Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points.
• David Stern broke the huddle with the Saints in New Orleans. We’re not making that up, he did. See the proof to the right (via the Saints twitter). It’s good to be the king.
• The Timberwolves holiday message is the best thing ever. Especially Nikola Pekovic.
• You heard LeBron James was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year. But did you read the profile of LeBron by Lee Jenkins? You should, it’s fantastic. If you think LeBron is physically gifted but doesn’t get the game well mentally you should read this. He is a true student of the game.
• The name Pelican — which may be the new name for the Hornets in a couple of years — has come in for a lot of mocking online. A lot. But the people in New Orleans kind of like it and will defend it.
• Anderson Varejao’s name keeps coming up in trade rumors (such as there are rumors this time of year) but here is the case for the Cavaliers to keep him. And it’s a good one.
• The Lakers are not shopping Pau Gasol right now. They are not going to for a while, if ever. They want to see Steve Nash and Gasol and the entire team together before they make that move. But if they do, here are some potential trade scenarios.
• The death of college coaching legend Rick Majerus has hit Nuggets coach George Karl hard.
• The Lakers Jordan Hill is frustrated he isn’t getting more burn this season. That’s what happens when you back up Dwight Howard.
• Lakers backup point guard Steve Blake had his abdominal surgery Wednesday. You’ll see him in 6-8 weeks.
• Russell Westbrook talks about his favorite Air Jordans and more. He is wearing the new Air Jordan XX8 on Wednesday night.
• Chris Kaman says Clippers owner Donald Sterling used to be cheap, but that has changed.
• Watch Allen Iverson drop 37 in an exhibition in China.
• Maccabi Tel Aviv has suspended its captain Guy Pnini for calling a player on the other team a Nazi. Good for them, that crosses the line (and people throw around the “he/she is a Nazi” thing far to casually).
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Markelle Fultz is fitting in nicely with the Orlando Magic.
The former No. 1 overall pick had a career-high 19 points and the deciding defensive play in a 125-121 victory over the Washington Wizards on Sunday night.
Nikola Vucevic had 30 points and 17 rebounds and Evan Fournier added 25 points and nine assists, but the Magic nearly squandered an 18-point fourth quarter lead before Fultz stopped Washington’s rally.
Fultz made all six shots from the field in the first half, including a pair of 3-pointers, and finished 8 for 10 from the field. However, it was his defensive play that decided the game.
With Orlando leading 119-116, Fultz stole a pass and was fouled as he dunked the ball with 36.1 seconds left. His free throw finished the 3-point play and gave Orlando a six-point cushion that stood up for the team’s fourth win in its last five games.
“That was definitely fun,” said Fultz, who was drafted No. 1 by Philadelphia 76ers in 2017 before being traded to Orlando midway through last season. “You live for moments like that when the game is on the line and you’re out competing to see what everybody is made of. I love it that I got a chance to make a big-time play and I finished it off.”
Orlando needed it to withstand a couple of fourth-quarter rallies by Washington and its 3-point shooting team. The Wizards made 10 of 15 3-pointers in the final period and scored 44 points, but couldn’t play enough defense to overtake Orlando.
Bradley Beal scored 34 points and had eight assists for Washington, which absorbed its fourth loss in five games. The Wizards got 21 points from C.J. Miles and 15 from Davis Bertans.
“We are 10 games in (to the season) now so we have to dial back the amount of excuses we have,” Beal said. “We compete hard enough to win every game. We are top five on offense, so we know that’s not the problem. We just have to get stops.”
CLEVELAND (AP) — Tobias Harris scored 27 points, Joel Embiid had 14 and the Philadelphia 76ers routed the Cleveland Cavaliers 114-95 on Sunday.
Cleveland nearly pulled off an upset in Philadelphia on Tuesday before falling 98-97, but the 76ers ended quickly ended any hope of a repeat.
Philadelphia went ahead midway through the first quarter and steadily built the lead, shooting 67% in the half. The lead reached 75-44 early in the third quarter.
Harris was 12 of 14 from the field, missing only one of 12 2-point attempts. Ben Simmons had 10 points and 11 assists, and the 76ers had six players score in double figures.
Cavaliers forward Kevin Love took a hard fall after being flattened by Furkan Korkmaz while shooting in the lane in the first quarter. Love got up after being on the floor for a couple of moments and gave the thumbs-up sign to the crowd, remaining in the game.
Love scored 12 points in 25 minutes. Collin Sexton had 17 points for Cleveland, which has lost three straight and opened a stretch of five games in seven days.
The Cavaliers were ahead of the 76ers by five points late in Tuesday’s game, but couldn’t hold the lead. Love missed an open 3-pointer on the final possession.
Philadelphia shredded Cleveland’s defense this time with 33 assists on 46 baskets. The 76ers followed an 11-0 run with a 14-3 spurt to take a 60-31 lead on Harris’ dunk with four minutes to play in the second quarter.
Philadelphia had dropped five of seven going into the game, including consecutive losses in Orlando and Oklahoma City, but finished its road trip on a high note.
Boston came in on a 10-game winning streak where they had played well on both ends of the court, but they also got some lucky rolls of the basketball.
With Boston down one, Marcus Smart put up a floater as time expired in Sacramento, it looked like the shot would fall, and…
Give the Kings credit, at a rough start they have gone 5-2 in November, and that despite injuries to Marvin Bagley Jr. and De'Aaron Fox. Buddy Hield had 35 points to lead the Kings, including going 7-of-12 from three.
The Celtics had a balanced attack with six players in double figures, but their offense was not as sharp as it has been. This was the first game it looked like they missed Gordon Hayward, who is out with a fractured hand.
Aron Baynes has been critical to the Suns racing out to a 7-4 start with the fourth-best net rating in the NBA. When Deandre Ayton was suspended for 25 games (after testing positive for a diuretic, a banned substance), Baynes has stepped up and been exactly what the Suns needed. He is scoring 15 points per game, shooting 46.5 percent from three (which is opening up the floor for guys like Devin Booker), and providing a big body defensive presence in the paint.
You can see why the Lakers and other teams were hoping Baynes would hit the market this summer. From Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Suns center Aron Baynes has emerged as a cornerstone piece for Phoenix early this season, supplying defense, leadership and, yes, shot-making. Phoenix acquired Baynes on draft night, and in the weeks to come contenders such as the Lakers hoped Baynes would reach a buyout with the Suns to hit the open market, sources said. Suns general manager James Jones and new head coach Monty Williams wanted Baynes — and are now receiving the rewards for the offseason move. Through 11 games, Baynes is averaging 15 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 46.8 percent 3-point shooting (two 3s made per game). Baynes will enter free agency next July, and as one team executive said, “He is positioning himself for well over $10 million per year.”
Smart move by Phoenix’s management to hold on to Baynes as an Ayton insurance policy (one they ended up needing). Plus, when trying to change a team’s culture (as Jones and Williams are working to do in Phoenix), you can’t have enough hardworking professionals in the locker room. Baynes brings that.
The Lakers thought they would have DeMarcus Cousins in the paint, but he tore his ACL over the summer. The tag team of Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee has worked surprisingly well for Los Angeles to start the season.
In what will be a down free-agent market next summer, Baynes is going to be in demand. His payday is coming.