While Gilbert Arenas pens his redemption story, Javaris Crittenton is just looking to get by

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javaris_crittenton_wizards_bobcats.jpgGilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton will forever be linked by a card game, two unloaded guns, and a note in the Washington Wizards’ locker room, but both players were in fundamentally different positions to deal with the aftermath of their shared experience.

Arenas is a former superstar that once dined with the league’s true elite. He’s also due $80 million over the next four seasons, which makes him both a difficult player to deal and an impossible one to cut. It didn’t make sense for the Wizards to part ways with Arenas even after his various displays of irresponsibility, and now he’s an important part of the roster that will usher in a new era for the Wizards.

Gil is reinventing himself. Or learning from his mistakes. Or showing maturity. Or…something. Regardless, Arenas has a chance to make his narrative whole, and ride out what should be a few more seasons with the Wizards.

Crittenton? He was done in Washington the day he made headlines. Critt has talent, but as an unfocused (in terms of skill), atypical guard without much career production, he wasn’t deemed worth the headache, nor did he have a contract that made him so. So the Wizards waved goodbye after Crittenton served his 38-game suspension, and we sat wondering whether one bizarre incident would destroy Crittenton’s career before it had a chance to truly begin.

It didn’t, at least for now. The Charlotte Bobcats invited Crittenton to training camp with their problematic point guard rotation in mind. D.J. Augustin, who struggled last season, is the starter by default, and his primary backup, Shaun Livingston, is already having trouble staying healthy. Should Crittenton work his way onto Charlotte’s roster, there will be opportunities aplenty for minutes throughout the season, be they with Livingston sidelined or Augustin inconsistent.

Crittenton’s own health is an issue, too. A left ankle injury has hindered Crittenton for some time, in part because of a botched surgery, per Crittenton’s estimation (via the Associated Press):

…Brown also didn’t know if he was healthy, an issue that got little
attention because of his legal problems. Crittenton said he had a bone
spur in his left ankle at the beginning of last season and underwent
surgery. “It didn’t go well,” Crittenton said. “They went in from
the wrong way and it didn’t fix it. I had another surgery to actually
repair it.”

Instead of being sidelined for few weeks, Crittenton was out for the season.

“A
lot of people think I had one surgery and, ‘Oh, it’s taking a long time
to heal,'” Crittenton said. “If the first surgery was successful, I
would have been ready.”

The 38-game suspension at the end of the
season made that moot. It also meant he wasn’t returning to Washington,
and Charlotte marks his fourth team in four years. “I do feel
like I really haven’t gotten my shot yet,” Crittenton said. “I really
wasn’t one of those players who could really learn from watching. But
it’s the NBA. This is the decision I chose. I left college early and I
just have to learn. There’s no more being babied or anything like that.”

The surgery doesn’t even matter at this point. Crittenton needs to be ready now, because isn’t likely to have many other NBA lifelines.

Sadly, this could be it for Crittenton. His involvement in the Arenas gun incident is just the kind of Wikipedia-worthy trivia that could prematurely terminate his NBA career. Crittenton’s future training camp/tryout opportunities could be very limited, which makes it all the more important that his chance with the Bobcats doesn’t go south. With good coaching and the right system, Critt could be a valuable rotation player. Here’s to hoping that happens in the NBA (and in Charlotte, for that matter, where Larry Brown could really help him), rather than overseas. 

Report: Lakers to change up lineups in lieu of LeBron, wins

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The Los Angeles Lakers are not a good basketball team without LeBron James. This is fairly obvious, and we knew the ultimate test heading into this season would be if James suffered an injury that kept him out for a significant period of time.

Of course we have been able to test this theory firsthand this season as LeBron has not played since a 127-101 win over the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day. The Lakers have lost seven of their last 10 games, and so head coach Luke Walton has decided to switch up his starting lineup.

Both Josh Hart and JaVale McGee will find themselves in the reserve rotation moving forward for Los Angeles.

Via Twitter:

McGee started the season strong but has seen a downward trend in subsequent months. McGee’s rebounding numbers and have been disappointing as of late, but most shocking has been his field goal percentage. He’s been hovering in the low-60s all season long but in the month of January McGee has dipped to just 47.4 percent.

Hart has been relatively steady, although January has been hard on him from beyond the 3-point line. Typically a reliable outside shooter, Hart has shot just 17.5 percent from downtown since the start of the new year.

No doubt Walton is hoping that a change in the lineup will help alter some of the scouting opponents have against the Lakers, as well as revitalize both McGee and Hart individually.

Terry Rozier on Celtics’ challenge: “Too talented, yeah. Too talented.”

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Too many mouths to feed.

Among the many “what is wrong with the Celtics?” theories the idea that there are too many players who want touches and shots had a lot of traction around the league. Last playoffs, then rookie Jayson Tatum, second-year player Jaylen Brown, and “scary” Terry Rozier had increased roles — and thrived. They were the alphas (along with Al Horford), the guys with the ball in their hands leading a team to the conference finals, and they liked it — these are young players trying to carve out a role (or, in Rozier’s case, prove to other team’s he’s a starting point guard) and they didn’t want to take a step back. But that’s what had to happen with the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to the rotation. The result was a lack of a pecking order on offense, uncomfortable sacrifices, and precious little of the fluid play that got them within a game of the Finals a year ago.

Rozier seems to agree with that theory, speaking to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports in a story about Kyrie Irving’s adjustment to being a leader.

“I don’t think we’ve all been on a team like this,” Rozier told Yahoo. “Young guys who can play, guys who did things in their career, the group that was together last year, then you bring Kyrie and Hayward back, it’s a lot with it.”

When asked if the roster was too talented, Rozier didn’t back down.

“Too talented, yeah. Too talented.”

If everyone buys in, if everyone sacrifices (including Irving), if guys are willing to accept a role, all that talent can make the Celtics versatile and the team everyone expected. The team to beat in the East.

To get there will require Irving to be a leader — in words and actions. That’s more than just calling out the young core, it’s getting them involved and feeling like contributors so they are willing to make sacrifices. It’s doing the little things yourself. Can Irving do all that and turn Boston into the conference favorite we expected.

Or were Nets fans right, he is going to get frustrated and leave this summer?

The second half of this season in Boston is going to be fascinating.

Philadelphia signs Corey Brewer to 10-day contract in effort to add depth

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The Philadelphia 76ers remain a step behind Toronto and Milwaukee — and maybe Boston — in the Eastern Conference, despite adding Jimmy Butler to form a “big three” with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. One issue is getting those three to make sacrifices to their games and meld together. The second big issue is depth: J.J. Redick is their fourth best player, then things drop off a cliff.

Enter veteran Corey Brewer.

For at least 10 days, anyway.

The 76ers signed Brewer to a 10-day contract, the team announced Tuesday.

“For me, I love playing basketball. I just wanted another opportunity,” Brewer told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I feel like I did enough last year that I should be on a team. But sometimes things don’t work out the right way … you can’t look it like that. An opportunity is an opportunity. I get to come here, and I gotta prove myself…

“I’m like a glue guy,” he said. “I do all the little stuff. I play hard, I’m going to run hard, and I feel like the way Ben [Simmons] pushes it, that’s right up my alley.”

Brewer is the king of the leak out and may benefit from some Simmons passes that way.

Brewer split time last season between the Lakers and Thunder, and in OKC he showed he could play a role on the right team and shot 34.3 percent from three. That fit was not evident on the young Lakers, Brewer looked out of place and struggled with his shot, which is likely why he was not able to land a guaranteed contract this past offseason.

This is a 10-day contract, the Sixers can sign him to two of those before having to either let him go or commit to him for the rest of the season. This is likely the first in a series of roster moves over the next few weeks as Elton Brand looks to find the right pieces to go around his big three stars so the team can make a push this offseason.

Warriors, Nuggets battle for first in West

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Playing in big games has become the norm for the Golden State Warriors.

Not so much for the Denver Nuggets.

Tuesday’s matchup between the top two teams in the Western Conference is new territory for Denver. Since the start of the 2013-14 season, the Nuggets have been rebuilding and retooling, not competing for titles, but they have arrived this year and are challenging to be the best team in the Western Conference.

The winner of Tuesday’s game in Denver will sit atop the conference standings. Denver (29-13) has been up there for a while now, but the Warriors (29-14) might yet find another gear in the second half of the season as they pursue a third consecutive NBA championship.

They are about to get a new, big piece when DeMarcus Cousins returns this week.

The center, who signed a one-year deal in the summer, tore his Achilles almost a year ago. His season debut is projected to come on Friday at the Los Angeles Clippers. Golden State is expecting it will take time for Cousins to get fully immersed and integrated into the offense.

“We’re excited, but it’s a little daunting, too,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said in the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s not going to be simple just to plug him in. There’s going to be an adjustment period. He knows that, but it’s a fun challenge.”

The Nuggets have a big enough task stopping Golden State’s other stars. Guard Steph Curry, a two-time league MVP, hit 11 3-pointers in a 48-point effort to beat Dallas on Sunday, and then there’s Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to worry about.

And the Warriors have a revenge factor to use. The Nuggets beat them 100-98 in Denver on Oct. 21 when Juancho Hernangomez blocked Damian Jones‘ layup at the buzzer.

The Nuggets have been playing at a high level lately, especially at home, where they are 18-3 and have won their last 12. The latest was a grind-it-out 116-113 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, which might have been a perfect tune-up for the Warriors.

Denver has its own star power in center Nikola Jokic and guard Jamal Murray. Jokic, averaging team-highs with 19.7 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, had consecutive triple-doubles last week and then clocked in with 40 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists against Portland.

With or without Cousins, Golden State will have a tough time handling the Serbian. But the Warriors are best when they force teams to adjust to them, and they come at teams from different angles. One night it could be Curry, the next Durant. When tuned in, Golden State is hard to beat.

The Nuggets are ready for the challenge after getting everyone’s best this season.

“As teams give us their best shot because we’re No. 1 in the West right now, everybody gives the Warriors their best shot,” said Murray, who is averaging 18.5 points. “We just know we have the home court, and we beat them last time here.”