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 like Jack Bauer loves danger (sorry, got sucked into a “24” rerun the other day)….
• The Lakers and Hawks are the two playoff-bound teams that have struggled the most beating other playoff teams this season. In the Lakers case, it’s hard to read much into that because they are playing with a better sense of identity and health lately. As for the Hawks… they’re still the Hawks.
• Houston’s Thomas Robinson talks about how he puts his family before everything else.
• Pau Gasol could be back practicing with the Lakers next week.
• Dennis Rodman was in Vatican City for the papal conclave. I’m sure Rodman believes that’s why they got a selection done so quickly.
• Caron Butler starts for the Clippers at the three, but they are better when Matt Barnes plays. That makes Barnes the potential key to any long Clippers playoff run.
• Brandon Bass has been the whipping boy of some Celtics fans, but he’s played well for a few games and they are going to need him come the playoffs.
• The Blazers Nicolas Batum is playing through a lot of wrist pain.
• Kentucky’s star center Nerlens Noel underwent knee surgery Tuesday. That’s not going to impact his draft status much if at all — this was a fairly routine knee surgery and you’re drafting the player for who he will be three years from now, not who he is draft night.
• Speaking of surgeries, Austin Rivers had his wrist surgery this week and according to reports it went well. He is done for the season but he should be ready to go for Summer League.
• A lot of people wondered exactly what the Jazz were doing not moving Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson at the deadline. Zach Lowe at Grantland has a good explanation.
• Sixers coach Doug Collins met with new Eagles coach Chip Kelly. And didn’t try to talk him out of the job.
• Chris Kaman doesn’t like his lack of playing time in Dallas.
• Up in Seattle, Chris Hansen (the guy trying to buy the Kings and move them north) is compiling a potential season ticket holder list to impress the league.
• Here’s some thoughts on who future top-5 pick Cody Zeller could have as an agent.
• Aquille Carr is a potential future NBA player and is going the Brandon Jennings route of skipping college ball (Seton Hall) to play overseas for a year.
• The Cavaliers assigned Kevin Jones to the D-League.
The basketball community lost its collective mind on Wednesday night when Duke Blue Devils star Zion Williamson was injured after blowing out a pair of Nike basketball shoes in a rivalry game against the University of North Carolina.
Williamson’s injury was such that shares of Nike actually fell come Thursday. Meanwhile, the debate about whether Williamson should continue to play for free in the NCAA raged on all day.
Of course Williamson was wearing Paul George‘s signature shoe when he experienced the blowout, which apparently prompted the Oklahoma City Thunder star to contact Nike about it.
George’s shoes are very popular across basketball, and he told reporters that this had never happened to his knowledge.
I do wonder if players will be more reticent to wear one of the more popular shoes in the NBA. Then again, Williamson is a freak of nature in of himself so it’s not likely that the forces created by his power would be exerted by a normal player in the league.
When presumptive No. 1 pick Zion Williamson went to the ground, his knee twisting, early in Duke’s game against North Carolina Wednesday night, the basketball world collectively gasped.
Former President Barack Obama was there and quickly recognized the problem:
It did, unquestionably. The 6-foot-7, 284 pound Williamson was wearing the PG 2.5 PEs (the Paul George signature line of Nikes), and when he made a hard cut the shoe gave out and Williamson went to the ground in a heap. The television cameras closed in on the busted Nike.
That’s not good press.
Fortunately, Williams suffered only a mild, Grade 1 knee sprain, and is day-to-day.
Nike released a statement to multiple media outlets that said, “We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery. The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.”
Nike stock dropped one percent on Thursday, although that level of fluctuation is not serious.
Bottom line, if this remains an isolated incident, Nike’s reputation — and position as the dominant force in basketball shoes — is not in danger. Fans and players will forgive one random incident. Have it happen again to a high-profile player and… Nike doesn’t want to find out.
“I think it’s wonderful what we’re seeing in the league right now, some of the rules changes we’ve made in the last few years that really focus on skill-based playing. I’d like to think that young people around the world are able to look at this game and say, I can be as great as my desire to dedicate myself to this game, especially when it comes to shooting and ball handling. I get it, you can’t dream about being seven feet tall, but you can dream about having ball-handling skills like Steph Curry.”
That was NBA Commissioner Adam Silver All-Star weekend in Charlotte, and television ratings and overall interest in the league back him up — NBA ratings have been largely rising for years, both on the local and national level. Fans seem to gravitate towards fast-paced, entertaining teams and games.
But not everybody loves it. Charles Barkley can lead the “get off my lawn crowd.” However, there is a role for throwback players in the game. Guys who would have thrived in the 1990s, or the 1960s. Boston’s Marcus Smart is one of those guys — he told Mirin Fader of Bleacher Report he wishes there was more physicality in the league.
“Back in the ’60s, ’70s, my mindset and the way I play would be perfect. They play like that every game,” Smart says…
“That’s just what it is! Exactly!” he says, a smile breaking through. “I think we kind of lost that in today’s game. Everything’s become real cute. Everybody’s scared to go to the rim. Everybody’s scared to get hit. Everybody’s scared to touch.
“I thrive on the contact. Contact is in my nature.”
The NBA has always had to strike a balance between physicality and allowing skill to flourish. Right now the pendulum has swung well over to the skill side, and some fans romantically recall 1990s basketball when the pendulum was on the other side. They think of Michael Jordan or Allen Iverson and remember the era fondly through the haze of time. Of course, what that time obscured were the slogs of games with scoring in the 80s and maybe 90s, they forget how hard it could be to watch Mike Fratello’s Cavaliers clutch and grab their way to a slow, tedious, and coach-controlled four quarters. The 90s were not filled with the beautiful game.
But in any era, a guy like Smart has real value because he’s a good basketball player. Plain and simple. Just one who would like to be allowed to be a little more physical.
After getting traded from the 76ers to the Magic, Markelle Fultz said, “It just excites me really to know that I have coaches that’s going to push you to be better and not just going to tell you what you want to hear.”
I don’t know whether Fultz intended that to sound like a shot at Philadelphia coach Brett Brown. But it sounded like a shot at Philadelphia coach Brett Brown.
Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:
Brown said Fultz “didn’t mean that.”He said the two have spoken back and forth.
“He’s a good kid,” he said. “He’s a good young man, and, truly, we wish him well.”
I’d prefer to hear that directly from Fultz. But I doubt he’ll do any more interviews this season until he plays again – and who knows when that will be?
Still, it can be difficult for a player to compliment his new team without sounding like he’s admonishing his old team. There was always a good chance that’s all that happened with Fultz. Brown’s explanation makes that even more likely.