It’s been a frustrating season in Milwaukee, and it’s gotten to the point where the team’s players are taking out those emotions violently against their opponents.
Ersan Ilyasova received a suspension for the punch-shove combo he delivered to Reggie Evans, and we can expect the same punishment to be handed down to O.J. Mayo, who was ejected in the first quarter Friday night after throwing a punch to the neck of Greg Stiemsma.
In Mayo’s case, it’s clear he felt Stiemsma did him dirty by catching him in the face after the two got tangled up on a screen. But you can’t retaliate by immediately escalating things several levels like that.
The Bucks have three fewer wins than the Sixers do on the season. Let that sink in a moment, and you’ll begin to understand where all the frustration is coming from.
Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant were tight.
The shocking death of Kobe Bryant — along with his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash — hit CP3 hard and the point guard missed his first game of the year Monday, sitting out as he tried to come to grips with it all. Kobe and Paul won Gold Medals together, their kids were friends, and they competed fiercely against each other on the court.
Tuesday night, Paul posted this personal tribute to Kobe.
Like Paul, a lot of us are struggling to process it all.
Jerry West has never understood why people thought he was brilliant for recognizing the talent of a 17-year-old Kobe Bryant coming out of high school. To him it was obvious.
If it had been obvious (and if that era had not frowned on the development that came with drafting high school players), Kobe wouldn’t have been a Laker, and NBA history might be very different.
For West, Kobe was not just another player, he was like a son. West talked about it on the well done TNT special commemorating Kobe Tuesday night.
What those neatly packaged TNT clip does not show is just how difficult and emotional it was for West to talk about Kobe.
West has had a life of incredible highs, but also more lows and pain than many — abused by his father and battling depression his entire life — and this is another emotional tax on the NBA legend.
When you saw the image of Joel Embiid‘s dislocated ring finger facing a direction no finger should face, you knew he was going to miss some time (even though he had it taped up and returned to that game). Embiid had surgery to repair a torn radial collateral ligament on the ring finger of his left hand. Ultimately he missed nine games while he recovered.
Tuesday night against the Warriors, Embiid will be back.
He will have a soft wrap on his left hand that has been cleared by the league.
Philadelphia went 6-3 while Embiid was out.
Ben Simmons stepped up — in his last five games (before Tuesday) he averaged 24 points a game on 70.6 percent shooting, plus 10 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game. Without Embiid in the paint or taking up touches, Simmons took over the offense and looked much more comfortable in his role.
However, the Sixers’ offensive rating in those nine Embiid-less games was 104.9, 29th in the NBA (even in the last five it was 103.2, still 29th in the league). Simmons may have been playing better but the offense was not.
When Simmons and Embiid share the court this season, their offensive rating is 106.7 — not great, but better than without Embiid playing.
Indiana has gone 30-17 this season and sits as the five seed in the Eastern Conference — and Wednesday they get their best player back.
Victor Oladipo — the former Most Improved Player and All-NBA team member who has been out for most of a year with a right quad tendon rupture — practiced with the Pacers on Tuesday and, as expected, will make his return to the court Wednesday night against the Bulls.
Coach Nate McMillan would not say how he planned to use Oladipo but, considering the minutes limit, off the bench seems the most likely move. McMillan said the team would revisit the minutes and role after the All-Star break.
While Milwaukee has separated itself atop the East, the next five teams — Miami, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Indiana — are all within 2.5 games of each other and could end up in any order. If Oladipo can return close to the All-NBA form he was in prior to his injury, the Pacers become a big threat to break out of that group. If nothing else, they become a much tougher out in the postseason.