Kurt Helin

Oklahoma City Thunder v Denver Nuggets

Kenneth Faried with breakaway windmill slam (VIDEO)

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There are not a lot of reasons to watch Denver Nuggets games right now — save for the train wreck factor of a team in free fall — but Kenneth Faried can still provide a few highlights.

Faried and Ty Lawson jumped on a pass to Serge Ibaka near the top of the key, stripped him of the ball, then it was off to the races for Faried, who finished with authority.

The game itself went about like you’d expect, the Thunder opened on a 15-4 run and never looked back. This game never felt in doubt, and Kevin Durant made sure of that with 40 points on 19 shots.

Five Things We Learned in NBA Monday: Anthony Davis plans to play in All-Star Game, Carmelo isn’t so sure

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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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 while pointing out some egregious mistakes in the new J-Lo movie

1) Anthony Davis still plans to play in All-Star Game. Anthony Davis sat out Monday night’s Pelicans’ loss to the Jazz because of a grade 1 sprained shoulder after his nasty fall. (That’s the kind of loss that is going to make it hard for the Pelicans to catch the Suns and make the playoffs, but that’s another story.) The good news is Davis plans to be in New York this weekend and play in Sunday’s All-Star game, something mentioned both during the broadcast of the game and in several postgame reports. Whew. He has been the NBA’s best player this season at age 21, and the game would not be the same without the league’s fastest rising star.

2) Carmelo Anthony may not. Carmelo would have shut it down for the season and had knee surgery already if he did not so badly want to play host as the All-Star Game comes to New York City. But Monday night midway through the fourth quarter he extended his knee while planting to go up for a turnaround jumper and aggravated his already sore left knee. ‘Melo left the game, not to return. He is now unsure if he will be able to go in Sunday’s game. After Sunday, I’d but the under/over on games Anthony plays before he shuts it down for the season at 2.5. And I’d bet the under.

3) Kevin Durant is unstoppable. The All-Star game is an exhibition that is supposed to showcase the NBA’s best — Monday night is exhibit A as to  why you need to have Durant in that showcase. Even if he’s only played in 25 games this season. He dropped 40 points on 19 shots on the Nuggets, including hitting 7-of-10 threes from above the break. When he get going like this there’s nothing you can do.

4) DeAndre Jordan played like a guy who will get paid this summer (and he will). DeAndre Jordan is going to get a max or near max contract from the Clippers next summer and a lot of people are going to shake their heads when it happens. There are two reasons it will happen, and the way he absolutely owned the paint against Dallas Monday is one of them — he had 20 points and 27 rebounds, 11 of them offensive. He can be a force of nature on the court. Jordan is by no means a great shooter, but he knows what he can’t do (shoot jumpers) and avoids it. Of Jordan’s 12 shots, 11 were at the rim. He also had three blocks on the night. The second reason Jordan is going to get paid next July is pure basketball economics: The Clippers are already pushing the salary cap for next season without re-signing him. If they let him walk, they can’t come close to replacing the quality he brings to the court with the money they will have left. So the Clippers, who have Jordan’s Bird rights and can go over the cap to keep him, will outbid everyone else. Steve Ballmer can afford the tax.

5) Gregg Popovich has the formula down for winning 1,000 games. Get good players, stick around a long time. Like it’s just that easy. (Note to Sacramento, Orlando and a number of other struggling franchises — notice what consistency of a system can do for you?)

Pelicans’ Anthony Davis out Monday night due to shoulder injury

Anthony Davis
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After a fall that nasty, Anthony Davis and the Pelicans — not to mention basketball fans everywhere — are lucky he has just a sprained shoulder. He is officially day-to-day.

That said, New Orleans’ Mr. Everything is out Monday night against Utah.

The Pelicans are not anywhere near the same team on either end without Davis — Chicago went almost instantly on a 10-0 run when Davis went down in the second quarter. The Bulls outscored the Pelicans by more than 30 points the rest of the game.

Utah has been difficult to defeat all season (they’ve lost a lot of games but have been competitive), this will be a tough test for the Pelicans. But if they want to stay in the West playoff chase this is the kind of game they need even with Davis out.

It is unclear when Davis will return, or if he will play in the All-Star Game this weekend in New York, where the fans voted him in as a starter.

PBT Extra: How much trouble are Clippers in without Blake Griffin?

Blake Griffin
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The Clippers have lost four in a row, face the Mavericks and Rockets before the All-Star break, and then return to a brutal schedule that includes the Spurs, Grizzlies twice, Rockets, and Bulls in their next six games.

And they have to do all of that without Blake Griffin, who is out after having surgery to drain an infected elbow.

How much trouble are the Clippers in? Is it miss the playoffs level trouble? That’s what Jenna Corrado and I discuss in the latest PBT Extra. The answer depends on how long Griffin is out — it could be two weeks, it could be more than a month — and if Spencer Hawes can step up in his absence. Because so far this season the Clippers have been a six-man team trying to survive when anyone beyond that is on the court.

Also discussed: Other teams genuinely hate the Clippers and fans are catching on.

Report: Kings very near four-year deal to hire George Karl as coach

George Karl
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In the end, it came down to what General Manager Pete D’Alessandro wanted. And he all along wanted George Karl as the Kings’ coach

There were reports that it was in the owner’s court, but Vivek Ranadive and D’Alessandro met on Sunday, and the owner put the ball in D’Alessandro’s court, reported Sam Amick of USA Today. If the GM wanted Karl, go hire him.

There were reports that DeMarcus Cousins’ camp was pushing back against a Karl hiring. His people denied that – what they wanted to know was why every couple years the plan in Sacramento just radically changes. Which is a valid question. Either way were Ranadive and D’Alessandro really going to give their star player veto power?

In the end, it looks like a deal is going to get done to make Karl the next coach of the Kings, reports Adrain Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The Sacramento Kings and George Karl are progressing on a four-year contract worth between $4 million to $5 million a season to become coach of the Sacramento Kings, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Tyrone Corbin will coach the final two Kings’ games before the All-Star break Tuesday at Chicago and Wednesday at Milwaukee, and – barring an unforeseen snag – Karl will take over as head coach afterward, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The official announcement may be a ways off. Karl is a North Carolina grad who next will be attending Dean Smith’s funeral.

The Kings fired coach Mike Malone midway through the season — a move not popular with Cousins or others in the locker room — and the team has gone 7-19 since.

The reported reason for the firing was Ranadive wanted a more up-tempo team than the defense-first Malone gave him. If so, Karl is a great hire. He wants an up-tempo, open system — remember the last team Karl coached won 57 games in Denver with Ty Lawson at the helm of a free-wheeling offense.

Cousins has the game to blossom in a version of that system.

The next question might be, will Ranadive keep D’Alessandro on as GM, to buy the groceries for his new chef? That question is not going to be answered until the season ends, but it’s something to watch.