This was one of those nights when a number of guys could have made the three-stars list — Blake Griffin had 22 points and 10 rebounds; Carlos Boozer had 24 points and 13 rebounds; Ty Lawson with an impressive 26 points; and there were others in consideration. Even Andray Blatche.
But in the end, these three are pretty hard to beat.
Third Star: Kyrie Irving (28 points 11 assists)
It was great just to see him back out on the court, he is just fun to watch. His quickness was far too much for Chris Duhon and Darius Morris to handle, and the Lakers rotations — which have been slow — he made look glacial. Irving got shots at the rim on the drive, he got step back threes, and he hit 11-of-21 plus added seven assists. Without him he Cavaliers offense was ugly, but with him they were good enough to beat the Lakers.
Second Star: Kobe Bryant (42 points 5 rebounds, 2 assists)
Kobe put up a lot of points… which isn’t that good for a Lakers team that needs victories. The Lakers are 1-10 when he scores more than 30. But Kobe really had no choice because the offense was sputtering — and when that happens Kobe is fearless about taking on more of the responsibility himself. The key is that while Kobe was gunning he was efficient — he hit 16-of-28 from the floor — which is part of what kept the Lakers within striking distance (a gap they never closed).
First Star: Carmelo Anthony (45 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists)
In what has been his best season (so far), this was maybe Carmelo Anthony’s best performance. He was a force. Not only did ‘Melo score big, it was when he scored — 15 in the fourth quarter to help the Knicks complete the comeback and get the win (behind Jason Kidd’s three pointer). Anthony did it pretty much every way imaginable — he was draining threes, getting into the lane, and doing almost all of it in the flow of the offense. It’s far, far to early to say who is going to be the league MVP, but Anthony has played his way into the discussion.
Stephen Curry reportedly will return to Warriors lineup Sunday vs. Wizards
After four months off, the Warriors were looking for a soft landing spot to ease Stephen Curry back into the rotation.
How about Sunday, vs. Washington and the worst defense in the NBA this season?
That’s the plan, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Warriors star Stephen Curry will return to the Golden State lineup on Sunday against the Wizards, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA@Stadium. Curry on track for comeback four months after surgery on his broken left hand.
Curry has said for some time he was targeting March 1 for a return, this would be that exact date (to be fair to the Wizards, they have played better defense of late). After that, Golden State plays at Denver on the third, has a Finals rematch against Toronto at the Chase Center on March 5, then the 76ers visit the Warriors on the seventh.
For one thing, Kerr wants to build some familiarity and chemistry between Curry and newly acquired Andrew Wiggins this season. Having Curry back may mean the Warriors don’t finish with the worst record in the league this season (which they have right now) but with the flattened out draft lottery odds that’s not as big an issue. Besides, this is not a deep draft. This is not a situation where the Warriors will get instant help — in our podcast recently, NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster described it as the top three picks in this draft would be 6-10 most seasons. The Warriors may ultimately try to trade their pick for a player who can help more next season.
Ben Simmons has nerve impingement in lower back, to be re-evaluated in two weeks
Ben Simmons will be re-evaluated in 2 weeks for nerve impingement in lower back, but there's little expectation that he'd be ready to return to lineup that soon, sources tell ESPN. Doctors are hopeful treatment can drive improvement, but Sixers are preparing to play without him.
A nerve impingement — what is commonly referred to as a pinched nerve — is exactly what it sounds like: Something is pressing on the nerve, “pinching” it and causing pain.
The big question: What is impinging on the nerve? That’s what Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes asked.
Re: Ben Simmons: It’s not the impingement that’s worries me as much as what is causing the impingement. Is it disc, bone-related, muscle, etc.? The resulting answer will dictate recovery and treatment.
This does not sound like something that is going to be resolved in two weeks and Simmons will be back to normal.
Simmons injured his back last Wednesday in practice while grabbing a rebound, according to coach Brett Brown. Simmons sat out last Thursday’s Sixers game against the Nets, tried to play on Saturday vs. the Bucks but had to come out after one quarter, and has not set foot on the court since.
Simmons averages 16.9 points, 8.3 assists, 7.9 rebounds a game, not to mention a league-best 2.2 steals a night. The All-Star is a core part of the Sixers rotation and will miss significant time they try to climb up into the top four in the East and get home court for the first round of the playoffs. Shake Milton started Monday in Simmons place.
Tilman Ferttita: Rockets don’t fear Lakers, Clippers like they did Warriors
“I think Milwaukee is head over heels above everybody else,” said Fertitta
“We just need to get home court for the first and second rounds and see what happens.”
“None of us fear L.A. or the Clippers or Denver like we feared Golden State,” he said. “It’s not like how we were scared of them. We could easily win the West this year or get knocked out in the first round. Both L.A. teams, Denver, Houston, we’re all excellent teams. Just comes down to somebody gets hot and makes a shot. Our chances are as good as they’ve ever been.”
The Rockets stood up to the Warriors far more than any other team. But that was most true before Fertitta puthisimprint on the franchise. He’s somewhat culpable for Houston cowering to Golden State.
As far as this season, Fertitta is right all around: The Bucks are great, combining last year’s success with important playoff lessons. Houston could easily win the West or lose in the first round. The Lakers, Clippers and Nuggets shouldn’t be feared. (Nobody fears the Nuggets, though they are a real championship contender.)
But the Lakers and Clippers also look like darned good playoff teams. Even if not predicting victory, Fertitta’s comments could become bulletin-board material in Los Angeles.
Rumor: Warriors acquired first-rounder, Andrew Wiggins for Giannis Antetokounmpo trade
Some around the league believe the Golden State Warriors acquired a first-round pick from the Minnesota Timberwolves, along with Andrew Wiggins, with the notion of a potential future trade with the Bucks.
This is so silly.
Minnesota’s first-rounder (top-three-protected in 2021, unprotected in 2022) is a nice asset. The Warriors’ 2020 first-rounder will also land high in the draft. But Wiggins didn’t suddenly turn into a valuable player in Golden State. Owed $94,738,170 over the next three years, Wiggins still carries negative value. The Warriors aren’t now deftly positioned to land Antetokounmpo.
Golden State showed incredible vision by building an excellent team that appealed to Durant and clearing cap space to acquire him. But the Warriors got multiple fortunate breaks – Stephen Curry taking a smaller contract extension while injured in 2012, Golden State blowing a 3-1 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals, the salary cap spiking in 2016.
The Warriors can’t duplicate everything, swoop in and land Antetokounmpo.
Sure, it’s possible Wiggins improves in Golden State. Maybe Antetokounmpo will decline to sign a super-max extension, which should force Milwaukee to at least strongly consider trading him. It’s also conceivable Antetokounmpo threatens not to re-sign with anyone besides the Warriors, scaring off other teams and leaving Golden State’s offer the best that the Bucks’ get.
But it’s such a remote possibility of all that happening, it’s not worth worrying about.