Kurt Helin

PBT Extra: Nerlens Noel about to return, but how long does he stay in Philly?

3 Comments

Because their frontcourt wasn’t crowded enough, the Philadelphia 76ers are about to get Nerlens Noel back from injury. Remember he missed the start of the season to rehab his left knee, but now he’s about to go down to the D-League for a rehab assignment and soon will be up with the main club.

And Brett Brown is going to have to get him minutes, because the Sixers are trying to showcase him for a trade, something I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

This is mutual — Noel wants out, and the Sixers want to move him. There are rumors of interested teams (Toronto and Portland are potential destinations that seem to get the most buzz around the league), but right now any interested GM wants to see Noel on the court, playing in games, looking healthy, then the conversations about potential deals will start to get more serious. But make no mistake, they will get serious — Noel will be traded before the February 23 deadline.

Three things we learned Wednesday: Pistons beat Celtics, winning games, about to get healthy

Associated Press
2 Comments

Just a word of advice to our readers: This holiday season designate a driver, call a cab or Uber/Lyft, but don’t drink and drive. For a lot of good reasons. Including avoiding having to listen to Nickelback. Now, on to what we learned Wednesday around the NBA.

1) Pistons beat Celtics, finding ways to keep head above water as Reggie Jackson’s return nears. The Detroit Pistons played some of their best basketball of the season Wednesday night. A bottom-10 team in assisted shots, the Pistons moved better off the ball and found the open man more often. It all started with Ish Smith at the point, who has had a couple nice games in a row and Wednesday was pushing the pace, was curling off picks beautifully, and hit 75 percent of his shots to finish with 19 points, eight assists and eight rebounds.

Also, the Pistons just hit shots — Boston dared Detroit to shoot from the midrange, and the Pistons took advantage and knocked down the looks. Shot charts don’t get much better than this.

Pistons shotchart

Here is why wins like this really matter for Detroit: The Pistons are still without Reggie Jackson, their star point guard and the catalyst for their offense (he has a strong pick-and-roll chemistry with Andre Drummond). Jackson had knee and thumb issues (he got PRP treatments for both before the season) but has been back at practice recently and should be cleared for a return soon. At the time it was announced he would miss the first month or so of the season, we said the Pistons just needed to keep their heads above water until his return. With the win over Boston Tuesday Detroit is 10-10 and tied for one of the final playoff slots in the East. They did more than just survive, they put themselves in a good position, once Jackson gets back and is settled (conditioning may take a little bit) this team will be poised to make a run up the East standings.

2) Russell Westbrook gets fourth straight triple-double, earns Thunder an overtime win. Russell Westbrook is very good at this basketball thing. After that, we’re kind of running out of superlatives for the guy, who continues to put up numbers at a historic pace every night, including another triple-double of 35 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists Wednesday.

But it’s not just the raw numbers, it’s he is lifting this team to wins — everyone in the state of Oklahoma knew Westbrook was going to get the ball and would be hunting or a three to force overtime late Wednesday against the Wizards, and yet he still made the play.

The Thunder are now 12-8 and look like a solid playoff team in the West. And that’s all about an above-average defense and a whole lot of Westbrook carrying the offense.

3) Kings/Sixers postponement leads to Boogie moping, Tweet of the season from Joel Embiid. Good on the Sixers, the Wells Fargo Center, and the NBA for not trying to force a game to be played on an unsafe floor. Blame the Flyers, the building, nature, Trump, whoever you want it doesn’t matter, the NBA couldn’t play in these conditions. No date has been scheduled for a makeup yet, by the way, but expect early January.

The situation did let the two star big men from the game be comedians.

First, there was DeMarcus Cousins doing some serious, two-handed mopping.

Then there was what might be the Tweet of the season from Joel Embiid.

Julius Randle makes late layup to help Lakers edge Bulls 96-90

Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHICAGO (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers needed a basket, and Julius Randle wanted the ball.

Coach Luke Walton loved the whole thing.

“If it’s a one-on-one situation with space, we feel very confident that he’ll win that matchup,” Walton said.

Got it done in a big moment Wednesday night.

Randle made a strong move against Nikola Mirotic for a tiebreaking layup with 45.1 seconds left, and the Lakers held off the Chicago Bulls for a gritty 96-90 victory.

Randle had 13 points and matched a career high with 20 rebounds as Los Angeles bounced back from a 105-88 loss at New Orleans on Tuesday night. Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson scored 18 points apiece, and Larry Nance Jr. finished with 12 points and 11 boards.

“Our guys just played hard, stayed mentally locked in,” Randle said.

Randle’s drive and layup gave Los Angeles a 92-90 lead. After Jimmy Butler missed on the other side for Chicago, Williams went 1 for 2 at the line with 20 seconds to go.

Butler then missed another 3 and Randle and Nance combined for three foul shots to help Los Angeles hold on.

“Our guys have proven that when their backs are against the wall they can step up for a challenge,” Walton said. “They did it tonight. That’s a great win against a very talented team.”

Butler had 22 points on 4-of-18 shooting for the Bulls, who were hoping to build on a 4-2 road trip. Dwyane Wade, who was listed as doubtful after getting some dental work on Tuesday, scored 17 points, and Robin Lopez finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and a career-high eight blocked shots.

“It was an ugly game,” Wade said. “We have to find a way to win those games. No excuses.”

The Bulls used 40 points from Butler to beat the Lakers 118-110 in Los Angeles on Nov. 20. But the Lakers held the Bulls to 35.2 percent shooting in the rematch and enjoyed a 60-46 rebounding advantage.

“I think the missed shots definitely affected us,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You can’t let that happen. That and rebounding has to be your constant.”

BANGED-UP LAKERS

It was an impressive response from Los Angeles after the team announced before the game that Nick Young strained his right calf muscle in Tuesday night’s loss to the Pelicans, sidelining the guard for two to four weeks.

The Lakers also were without guard D'Angelo Russell, who missed his sixth straight game due to left knee soreness.

GOOD START, BAD FINISH

The Bulls led by as many as 14 in the first quarter before settling for a 28-17 advantage after one. But the Lakers rallied in the second and it was tied at 47 at the break.

“We stopped rebounding. We stopped getting to loose balls. A lot of stuff,” Butler said. “It changed in their favor and they caught us slipping.”

TIP-INS

Lakers: Randle leads the team with five double-doubles this season. He has 39 double-doubles in 99 career games. … It was Los Angeles’ first win at the United Center since a 96-87 victory on Dec. 15, 2009. It had dropped five in a row in Chicago. … The Lakers committed 24 turnovers, leading to 26 points for the Bulls.

Bulls: F Doug McDermott (concussion protocol) missed his seventh consecutive game. … Butler has scored 20 or more points in his last 11 games, setting a career high. His previous best was six in a row. … Chicago dropped to 8-1 this season when its opponent scores fewer than 100 points. … The Bulls matched a season high with 15 steals.

 

Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

PBT Extra: What does Grizzlies’ Mike Conley’s injury mean in Memphis?

Leave a comment

The good news for Memphis about Mike Conley spinal fracture is that it’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s not good, but it could be worse, others have bounced back from this same injury.

The real question is how far the Grizzlies will fall with Conley out — they are 19 points per 100 possessions worse when he sits this season. They lack point guard depth, and it doesn’t help that Chandler Parsons, James Ennis, and Brandon Wright are all out injured as well.

The challenges ahead for the Grizzlies is the topic of this latest PBT Extra video.

Iman Shumpert to Warriors: ‘We gon bust your ass. Period.’

Getty Images
17 Comments

It’s not even December yet, but the war of words between the Warriors and Cavaliers is heating up like the Finals are around the corner.

Back in the preseason, Draymond Green told NBA.com, “…if Cleveland comes out of the east, I want to destroy Cleveland. No ifs, ands and buts about it. But I also know that there’s steps to get to that point. And if and when we get to that point, I want to annihilate them.”

Hey, Iman Shumpert, how do you feel about that?

“We supposed to hate them, and they supposed to hate us. It’s OK. They supposed to take cheap shots at us. They’re gonna hate us, fam. That’s what sports is. It’s great. I love every bit of it. I’m glad he said that ’cause we gon’ bust they ass, too. You need to type that up: We gon bust your ass. Period.”

Thanks to Complex Magazine for the quote, out of a story mostly about Shumpert’s fashion choices and preferences.

The curmudgeonly old man in me wants it’s a little too early for this back-and-forth with more than 60 games left in the season, but already things seem to be lining up for a Cavs/Warriors NBA Finals for a third straight year. Plus, a real rivalry and some smack talk is good for the league.

I’m looking forward to the Christmas Day showdown between these teams.