Blake Griffin and Patrick Beverley injured, the Clippers (11-18) don’t have much margin for error. This probably nudges them closer to trading DeAndre Jordan.

Bucks coach Jason Kidd has some really bad ideas about protecting late leads

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Remember when Jason Kidd appeared to be in completely over his head as coach of the Nets?

Kidd, now coaching the Bucks, has come a long way since.

But not too far.

With the Bucks up three and 1.4 seconds left in their win over the Cavaliers last night, Kidd ordered Khris Middleton to intentionally miss a free throw.

Kidd, via Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“We talked about it as he walked to the free throw line,” Kidd said. “My first response was to miss the second one. We’ll take the bet of someone making it from the other side of the floor. … If we did make that free throw, our luck they get it in-bounds at half-court and we foul the 3-point shooter and it’s a four-point play. We’ll take our chances with them heaving a full-court shot.”

LeBron James grabbed a rebound and came incredibly close given the circumstances – which still isn’t close at all – to making a game-tying full-court shot.

Allowing Cleveland that opportunity was a preventable error. Middleton making the free throw would have clinched the game. If he could tell Middleton to miss, why couldn’t Kidd tell his players not to foul under any circumstance? Absent a four-point play – which would have been practically impossible if the Bucks decided to avoid fouling – the Cavs had no path to victory. Kidd allowed one.

It’s not the first time Kidd implemented a silly strategy while protecting a late lead.

Up four against the Pistons, who had the ball with 9.6 seconds left, Milwaukee intentionally fouled a couple weeks ago.

Kidd, via Velazquez:

“They’re trying to play the game of quick twos to save their timeouts, so we’ll just play the free-throw game with them,” Kidd said. “I believe that my guys will make the free throws. They miss one and it works. It’s a free-throw game no matter what, but we wanted to send them to the line and it worked out.”

Intentionally fouling up four might be logical in the right circumstances. Trying to prevent a quick two absolutely isn’t sound reasoning. Kidd saw the Pistons trying to get a quick two and gave them a good chance at an even quicker two points via free throws.

The Bucks fouled Reggie Jackson, a career 86% free-throw shooter. He’s prone to fatigue late in games, so maybe that mark doesn’t represent his true odds on those specific attempts. But the risk that comes with extending the game, especially with more inbound passes, always dangerous, doesn’t come close to offsetting that.

The Bucks won both games, but teams up three with 1.4 seconds left and up four with 9.6 seconds almost always win anyway. If Kidd keeps whiffing on these strategic decisions, though, Milwaukee will blow more than its fair share of these leads.

This should also raise questions about just what else Kidd doesn’t understand.

Watch Isaiah Thomas react to learning of Kyrie Irving trade (video)

8 Comments

Isaiah Thomas is clearly still bitter about the Celtics trading him to the Cavaliers.

Just as he was returning from celebrating his wedding anniversary in Miami, Thomas received a call from Celtics president Danny Ainge last August informing him of the Kyrie Irving trade. The Players Tribune has video of Thomas shortly after that call.

Thomas:

That’s crazy.

What are you talking about? My kids about to start school. Off the strength. After everything I went through, n—. You’re not supposed to do that. But it’s – I mean, if that’s what he wants. Danny’s like that. But, I mean, I’m not tripping. It’s just crazy that they would do that. Like, I’m not mad like, “N—, you…” I’d be mad if I went to a weak-ass team.

We going to win the Finals, anyway. That’s what’s crazy. But it’s just like, damn, after all I do for – the city going to be mad as f—.

Nobody knows. For him to call me – he didn’t tell nobody. I was cool in Boston. I knew my way around.

I need to go unpack all this s—. Then, I’ll feel a little better.

Thomas’ prior public comments since the trade had been softened by time to process it. This video is illuminating and raw.

Watch how he explains the trade to his family, including his sons. This is The Players Tribune at its best, providing access unavailable elsewhere.

Jimmy Butler on Nikola Jokic busting his lip in Olympics: ‘I still owe him’

Elsa/Getty Images
1 Comment

Jimmy Butler got a bloody lip from Nikola Jokic in Team USA’s gold-medal-game win over Serbia in 2016.

Butler at the time, via Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune:

“Messed my swag up. Now I can’t take no photos, and the honeys are not gonna look at my pictures.”

Butler now, via Jerry Zgoda of the StarTribune:

“I still owe him,” Butler said. “He busted my lip in the Olympics, so don’t think I’ve forgotten about that. He did, on a screen. He caught me with one of those chicken wings. It’s OK. I don’t forget, though.”

Butler’s Timberwolves face Jokic’s Nuggets tonight.

I think Butler is mostly kidding about avenging the bloody lip. But Butler is so competitive, I don’t know.

It’s worth keeping a closer eye on every screen involving Butler and Jokic, just in case.