Tag: Jrue Holiday

Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green

PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: It’s the Warriors world


If you’ve been wondering “when do the Western Conference powers start beating up each other?” the answer is pretty much now. As we head into the Christmas day slate of games things will get interesting, but for now the top remains the same as Golden State is just winning and winning and winning.

source:  1. Warriors (21-2, Last Week No. 1). When Andrew Bogut was out we quickly saw how much he meant to this team — the rim protection on defense was not nearly the same, and equally important his passing on offense that helps them move the ball strong to weak quickly was gone. For about a half. By the time Golden State rolled into Dallas Saturday they were again a force again in an impressive win. Still, Bogut is key for them come the playoffs, best to get him fully healthy now.

source:  2. Rockets (18-5, LW 3). The Rockets were 8-3 with Dwight Howard out (surprisingly Rockets had fifth best defense in league in last 10 without Howard) and in that time James Harden averaged 29.1 points a game, shot 39 percent from three, dished out 6.1 assist and pulled down 6 rebounds a game. James Harden is playing like an MVP, and that didn’t change on Howard’s return when Harden dropped a triple double Saturday.

source:  3. Grizzlies (19-4, LW 6) I only moved them up to third because while they beat Charlotte and Philadelphia they didn’t exactly look good doing it. This coming week is different, win these games any way you can and you move up: Warriors, Spurs, Bulls and Cavaliers.

source:  4. Trail Blazers (18-6. LW 4). They have a top 10 offense, a top 10 defense, they look like they can beat anybody, but they also are fully capable of mailing it in and losing to Minnesota. Tough stretch coming up with the Spurs twice this week, plus the Rockets and Thunder on the road to start next week.

source:  5. Spurs (17-7, LW 2). That loss to the Lakers was the kind of game which leads to the :45 second, angry Gregg Popovich press conference. What should make him feel better — not happy, Popovich is never happy — is the return of Tiago Splitter to the lineup. Splitter even started on Sunday night. That should improve their defense.

source:  6. Clippers (16-7, LW 5). Doc Rivers said the key to Chris Paul’s improved shooting this season is he is taking the first good, open look he gets. “That’s what we need him to do, take the open shot. I jokingly tell him, the option you are looking for is you. When you’re coming wide open off the pick and roll, he’ll do it tonight at least once or twice, he’ll look around and I’ll be ‘what is the better option than right now.’ And he’s doing it.”

source:  7. Mavericks (17-8, LW 7). They are 0-6 vs. Western Conference playoff teams and 17-2 vs. everyone else. That can’t make Mark Cuban comfortable. Chandler Parsons isn’t comfortable due to lower back soreness, he missed one game and could miss more.

source:  8. Cavaliers (13-9 LW 8). Has LeBron James lost some bounce this season? Probably, he’s not as aggressive going to the rim. But his playmaking skills and his desire to use them with his new teammates is part of the reason he’s not attacking as much. Also, there’s just not the space in the Cavs offense yet that there was in Miami.

source:  9. Raptors (18-6, LW 7). Kyle Lowry must make the All-Star team in the East. I know the point guard spot is loaded (Irving, Rose, Wall) but Lowry is simply playing too well (PER of 23.2, as a snapshot) to be ignored.

source:  10. Bulls (15-8, LW 12). Derrick Rose is getting his points a little differently (that floater is a weapon) but he’s starting to get them again and that’s good news in Chicago. The best sign of a title contender is a top 5 offense and defense (in terms of efficiency), the Bulls have that.

source:  11. Wizards (17-6, LW 11). Quality win over the Clippers last week, showing on the right night this team can beat anyone. Consistency is always the question, they had down games against Boston and Orlando. Still, they won those two and eight of their last nine.

source:  12. Hawks (16-7, LW 10). It wasn’t pretty when their winning streak was snapped by the Magic. The Hawks have played the easiest schedule in the NBA so far but that is about to change: Bulls, Cavaliers (twice), Rockets, Mavericks, Clippers, and Bucks (twice) make up the next eight games.

source:  13. Thunder (11-13, LW 18). Winners of five in a row and eight of nine, they could be the eight seed inside a week as after the top seven in the West things have fallen off. On Tuesday Kevin Durant should get to 15,000 points in his career, second youngest to do it behind LeBron.

source:  14. Bucks (12-12, LW 15). Maybe the most entertaining team in the league and also one of its biggest surprises at .500 and in the playoffs in the East. What’s been impressive is the quality play Jason Kidd is getting out of his bench, which is not flush with big names.

source:  15. Pelicans (11-12, LW 16). They got great guard play Sunday night from Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans but this team needs Anthony Davis back in the lineup (chest contusion) if they are going to start winning more consistently.

source:  16. Kings (11-13, LW 14). Ownership wants to play faster (more Spurs-like) and Tyrone Corbin is going to oblige now that Mike Malone has been fired. One problem: This roster really isn’t built to play faster or move the ball like the Spurs. DeMarcus Cousins is a halfcourt guy (Team USA tried to get him to run more with limited success) but at least he can pass, their starting two guard doesn’t have the handles or the passing skills, Rudy Gay’s legs aren’t as young as they once were and he’s a volume scorer, and there’s just not enough overall athleticism. We’ll see how this strategy goes.

source:  17. Suns (12-13, LW 13). P.J. Tucker was given some starts for defensive reasons and nightly he gets the toughest opponent assignments — he had DeMarcus Cousins against the Kings, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin against the Clippers. That’s versatility. His defense hasn’t helped much as they have lost five in a row and are falling fast down the Western Conference standings.

source:  18. Nuggets (10-14, LW 17). JaVale McGee is going to be out for months, just another of the guys they would normally have in their rotation who are banged up (that’s five now). This team is still dangerous, however. Just ask the Raptors.

source:  19. Nets (10-12, LW 21). They have been beating up lottery bound teams but are struggling with any team looking like a playoff squad. Which could be trouble this week against Miami, Toronto and Cleveland.

source:  20. Heat (11-13, LW 19). Josh McRoberts is out for a while and that is a blow to Miami on both ends of the floor — the team’s defense has struggled all season but the offense has become disjointed in recent weeks. Chris Bosh missing time doesn’t help.

source:  21. Magic (10-16, LW 23). There are a number of holes in Tobias Harris’ game, but if you need a game-winning play he should be in your top 10 because the guy just gets buckets in the clutch. The Hawks learned that the hard way.

source:  22. Lakers (8-16, LW 24). They get to keep their first round pick in the next draft if it is top five, they keep their second round pick if it is in the first 10 of the second round. The Lakers picked up a trio of nice wins this week — including an upset of the Spurs — and currently they sit tied for eighth worst record. Magic isn’t only Lakers fan rooting for losses.

source:  23. Celtics (7-14, LW 20). Rajon Rondo is dropping triple-doubles (three this season) but has been sat at the end of games as well. All of that has to be viewed through the prism of free agency/trades — do the Celtics need to move him so they don’t get nothing when he walks?

source:  24. Pacers (7-17, LW 23). They have Roy Hibbert and David West back in the lineup but it hasn’t mattered against a string of tough competition. The Pacers have lost eight in a row and are about to face a series of games against the deeper West, much of it on the road.

source:  25. Hornets (6-17, LW 25). Jeff Taylor can come back from his suspension due to domestic violence this week, which could make it easier on Charlotte if they can find someone to take on Lance Stephenson. Also, more Michael Kidd-Gilchrist please.

source:  26. Timberwolves (5-18, LW 26). Kobe Bryant said he saw himself 17 years ago in Andrew Wiggins. That’s high praise. But what Kobe came in the league with was a chip on his shoulder, a crazy work ethic, and a drive to prove himself every night. Does Wiggins?

source:  27. Jazz (6-17, LW 27). If you’re a Jazz fan your hope stems from the flashes you see from this team, like the win over San Antonio. They have moments but like a lot of young teams they simply are not consistent. Yet.

source:  28. Pistons (5-19, LW 29). Surprising wins over Phoenix and Sacramento on the road to end their losing streak. Now they have Jodie Meeks back in the rotation and once he shakes the rust off he will really help their outside shooting and spacing. Things they desperately need.

source:  29. Knicks (5-21, LW 28). With the New York media feeding a storm around this team — “they don’t like each other or the triangle” — they snapped their 10-game losing streak. But next week will be rough with Dallas, Chicago, Phoenix and Toronto.

source:  30. 76ers (2-21, LW 30). They are playing hard — they were up 18 on Memphis in the fourth — but are learning the hard way about closing out victories. Right now it’s about seeing what players can be part of the future, and K.J. McDaniels and Robert Covington can be.

PBT’s Sunday NBA Winners/Losers: Kobe Bryant reaches another milestone

Los Angeles Lakers v Minnesota Timberwolves

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 thinking maybe Ariana Grande’s ego has gotten a little too big

source:  Kobe Bryant. Say what you will about Kobe — he remains the most divisive player in the league — passing Michael Jordan on the NBA’s all-time scoring list is a serious accomplishment. Something Kobe did Sunday night from the free throw line. It speaks to playing at a high level for an extended period of time, it speaks to a guy working hard to get the most out of his natural ability. Nobody has worked harder at their craft, nobody has gotten more out of themselves than Kobe Bean Bryant. Oh, and by the way, he scored 26 on the night to lead the Lakers to their third straight win.

source:  Sacramento Kings. They didn’t even play Sunday yet they made the list because after an 11-13 start — which most considered ahead of expectations, especially since DeMarcus Cousins missed the last nine games — they fired coach Mike Malone. This was a philosophical thing — owner Vivek Ranadivé and his trusted advisor Chris Mullin wanted a more up-tempo offense than Malone gave them. Fair enough, the owner should be able to guide the team’s direction that way. But then why hire Malone in the first place — this was a guy that helped design an offense in Cleveland to get LeBron James to play slow down ball. You hired him then are shocked he didn’t want to run more? This feels like they have a guy in mind (George Karl?) and were clearing the decks early. (Tyrone Corbin will coach the Kings the rest of the season but he may want to have that resume updated for next summer.)

source:  Golden State Warriors. They are the team with the best backcourt in the NBA but on Sunday they ran into a Pelicans team where the backcourt was out to make up for the lack of Anthony Davis in the lineup — Tyreke Evans had 34 points, eight rebounds, five assists, while Jrue Holiday had 30 points and nine assists. That was enough to push Golden State to overtime but that’s where Stephen Curry scored eight of his 34 points and the Warriors picked up their 16th straight win. Klay Thompson had 29 points also, but where the Kings really get teams is their role players doing well — Draymond Green had 11 points and 13 rebounds, Shaun Livingston had a dozen off the bench.

source:  Russell Westbrook. He had 14 points in the first quarter as the Thunder pulled away early from the Suns and blew them out — with that win the Thunder are just half a game out of the eight seed in the West. That didn’t take long. Westbrook finished with 28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. He did it all — he even beat Suns’ center Alex Len on a jump ball.

It’s official, Gal Mekel reaches deal with New Orleans Pelicans

Dallas Mavericks v Sacramento Kings

We told you this was coming but now it is official:

Gal Mekel has signed on as a backup point guard with the New Orleans Pelicans, the team announced Friday. He will be in uniform on Saturday when the Pelicans take on the Clippers.

This is a non-guaranteed two-year deal according to Marc Stein of ESPN, meaning Mekel has to stick on the roster past Jan. 10 to be guaranteed a salary for the rest of this season. The second year is also not guaranteed.

The Pelicans give most of their point guard minutes to Jrue Holiday, with Austin Rivers getting the key backup minutes (and playing a little at both guard spots). Makel will battle Jimmer Fredette for the limited third point guard minutes.

Mekel, out of Israel, played for Dallas last season but was buried on the bench (behind Jose Calderon andDevin Harris). Mekel is a classic pass-first point guard who does some things well like coming off the pick-and-roll and being able to find teammates. The questions about him are his shooting (he really struggled with that in Dallas), which allows teams to go under picks, as well as his ability to defend NBA point guards.

Indiana tried to sign Mekel a couple of weeks back but were under a deadline due to a roster exception spot being about to expire and Mekel couldn’t get a work visa within the 24 hours needed (it often takes 72 hours). Although apparently that was not the problem in the Big Easy.

Some Sixers season ticket holders are understandably ticked off


I think we all have an intellectual understanding of what is going on in Philadelphia: In that market the draft is the way to rebuild, and if you’re going to go with the “be bad to be good” plan then don’t sugar coat it, don’t do it halfway, go all in. We’re still a few years away from seeing if this grand experiment works.

But if I were a season ticket holder paying hard-earned cash to see this team I would be frustrated. Actually, forget frustrated, I’d be angry. Because even if I get intellectually what this team is trying to do why am I paying good money and dragging my butt out of a warm home on a cold Philly winter night to see this Sixers team? This is not good basketball.

Some frustrated season ticket holders vented at Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil in an article by David Aldridge at NBA.com (that has great nuance and you should read the entire thing).

“A couple of years ago, you guys raised the prices when Andrew Bynum came here,” (a frustrated fan) tells the team’s chief executive officer. “And that didn’t work out. We paid for tickets, and then the [Jrue Holiday] trade happened. So we paid last year to watch nothing. And then this year, we bought tickets thinking we were gonna watch two lottery picks. The point is, we’re paying the same prices other people are paying … We’re paying what everybody is paying, and we’re watching three players out of 15 that would make [other] NBA teams…..

“I do understand the process,” another says. “And the process makes sense. But in 37 years, this is probably one of the worst teams I’ve watched … [for] those people that have endured these two years, and hoping we draft somebody that won’t be in Europe next year, draft somebody we can see and watch, give people [something] that have been there just those two years. You say ‘Together We Build.’ Bottom line, we’re trying to tank. Tank is probably a bad way to put it. But my thought is, cut to the chase.”

The Sixers refuse to say the word tank, and if you define tanking as “telling the coach/players to throw games” they are not. This is institutional tanking — put a bad roster together, play the young guys, and let what happens happen.

It’s ugly. It’s so embarrassing the other NBA owners almost changed the draft lottery system to discourage/punish them. And there are legitimate questions about the system — what are Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and the rest really learning from this? Why not have a couple real professional vets in the locker room to lead these young guys?

That said, the organization will tell you it sold more season ticket packages this year than last, and that most fans get the plan. Frankly, most of the fans venting at O’Neil understand the plan.

That doesn’t make it any easier to watch. What do that fans really think?

Per ESPN.com, the 76ers rank 28th in attendance, averaging 15,178 fans per home game. If those numbers are accurate and held up, that would represent an increase of more than 1,300 people per game over last season, when Philly averaged 13,869 fans per home game. Against the Celtics on Nov. 19, they drew 12,701 fans to Wells Fargo Arena. But tickets for the Nov. 21 game vs. Phoenix were available on StubHub for $10.95.

Here’s what O’Neil knows — if come 2018 the young players on this team blossom like management hopes selling tickets will not be an issue. Sponsors will fall over themselves to be tied to the team in any way. Philadelphia has passionate, loyal, smart fans but that doesn’t change one of the immutable facts of professional sports: Everybody wants to be associated with a winner. In America, winning cures almost all ills.

We’ll know in a couple years if everyone is falling all over each other to be mentioned with the Sixers. Or if they have to go with another plan.

Anthony Davis has arrived

Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans

PORTLAND, Ore. — Even in a loss, it was all about Anthony Davis.

The Brow was everywhere on Monday night, carving up the Portland Trail Blazers’ defense in the first three quarters. In the fourth quarter, the Pelicans went away from him, and the Blazers made a run, pulling out a 102-93 win.

It took a Herculean effort by the Blazers’ defense in the second half, led by Robin Lopez, to stop Davis’ dominant night. He finished with 31 points on 14-of-20 shooting, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks. He anchored the Pelicans’ defense, even with starting center Omer Asik injured. He took a corner three at the end that rimmed out, but he was having the kind of night where everyone assumed it would go in.

Since Davis was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, he’s had expectations foisted upon him ranging from multiple-time All-Star (he’s already on his way there) to multiple-time MVP. If the Pelicans make the playoffs, he has a solid chance of winning his first MVP trophy this season.

“He’s always been very strong mentally, he’s always shown the will to get better,” said Lopez, who played with Davis in New Orleans his rookie year. “Even as a rookie, he was a really good player. It’s nice to see that he has the guys around him now.”

Now, Lopez is on the other side, tasked with game-planning for a destructive force at both ends of the floor. He’s become somebody that opposing teams have to plan for, and they still usually aren’t able to stop him.

“He’s a difficult guy to double-team,” said Blazers coach Terry Stotts. “He doesn’t play off the dribble much. It’s usually one or two dribbles and he’s pretty quick. You’ve just got to make him work, just like all great players. You go down the list, you’ve just got to make him work for his points. He’s going to have nights like tonight where he shoots the ball really well. In this league, one guy can beat you in certain situations, but he’s not going to beat you most nights.”

MORE: CSN Bay Area subscriber? Watch Davis vs. the Kings LIVE online at 9:30 pm ET

The Blazers were finally able to effectively cover Davis in the fourth quarter, where he went 2-for-5 while guards Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday combined to go 0-for-14 in the final period.

Davis didn’t seem fazed by his lack of touches in the fourth.

“We have other scorers,” he said. “Whoever has the ball needs to score. We had good looks, we just missed opportunities.”

None of those other scorers came through on Monday night, and a dominant night from Davis ended in a loss. But he’s going to have many more nights like this. He’s already become a player that you have to make a point of watching on TV, or better yet, seeing in person. The hype is real. The future has arrived.