Author: Kurt Helin

Sacramento Kings v Memphis Grizzlies

PBT’s Thursday night NBA Winners/Losers: Grizzlies’ guards getting it done

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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 while keeping your girlfriend away from soft plastics….

source:  The Memphis Grizzlies’ guards. So far this season the Grizzlies have largely won in spite of their guards, not because of them. Not tonight, they keyed a come-from-behind win where they started out down 26. Mike Conley had 11 fourth quarter, points, Vince Carter finally showed up hit three from beyond the arc in the quarter,and then Courtney Lee made the play of the game.

source:  Sacramento Kings. Tough loss. They didn’t lose this one on a last second tip play (although the Kings’ defense did break down on it) nor because of the officials on a close play. No, they lost this one when they led by 26 in the second quarter and 15 at the start of the fourth quarter and couldn’t hold the lead. Sacramento shot 38.9 percent in the fourth quarter, with Rudy Gay going 0-of-3 and Darren Collison going 1-of-4. This is a young team still learning how to win, and there are going to be rough patches. This is one of those.

source:  Pau Gasol. He is playing the best basketball we have seen from him since the “I’m an All-Star and the Lakers are contenders” years. We saw it again on Thursday night as he put up 27 points on 19 shots plus pulled down 11 boards against the Raptors in a game where the Bulls looked like the best team in the East. Gasol was 9-of-13 inside 8 feet of the rim — Tom Thibodeau is using him like a post player, not trying to force him to be a stretch four like Mike D’Antoni too often did. Gasol also defended — the Raptors were 3-of-12 shooting at the rim when he was protecting it. He is a great fit for this team and after spending the summer with his friends on the Spanish national team you can see his passion for the game is rekindled.

source:  Philadelphia 76ers. Hey Michael Carter-Williams, welcome back to the NBA. I think we all understand the strategy Sam Hinkie is employing. And maybe — maybe — we’ll look back on this in five years as worth it because the Sixers will have a team stockpiled with talent. But good lord are they atrocious now. They are the Medusa of the NBA, watch just part of their game and you’ll turn to stone. I feel for Sixers fans. Their team trailed Dallas 73-29 at the half — if Dallas had not scored the entire second half they still would have won the game by three (the final was 123-70). The Sixers shot 51.5 percent for the game — from the free throw line. From the field it was 29.9 percent. Ugly. Again, I get the strategy, but being this bad is just not good for the league and it’s got to just wear down the fan base.

Derrick Rose calls hamstring injury “minor,” a “cramp”

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Derrick Rose left another game with an injury, this time a left hamstring issue that came up in the fourth quarter of the Bulls win over the Raptors. After the game, while Rose wasn’t quite as colorful with his language as Joakim Noah, he did say this was no big deal, as you can see from the video above (courtesy CSNChicago.com).

“I had cramps in my hamstrings but I think it’s minor. They decided to pull me out, so they left it like that.”

“It feels like just cramps. I sat out, we got a good team, we had the game we were up 10 by then so I was fortunate.”

Rose said it’s too early to know if he will be able to play Saturday when the Bulls host the Pacers.

The Bulls as an organization are treating Rose with an abundance of caution. To put it kindly. I think they covered every sharp corner in his house with bubble wrap. It is very possible he sits out a game or four if he is anything short of 100 percent. That’s what they’ve done in regards to his ankles. Rose has talked about wanting to be healthy for life after basketball (and there’s not anything wrong with that) but Tom Thibodeau and the organization know when they really need him right is the playoffs, because with him they’re contenders (they did just knock off the team with the best record in the East Thursday).

PBT Extra: Can Memphis, Houston sustain hot starts?

New Orleans Pelicans v Memphis Grizzlies New Orleans Pelicans v Memphis Grizzlies New Orleans Pelicans v Memphis Grizzlies
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Earlier this week we talked surprises out East, now it’s time for Jenna Corrado and I to focus on the West in the latest PBT Extra.

Memphis’ grit and grind brought playoff basketball to the regular season — and it works. They are 7-1. So long as Marc Gasol stays healthy and they keep defending they are going to win games at a nice clip, but they need Vince Carter to find his shot because their bench is woeful.

Houston has looked good early behind the best defense in the NBA so far, plus James Harden is putting up 25+ a game. They are good. They also have played just three likely playoff teams in those eight games so far (going 2-1), you can’t feast on the Lakers and Sixers forever. Their tests remain ahead of them.

And what about the Kings? They may be inconsistent but Sacramento fans can savor how much better they are than the Lakers.

Michael Carter-Williams returns to court for Sixers tonight, doesn’t like the word “tanking”

Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers
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The reigning Rookie of the Year is back.

In a limited role (he’s on a minutes restriction), but Michael Carter-Williams will be back on the court for the Philadelphia 76ers tonight when they take on the Dallas Mavericks. Carter-Williams had shoulder surgery after the season ended last year and there were varying reports on how much time he might miss, but he had said his goal was only to miss seven games, and he hit that number. Bottom line, despite his raw numbers less Tony Wroten is a good thing.

Now Carter-Williams and former AAU teammate Nerlens Noel get to play together again (both are expected to play Thursday night), something they talked about with CSNPhilly.com. They’re pumped to be back together, they feel they have a real chemistry together.

If you want to watch a live stream of Carter-Williams return and are a Comcast subscriber living in the Philadelphia area, you can do so by following this link. If you have questions here are the details on who can watch the live stream.

This is going to be a rough welcome back to the NBA — Carter-Williams is returning as the 0-7 Sixers take a three game swing through Texas, which likely means they will be 0-10 when it’s done. This is a team that lost 26 in a row last season and one where the organization is clearly tanking for another high pick.

Announcement: Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $125,000 Fantasy Basketball league forThursday’s NBA games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $15,000. Starts at 8pm ET on ThursdayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Carter-Williams hates the word tanking, and he hates losing. He wrote about it at The Players Tribune in a first-person piece.

Losing sucks. I don’t care how much money you make or what stats you put up. If you’re competitive enough to make it to the NBA, losing is absolutely brutal. If it’s a night game, you get home around midnight and your mind is racing. It’s almost impossible to sleep. You keep visualizing every game-changing play, trying to figure out what you could’ve done better. You beat yourself up. You try not to look at your texts. If SportsCenter comes on, it only makes you mad….

I can understand why the media seized onto the story (of the 26 straight losses). My problem is that it was missing a lot of context. We didn’t even have the worst record in the league at the time, but the average person watching on TV probably didn’t know that. The media spin was that we were tanking the season so we could get the number one draft pick. Now, let’s break that down for a minute. First of all, there’s a lottery system. As players, we all know the math. The last place team only has a 25 percent chance of winning the lottery. Grown men are going to go out and purposely mail it in for a one-in-four shot at drafting somebody who might someday take their job? Nope….

You can question my shooting. You can question my ceiling. Just don’t question if I’m giving my all every single night. Don’t talk to me about tanking.

I get why MCW and the players would take tanking talk personally, but he misses the point that it’s not about them. I don’t for a second question how badly coach Brett Brown, Carter-Williams and every other player in that locker room wants to win. Nobody rational is suggesting they are intentionally losing games.
Rather, the tanking is an institutional thing, the brain child of GM Sam Hinkie. Stockpile draft picks then put out a roster not capable of winning many games in hopes of getting a lot of quality talent to build a team out of. And it’s working — MCW, Noel, Joel Embiid and so whoever they draft this year. Come 2017-18, this could start to be a really dangerous team.

But not this year. Which is why the tanking narrative will continue.

None of that really matters tonight, true lovers of basketball are just happy to see Carter-Williams back on the court.

Dwight Howard rejects Andrew Wiggins at the rim (VIDEO)

Minnesota Timberwolves v Houston Rockets
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The Minnesota Timberwolves gave Andrew Wiggins his chances Wednesday. With James Harden guarding him the Timberwolves isolated Wiggins on the wing or in the post and let him go right at Harden one-on-one — and predictably that led to some good things for Minnesota. There were dunks.

But Dwight Howard was there to clean up some messes, too.

Wiggins got to see first hand what a former Defensive Player of the Year can do (and why sometimes you may want to dump that one off to Nikolas Pekovic). Howard had four blocks on the night and the Rockets picked up a comfortable 113-101 win.

Announcement: Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $125,000 Fantasy Basketball league forThursday’s NBA games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $15,000. Starts at 8pm ET on ThursdayHere’s the FanDuel link.