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 clearing your schedule for the Saturday Night Live marathon…
1) Doc Rivers the GM is making it very hard for Doc Rivers the coach. I thought this season the Clippers would take a step forward. Last year they built a foundation, this season they would build on that and move into to true contender status. I was wrong. At least so far. The Clippers are not a bad team by any stretch — they’re 26-13 with two of the top dozen players in the world — but they have not looked the part of contender. One issue is defense, specifically consistency of effort on the defensive end.
But the other issue is depth and lack of good play from the three spot. Which is why the trade the Clippers finalized Thursday makes no sense — they traded two wing players (Reggie Bullock and Chris Douglas-Roberts) plus a draft pick to get a combo guard in Austin Rivers. Is Rivers an upgrade over Jordan Farmar? I would say it’s a wash, save that Rivers is younger and maybe can be developed into something. But GM Doc Rivers traded away two players at a position of need — not great players, but players — for one lateral move at a position where they were okay. Outside of nepotism I don’t see any logic behind this. Even if the Clippers round out the roster with free agents such as Nate Robinson and Tayshaun Prince, that doesn’t make this trade logical. Doc Rivers the coach should be pissed at Doc Rivers the GM.
2) James Harden wants your MVP vote. This was more than James Harden reminding Sam Presti and Thunder fans what they are missing, this was Harden making his MVP case on the big stage of a Thursday night, nationally televised game against another contender. Harden had 19 points in the first quarter (the Rockets had 40) and finished with 31 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds. Harden can always attack and get to the line, but when his three is falling — he was 6-of-8 — you can’t defend him. Harden was also 7-of-10 on contested shots, he just could not miss. Most observers have Stephen Curry and Harden as the top two people on their MVP ballot at the midway point, Harden just came out and made his case Thursday.
3) It’s still fun to watch Kobe Bryant and LeBron James go at each other. We’re not going to get to see nights like this again for very long, where two of the greats of the game go at each other head-to-head, jawing with each other through it all. And with a smile on their face the whole time. LeBron and Kobe put on a great show (the Cavs won), we need to savor these moments when they happen.
4) The Phoenix Suns just make smart little pickups. Out of today’s Austin Rivers’ trade Phoenix picks up Reggie Bullock for next to nothing. That is the kind of move a smart team makes. Bullock is in his second season and hasn’t been able to really crack the Clippers rotation, but he has shown promise. Last season he was raw and not ready, this season his shooting numbers improved (including 38.5 percent from three) and he continues to show flashes of what he can do as a defender. Doc has the Clippers in a win-now place and just couldn’t give the minutes to develop. The Suns can give him some run (in a more open system) and he could thrive there and become part of their rotation. Oh, and he’s still on his rookie contract.
5) Knicks are horrid no matter what continent you put them on. Carmelo Anthony was back — he wanted to be on the big international stage and he played fairly well putting up 25 points (although the rust showed on the eight turnovers). That doesn’t change the fact the Knicks are just hard to watch. With this game in London Knicks highlights should have the Benny Hill theme “Yakety Sax” as a soundtrack. The Bucks kept moving off the ball on offense and lost their man all game, the Knicks just watched them. The Bucks trust their system and are growing to trust their teammates. The Knicks… tear it down to build it back up. Phil Jackson did the right things with these recent trades, it’s a better plan than the quick fix option we have seen there for so long. But that doesn’t make this team with 16 straight losses any easier to watch.