Kurt Helin

Watch J.R. Smith learn hard way Joel Embiid knows how to block shots


Joel Embiid‘s defense is still progressing, but the league has learned this much — he is a big body in the paint and if you’re going to challenge him in the paint it could get ugly.

J.R. Smith learned that the hard way early in the Cavaliers game against the Sixers Sunday. Smith — never known as a guy who plays well in day games, just as the Knicks — drove on Embiid only to find he couldn’t shoot over the wall. Embiid rejected him.

This was all part of a rough start for Cleveland — the Cavaliers missed their first 14 shots in this game. Eventually, LeBron figured out how to get a couple and the Cavaliers went on to a 112-108 win.

The “Phil Jackson leaves Knicks for Lakers” speculation may never end


Phil Jackson has denied he wants to leave the Knicks for the Lakers saying he has plenty of work to do.

Lakers president Jeanie Buss — who happens to be Jackson’s fiancee — has said there is nothing to the rumors of Jackson coming West. Plus, with the trajectory the young Lakers are on right now, why would they want to bring in Phil “the triangle offense is still relevant” Jackson?

Yet, Jackson has an opt-out of his Knicks contract next summer and the speculation of him coming West will not end. Ever. It is the Freddy Krueger of rumors, it cannot be killed. The latest incarnation comes via Mark Heisler of the Orange County Register.

Jackson and his fiance, Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss, both deny it’s happening. That’s absolutely true … as far as it goes … until Phil’s opt-out on July 1, 2017, with insiders close to both saying he could still wind up with the Lakers.

Not that Jackson is sitting around thinking about the Lakers at present with other immediate challenges, like sticking it to everyone who says he can’t do his present job.

Like all issues involving free agency, Phil’s availability will depend on the last thing that happens this season. The Knicks’ finish will decide if owner Jim Dolan is happy paying Jackson $12 million annually, which will decide if Phil feels like staying. Or maybe it’s the other way around. In any case, the situation is fluid.

Never say never when we are talking about the Shakespearian drama that is the Laker family front office, but Jackson coming West would be a big surprise.

Jackson is getting paid Brinks trucks full of money in New York, and right now they look like a playoff team out East (so long as they keep using more of the Carmelo Anthony/Kristaps Porzingis at the four/five lineups). If so, it’s hard to imagine Jackson bolting or Dolan pushing him out the door (even if there a lot of questions about where the Knicks’ roster goes forward from its current makeup, and how they should build around Porzingis).

Another question is in Los Angeles: If the Lakers finish around .500 and are in the race for a playoff spot, will Jim Buss be held to his “three years to contend” timeline and get pushed out of basketball operations? Baxter Holmes of ESPN and I discussed this in a recent PBT Podcast focused on the Lakers, and he said that pressure to get Jim Buss out seems to have been eased some with the Lakers’ better-than-expected start. Whatever happens with the Buss family, the Lakers don’t need the radical shakeup that Jackson brings.

But this speculation will never die.

Watch Russell Westbrook get another triple-double, 44th of his career (tied with LeBron)


Russell Westbrook unleashed is a sight to behold — he is averaging 31.2 points, 11.2 assists, and 9.9 rebounds a game. He is making a run at being the first guy to average a triple-double since Oscar Robertson.

Westbrook racked up his seventh triple-double this season leading OKC past the Pistons on Saturday. That would be seven triple-doubles this season.

More impressively, he now has 44 in his career — tied for sixth all-time with LeBron James (and in nearly 400 fewer games). LeBron was impressed.

Westbrook is just 28 and in the middle of his prime, his numbers are just going to skyrocket.

Watch Andrew Wiggins dunk over, around JaVale McGee


Give JaVale McGee credit for putting up any resistance at all. Not that it was going to matter.

Saturday night at Oracle Arena Andrew Wiggins drove from the right wing, found a shocking amount of space, so he continued to the rim, McGee slid over late to help and Wiggins skied, then threw it down over and around McGee. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a monster dunk.

It was not enough; Golden State won its 11th in a row behind 34 from Stephen Curry.

Watch Russell Westbrook’s sixth triple-double of season

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He is almost there — Russell Westbrook is averaging 32 points, 10.9 assists, and 9.8 rebounds a game. He is almost averaging a triple double.

He added to those numbers Friday night with 38 points, 18 assists, and 12 rebounds in an overtime win against Denver. Westbrook was 9-of-21 shooting but got to the free throw line 17 times in the game.

Westbrook tried for a driving layup to keep the game from going to overtime, but Kenneth Faried so no.