Kurt Helin

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Carmelo Anthony likes “level of appreciation” from Thunder fans

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Carmelo Anthony spent six-and-a-half years as a Knick, the focal point of a fan base that is loyal but smart and not going to give away their love and loyalty just because you wear blue and orange. You need to earn it.

Anthony certainly earned it at points but also had more than his share of flaws. Knicks fans understood that. He was not the savior of the franchise some projected.

Anthony is now in Oklahoma City, and the fawning fan response there is more to his liking, as he told Complex.

It’s just a greater level of appreciation here from an athletes’ standpoint, from a basketball standpoint. The fans are very appreciative of me coming here, of Paul coming here, and wanting to be a part of the Oklahoma City community. So from that standpoint, things are definitely going in the right direction. They’ve been every supportive of myself. On court is going to take care of itself….

It’s a small, intimate environment where the fans really get to know the players and the players get to know the fans, really embrace the fans. It’s a hand-to-hand situation out here.

Don’t make the leap to “Anthony didn’t like Knicks fans,” because that’s not what he said. They gave him a lot of appreciation in the past six years. Things are different now. There is a small-town feel to OKC that works for some players. Also, much like a college environment, they are going to support the player regardless of on-the-court issues. They want success, they see Anthony as a path to it.

Whether he is a path to it, or just a footnote on the Thunder’s trajectory, remains to be seen.

 

Raptors’ Delon Wright dislocates right shoulder, will miss time

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Delon Wright has been a key part of the Raptors bench this season, giving them a solid 20 minutes a night — they were comfortable enough with his play at the point they could let Cory Joseph go over the summer. He’s averaging 7.6 points per game and has a good true shooting percentage of 67. Wright worked hard over the past couple of seasons to get to this point.

Now the Raptors will have to get by without him for a while after dislocating a shoulder Tuesday night, getting tangled up in a rebound with DeMarcus Cousins. Wright was in obvious pain at the time and went straight to the locker room.

Write was drafted 20th back in 2015, but spent most of his first season in the D-League. He was set to get more run last season, right played sparingly as a rookie after being selected 20th overall but made an impression with Raptors 905 of the D-League that year but showed real progress. Then at the 2016 Summer League in Vegas, he dislocated that same shoulder, Write had surgery to repair a torn labrum and was out most of that season (although he looked good for the 27 games he came in at the end.

He worked hard to get back after the injury, which is why this is disappointing. Whether he will need surgery again is not known.

With Wright out, expect to see more Fred VanVleet, plus Dwane Casey may try some no point-guard lineups.

PBT Extra: Injuries already shaping playoff race in West

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The bottom half of the West playoff chase was always going to be a dogfight, with five or so teams packed in between 42-47 and a couple on the bottom of that missing the playoffs.

What was always going to shape that race? Injuries.

It has already started to happen. I delve into it in this latest PBT Extra.

Rudy Gobert is out for the Jazz as they head into the most brutal part of their schedule. Injuries to three starters are one of the factors in the Clippers dropping six in a row. Meanwhile, down in New Orleans Rajon Rondo is getting healthy, about to add a boost to a Pelican team finding it’s footing.

 

Three Things to Know: It’s Joel Embiid’s world, Lonzo Ball has to live in it

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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) Battle of the young point guards turns into career night for Joel Embiid, who dominates. Don’t make Joel Embiid angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry… unless you’re a Sixers fan. Embiid had a Twitter beef with LaVar Ball, that (as has happened to him more than once) Lonzo Ball got sucked into but tried to avoid.

There were a lot of steps in the process, but it included Embiid getting a $10,000 fine for language from the league for saying “f*** LaVar Ball” on his Instagram account after LaVar was on a Philly radio station saying the crap he always said. Before the Sixers and Lakers met for the first time, Embiid said it was “all love” and just for fun.

Then he went out and destroyed the Lakers Wednesday night — 46 points on 14-of-20 shooting, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 7 blocks. The Lakers defended him (Andrew Bogut got a lot of extra run in that role), but he was 8-of-10 on contested looks. It was a historic stat line, and they weren’t empty calories — Philadelphia was +19 in Embiid’s 34 minutes and -13 when he was on the bench. Apparently, 69 percent of Embiid is this good.

WHAT A NIGHT !!!!! #TheProcess

A post shared by Joel "The Process" Embiid (@joelembiid) on

Ben Simmons dominated the point guard battle with 19 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. The Lakers matched their own star rookie on Simmons — Kyle Kuzma. Who did you think we were talking about? Kuzma had a career-best 24 points, and Brandon Ingram had 26. They kept the Lakers in it.

Lonzo Ball had 2 points on 1-of-9 shooting, with 2 assists and 5 rebounds. It’s been a rough week for the Ball family, on and off the court. Maybe that quiets LaVar for a while… Nah, that’s just the dream, it won’t happen.

This was a game won inside the arc as the teams combined to shoot 10-of-52 from three, and that included an uncharacteristic 0-of-8 from deep for J.J. Redick.

The Sixers looked like a playoff team and the kind of team on the rise the Lakers still aspire to be. Mostly though, consider this a reminder that Joel Embiid can be a dominant force, and it turns out he plays well angry and motivated.

2) Sixers also about to make Robert Covington quite wealthy. When the Philadelphia brass talks about their young core, they talk Simmons and Embiid and the injured No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz, but they also always mention Robert Covington. When Sam Hinkie was just rotating cheap contract young players through the end of the bench (rather than putting a solid veteran or two on the roster), he was panning for gold. The Sixers found something in Covington as “3&D” specialist, who at age 26 is just entering his prime.

Now they are going to pay him a lot of gold. The Sixers and Covington are about to agree to a renegotiation and extension that will pay him about $62 million over this season and the next four. While the details are not yet known, the 76ers can bump his salary up to $16.7 million for this season (using existing cap space), then extend him off of that. Which sounds like the plan (if you want the salary details, our own Dan Feldman has them here).

Good for Covington, and smart of the Sixers to lock up another quality player, they still have cap space and flexibility going forward.

3) We spent much of Wednesday looking forward to Thursday in the NBA. Thursday night is going to be must-watch television for the NBA.

The first TNT game is the Golden State Warriors going into Boston for a showdown of the top teams in each conference right now. Call this a potential Finals preview if you want, although LeBron James will have his say about that. The Celtics have won 13 in a row and have the best defense in the NBA. The Warriors have won seven in a row, all by double-digits, and the best offense in the league, and have looked like their dominating selves again. Consider this a measuring stick game for the Celtics — we know what the Warriors are and what they will be come the playoffs, but the Celtics are still figuring that out about themselves. Boston as beaten Toronto and Milwaukee and San Antonio during its streak, but Golden State is something else entirely. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have looked great, but going against Kevin Durant and Draymond Green is a different level of challenge. The crowd in Boston will be pumped, but will one of the Warriors’ patented third quarter runs turn this game into another comfortable win for the champs?

The late TNT game doesn’t look like much, the Rockets should handle the Suns easily despite Devin Booker putting up good numbers, but it became far more interesting with the news Wednesday that Chris Paul will return to the Rockets lineup for the game. CP3 will start next to James Harden and play about 20 minutes, coming off resting a sore knee. We haven’t seen Paul since a rough opening night of the season when he didn’t look himself, now we can see where he stands and how he starts to mesh with Harden.

PBT Extra Player of the Week: Paul George

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Oklahoma City had lost four games in a row, were not playing as a unit offensively but as individuals, and they were getting frustrated. So they called the dreaded “team meeting,” which is essentially the Festivus Airing of Grievances in sports form.

One thing to come out of that meeting — Paul George went off.

He dropped 42 on the Clippers, then turned around and had 37 against the Mavericks, and he was a combined +47 in those two games. George seemed to spend the first weeks of the season trying to fit in and not rock the boat, then came out of that meeting ready to be aggressive. Finally.

Those were two wins for the Thunder, although playing two weak teams (the Clippers have dropped six in a row) has helped. We’ll see if the Thunder and George can sustain it.