If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed after buying a bacon scented lottery scratcher …
1) Oklahoma City is starting to get it together. I talked about this on PBT Extra — the Thunder need to get hot now, not later, if they want to make the playoffs because the Suns are not coming back to the pack. (Yes, Phoenix has a tough schedule the next few weeks, but the team’s schedule also is home heavy the rest of the season and Phoenix is already on a 47-win pace.) Oklahoma City is doing just that — the Thunder have won 4-of-5 and while the Miami Heat did not make it easy Tuesday night the Thunder got 19 each out of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and that was enough. However, the real key was the bench — on a night Dion Waiters couldn’t throw a pea in the ocean (1-of-9), Reggie Jackson (remember him?) stepped up with 16 points including 7 in the fourth quarter to help seal the win, while Anthony Morrow pitched in a dozen. The Thunder still have three games to make up on the Suns but they are starting to hit their stride and that should scare the rest of the West. So should the dunk fest Durant and Russell Westbrook put on:
2) Ernie Johnson is the best. After the Thunder beat the Miami Heat, Russell Westbrook did an interview with NBA TV, Ernie Johnson was in the studio and asked the brilliant questions (based on this).
3) Kawhi Leonard is back and the Spurs are starting to look like the Spurs. As Jeff McDonald of the Express-News noted, the Spurs are suddenly 3-0 since Kawhi Leonard got back. It’s not a coincidence. Leonard had 17 points and 15 rebounds in a vintage Spurs win over the Nuggets — Denver hung around for three quarters, then the Spurs took their execution to another level and Denver couldn’t hang. Leonard brings another shooter, an increased level of athleticism, and quality perimeter defense to the table. The Spurs are better than any other team in the league of just saying “the next guy has to step up” after an injury, but some guys are just harder to replace than others and Leonard is not a guy they can easily replace.
Stephen Curry turns the ball over on about 14.7 percent of the possessions he uses, which is a low number considering the volume of plays he uses. It works out to 3.2 turnovers per game this season, which is a nice ratio compared to his eight assists a game.
But Curry still pays for those turnovers — he pays his mother.
Sonya Curry, Steph’s mom, tracks those turnovers and he has to pay a pretty healthy fine if he gets more than three a night, reports Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Ball Don’t Lie).
Sonya came up with the idea of fining her son a few seasons ago, frustrated at watching him lose the ball too many times in one game. She checked with her husband, former NBA guard Dell, on what would be a reasonable number of turnovers to hold Stephen to per game; they settled on three. Anything more than that, he owes his mother: $100 per giveaway. Anything under is subtracted from his total.
At the end of the season, Curry doesn’t write his mother a check; she just lets him know — usually through his wife, Ayesha — what fashion items she has had her eye on.
“It keeps me on the edge every game,” he said. “I know she’s going to text me or have some witty one-liner about what she’s going to buy with all of my gifts.”
I don’t care if Curry is making $10.6 million (which remains a steal of a contract), that’s harsh.
But it works. Curry’s turnovers are down and if the season ended right now he’d owe his mom just $600. That’s barely a handbag or good pair of shoes, according to my wife who I have to consult on such fashion issues.
As Ben Rohrbach noted at Ball Don’t Lie, if James Harden’s mom did this she would be owed $4,200 already this season.
The Washington Wizards are 29-13, if the playoffs started today they would be the No. 2 seed in the East ahead of teams like Toronto, Chicago and Cleveland. They would also be a real playoff threat — when Nene is healthy the Wizards are a tough out for any team. This is the kind of team a lot of fan bases dream about.
But Wednesday night at the Verizon Center, Wizards fans are not going to be dreaming of the playoffs or this roster. They are going to be dreaming of Kevin Durant in a Wizards uniform.
Ever since LeBron James chose to return home and play in Northeast Ohio, Wizards fans have dreamed that come that come the summer of 2016 Durant will chose to do the same, bolting Oklahoma City for The District.
There will be fans in the crowd Wednesday wearing a Wizard’s jerseys with Durant’s name on the back, and J. Michael of CSNWashington.com asked John Wall and Bradley Beal about it.
“It’s strange because he doesn’t play for us,” said Bradley Beal, who has beaten the Thunder in each home game since he turned pro three years ago. “Who knows what he’s going to do in the next couple of years. It’s kind of weird and it’s kind of cool at the same time to imagine that, to picture that.”
“It’s funny,” Wall said of the Wizards’ jerseys with Durant’s name. “It’s something you probably wouldn’t have thought about two or three years ago of having guys or free agents thinking of wanting to come here, or fans thinking about that. It’s fun. It’s exciting. (But) it’s a long haul away.”
As I’ve said before, if you talk to Durant at all on the free agency topic — and he does not want to discuss it — you get the real sense he doesn’t have any idea what he’s going to do in 2016. Which is the way it should be. Let this season and the playoffs play out, then see what happens next season, then get serious about a decision. While I think him remaining with the Thunder is the most likely outcome, at this point there are so many variables that could swing things in different directions it is impossible to know how things will play out. If Durant does decide to test the free agent waters there will be 29 other teams willing to do whatever it takes to get him on the roster. He is a franchise changing player.
But Wizards fans are dreaming. And it is kind of weird and cool.