Kurt Helin

Look back at 10 best dunks of last week. Because who doesn’t like dunks.

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This is the week a lot of casual fans start to flip on NBA games — usually on Sunday, on their new 55-inch, 4K, smart TV — but to do that is to have missed a lot of great plays and games already.

Like the top 10 dunks of last week.

Stick around for No. 1, because Larry Nance Jr. may have the Dunk of the year with that one.

Knicks to get Derrick Rose back Tuesday. They could use him.

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It’s a lot of fun to watch Brandon Jennings come in with the Knicks second unit and just get out and run. The tempo changes, the flow of the game changes, and the Knicks are far more entertaining.

They’re just not better. Jennings is not terribly efficient, and neither is the Knicks bench. Derrick Rose has had his best season in a while — averaging 16.4 points per game, he was moving better laterally and was quicker than we have seen since the knee injuries began — and with that the Knicks have been 7.5 points per 100 possessions better when Rose is on the court.

But back spasms had sidelined Rose the last three games — all Knicks losses. Put Jennings in with the starters and they have been 5.7 per 100 possessions worse as a lineup. So it’s good news for New York that Rose should return Tuesday, via Ian Begley of ESPN.

“That’s the plan,” (Rose) said after participating in a full practice on Monday. “I just want to put all these injuries behind me and get on with the season….

“I think it’s just a one-shot thing,” he said. “Before I fell I wasn’t worried about it. Things like this are going to happen. It comes with the season — bumps and falls. I just got to find a way around it. I can’t let it get to me mentally.”

The Knicks host the Pacers on Tuesday, and on Sunday will host the Celtics in the tip-off of the Christmas Day games.

New York cannot afford a prolonged slump, they are currently the six seed in the East but are just a game ahead of nine-seed Detroit. Only two games separate the four seed and the 11 seed in the Eastern Conference right now, no team can afford to be off their game for long.

Report: Rockets’ Clint Capela will miss time with fractured fibula

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The Houston Rockets have won 10 games in a row, and in that stretch of time a Mike D’Antoni team has been the second best defense in the NBA. Seriously. On the season the Rockets have risen to 14th in the league in defense — ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Big man Clint Capela has been a big part of the Rockets’ success — he’s an improving rim protector — but it looks like the team will be without him for a while. A report out of L’Equipe, the very respected French sports publication (remember, Capela is Swiss and has connections to France), says the Rockets’ center has a fractured fibula and will be out for several weeks at least while that heals.

From Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle:

In the Rockets’ 111-109 win over the Timberwolves on Dec. 17, Capela left the game early in the second half after banging knees with Karl-Anthony Towns.

Coach Mike D’Antoni said on Monday that Capela will miss Tuesday’s game against the Spurs and was getting an MRI. The Rockets have not released any information about the results.

Most likely the delay in the team making it official is a second MRI or test. It will come.

Capela is averaging 11.8 points and 8 rebounds a game. Expect to see more Nene Hilario and Montrezl Harrell at the five. Also, this is D’Antoni we’re talking about, so expect him to experiment with smaller lineups that have more shooting (Ryan Anderson at the five anyone?).

Sixers GM on Nerlens Noel rumors: “I will not make a bad deal for this organization”

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Nerlens Noel wants to play and isn’t happy when he gets eight minutes run in a game, let alone when he is a DNP—CD, as happened Sunday.

Coach Brett Brown said he wants to take a long look at how Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor fit together (it’s been ugly so far), so Noel isn’t going to see the court for a while. And Brown doesn’t feel bad about it.

Of course, Noel trade rumors are swirling — he wants out, but other teams watch his body language, look at his injury history, and the offers are not exactly impressive. Noel’s recent comments about his playing time certainly didn’t help. If things stay this way, there is not going to be a deal, Sixers GM Bryan Colangelo said Monday, via Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I will not make a bad deal for this organization,” pointing out this is the first time the Sixers have had all centers healthy for evaluation on the court.

“I can understand where he’s frustrated that he comes back and faces the same situation that he faced at the beginning of training camp,” Colangelo said of Noel. “But I don’t think at any point we’ve been in a position as an organization to actively pursue a trade of any of the centers given the fact that there was so much uncertainty with respect to their health and their availability.”

Riiiight. I’m not in a position to date Margot Robbie, he is in a position to make a deal. Colangelo as been in position since last summer, when he talked about balancing out the roster. Everyone knows he wants to make a deal, which adds a lot of pressure to make a good one. If there were an offer he thought decent on the table, Colangelo would pull the trigger. There just hasn’t been. And as a GM, it’s Colangelo’s job to try to downplay his desire to make a deal, hence the comment above. Even though he knows Noel is a restricted free agent next summer and if the Sixers don’t trade him by the February deadline then some team will try to poach the young center next July.

Colangelo is not wrong that, so long as they have Noel on the roster, they should keep experimenting with big man lineups to find what works. We saw last year Okafor and Noel didn’t work, and so far in 58 minutes together Okafor and Embiid have been outscored by 11.9 points per 100 possessions, mostly because the defense is a disaster when they are paired (small sample size theater here, but it doesn’t look good).

Colangelo said they will try Noel in some lineups soon enough.

“This is not a benching. This is just a moment of realization that we’ve got a lot of talent on this team and not everybody can play. At some point, you will see him out on the court. When that is, again, it doesn’t need to be black and white with respect to timing or number of games.”

It’s official: Blake Griffin out 3-6 weeks for knee surgery

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Every year we seem to predict the slide of the Clippers when Blake Griffin goes out injured. Then the team plays well while Griffin is in a suit thanks to a heavy dose of Chris Paul/DeAndre Jordan pick-and-roll. Then people start asking “would the Clippers be better off without Griffin?” Then everyone who understands how basketball works shakes their head.

Let the cycle begin anew.

Monday the Clippers made official what was reported on Sunday: Griffin is going to miss some time for a clean-up knee surgery.

Griffin had been playing the best basketball of his career to start the season, particularly on the defensive end. He hasn’t been quite the same in recent weeks. Griffin still puts up numbers — 21 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game — and is at the heart of the second-most used five-man lineup in the NBA, the Clippers starting five. That group is outscoring opponents by 16.2 points per 100 possessions but when the Clippers go to the bench things get shakier. Now Rivers will need to rely on the bench.

This also could cost Griffin a lot of money. Griffin can — and will — use his early termination option this summer and become a free agent. The way Griffin played at the start of the season, he would have been in the crowded mix at forward for the All-NBA team. If he makes the team this season, the Clippers can offer him the “designated player” extension in the new CBA — 35 percent of the salary cap, meaning a five-year, $207 million contract. Except now with this injury, it becomes considerably less likely Griffin makes the All-NBA team. To qualify to be a designated player, someone must make the All-NBA team that season, or have made it the two prior seasons — Griffin didn’t make it last year, again due to injury. He would not qualify for the extension (the Clippers can still offer five years, but starting at just more than $30 million, not north of $35 million).

Expect the Clippers to start Austin Rivers at the three and slide Luc Mbah a Moute to the four. Also expect to see some Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass, and Alan Anderson.