Author: Kurt Helin

Phoenix Suns v Philadelphia 76ers

PBT Extra: Our Thanksgiving week turkeys, starting with the 76ers


Happy Thanksgiving!

In honor of a traditional week of American gluttony (in all its forms) Jenna Corrado and I discuss the early season turkeys of the NBA in this latest edition of PBT Extra.

Could the Philadelphia 76ers be the worst team in NBA history? Too early to tell, but I have another question — what exactly are Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel learning out of this?

We also discuss the lackluster play from the Clippers and Hornets to start the season. Both teams are not what we expected on defense.  (Yes, we could certainly have put the Cavaliers in this topic, but they would require more time to really get into properly.)

Carmelo Anthony says Dwight Howard “tried extremely hard” to recruit him to Houston

Houston Rockets v New York Knicks

In the end Carmelo Anthony chose the extra $30 million and the responsibility of begin the cornerstone of the New York Knicks when faced with free agency last summer. But the Bulls were in the mix as an option, while the Lakers got his attention as well.

Then there was Houston — the Rockets went hard at Anthony but missed. (Then they thought they had Chris Bosh locked up until Pat Riley changed the equation with his money.) There was some logic there because Anthony’s scoring with Dwight Howard in the paint and James Harden as the guard had real potential.

And Howard worked hard behind the scenes to make it happen, Carmelo Anthony said in advance of the Knicks facing the Rockets for the first time this season, as reported by Marc Berman at the New York Post.

“We had some great dialogue back and forth,’’ Anthony said of his discussions with Howard. “I talked to him. We talked about some things. Ultimately it came down to what I really felt and really wanted at that moment. We had some contact and conversations. He tried. He tried extremely hard. It didn’t have anything to do with Dwight or James [Harden]. It came down to my own personal decision.’’

Some fans look at Anthony’s 4-10 Knicks compared to the 10-3 Rockets and think ‘Melo regrets his choice. Not so much.

“Of course I know they’re playing very well,’’ Anthony said. “[But] it’s not something I say to myself: ‘I regret doing this, regret doing that.’ I can’t do that. It’s not my nature as a person. I would never sit down and ask myself: ‘What if?’ ’’

Few players do. Anthony made his choice and has moved on. We all knew that there were better basketball fits for Anthony during his free agency but that other factors were at play. Did he want to uproot his family from New York? Did he trust Phil Jackson? Oh, and there was the guaranteed dollars (Anthony took a bit of a discount but it still works out to $27 million more guaranteed).

A lot of people may try to read into this that “nobody wants to play with Dwight Howard” but as always there are a lot of other factors in play. In this case, 27 million factors.

Anthony made his choice, and now Howard has to recruit another third star to Houston. Which when looking at the up and coming free agent market is far easier said than done.

That said, the ‘Meloless rockets are 10-3.

LeBron James on Cavaliers’ struggles: “I stink”

Toronto Raptors v Cleveland Cavaliers

We all knew intellectually there would be growing pains when LeBron James and Kevin Love joined Kyrie Irving in Cleveland.

But this has been uglier than we expected.

The Cavaliers have lost four in a row now, are 5-7 and the cracks are showing — Love wants more touches in the post, Irving is pounding the ball into the ground with his dribble and not really adapting to being the point guard in a motion offense, and LeBron is visibly frustrated with his teammates at times. Which is impacting his effort on defense as he coasts back after bad turnovers — and they need his effort on defense because this is not a good defensive team right now. At all.

LeBron’s willing to shoulder the blame for this as the team’s leader, he told the Associated Press.

“We got a four-game losing streak, so I stink,” he said. “I’m not doing my job….

“Me being the leader of the team, if I start hanging my head low then it’s going to start going to everyone else,” he said. “They look up to me. They look to me to make a difference and I’ve got to stay positive even through the rough times. As I’ve said before, this is not the darkest point that we’ll see this year. I’ve seen dark and this is very light to me.”

Obviously this is not all on LeBron, but what is becoming clear is the sacrifices that it took for the Heat to come together are going to be slower in materializing in Cleveland. In South Beach you had Dwyane Wade, who already had a ring, and a more seasoned Chris Bosh, both of whom (along with the other veterans on the roster) understood the sacrifices needed to win. And it still took more than a season for them to really find their identity.

Love and Irving and the rest of the Cavaliers are not there yet. These kinds of sacrifices come harder to younger players looking to get theirs.

Until they do LeBron will stink. Sort of.

PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: Life is good in the Golden State

Golden State Warriors v Portland Trail Blazers

There are some tough calls at the top of the power rankings right now as a number of teams are playing well — each with questions but ones they are answering so far — that make it a challenge to rank them. Things are still shaking themselves out as we head into Thanksgiving. At least the bottom of the rankings is simple.
source:  1. Warriors (10-2, Last Week No. 3). They are playing the best defense in the NBA and have turned the corner on their early turnover issues. Plus, they are about to get David Lee back (bring him off the bench?). Didn’t expect to say this: Steve Kerr should win NBA Coach of the Month in his first month on the job.
source:  2. Raptors (11-2, LW 8). Winners of five in a row and that includes victories over Memphis, Cleveland, and Phoenix they are besting teams by an average of 11.6 points per 100 possessions (third best in the NBA). However their long run of home games — they have maybe the best home court advantage in the league — is over with four of the next five on the road.
source:  3. Grizzlies (11-2, LW 2) Marc Gasol continues to play ridiculously well. He dropped 30 on the Clippers (who inexplicably left him wide open for midrange jumpers early, shots everyone knows he can hit) and he is averaging 19.9 points a game on 50 percent shooting. Remember a couple years ago Gasol surprised casual observers winning DPOY? How do you feel about him as a potential MVP candidate?
source:  4. Trail Blazers (9-3. LW 5). Winners of seven in a row but not against any of the other likely playoff teams in the West (New Orleans and a depleted Chicago team have been the best victories in this streak). Still, they are beating the teams in front of them, however now they head out on the road for a stretch that will be a bigger test. Well, not in Philly but the rest of the games.
source:  5. Spurs (9-4, LW 6). They have won four in a row and at the ends of close games have executed like we know the Spurs can. What’s should be scary is that they have key guys out — Patty Mills, Tiago Splitter — and have not yet started to really hit their stride.
source:  6. Rockets (10-2, Last Week No. 1). Houston has won games with fantastic defense and in spite of a struggling offense (which has been the second worst in the league the past eight games). They struggled with their starting front line of Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones injured (they are 15 points per 100 better with Howard on the court), so it’s good news Howard should return this week (if not Monday) from his strained knee.
source:  7. Mavericks (10-4, LW 4). This is what makes the rankings hard this time of year, seven feels low for Dallas. However, that loss to Houston was a reminder they still are not playing well against the league’s better teams. Good test on the road at Toronto this week.
source:  8. Wizards (9-3, LW 10). Bradley Beal is back and shooting 51.2 percent overall and 45.5 percent from three. That win last week over Cleveland had to be good for the egos in Washington — Paul Pierce handled LeBron and the Wizards were clearly the better team.
source:  9. Bulls (8-5, LW 7). Media and some Bulls fans like to get uptight and make a lot of noise about Derrick Rose (and to a lesser extent Pau Gasol) missing games right now but their teammates Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler get it and have their back — this team needs to be right for the playoffs, not games around Thanksgiving. that said, don’t be shocked if he is back this week.
source:  10. Suns (9-5, LW 14). They picked up four wins last week against the dregs of the Eastern conference, but a couple of those were closer than they should have been. Tougher slate up this week with a game at Toronto then with a home-and-home against a Nuggets team that is playing better ball of late.
source:  11. Kings (8-5, LW 13). We have not thrown enough praise DeMarcus Cousins’ way this season — he is the NBA’s leading rebounder, is averaging 23.2 points a game while shooting 51.9 percent and has been one of three dominant bigs in the West so far (with Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol). Cousins has been fantastic, the Kings defense is improved but needs to get better to get where they want to be at the season’s end.
source:  12. Pelicans (7-5, LW 12). Anthony Davis has been the best player in the NBA the first month of the season, with a PER of 35.7, which he is not likely to maintain but even if he comes back to earth in the low 30s that’s peak Jordan territory. Davis has been that efficient this season.
source:  13. Clippers (7-5, LW 11). The Clippers were challenged with a tough schedule last week and fell to the Bulls and Grizzlies (but did beat the Heat). Their defense against the Grizzlies was uninspired and just sloppy — DeAndre Jordan laid off Gasol early and let him get his midrange feel, and from there they were doomed. Doc has a lot of work to do here.
source:  14. Heat (8-6, LW 15). So maybe the answer to the Mario Chalmers puzzle was to play him at the two — since Dwyane Wade went down injured and Chalmers started he has averaged 20 points and 7 rebounds a game. Can’t yell at him about that… well, you can but it wouldn’t be right.
source:  15. Hawks (6-5, LW 16). There have been things to like with the Hawks this season — hello Jeff Teague, we’re looking at you — but we are going to get a better sense of them with tough week ahead — the Wizards, Raptors, Pelicans and Hornets. (Well, not so much the Hornets lately.)
source:  16. Bucks (7-7, LW 17). Question: Can this team maintain this pace and make the playoffs in the East? We will see. What we do know is Giannis Antetokounmpo’s length and athleticism make him one of the toughest guys to beat in isolation in the NBA, and he showed that against Joe Johnson in a 3OT thriller against the Nets.
source:  17. Cavaliers (5-7 LW 9). They have lost four in a row and things are rough. Kevin Love doesn’t like where he’s getting the ball in the offense (remember when Chris Bosh took heat for suggesting Love would struggle to adjust to playing with LeBron…). The Cavs offense has slipped but it’s still not the end of the floor that is the real issue, they have the NBA’s 26th ranked defensive efficiency and that is costing them games.
source:  18. Nuggets (6-7, LW 28). Last week there were a number of “what is wrong with the Nuggets?” story lines going around and they responded with four straight wins. They have gotten fantastic guard play in that stretch from Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo. Now we’ll see if they can sustain it against the Bulls, then a home-and-home with the Suns.
source:  19. Magic (6-9, LW 23). Elfrid Payton is inserting himself onto the list of guys to watch as we start to think about rookie of the year — he was the spark in a comeback against Charlotte last week. That said, the Magic have struggled against good teams and there are a few on the docket this week (Cavaliers, Warriors, Suns).
source:  20. Celtics (4-8, LW 19). Jeff Green came out after the last Celtics game saying he did not want to be traded. Which was odd because nobody said he was on the trade block (as much as you can say that about anyone on Danny Ainge’s roster). The story out of said he would have a strong free agent appeal to teams, that he will have options next summer. That is true.
source:  21. Jazz (5-9, LW 20). Quin Snyder was bought in to develop players and see who fits with whom, and one answer seems to be Gordon Haywood fits with everyone (an efficient 19.1 points a game). Another answer more seems to be they need Rudy Gobert to get run up front for defensive reasons.
source:  22. Pacers (5-8, LW 22). The injury curse does not seem to let up on this team, but the thing is once they get guys like David West, George Hill and C.J. Watson back they could still make the playoffs in the East. Which really speaks to the East more than anything.
source:  23. Nets (5-8, LW 18). They have lost six of seven and the interesting news around this team is the shopping of Andrei Kirilenko in the trade market. They can dump him to the Sixers at any point but expect them to wait until Dec. 15, when players signed this summer can be traded, to see if there is a better offer out there that could roll in.
source:  24. Knicks (4-10, LW 24). Jose Calderon is back and that should be big for the Knicks offense, a smart player who can space the floor with his shot is always welcome. He’s not going to help their woeful defense, but you take what you can get and this is a start.
source:  25. Hornets (4-10, LW 21). They have lost five straight games and we haven’t seen the offensive boost we expected them to get from Lance Stephenson. More than that, this is a pedestrian defensive team (they were top 5 last year) and that is holding this team back.
source:  26. Lakers (3-11, LW 29). Nick Young returns and the Lakers outscore their opponents for a couple wins. This is still a train wreck of a team defensively but it’s entertaining to see if Young’s contested looks and Kobe Bryant’s fadeaways can get them a win any given night.

source:  27. Timberwolves (3-9, LW 27). Kevin Martin was having his best offensive season as a pro before he broke his wrist last week. That is a real blow. Andrew Wiggins had a career high in points last week but he was 2-of-13 from the midrange in that contest, there is still a lot of work to do with him.
source:  28. Thunder (4-11, LW 25). It is possible that Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will be back sooner rather than later. That will be huge. But could they go 45-22 the rest of the way with them back, because that’s about what it will take to make the playoffs in the West.
source:  29. Pistons (3-10, LW 26). Even Stan Van Gundy’s magic can’t get the Andre Drummond/Greg Monroe/Josh Smith offense to work, as they are in the bottom three in the league. And they struggle to score in the paint, which is a sign of how much teams are packing it in on them. Van Gundy the GM has a lot of work to do so Van Gundy the coach has a chance.
source:  30. 76ers (0-13, LW 30). We all get the grand strategy in Philly of being bad and stockpiling picks to get talent but you have to ask this question: What are Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and the rest of them really learning from this experience?

Grizzlies GM: “We have every intention of re-signing Marc Gasol”

Boston Celtics v Memphis Grizzlies

The Knicks want him as the fulcrum of the triangle.

The Spurs want him as a replacement if Tim Duncan decides to walk away after this season.

The Lakers want him… basically, every team that has cap space next summer wants Marc Gasol.

The Grizzlies’ center will be one of the most sought after players on the free agent market next summer. He’s a former Defensive Player of the Year, he can score around the rim or from the midrange, he’s a very good passer and he plays a high IQ game. There aren’t better centers out there.

The Grizzlies know they have competition but intend to keep their man, something their GM Chris Wallace told CLNS radio.

Wallace put a definitive answer out there “We have every intention of re-signing Marc Gasol. So those teams are going to have to find another player.”

Marc Gasol has said almost nothing. And this speculation swirling around him doesn’t seem to be bothering him or the team as the Grizzlies are off to an 11-2 start and Gasol has played like an All-Star.

Next summer he’s going to have options. But Gasol likes Memphis and the life he has here, plus the Grizzlies can offer more money than any other team (one more guaranteed year and larger raises, it will work out to close to $30 million guaranteed over the course of the deal). Plus the Grizzlies are legit, potential contenders.

Which is to say, Memphis is in the driver’s seat. But it’s going to be a wild ride this summer.