We know you might have missed some NBA action Monday night as you chased a flock of feral turkeys around New York City, so we bring you grades from the night to help you get caught up.
Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets. Lawson spent the first half of this game deferring (J.J. Hickson had 12 points in the first quarter), but in the third quarter he took charge with 13 points, sparking a 16-4 run that solidified Denver’s eventual win. Lawson finished with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting plus he dished out 11 assists. Denver is playing well again and Lawson is at the heart of that renaissance.
LeBron James, Miami Heat. Just another LeBron James dominant performance — 35 points on 11-of-14 shooting — but this one game is not why he is here. Rather, it is this stat: On the season LeBron is shooting 60.9 percent. That with a usage rate near the top of the league at 28.3 (percent of team possessions he uses). Insane. If you’re a fan of the game of basketball, savor getting to watch him play at this level while we can.
Samuel Dalembert, Dallas Mavericks. He was benched at the start of the Mavericks’ game Monday after sleeping through shootaround. That happens to guys out on the road when in Miami or New York (the night before has something to do with that), but at home in Dallas? Come on, you’re a vet.
The Indiana Pacers defense. Another day, another team with a lot of offensive weapons just shut down. The Timberwolves shot just 32.6 percent overall, and thanks to the “Roy Hibbert effect” they shot just 40 percent inside 8 feet of the rim. Minnesota finished with an offensive rating of 79.8, which is well off their season average of 102. Indiana is 13-1 and while they will not sustain that pace all season with their defense they can sustain winning deep into the playoffs.
Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers. When people talk about the Blazers hot start it’s all about LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, but people are looking past Batum who is hot and key to all of it — he had 23 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists against the Knicks Monday. In Portland they have been waiting on him to live up to his potential (and contract), well he has been lately.
I’d like to think this means we’ll all be able to go to bed at a reasonable hour on June 30. I also know better.
There is a frenzy of activity right as free agency opens (Tampering? There is no tampering in the NBA…), which traditionally has been as the clock turns to July 1 in New York, right at midnight. Things got so active that a lot of agents and players made sure they were in Los Angeles, even if they didn’t live there in the offseason, just so things started at the more reasonable hour of 9 p.m.
Now the NBA has made the rumors official: Free agency will begin at 6 p.m. Eastern on June 30. Six hours earlier than before.
This was done as an agreement between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association.
This is going to be a wild July with a lot of big-name free agents — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler — and maybe a third of the players in the league on the market, plus there are a lot more teams with cap space to spend this season. It’s going to be a frenzy.
Now we know what time the wild times start.
Every NBA player gets ripped on social media, even the guys who are not on social media. Most of the time players just ignore it, the way they ignore fans yelling stuff courtside or distant family asking them for money.
Kevin Durant, however, gets into it sometimes, even with national media members (and even had a burner account). Which always becomes a thing.
Why? Why not just ignore it? From Durant himself at practice Friday, via NBC Sports Bay Area.
“Because I have social media,” Durant said Friday… “I mean, I’m a human being with a social media account. I could see if I ventured off into like politics, culinary arts or music and gave my input, but I’m sticking to something that I know. You know what I’m saying? This is all I know. I’m actually talking about stuff that I know. I’m qualified to talk about basketball.
“So when I respond to something, especially if it’s about me personally, of course I’m going to tell you if you wrong about it. When I’m on the training table getting treatment on my calf and I see a tweet that come by and I disagree — I don’t talk to people because I’m worried about what they say, it’s just that I’m interested. So if you talking about in-game or the NBA Finals, they’re the same to me, you know what I’m saying?”
Durant seems to have more time on hands to get into these spats while he is out injured. Which likely will last into the start of the NBA Finals.
Does this mean the Drake/Durant beef is inevitable?
The Lakers landing Kyrie Irving in free agency this summer might be their best realistic option. It’s far, far from a lock — the Knicks, and yes Celtics, will make their pitch, too — but reuniting the pair that won a title in Cleveland is on the Lakers’ radar. (Insert your own, “you know who should coach this team” Tyronn Lue joke here.)
Fueling the speculation, LeBron James and Irving were seen hanging out together at a club in Los Angeles recently. Then Friday, this happened: Cuffthelegend posted this on Instagram and LeBron liked it.
(For the record, Cuffthelegend gets some stuff right, he’s not a guy who posts stuff out of nowhere.)
Of course, NBA Twitter and the web responded to this in its usual measured, thoughtful way. Some Lakers fans think the deal is done, others mock the idea altogether.
Two thoughts on Irving and the Lakers:
• Multiple reports say Irving is open to it. Irving also has a strong relationship with Kevin Durant, and Boston still plans to trade for Anthony Davis and then try to re-sign Irving (even if Boston fans are done with Kyrie). The only person who knows which way Irving is leaning right now is Irving, and there’s a good chance he changes his mind in the next five weeks anyway.
• If the Lakers are going to land a star free agent this summer, it will be because LeBron was an active recruiter. These elite players have options, and the Laker front office is not inspiring confidence of late, it will be on LeBron to win guys over.
Jeremy Lin has discussed people not believing he plays in the NBA.
It apparently still happens.
Lin, whose Raptors are playing the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals, via Bill Michaels Sports Talk Network:
After Game 2 in Milwaukee, I was trying to get to the team bus and one of the dudes in the Milwaukee arena just screams at me. He’s like, “Where do you think you’re going?!” And I’m like, “Uh, I’m trying to get to the team bus.” He’s like, “What?! Where’s your pass?” I was like, “I don’t have a pass. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have a pass.”
This happens in a lot of arenas, so I just kind of go with the flow.
It’s a fine line. Lin shouldn’t be profiled as a non-athlete because he’s Asian-American. Arena staffers should keep everyone safe by stopping unauthorized people.