I know Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey and coaches were frustrated after videos of James Harden’s defensive lapses during Team USA’s run to gold this summer. They said this meme had taken over what has been an improving Harden defense. And they are right — this season Harden has played his best defense in years. He talked about putting in the effort in the preseason, he’s done that.
Then plays like this happen….
Come on now. You know we’re going to show that.
Harden was in a bad position and didn’t make the effort to get to a good one, he just waived like a matador as the bull ran past. All he needed was a red cape. It is just one play, but it’s one ugly play.
Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed.
LeBron James, and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They needed a slump buster, they got one. Gone is the Cavaliers’ four-game losing streak and the questions can be put on hold for a night. LeBron James came out aggressive from the opening tip and had 16 of his eventual 29 points by early in the second quarter. He also dished out 11 assists as the Cavaliers offense looked a lot closer to what David Blatt drew up — 30 assists on 42 makes. They also held Orlando to 74 points, but before we say they turned the corner defensively know that the Magic shot 29 percent (11-of-38) on uncontested looks in this game (via the Sports VU cameras). Other teams are not going to miss like that. Doesn’t matter, the Magic did and the Cavaliers got the laugher they needed.
James Harden’s transition defense. Let’s be fair up front here: James Harden has played his best defense in years this season. He talked about putting in the effort in the preseason, he’s done that. The Rockets have the best defense in the NBA (which is more about Dwight Howard but still). Then plays like this happen….
Come on now.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. This just sucks. Carmelo Anthony left the Knicks game Monday night two minutes into the second quarter with an injured back and did not return. While hopefully it is nothing all that serious he was in a lot of pain and I’d be surprised if he suits up against Dallas on Wednesday (just because the Knicks will want to be cautious even if it is not serious). Anthony plays the most minutes a night on the team and averages 23.9 points a game, more than double anyone else. He is their focal point. This is a 4-11 team that could be without its best player for a stretch.
Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol. They were back on the court for the Bulls. And let’s hope it stays that way. Gasol had 23 points on 20 shots, 9 rebounds and a couple of blocks in his 37 minutes. Rose played 24 minutes and had 18 points on 10 shots plus dished out five assists as the Bulls beat a scrappy Utah team on the road. The win is nice, but just having them back on the court is good for the league. (But will Rose play Tuesday in Denver in the second night of a back-to-back?)
Los Angeles Clippers. Much like the Cavaliers, the Clippers just needed a win. A chance to play well and feel good about themselves. They got it thanks to struggling Charlotte. Chris Paul had 22 points and 15 assists, while Blake Griffin came within an assist of a triple double — 22 points 16 rebounds and nine assists. Jamal Crawford looked like his Sixth Man of the Year self with 21 points. Of course, the Clippers offense has not been the problem but for a night the anemic Hornets offense made the Clipper D look pretty good for a night. Again, like Cleveland, doing it once isn’t the answer, but it’s a first step.
Over the course of the night, Chris Paul got much the better of this matchup on his way to 22 points and 15 assists. Kemba Walker could not contain him.
But on this play, it was Kemba who crossed up CP3.
Well, sort of. Paul trips because he steps on DeAndre Jordan’s foot, opening up the shot for Walker. This is more on DeAndre than CP3.
Walker finished with 15 points on 4-of-11 shooting. When his crossover works he looks brilliant, but he doesn’t have much of a bag of tricks beyond that and he isn’t kicking out on drives like he should. Paul has a massive bag of tricks and didn’t need to break them all out to get the Clippers a comfortable and needed win.
UPDATE 7:27 pm: What was feared has become official — Lakers forward Xavier Henry is done for the season, the team announced Monday.
Lakers guard Xavier Henry underwent an MRI exam today which revealed a ruptured left Achilles tendon. Henry suffered the injury at this morning’s practice. He is scheduled to have surgery tomorrow morning with Dr. Neal ElAttrache and Dr. Steve Lombardo of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic. Henry is expected to be out the reminder of the season.
As noted by Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports, the Lakers have already been granted a $1.5 million Disabled Player Exception to bring in a new a player (it must be used by March 10). The team has reached out to the league about a second one of those, although it would be for less money and not able to land much.
Not that anyone they get at those prices will help the 3-11 team.
3:50 pm: This is bad news, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.
This is just not fair to Xavier Henry, who showed glimpses of promise in Mike D’Antoni’s system but has just never been able to stay healthy. He’s had a multiple major knee surgeries in his career, and coach Byron Scott suggested that took away from his explosiveness and Henry would have to adapt his game (and Henry got a couple of D-League games in this season for the Lakers). Henry didn’t see it that way and said he planned to keep playing his attacking style.
This is a brutal setback.
The Lakers now have three players out for the season — Henry, Julius Randle and Steve Nash — plus a fourth in Ryan Kelly who could miss significant time. Reports are the Lakers have already reached out to the league to discuss a disabled player exception or other option to add another player to the roster.
Sentences I never thought I’d type:
Adam Silver was interviewed in the latest issue of GQ.
Apparently the NBA Commissioner didn’t expect it either based on an aside comment to interviewer Chuck Klosterman — “When are you going to ask me about my clothes?” — but the Q&A in the latest edition of the magazine is a fun, free flowing discussion that hits on a variety of issues facing the NBA (including an old Chick Hearn favorite, widening the court).
But the most interesting points were ones that will come up in 2017 in the next round of collective bargaining (expect a lockout in 2017, the only question is will it cost games). Silver said this about things he wished he had.
“I would have a harder salary cap. I still think it’s unhealthy for the league when a team like Brooklyn goes out and pays an exorbitant luxury tax in order to give themselves a better chance to win. From a league-office standpoint, the ideal league would be for all thirty teams to compete based on the skill of their management and players, as opposed to one team paying more to get better talent. So creating a more even system would be at the top of my list. And I’ll give you one more: I think it would benefit the league to raise the minimum age from 19 to 20….
“We bargained with the union many years ago in order to move it from 18 to 19. Going to 20 was on the table during the last bargaining cycle [in 2011], but it was an issue we parked, having already lost several weeks of the season [due to the lockout], and we were anxious to get the season going. But it’s something I hope to address in the near future.”
We’ve discussed this many times before at PBT, I am opposed to an age limit in the NBA. I think if you’re good enough, you should be able to make a living playing basketball and that the only reason the age limit exists is the owners think it reduces their risk on missing in the draft (look at the last couple drafts and tell me that’s the case). I also think if a franchise wants to spend and pay a tax — as the Nets did — it should be allowed to do so. I have a basic issue with the idea of a hard cap to flatten out the talent pool in the NBA, I think the league is more interesting when there are great teams (and the nature of the sport eliminates the idea of NFL-like parity).
But the bottom line here is both of those issues are going to come up in the next CBA negotiations. And you can expect the players’ union — looking at the new television contract and the value of franchises in the wake of the Clippers sale — is going to push back hard on all of it.
One more interesting thing of note: Sterling, like many of the owners, was uncomfortable to a degree with the audio tapes that did in Donald Sterling as an NBA owner.
“I am mindful that this began as a private conversation between Mr. Sterling and a girlfriend. In some ways, this case was made easy for us, because that private conversation—completely unrelated to any acts of the NBA—was made public and widely distributed. So from the NBA’s perspective, I was dealing with a public statement. But that is something I’ve thought about quite a bit. This did not originate as a business conversation. It was not intended for public dissemination. And in fairness to everyone in the NBA, we have to consider the appropriate lines. We’re all entitled to our private thoughts, and even an occasional misstep or misstatement should not be career-ending.”