Three Stars of the night: CP3, Dirk trade shots in Dallas

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Best game of the night was in Dallas, and we’ve got two from that game. Plus the hot hand that did in Boston.

Third Star: Chris Paul (33 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists)

For much of the game Dallas took the strategy of making Chris Paul the scorer for the Clippers. This is the same strategy teams used against Steve Nash at his peak — yes, he’s going to score a lot of points but his team is more dangerous when he is dishing and getting everyone involved. So Paul put up big numbers, eventually all the way to 33 points on 12-of-15 shooting. At the end Dallas went to double-teaming him 30 feet from the basket, and he still scored the Clippers final 10 points in regulation.

Second Star: J.R. Smith (32 points, 7 rebounds)

When that ridiculous 27-footer to end the third quarter fell, you knew it was Smith’s (and the Knicks) kind of night. Smith was aggressive and attacking, getting shots in the paint and knocking down jumpers. The Knicks cannot survive on ‘Melo alone, they need someone else to step up to have a chance in big games. Tonight it was Smith.

First Star: Dirk Nowitzki (33 points, 9 rebounds)

The biggest key was the eight points in overtime — Nowitzki stepped up when Dallas needed him Tuesday. Dirk is back to being his fluid, smart and unguardable self. Dallas needs to get him the ball in the crunch — not go with Vince Carter or O.J. Mayo isolations (although that worked out pretty well for Dallas this time around. The Mavs they did a better job of that Tuesday. Especially in overtime. And the result is a Mavericks team right in the middle of a playoff hunt.

Report: Rockets lure assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik out of retirement with ‘significant raise’

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After a slow start, the Rockets got assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik to come out of retirement.

How?

The usual way employers attract someone to a job.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Fertitta was alarmed enough to personally recruit defensive guru Jeff Bzdelik, who retired just before training camp, to return, offering what sources say was a significant raise that pushed his salary to a range that ranks among the NBA’s highest-paid assistant coaches.

Good for Bzdelik using his leverage. He looked like a defensive whiz last season, and Houston slipped without him. Of course, personnel matters, too. There’s no guarantee these Rockets – minus Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute – reach last year’s defensive level.

Bzdelik has been back around the team, but isn’t working full-time yet. It’ll take a while to assess his impact on Houston.

And good for Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta paying up. Fertitta is still trying to determine the right amount for him to spend, but the team is better off if he’s willing to pay what’s necessary to attract the most desirable coaches.

Charles Barkley addresses Draymond Green-Kevin Durant dynamic (video)

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Want to hear an entertaining guy address an entertaining topic? Here you go.

Trae Young: I’ll be better than Luka Doncic

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Trae Young and Luka Doncic will be forever linked by their draft-night trade.

The Hawks took Doncic No. 3 then traded down with the Mavericks for No. 5 pick Young and a future first-round pick.

Young, via Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated:

“The thing with Luka,” Young says, “he’s a great player. I don’t understand why it can’t work out for both situations. I hear [Atlanta made a mistake] all the time. Luka’s a great dude, and I think he’s going to be a really good player. But at the same time, I’m going to be a better player. Just because of my ability to stretch the floor, get others involved, I think I’ll be better.”

Of course, Young was never going to say Doncic would be better than him. But Young didn’t have to address this so directly at all. By going out of his way to make such a bold statement, Young puts more pressure on himself.

So far, both Doncic and Young have impressed. I’ll still stick with Doncic, though. Enough to justify Dallas surrendering that extra first-round pick? That’s a far tougher call and the one the Hawks will be judged by.

Young doesn’t want that leniency, though. He’s aiming to be better than Doncic straight up and unafraid to say so publicly.

Markelle Fultz’s new free throw stroke is… different.

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Philadelphia’s Markelle Fultz is in his own head with his free throw stroke now. (And, likely much more than that, but we’ll stick with the free throws for now.)

Earlier this week Fultz double-clutched a free throw attempt and his stroke was a mess.

Each game that stroke seems to change and the latest one is… different. Very different.

As Vecenie notes, this is actually an improvement in terms of the release, but that doesn’t make it good. Fultz was 1-of-2 in his one trip to the stripe (as of this writing).

Still, I have never seen someone pass the ball back-and-forth between their hands as they go into their shooting motion like that. Very, very odd.