<span class="vcard">Kurt Helin</span>

Wizards wall ugly sweater

NBA themed ugly holiday sweaters? You can get that.

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It’s approaching ugly sweater party season, a growing holiday tradition among those having a little fun with tradition. Or just those looking for another excuse to drink spiked egg nog. Either way.

If you’re an NBA fan who was thinking “I would love an NBA-themed ugly sweater” you’re in luck. Actually, if you actually thought that we’re a little worried about you, but you’re still in luck. A company called Forever Collectables is about to have them for sale… and they are ugly. From our friends at the Washington Post (via the All Ball Blog):

That’s going to be tough to top, but we’ll have to see what the holiday sweaters in Hornets or Lakers colors looks like before we make a formal pronouncement.

But if you’re a Wizards and John Wall fan, you should totally buy and wear this around. People who see you wearing this will know you’re a hardcore fan. And they’ll worry about you a little.

Lakers’ Ryan Kelley has torn hamstring, out at least six weeks

Los Angeles Lakers Media Day
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Lakers stretch four Ryan Kelly has had a hard time getting healthy and getting in Byron Scot’s rotation. He injured both his hamstrings starting back in training camp and it was a long, slow road to get back on the court.

The second-year player out of Duke was on the court for the Lakers Sunday night against the Warriors and in the second quarter tried to drive the hoop and pulled up holding his right hamstring again. He left the game and at the time it looked like it could be real trouble.

It was.

Ouch. Another day another injury for the Lakers.

Kelly has shown real flashes of potential because he’s a threat from three plus he can put the ball on the floor. He’s struggled on defense, but as a second year player this is the kind of guy the Lakers should want to develop as a future rotation player in whatever incarnation the team grows toward in the coming years.

This is a setback on this road. Hopefully we’ll see him back not long after the first of the year.

PBT Extra: Talking Rudy Gay’s three-year, $40 million extension in Sacramento

Rudy Gay, Goran Dragic
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Rudy Gay has found a home in Sacramento.

After years of just being an inefficient gunner in Toronto and Memphis who worked too much in isolation, Gay has thrived as the second option in Sacramento. Gay is scoring 22.5 points a game and the Kings have gotten off to a 6-4 start despite a tough schedule. They look like a team that might battle for one of those last playoff spots in the West, if they can sustain this start.

All of which led to the Kings deciding to keep Gay around for a couple more years at least (and him timing his next contract when the flood of money from the new TV deal is on the market). Why this works for everyone is what Jenna Corrado and I discuss in the latest edition of PBT Extra.

Rumor: Kenneth Faried isn’t loved in Nuggets organization

Denver Nuggets versus the Portland Trail Blazers
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The Nuggets are a mess, one that makes you think Brian Shaw could be in the firing line next summer, if not before. This was a team first built for George Karl’s high-speed attack that has struggled as Shaw has tried to install a more systematic approach and asked his guys to play more traditional roles.

That includes the team’s biggest star Kenneth Faried, who looked great as an energy guy, a glue guy doing the dirty work for Team USA this summer but isn’t the kind of shot creator you can easily build a franchise around. Except that the Nuggets are paying him like that now — he got a contract extension of four years, $50 million (after the team leaked that it was five years, $60 million, numbers not allowed under the current CBA).

What’s more, Faried is not popular in the locker room reports Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN, in a brilliant piece talking about the Nuggets collapse in recent years.

Several sources around the league insist the Nuggets’ hand was forced with regard to Faried. After the signing of (J.J.) Hickson to a three-year, approximately $16 million contract soon after (GM Tim) Connelly’s arrival, the sense was the bouncy big man was insurance against Faried’s departure in free agency in 2014. Faried was a fan favorite in Denver, but multiple sources with knowledge of the Nuggets’ thinking maintain the team “isn’t crazy about him,” particularly Shaw. But with Faried’s boffo showing last summer with Team USA and a loyal following in Denver, the media-conscious Nuggets caved, adding yet another imperfect 4-man to their lot.

“[Faried] is a helluva player and plays hard, but he isn’t well liked [in the organization],” a league source said. “That gets glossed over. He says crazy s—. He thinks he’s the guy, and other guys take exception to his contract.”

Let the denials from the organization begin in 5…4…3…

Faried and Shaw certainly had a rough start to their relationship, something Faried discussed with ProBaketballTalk a week ago.

“Before, last year, we’d butt heads because certain philosophies he was going with I didn’t want to obey them or abide by them. I wanted to do my own thing and play more minutes. I was frustrated,” Faried said. “But as the season went on, it sucked because guys went down, but we had to come together and click in order for us to win the number of games we won last year.

“It helped a lot going into this year, with me coming back from (Team) USA and the things I did there, he has even more confidence in me and plays me more minutes and make sure I’m on the court to help the team and make an impact.”

Actually Faried’s minutes, points, and efficiency are all down slightly from last season.

That said, in a market where Faried is very popular with the fans — we all love the hustle guy —it is the player that the team’s owners will back over the coach. It almost doesn’t matter what the people in the organization think.

Things are bad in Denver, the 2-7 Nuggets are struggling nightly with a bottom 10 offense and defense. The Knicks just snapped a seven-game losing streak against them. A rash of injuries last season disguised the obvious: When you let GM Masai Ujiri and coach George Karl go, you’re going to take a step backward.

PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: Rockets, Grizzlies move to the top of the charts

Dwight Howard, Jason Terry, James Harden
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This early in the season there is still a lot of shifting around in the rankings as we are just starting to get a real sense of the pecking order, while teams that got off to a slow start find a groove (such as San Antonio). About the only thing we can count on right now is the Sixers and Lakers to be bad.

 
source:  1. Rockets (9-1, Last Week No. 2). Nobody is shooting threes like the Rockets, who have averaged 32.7 attempts per game (hitting 36.1 percent, which is okay but not great). Even with that, they just had two rough offensive outings and got wins because they played the Sixers and Thunder. Big showdown Monday with Memphis but the schedule is still pretty kind to Houston.

 
source:  2. Grizzlies (9-1, LW 3) They have racked up the wins but against one of the softest schedules in the NBA so far — Phoenix, New Orleans and Charlotte are the only potential playoff teams they have seen, and they needed a 26 point comeback on Kings and struggled with the Lakers. This week the schedule stiffens with the Rockets, Raptors and Clippers.

 
source:  3. Warriors (8-2, LW 1). What I like most from Steve Kerr’s offense is that he’s got them playing a little bit faster, and that pace seems to be picking up. Also, they are getting used to the offense and the turnovers seem to be going down. Still, that was not a good loss to a Spurs team (on the second night of a back-to-back).

 
source:  4. Mavericks (7-3, LW 12). They are benefitting from a soft spot in the schedule (save for upstart Sacramento, but Dallas came from 24 down to win) and that continues this week. Well, up until a weekend showdown with Houston. If you have Chandler Parsons on your fantasy team, play him that night.

 
source:  5. Trail Blazers (7-3. LW 10). They keep picking up wins (against soft teams last week) behind the hot shooting Damian Lillard — the NBA’s Western Conference Player of the Week is averaging 7.1 attempts from three a game and is hitting 46.5 percent of them. The days of going under the pick with him are long gone.

 
source:  6. Spurs (5-4, LW 15). Back-to-back road wins over the Clippers and Warriors announced San Antonio’s slow start was over and they are back to being the Spurs. That their defense is still top five without Tiago Splitter is impressive because when you watch them play you see how much they miss his rim protection.

 
source:  7. Bulls (7-3, LW 5). Lost in all the “Derrick Rose injury watch” overhype, the Bulls have a Top 10 offense. They are scoring 106 points per 100 possessions. As their defense starts to round into Tom Thibodeau form, this team looks more and more dangerous.

 
source:  8. Raptors (8-2, LW 4).
Loss to the Bulls just showing the Raptors where the bar will be set in the Easter playoffs. Their seven-game home stand ends this week and starting Saturday 5-of-7 are on the road, including at Cleveland Saturday. Some real tests ahead for Toronto.

 
source:  8. Cavaliers (5-3 LW 16). The offense has found its groove, as expected, with great ball movement and guys who can knock down the open look. Plus they have that LeBron James guy (playing 39 minutes a night). But the questions remain on defense, where this is still a bottom five team in the league.

 
source:  9. Wizards (7-2, LW 9). I don’t know that you can be an unimpressive 7-2, but the Wizards have picked up their wins against a soft schedule so far. However, they likely get Bradley Beal back this Friday and he instantly makes them more dangerous.

 
source:  11. Clippers (5-3, LW 8). The Lakers hole at the three spot is creating some serious defensive issues for the team. These are not the kinds of flaws that show up too often in the regular season, but they get exploited mercilessly come the playoffs. Tough week, facing the Bulls then at Memphis and Miami.

 
source:  12. Pelicans (5-3, LW 14). They are outscoring teams by 6.4 points per 100 possessions, sixth best margin in the NBA and ahead of teams like Memphis and Cleveland. We said the key to them this season (aside health) was getting the defense up to at least average. It’s still early, but the Pelicans are currently 14th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, which is pretty much average.

 
source:  13. Kings (6-4, LW 6). The beat the Spurs, but it is a little disturbing that they blew better than 20 point leads against both Dallas and Memphis. Keeping Rudy Gay for a couple more years was a win-win for both sides, he’s found a home in the California capital.

 
source:  14. Suns (5-5, LW 13). Isaiah Thomas has looked great coming off the bench. Like “can we still keep bringing him off the bench?” good. Interesting week for the Suns as they head out for an Easter road trip but all four games (Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia, Indiana) are winnable.

 
source:  15. Heat (5-5, LW 7). Dwyane Wade went down with a hamstring injury (he’s missed two games so far), then not so coincidentally Chris Bosh and Luol Deng have off shooting nights. When defenses can focus on fewer threats it makes it can take away the space and pace the Heat rely on.

 
source:  16. Hawks (5-4, LW 21). This is a team getting nice play out of Jeff Teague and Al Horford on offense, plus they are moving the ball and as a team assisting on 2/3 of their buckets. However, their bottom 10 defense so far has them hanging around .500.

 
source:  17. Bucks (5-5, LW 20). We knew the Greek Freak would be fun to watch, as would Jabari Parker. What nobody saw coming was Brandon Knight playing beautifully and the Bucks having a top three defense. You’ve got to give Jason Kidd a round of applause for his work so far.

 
source:  18. Nets (4-5, LW 11). A tough West Coach road swing exposed some issues for the Nets. Now Joe Johnson is calling the team “selfish” and Brook Lopez isn’t his old self late in games, all of which means the struggles from the West could well follow Brooklyn home.

 
source:  19. Celtics (3-5, LW 17). The collapse and loss to Cleveland was a tough to swallow, even if it took LeBron going LeBron to make it happen. The Celtics have the sixth most efficient offense in the NBA but when your defense is 27th you still lose more than you win.

 
source:  20. Jazz (4-7, LW 18). Utah’s offense is 13.3 points better per 100 possessions when Gordon Hayward is on the floor. With Derrick Favors the offense is +10.6 better. And you wonder why the Jazz decided to pay those two guys big money.

 
source:  21. Hornets (4-6, LW 19). They went 1-2 on a West Coast road swing but they Hornets showed some real signs of life. Lance Stephenson seems to be getting more and more comfortable with his teammates. It was always going to be a process in Charlotte, with that team looking a lot better in the second half of the year compared to the first.

 
source:  22. Pacers (4-7, LW 29). Roy Hibbert remains on of the best rim protecting big men in the game and the heart of the Pacers defense, but when he sits down the Pacers offense gets 13.2 points better per 100 possessions. Still, credit the Pacers for finding themselves lately and picking up a few wins.

 
source:  23. Magic (4-7, LW 27). Losing rookie Aaron Gordon to injury is a punch to the gut, but on the bright side Victor Oladipo is back and finding his way. You have to like the way they competed against Toronto and Washington this past week.

 
source:  24. Knicks (3-8, LW 24). The Knicks will take the win over struggling Denver as it ends their seven game losing streak, and they have three more winnable ones coming up (Milwaukee, Minnesota and Philly). So, anyone still think Steve Kerr has second thoughts about not taking this job last summer?

 
source:  25. Thunder (3-8, LW 25). The return of Reggie Jackson has been a boost to a previously terrible offense, but it doesn’t exactly make it good. We’ll see how much the Thunder are improving in winnable games against Utah, Denver and Brooklyn this week — these are the kind of wins they need to keep their heads above water before the dynamic duo returns next month.

 
source:  26. Pistons (3-7, LW 23). Brandon Jennings is putting up impressive numbers and the defense isn’t terrible, but until the Pistons can get the front line to work together — and until Andre Drummond really blossoms under Stan Van Gundy — this team is going to struggle. The question is how long.

source:  27. Timberwolves (2-7, LW 22). They had two of the ugliest losses of the season, giving up better than 130 points on back-to-back nights. Ricky Rubio is a better defender than he gets credit for and they clearly miss him. They are reportedly shopping veteran Corey Brewer and don’t be shocked if other veterans on that team find themselves in a lot of trade rumors.

 
source:  28. Nuggets (2-7, LW 26). This team is a mess and you’ve got a feeling Brian Shaw’s seat has to be getting pretty warm right now. When your home fans are booing the team’s effort, it’s not a good sign.

 
source:  29. Lakers (1-9, LW 28). On the season now the Lakers have a defensive rating of 114.7, which is 3.8 points per 100 possessions worse than anyone else in the NBA, and if they keep this up it would be the worst NBA defense since at least 2000. But hey, Kobe Bryant is scoring.

 
source:  30. 76ers (0-9, LW 30). We try to focus on the good of seeing Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel together, but when you trail 78-29 at the half in a game as the Sixers did last week there really are no positives. Teams trying to avoid giving the Sixers their first win of the season this week: San Antonio, Boston, Phoenix and New York.