Kurt Helin

Watch James Harden drop 43 on Sacramento

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The Sacramento Kings are not nearly the same team without DeMarcus Cousins (sore Achilles). The Rockets were heavy favorites to win Friday night’s matchup between these teams and even their record on the young season (3-3).

James Harden took full advantage and had a monster night — 43 points on 23 shots, plus he dished out 13 assists. He looked like the Harden of last season again.

The Rockets got the win 116-110. Cousins is expected to return and try to get the Kings back on track Monday.

Kobe Bryant: “I’m a Laker for life”

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One of the popular “Kobe Bryant leaves the Lakers” theories out there is that next summer Kobe will sign with the New York Knicks to reunite with Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher for a triangle offense reunion tour. Because Kobe is going to leave a struggling, rebuilding team on one coast for a struggling, rebuilding team on another coast. Whatever, that’s one of the theories out there.

Kobe and the Lakers were in Brooklyn picking up their first win of the season Friday night when he was asked about Jackson’s previous comments Kobe would play beyond this season, and he took the chance once again to shoot down the idea he would leave the Lakers, as reported by Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

“I’ve said it so many times. I’m here, I’m a Laker for life,” Bryant said Friday night after his team’s 104-98 win over the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. “I’m not playing anywhere else, no matter what. It’s just not going to happen. I bleed purple and gold, and that’s just how it’s going to be.”

I don’t know if Kobe is going to retire after this season or come back for another tour of duty, but I believe him when he says he wouldn’t leave the Lakers. It’s simply about branding — part of Kobe’s brand is being one of the greatest Lakers of all time. Kobe learned from the Michael Jordan Wizards years; he doesn’t want to repeat that.

This was also Kobe trying to cut off this discussion — and the Knicks talk — before the Lakers head to Madison Square Garden for a game Sunday.

So far this season Kobe is averaging 16.2 points per game but is shooting just 32.1 percent doing it. He doesn’t have the same elevation when he shoots, he’s not getting the same separation from defenders — which is to be expected for a 37-year-old coming off knee and Achilles surgeries. Kobe just hasn’t adjusted his game to those new realities, and he’s been frustrated. All of which has me still in the camp that he retires at the end of this season, but Kobe doesn’t even know yet what he is going to do come April when the Lakers’ season ends, so all the rest of us can do is just speculate.

Warriors stay unbeaten behind another big night from Curry

Stephen Curry
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry led the way once more with 34 points and 10 assists, his supporting cast did plenty to take the pressure off, and the defending champion Golden State Warriors beat the Denver Nuggets 119-104 on Friday night to stay unbeaten.

Harrison Barnes scored 21 points for Golden State and Festus Ezeli had a career-high 16 points to go with seven rebounds and two blocked shots.

At 6-0, Golden State is off to the franchise’s best start in its West Coast era dating to 1962-63. The Warriors are three victories from tying the Philadelphia team’s 9-0 start in 1960-61.

Klay Thompson added 18 points, six rebounds and five assists and Draymond Green added 12 points, nine rebounds and eight assists as Golden State extended its franchise-record home unbeaten streak to 22 games.

Danilo Gallinari led Denver with 25 points, nine on free throws in the Nuggets’ third straight loss at Golden State and sixth in nine games.

Jameer Nelson‘s jumper with 3:44 left pulled Denver within 10 points after the Warriors had led by as many as 32.

Ezeli, filling in for the injured Andrew Bogut, dunked on two straight second-quarter possessions with a blocked shot in between and the Warriors’ 28 first-half assists were a franchise record for any half.

This team has been tested just once so far, in Wednesday’s 112-108 win against the Clippers – and certainly looks like a group poised for another special season even if this one’s not even two weeks old.

NBA MVP Curry has 30 points in five of his first six games, the first Warriors player to do so since Hall of Famer Rick Barry in 1974-75. Hall of Famer Chris Mullin was the last player with 25 in each of the season’s first six games (1990-91).

Curry made a 3-pointer in his 79th straight game, matching Michael Adams for the third-longest streak in NBA history.

Curry knocked down 8 of 15 3-pointers for Golden State, which had opened defense of its title with five straight games against Western Conference playoff teams from last season.

Denver beat Golden State at Oracle Arena 114-103 in the preseason on Oct. 13, but the Nuggets lost their fourth in five under former Warriors assistant and first-year coach Michael Malone.

LETDOWNS

Interim coach Luke Walton figures it won’t always be going quite this smoothly for the reigning champs.

Golden State showed that in the second half.

“It’s just natural to have a letdown, and I’m sure at some point throughout this long season we’ll have one,” Walton said. “It’s up to the staff to help prepare the guys for everything and it’s up to the players to want it just as bad as they did last year. From my view, they do right now. They talk about it all the time, they want more championships. They’re not happy with just the one that we have.”

 

 

Clippers unveil new “Downtown” black uniforms for Saturday nights

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Is it an NBA rule now that teams must have a black version of their regular uniforms? Seems that way.

The Clippers unveiled a new black alternate uniform on Friday, something they will wear for the first time Saturday night when they host the Houston Rockets. They will wear them for five other Saturday night home games this season as part of a downtown Saturday night promotion.

Do I like them? They’re good as alternates go. The problem isn’t the black so much as the new Clipper logo is still on them — that’s the weak link in any Clipper uniform now. The color scheme is fine, even if the look is a bit basic.

Here’re a couple other looks at it, decide for yourself.

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Rumor: Slow start may have Grizzlies’ coach Dave Joerger on hot seat

Dave Joerger
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Dave Joerger can coach. In his two seasons since taking over for Lionel Hollins, his Memphis Grizzlies have won 50 and 55 games, and last season reached the second round of the playoffs (and were up 2-1 on the eventual champion Warriors before falling). That’s impressive by any reasonable standard.

So he may be on the hot seat after six games. Welcome to life as an NBA coach.

The Grizzlies are 3-3 this young season and while their three losses are to quality teams (Golden State, Cleveland, and Portland) the fact that Memphis was blown out in a couple of those and struggled on national television Thursday had the NBA rumor mill churning. According to Marc Stein of ESPN, Joerger’s seat may be getting warm:

A mere 11 days into the season, I fear we’re forced to keep our eye on the Memphis Grizzlies and the status of coach Dave Joerger….

Yet it’s the manner of the three defeats, sources say, that has led to fears within the organization that owner Robert Pera won’t wait long to make a drastic change. The Grizzlies lost their home opener to the Cavs by 30, got blitzed soon thereafter by Cleveland’s conquerors in the NBA Finals by an unfathomable 50, then fell behind by 26 points in the Pacific Northwest before settling for a 19-point defeat to the Blazers.

To put it another way: Memphis has already trailed by 20 points or more for 62 minutes this season … compared to 88 minutes for the whole of 2014-15.

Joerger has said his team looks old, which they have. And they are. Point guard Mike Conley (who is a free agent next summer) said the team is not on the same page defensively. That’s not the kind of thing you want to hear, especially this early in the season.

While the rest of the NBA is going small, playing fast, and spacing the floor with shooting, the Grizzlies have gone against the grain and stayed big. They havejust-resigned Marc Gasol and  Zach Randolph inside, they want to play slow, defend, and grind teams down. That has worked the past couple seasons, and there is no reason it couldn’t continue to work — but the Grizzlies have to execute that at a high level.

Gasol is shooting 41.2 percent this season, down from 49.4 percent last season. As a team Memphis is shooting 26.9 percent from three this season, down from 33 percent last season (and that was already a weakness). Defensively they are giving up almost eight more points per 100 possessions. They look old. They look like the game has passed them by a little

That said, with the roster handed him it’s not like Joerger can change styles — they have quality big men and a lack of shooting. It’s predictable, but you can’t shove square pegs into round holes.

The Grizzlies are playing poorly right now, however, how much of that is on Joerger is up for debate. Not that it matters — if an owner is impatient it is usually the coach who gets the walking papers. And that buzz has already started that this coach is in trouble.