Kurt Helin

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant reacts after sinking a 3-point shot late in the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. The Lakers won 99-96. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Associated Press

Three Takeaways from NBA Thursday: Kobe Bryant continues turning back clock


Here’s what you need to know from a four-game slate Thursday night around the Association: 

1) Anthony Davis was a beast, but too much vintage Kobe Bryant got Lakers win in New Orleans. The Lakers have won two in a row behind turn-back-the-clock performances from Kobe, and nobody is happier about that than the Sixers. Well, maybe Byron Scott.

In his last three games, Bryant is averaging 29.3 points and shooting 50 percent from three. He was +16 for the game on Thursday, putting up 27 points on 24 shots in New Orleans. Kobe saved his best for last, with 12 points in the fourth quarter —including the dagger three with just less than a minute to go — to keep the Lakers afloat while the Pelicans made a late run that seemed like it could change the outcome. Anthony Davis was a beast all game and had 39 points, while once again Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson made everyone wonder why they are not starting, putting up 19 and 17 points respectively and both closing the game. The Lakers got 18 points from Jordan Clarkson, and D'Angelo Russell still got almost 30 minutes off the bench (he needs the run).

2) Raptors backcourt of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan too much for Portland. The Trail Blazers backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have been surprisingly good this season and are the reason the Trail Blazers are in the hunt for a playoff spot. But they are not as good as the Raptors’ Lowry and DeRozan, who combined for 59 points and hit 8-of-11 threes to lead Toronto to another win. The two men got whatever shot they wanted most of the night, and when Portland went on a run to get within three in the fourth it was Lowry in particular that took over and got the lead back up to double-digits. If you want some in-depth Raptors talk — including who they might go after at the trade deadline — check out the latest PBT Podcast where Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun and I break it all down.

3) Dunk of the night goes to… Ryan Anderson? Yup. He put Kobe in a poster. Ryan Anderson is as good a stretch four as you’re going to find in the league (when healthy), and what makes him special is he can do more than just stand in the corner and shoot threes. The man has skills. And, he can throw down the occasional dunk. Even if Kobe Bryant is in the way.

Damian Lillard rejects Kyle Lowry on the drive (VIDEO)

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See, Damian Lillard does play defense sometimes.

Most of the night Kyle Lowry got what he wanted, finishing with 30 points on 19 shots, leading Toronto to a win on the road in Portland. But on this one drive, Lillard tracked him down and sent Lowry’s shot flying.

DeMar DeRozan had 29 in the Raptors win.

Adam Silver on hack-a-player: “That’s something… we need to address quickly”

Los Angeles Clippers' DeAndre Jordan shoots a free throw after being fouled intentionally against the Portland Trail Blazers during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 102-87. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Associated Press

Last season, there were 164 hack-a-player free throws taken in the NBA season. While the strategy drew attention in the playoffs when the Clippers and Rockets took turns hacking DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver blew off the idea of rule changes because only a couple of players were involved in nearly every case.

This season the league is nearing 300 hack-a-player free throws and likely passes that number before the All-Star Game. It’s not just a couple of players or a couple of games involved anymore.

That seems to be sparking some league action. Slowly. Eventually. Silver talked about the change in his mind on the A to Z Podcast from Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgett of the USA Today, and they wrote about the highlights.

“I’m increasingly of the view that we will be looking to make some sort of change in that rule this summer….

“Even for those who had not wanted to make the change, we’re being forced to that position just based on these sophisticated coaches understandably using every tactic available to them,” Silver said. “It’s just not the way we want to see the game played….

“Clearly that’s not a natural basketball move,” he said. “That’s something that, in my view, we need to address quickly because ultimately there’s nothing more important than the health and safety of our players. Again, I think that’s an accident waiting to happen with guys jumping on each other’s shoulders just trying to attract officials’ attention to call a foul.”

That gets to the heart of it for me. You can say “just make your free throws” but I would counter “just play basketball” — and intentionally fouling a guy 50 feet from the play is not basketball. Free throws exist as a chance for a player fouled trying to score to get his points, or as a punishment for teams that foul too much, it is not a basketball litmus test.

Still, don’t expect an outright ban.

Another person familiar with the process said he doesn’t think there is enough support to ban Hack-A-Player outright. He said initial change will be incremental, eliminating loopholes to the rule such as one player jumping on a player’s back during a free throw attempt.

There are easy fixes here, at least in my mind. I would say the fouled team should have the choice of free throws or the ball out-of-bounds — if you foul J.J. Redick off the ball the Clippers should be able to punish the other team with points, but if they foul DeAndre Jordan they just inbound the ball and the game goes on — like a real basketball game.

Other options suggested were to allow teams a limited number of off-the-ball fouls (which is a logical inconsistency to me, how is it allowed then not allowed?) or, after a certain number of intentional fouls, the aggrieved player gets one more free throw (so, slow the game down even more).

One way or another, it sounds like a rule change is finally coming. However incrementally.

PBT Podcast: Raptors talk, should they make a bold trade, with Ryan Wolstat of Toronto Sun

Toronto Raptors' DeMar DeRozan (10) and Kyle Lowry celebrate during the second half NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets in Toronto, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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The Toronto Raptors are clear and away second best team in the East, a roster with one of the NBA’s best backcourts featuring All-Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.

But if they are on the doorstep, is now the time for the Raptors to make a bold trade and swing for the fences? Maybe trade for Ryan Anderson? Or, better yet, Al Horford or some other game-changing name? Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun joins Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk to discuss that, Terrence Ross, the Raptors gaping hole at the power forward spot, and how the All-Star Game has Toronto buzzing.

Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun joins Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk to discuss that, plus the status of Terrence Ross, the Raptors gaping hole at the power forward spot, and how the All-Star Game has Toronto buzzing.

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Rumor: Brooklyn Nets talking with Pistons about Brandon Jennings trade

Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Jennings (7) shoots over New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in New Orleans. The Pelicans won 115-99. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
Associated Press

With Jarrett Jack out for the season following knee surgery, the Brooklyn Nets are starting Donald Sloan at the point and bringing Shane Larkin off the bench behind him. They could use some help at the point?

How about Detroit’s Brandon Jennings?

One day after Pistons coach/GM/Big Kahuna Stan Van Gundy said they were not seriously considering any deals, Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com posted just that rumor.

Brandon Jennings could very well end up in Brooklyn two weeks from now in a trade that would send Thaddeus Young to the Detroit Pistons, sources tell SheridanHoops.com.

There are several teams looking to acquire Jennings, who has been a starter most of his career but is currently stuck behind Reggie Jackson on Detroit’s depth chart. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

There is an internal logic to this: Brooklyn needs help at the point, while the Pistons would like to upgrade from Ersan Ilyasova at the four next to Andre Drummond. Plus Jennings is a free agent this summer so there has long been a buzz around the league that Detroit would want to move him and get something for him before he walks.

But there are a few problems here, starting with Brooklyn does not currently have a GM. This is the kind of move that is made because the rebuild is starting and the new GM/front office has picked a direction. That has not yet happened in Brooklyn.

Plus, that price seems steep, especially considering Brooklyn would have to throw in another player (Shane Larkin?) just to make the salaries balance. Jennings is coming off a ruptured Achilles and is not near back all the way — 6.6 points per game on 35 percent shooting this season — so any team with him is betting on his long-term recovery.

Finally, this only works for Brooklyn if it has assurances it can re-sign the free agent Jennings this summer — as a free agent in a thin market he will have multiple offers and likely get overpaid. Does Brooklyn want to do that and pair him with Brook Lopez long term?

All of which is to say, don’t bet on it.