Our grades from Sunday around the NBA, or what you missed while watching where in the world people are dropping F-bombs on twitter….
San Antonio Spurs’ starting five. The Spurs starting five of Tony Parker, Danny Green, Marco Belinelli, Boris Diaw and Tim Duncan only played 12 minutes together against the Knicks Sunday, but they shot 72 percent from the floor, hit 5-of-6 from three and accounted for +23 of the Spurs 31-point win. Yes, they did it against a sieve of a defense (without Tyson Chandler) but the fact they attacked and put the game away early was to getting rest late.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. He’s had to carry the load with Russell Westbrook still shaking off the rust (4-of-16) — plus Westbrook got ejected with the Thunder down 10 and just over 3 minutes left. Durant shouldered the load with 33 points on 23 shots, plus he hit the pull up three to send the game to overtime. The Thunder went on to win the game and Durant had four in the overtime.
Phoenix Suns’ defense. While nobody has been watching Jeff Hornacek has his Suns playing good defense — they are sixth in the NBA allowing 96.7 points per 100 possessions, and they held the Pelicans to 97.2. New Orleans shot just 47.7 percent inside 8 feet and 37.5 percent in the midrange (plus 4-of-13 from three). Defense at the NBA level starts with effort and buying into the system and Hornacek’s Suns are doing that and they are 5-2 because of it.
Los Angeles Lakers’ defense. On the top of the Lakers pre-game white board Mike D’Antoni wrote to get back in transition (to force Minnesota into half court sets) and close out on shooters — the Lakers did neither of those. Not even close. They had no energy or commitment to the system. Especially in the first quarter when the Timberwolves shot 76.2 percent overall and hit 7-of-9 from three, plus went on a 27-2 run. For the half Minnesota shot 53.2 percent and added another 10 points at the line. The Lakers escape with a “D-” because they did better in the second half, although much of that seemed to be Minnesota taking its foot off the gas. Ricky Rubio had a triple double (12 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds). The Lakers are 22nd in the NBA in defensive efficiency and their occasionally good bench play can’t bail them out of that.
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.
It’s coincidental this happened the day after Duke star and likely No. 1 pick Zion Williamson sprained a knee in a much-hyped, nationally televised game. This is been in the works for a while and is now becoming realty:
The NBA formally submitted a proposal to the National Basketball Players Association (the players’ union) to lower the draft age from 19 to 18. Meaning players could be drafted to the league straight out of high school. While that will not come until likely 2022, the formal proposal starts the project, reports Jeff Zillgitt of the USA Today.
The NBA has submitted to the National Basketball Players Association a formal proposal that will lower the draft-eligible age to 18 from 19, a person with knowledge of the proposal told USA TODAY Sports…
The league and union have had informal discussions about lowering the age limit, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver is on record saying the current 19-year-old age limit is not working for the league or college basketball.
This is the first step in formal negotiations to lower the age limit by the 2022 draft. The issue is collectively bargained between the NBA and NBPA, and both sides need to agree to any rule change.
There have been sticking points during those informal discussions between the sides. Specifically, the league wants to require that agents provide every team with full medical reports on players, and the league wants players to be forced to participate in some level of the NBA Draft Combine. As of now, agents often withhold medical info from teams they don’t want to draft their players (that doesn’t always work) and elite players often do little more than get measured at the combine. It’s a fight over information and the sides will need to find a compromise.
Silver had told reporters over the summer that the NCAA’s own report from Condoleezza Rice’s Commission On College Basketball called for an end to one-and-dones, and that has motivated him to end the practice. However, to give teams ample time to gear up scouting and get development programs in place, nothing will happen before the 2022 draft.
This has been a long time coming, the one-and-done rule is a compromise neither the NBA or colleges liked much, and it has made players resentful. What exactly the process will look like on the other side remains to be seen, but it should be better than the mess we see right now.