Kurt Helin

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Toronto’s Pascal Siakam with as fierce a blocked shot as you will see

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It’s a common line on a big block: “He sent that into the fourth row.” It’s a colorful bit of hyperbole.

Toronto’s Pascal Siakam literally sent Philadephia’s Gerald Henderson‘s shot into the fifth row (by my count on the video). That is a vicious rejection by the rookie.

With no Joel Embiid in the game tonight (rest on a back-to-back, glad someone picked up the slack and got us some blocks. Toronto led by 11 at the half.

Isaiah Thomas is getting texted by Allen Iverson — and he is pumped

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Newly minted Hall of Famer Allen Iverson is the patron saint of undersized NBA players.

Boston’s All-Star Isaiah Thomas is the current leader of that movement. In Toronto last All-Star weekend, Iverson sought out Thomas at an NBA event and talked to him, saying he liked his game, according to Chris Forsberg of ESPN. They have stayed in touch, up through Thomas’ effort to spur a Boston comeback against Minnesota last week and get the win. Which led AI to reach out again.

Thomas told ESPN the entire conversation went more like this:

“It was real early in the morning that he texted, like 8:30, so he must have been watching highlights [of the Minnesota game] or something,” Thomas said, unable to muffle a smile. “I told him, ‘I appreciate it and that I’m just trying to be like you.’ He was like, ‘Say no more.’ Those texts man, it just motivates me to keep going. Someone like that is watching me without me even reaching out to him, so I guess I’m doing something right.”

Thomas is averaging 26 points a game this season, he is doing something right. He’ll also have a lot more space to operate and do more things with Al Horford back in the lineup.

Report: Despite slow start, don’t expect Wizards to make move

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If you’re going to list the most disappointing teams to start the season, the Washington Wizards would be at the top of the list. A team with playoff aspirations, the Wizards are 5-10, they have a pedestrian offense and bottom 10 defense to this point, John Wall and Bradley Beal have been good but not great when paired (+3.1 per 100 possessions, via NBA.com), the bench has been a mess, they’ve had a few injuries (what team hasn’t?), and we could go on but you get the idea.

Is it time to think major changes in our nation’s capital — and not just at the White House?

Don’t bet on it. From J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com, via the insider’s report at CSNNE.com.

The chances that the Wizards make a roster move now? Despite a sub-.500 record, that still remains very unlikely.

League sources told CSNmidatlantic.com that the Wizards had discussions about Archie Goodwin, released by the New Orleans Pelicans, but that didn’t go anywhere…

The defensive effort has gotten better and with Ian Mahinmi back to help bolster the second unit, team president Ernie Grunfeld doesn’t seem likely to make a decision this early. Giving up on rookies such as Danuel House, Sheldon McClellan and Daniel Ochefu, all three on non-guarantees that are a minimal hit on the salary cap, to clear a roster spot wouldn’t make sense at this stage either.

The Wizards are about a year away from being in the Sacramento Kings’ shoes, where their star may be looking to bolt and they have a decision to make. John Wall has two seasons left on his contract after this one, and Bradley Beal just re-signed this summer. They have time to put other pieces around those two and see of Scott Brooks can work his magic.

If the Wizards don’t make the playoffs this season, then start next season slowly again, the conversation starts to take on some urgency. But don’t expect a bold move at the trade deadline.

If the Wizards don’t make the playoffs, the pressure — and maybe ax — will fall not on Brooks but on Grunfeld.

Mark Cuban says despite rough start to season Mavericks not tanking

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On the bright side, Dallas moved out of the bottom slot in our NBA Power Rankings — they are now 29th. But the Mavs are still 3-13 — the worst record in the NBA — and Dirk Nowitzki still isn’t healthy. Their offense is a mess, despite the fact Harrison Barnes is playing well and Rick Carlisle is a genius, they just don’t have the pieces.

Is it time for the Mavericks to tank ahead of what is projected by many to be an excellent draft?

Not if you ask owner Mark Cuban. He spoke before a recent game, as reported by Tim Cato of SB Nation’s Mavs Moneyball:

“We’ll play it by ear. The one thing you don’t do is panic,” Cuban said. “If we just can’t get healthy, that will tell us one thing. If we can, and we’re just not any good, that will tell us another thing. If we can, and we start rolling along, and we think we can get a lot better, then that tells us what we do there. The crazy thing you don’t do is panic….

“We’re still trying to win,” Cuban said. “You see teams out there, and they’re doing everything possible to lose in the fourth quarter. I don’t think that’s good for the players, good for the team, good for the culture. I just don’t like that. You never say never if it came down to it, but I just don’t see that helping any of our young guys at all.”

He’s also not as high on this draft as some others, “I don’t see any Shaq’s or LeBron’s or Tim Duncan’s in this draft.” Well, that’s a crazy high standard, those kinds of guys are rare period. Most of the guys named near the top of this draft class now — Markelle Fultz, Dennis Smith, Lonzo Ball, Malik Monk — are guards, which fits the way the league is trending, but they are not the kind large of athletic freaks that Cuban listed (or that other GMs have at the top of their lists to build around, like Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns). But it’s far too early for draft talk here.

Cuban also said in another recent interview he’s not worried about trying to tank because if his team isn’t good, the bad record will just come naturally. He’s not going to force it, but the Mavs may end up with a high draft pick anyway.

Dwight Howard confronted Lakers fan who called him a “b****”

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Laker fans are not completely past the disastrous season of 2012-13 — Dwight Howard came to town Sunday night at Staples and every time he touched the ball he was booed.

After the game, Howard was asked about that and said he didn’t hear it, that he “closed his ears.” Which is what my daughter tried to tell me when she was four, and it didn’t work then. It’s certainly not working for Howard, as evidence we have a video from TMZ (it’s sensational and NSFW so, of course, it’s from TMZ).

A Laker fan called Howard a female dog, to be literal, and Howard turned and challenged the guy to a fight. Which wasn’t smart, but I don’t blame him. Howard takes an unusually large amount of abuse from fans, particularly in LA, so if he wants to snap back on occasion when a fan crosses the line — and I see that as crossing the line — then it is what it is. So long as things don’t get physical.

The best move here was by the team security guard who pretty much shoved Howard back toward the locker room.

Howard and the Hawks have lost five of six after a fast start, and despite Howard scoring 19 points and adding nine rebound plus a couple of blocks, he and his teammates fell to a Lakers team getting great play from its bench (and Lou Williams in the fourth). He was frustrated, and he responded as such. The league should just let it go.

As should Lakers fans. Howard was part of the problem with the Lakers that season, he wanted to be part of what most thought would be a serious contender so badly he came back months too early from back surgery, and when he did he wasn’t effective. But scapegoating Howard for that season is a mistake, there were so, so many other problems. The biggest was Jim Buss firing Mike Brown five games into the season then eventually hiring Mike D’Antoni to coach a roster that nowhere near fit his style (I know Jerry Buss signed off from his deathbed, but this was Jim’s play). There was Steve Nash missing 32 games as his body started to break down. Pau Gasol only played in 49 and was misused by D’Antoni. Metta World Peace and Kobe Bryant were getting heavy rotation minutes despite their bodies and games starting to show some age. We could go on, but you get the idea. Howard was simply part of a perfect storm of things going wrong, not the cause.

Laker fans, you have a fun, potentially special young team to watch. Time to look forward, not back.