Joel Embiid isn’t keeping quiet this season. He has already said nobody can guard him and — after getting to the free throw line 22 times in 15 minutes last game — said, “I’m going to live at the foul line.”
So when he right went at Miami’s Hassan Whiteside to start Friday night’s exhibition game, we shouldn’t be shocked at the result.
I love Whiteside’s shaking his head reaction to this, looking like “you realize it’s the first quarter of a preseason game, right?”
Embiid finished with 5 points on 1-of-7 shooting, with seven boards in 15 minutes. So Whiteside may have a point. But it is going to be so much fun to follow Embiid this season, he can have an off night and nobody will care.
You don’t get to be an NBA player without some level of ego — there has to be a little “me first” in there push players to drive players to excel at their craft and excel at their craft on the level needed in the NBA.
So when you’re a starter on a team that goes to the NBA Finals, and that job is taken away from you, yes you should be a little ticked.
That’s what happened to J.R. Smith in Cleveland, but up until Friday he had only said he was “frustrated” but understood the decision. Friday on a new episode of the Road Trippin’ podcast with Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson (RIP) Smith admitted it was more than just frustration, via Dave McMenamin at ESPN.
“Honestly, I was hurt, man,” Smith said on the podcast, which posted Friday. “I was really emotionally drained at that point. I got wind of it that it was going to go down, but I didn’t know. I was told he’s going to be great for the second unit. … It would be a great fit for the team, whatever, whatever. I’m like, ‘Awesome, let’s do it. One hundred percent. Out of all people, another person we’re going to just grab for damn-near nothing? For sure. Let’s do it.'”
Don’t be shocked if Smith ends back up in the starting lineup again. Wade is too big a name, and there is too much pressure for him to instantly accept a bench role (especially since his best buddy is LeBron James). In theory, Kevin Love and Jae Crowder starting at the four and five provide the spacing needed for LeBron to make magic on offense. But what about the other end of the court? Starting Derrick Rose, Wade, and Love does not seem like something bound to get stops.
Smith as a starter provides more defense, floor-spacing shooting, and is someone LeBron is comfortable with. Wade with the second unit makes sense, he can be the shot creator and have the ball in his hands. But the Cavaliers need to find the mentally to make that happen. Maybe it evolves over the course of the season, but for now nothing changes. Wade starts.
Smith will be the good soldier. No matter what he’s really thinking
Last season at the trade deadline, the New Orleans Pelicans stole DeMarcus Cousins at the deadline. It was a deal they had to make.
But will it work? Can Anthony Davis and Cousins — with Jrue Holiday at the point — turn the Pelicans into a playoff team?
I don’t think so, and when it goes sideways I expect the Pelicans to trade Cousins at the trade deadline. Again. The Pelicans are not going to get anything of actual value for him, but they will decide something is better than nothing. Cousins will be on the move again, then be a free agent next summer.
If this disaster scenario comes to pass, expect to see a housecleaning on the basketball side in New Orleans.
This is concerning.
San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, who missed the preseason with a quadriceps injury that lingered from last season, will see that injury extends into the regular season — he is out for the season opener and maybe more, reports Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio News-Express.
All-Star small forward Kawhi Leonard is not expected to play in Wednesday’s season opener against Minnesota at the AT&T Center, coach Gregg Popovich said Friday.
“He won’t be available,” Popovich said before the Spurs’ preseason finale against Houston.
How long will he be out?
“I don’t gauge it,” Popovich said. “He’s still rehabbing and when he’s ready, he’ll be ready. I try not to qualify it.”
Well, that’s not reassuring.
Last season Leonard averaged 25.5 points per game, however, he really made his MVP case as the best defender of anyone in the mix for the award. He is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year who is the focal point of the Spurs offense.
We saw what they looked like without him in the Western Conference Finals last season, and it wasn’t pretty. If this injury extends very far into the regular season things get relatively bleak for the Spurs.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have a loaded roster with more guaranteed contracts than available roster spots, and a healthy tax bill coming. Looks like they have found a trade to help with those problems.
Veteran Richard Jefferson and young point guard Kay Felder are close to being traded to Atlanta with some second round picks in a salary dump that only brings back European draft rights players, something first reported by Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports and since confirmed by multiple sources, with Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN filling in key details.
The Cavaliers get out of having to pay a guaranteed player not to play (Jefferson was owed $2.5 million), which saves them both money and tax. I wonder how LeBron James takes this, he and Jefferson are tight.
The Hawks will eat the salaries and plan to waive both Jefferson (owed $2.5 million) and Felder ($455,000 guaranteed). They both become free agents. The real key here for the Hawks is they get a couple of second round picks for the trouble of taking on the salaries. The cash doesn’t hurt either.
Basically, this is end of the roster bit of player shuffling.
However, there is one important impact — this may be the end of the brilliant Road Trippin’ podcast. Jefferson and Channing Frye‘s podcast has been insightful, funny, and a must-listen. Not sure how it continues now, but I hope they find a way.