This is the thing that should make Knicks fans nervous about Jeremy Lin being allowed to walk off to the Rockets — the two point guards left on the Knicks roster were not really good last year.
Felton was out of shape, turned the ball over nearly on nearly 20 percent of the possessions he used, shot 40 percent overall and 30 percent from three, and was nothing like the guy most Knicks fans remember from the fall of 2010. There is a reason the Trail Blazers wanted him gone. Jason Kidd is 39, can’t defend much any more and while he can knock down threes and has an undoubtedly high hoop IQ, his ability to execute what he needs to do is fading.
As we reported, Felton was promised starting PG guard when he signed, with Kidd as backup. Felton, Kidd, Spanish League warhorse Pablo Prigioni as third string will be fine. Unsure of Linsanity clamor once Felton came aboard. Why create an uncomfortable logjam filled with controversy. That’s not exactly what feel-good Disney Movie from last February/March was about. That was an unforgettable moment in time and would never be same. It passed when Lin redid offer sheet.
The on the court gamble the Knicks took is this: That the 26 games that Lin played for the Knicks were a bit of a mirage and he would not be as good with Carmelo Anthony dominating the ball. And they bet that Raymond Felton can return to form, not All-Star form but average form with some threes would be good enough.
A lot of Knicks fans don’t like that gamble. I can’t blame them, I wouldn’t have made it either.
Three Things to Know: Assertive LeBron James shows how far Lakers have come
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Assertive LeBron James shows how far Lakers have come. Back on Oct. 18, in the first game of the season, the Portland Trail Blazers comfortably handled a Laker team still stumbling around with new faces and a lack of identity. That night, Portland’s continuity and shooting were a stark contrast to a Lakers team with neither.
Nearly a month later, LeBron and the Lakers look dramatically better.
Wednesday night LeBron reminded everyone that when he decides to take over there is nobody like him Anywhere. Especially when he is hitting threes from a Curryesque range, which he did from the game’s opening minutes. LeBron was 5-of-6 from three on the night.
One key to the Lakers’ turnaround is they are playing much better defense, and they did for stretches against Portland. This isn’t just about Tyson Chandler — although he helps — but over the past seven games, the Lakers have allowed an average of 104 points per 100 possessions, sixth best in the NBA. The Lakers are pressuring better and higher to stop penetration off the pick-and-roll, jumping in gaps and generating steals (9.6 per game in their last seven games), and getting blocks from their bigs at the rim. All of that is a dramatic change from the beginning of the season when the Lakers played matador defense and were letting teams walk to the rim at will.
The Laker offense has come a long way, too, and it isn’t all LeBron. The Lakers generated good chances by having Lonzo Ball as a screener, with Brandon Ingram getting isolated on a smaller defender (C.J. McCollum much of the time), and with JaVale McGee as a rim runner. The Lakers are still generating chances playing at pace, too, something that has become a key part of their identity.
There was one bit of bad news for Los Angeles out of this game: Rajon Rondobroke his hand and will be out weeks. The Lakers will miss him on the second unit.
2) Jimmy Butler plays his first game with Philadelphia and… it’s going to be a process. “The process” is over in Philly. The arrival of Jimmy Butler as a Sixers makes them a “win now” team.
Now just starts another process: Fitting Butler into the Sixers offense and schemes.
This process could take some time, too.
Orlando proved that point, went on a 21-0 run in the fourth quarter to erase a 16-point Philadelphia lead and ultimately spoiled Butler’s debut, 111-106.
Butler had moments but was not the aggressive player we know, he let the game come to him more, something to be expected with a player on a new team who has been through one practice. He did show off his midrange game and defense at points, but expect him to be more aggressive as he gets more comfortable.
Behold, Jimmy Butler's first bucket as a Philadelphia 76er.
The game showed that there will be a lot of adjustments needed from Philadelphia to make this work.
That starts with Simmons, who had to work off the ball more when Butler created looks. The problem is Simmons is not a shooter so the Magic didn’t have to respect him until he made a cut or got close to the rim, allowing them to pack the paint more and provide help. Simmons can make those cuts and finish, but coach Brett Brown would prefer Joel Embiid coming out of the dunker’s spot and so the spacing becomes an issue. Embiid also didn’t look quite in sync for stretches of the game, although he did rack up his first career triple-double with 19 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists.
Those assists came when the Sixers were moving the ball the way Brown wants — fast side-to-side ball reversal that gets guys like J.J. Redick clean looks (he had a team-high 22). The Sixers did more of that in the third quarter. However, the ball movement was inconsistent as the Sixers tried to fit Butler into the offense. Late in the game when it was close, Butler was not taking over as much as serving as a decoy on the weak side for the Simmons/Embiid two-man game we have seen before.
It’s just going to take time. It’s a process. A fully healthy Wilson Chandler will help, he had 14 points on 10 shots and the offense flowed much better with him out there rather than Mike Muscala.
The Sixers have other questions to answer: Should they stagger Simmons’ and Butler’s minutes so each has longer stretches as the primary ball handler? If so, where does that leave Markelle Fultz, who is coming off the bench now and had eight points on 4-of-6 shooting.
Jimmy Butler with the Sixers is not going to be a plug-and-play instant contender. The loss in Orlando made that clear. What matters now is how much better the Sixers look in a week. Then in a month.
3) Dwane Casey went back to Toronto and drew up a beautiful game-winner. Dwane Casey, the best coach in Raptors’ franchise history, got a warm welcome from the Toronto fans Wednesday. As he should. The man presided over the best years of basketball in Raptors history and won Coach of the Year last year.
Then, with the game on the line, he reminded those fans why he is so good — he drew up a beautiful game-winning play that got Reggie Bullock a clean look. The play had Blake Griffin coming off a double screen, one set by Bullock, and when his man Pascal Siakam slid over to help on the Pistons’ biggest threat, Bullock slid into a scoring position.
Well done for Casey and a quality win for the Pistons. One they needed.
It was a big night for the Lakers. LeBron James was the most aggressive he has been as a Laker and took over the game, dropping 44 points on the Trail Blazers. It was also the Lakers’ sixth win in seven games, moving them up in the crowded West.
But it was not all good news: Rajon Rondo has broken his hand.
Rajon Rondo broke his hand. “He’ll be out a few weeks,” said Walton.
While the Lakers will not put a timeline on the injury, traditionally it takes a month or more to heal.
The Lakers have been 3.4 points per 100 possessions better this season with Rondo on the court, with that improvement coming on the defensive end. Lonzo Ball has started in front of him and will continue to do so.
Rondo was brought in as a mentor to the young LAkers and that is going to continue.
Asked Josh Hart if he expects some “Coach Rondo” on the sideline while he’s out. “Oh definitely, without a doubt.” Hart added that they’ll certainly miss what Rondo brings, and have to collectively step up in his absence.
Now, LeBron has passed Chamberlain on the all-time scoring list.
LeBron scored 44 points in the Lakers’ win over the Trail Blazers on Wednesday to move ahead of Chamberlain for fifth in career points. LeBron now trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.
LeBron had his finest game with the Lakers on Wednesday, posting 44 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and three blocks in a 126-117 victory. He tried and failed to get a triple-double late, but he still got the win and an enhanced place in NBA history.
Next up for LeBron: Jordan, the only top-six all-time scorer who never played for the Lakers.
76ers lose Jimmy Butler’s, Timberwolves win Robert Covington’s and Dario Saric’s first games with new teams
Jimmy Butler had 14 points in his Philadelphia debut, but the 76ers collapsed late and lost at Orlando, 111-106, after Terrence Ross hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 8.7 seconds left that helped the Magic finish off a big comeback Wednesday night.
Orlando scored 21 straight points in the fourth quarter, then held the 76ers without a field goal over the final 3 1/2 minutes.
Nikola Vucevic had 30 points for the Magic, including two free throws with 5.8 seconds remaining.
Joel Embiid finished with a triple-double of 19 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for the 76ers, who lost for the seventh time in nine road games. J.J. Redick led Philadelphia with 22 points but committed two turnovers in the final 31 seconds.
Butler played 33 minutes and shot 6 for 12 from the field. The four-time All-Star was acquired Monday from Minnesota in a five-player trade.
Meanwhile in Minneapolis, the Timberwolves improved to 2-0 since trading Butler with a 107-100 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.
The game was Minnesota’s first with forwards Robert Covington and Dario Saric. They were acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers along with injured guard Jerryd Bayless in exchange for the disgruntled Butler.
The trade was completed Monday, meaning Covington and Saric did not join their new teammates in time for the Timberwolves’ 120-113 victory over Brooklyn that night.
Covington started Wednesday, scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds. He drained a pair of long, catch-and-shoot 3s in the third quarter as the Timberwolves were trying to hold off a Pelicans comeback.
E'Twaun Moore scored a season-high 31 and Anthony Davis had 29 points and 11 rebounds for the Pelicans, who had won three straight.
76ers: Embiid made all three of his 3-pointers in the first 4:09 of the game. … Ben Simmons is 23 for 28 (.821) from the foul line at home, and 22 for 44 (.500) on the road.
Magic: F Jonathan Isaac played 16 minutes after missing six games with a sprained right ankle. … By winning for the fifth time in seven games, the Magic broke a four-game losing streak against the 76ers.
Pelicans: C Nikola Mirotic returned after missing two games with a right ankle sprain. He had 16 points and 10 boards. . Head coach Alvin Gentry said PG Elfrid Payton is close to returning from his own right ankle sprain, but he sat out his ninth straight game.
Timberwolves: The win was Minnesota’s fifth straight against New Orleans. . G Derrick Rose (left knee soreness) did not dress after playing 39 minutes in the win over Brooklyn on Monday. Rose is averaging 19.2 points and 4.8 assists per game this season. . Teague played for the second time in three days after missing six games with a bruised left knee.
76ers: Home against Utah on Friday night.
Magic: Home against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night.
Pelicans: Host the New York Knicks on Friday night.
Timberwolves: Host the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.