Wednesday NBA grades: The Indiana Pacers we remember reappeared

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while hating on the idea of Monopoly “house rules”….

source:  Indiana Pacers. It wasn’t pretty, but what mattered was the fight in the team. And the win over Miami, but more than that the fight it took from them to get there. Indiana had been slogging through the season, Roy Hibbert had seemed on a mental walkabout, Paul George looked tired — and in one game a lot of it changed. Hibbert went right at Greg Oden early and scored 11 in the first quarter, setting the tone. Paul George looked like himself again. David West was making plays. The defense was back. There was fight in the team again (a little too much in Lance Stephenson). This is closer to the team that looked like the best team in the NBA for long stretches earlier this season. Good of them to wake up in time for the playoffs.

source:  LeBron James, Miami Heat. This loss wasn’t on him — he scored 46 percent of his team’s points (38 points, and that figure doesn’t count the five assists), he was setting guys up, he was making plays. This was an aggressive LeBron, which is why he got to the line so often (even though he didn’t deserve all those calls, if you’re the aggressor in the NBA you get the referee’s whistle in your favor). Ask Hibbert about how aggressive LeBron was. Question is will he get more help come the postseason?

source:  Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. Tuesday night the Knicks sleepwalked through a game against the Lakers and lost. They showed up in Sacramento Wednesday and played with some urgency as a team, and has he has done all season Anthony led them, scoring. Most importantly he was 5-8 from three — the Knicks as a team were 15-of-26 from three, that was the difference in their game. J.R. Smith had a huge game also, scoring 29 points and hitting of 9-of-12. The Knicks built up a 24 point lead hitting threes, and when the Kings came back it was the threes that kept New York on top.

source:  Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats. Brooklyn had no answer for Jefferson. None. Jefferson had 35 points on 15-of-27 shooting, picking apart the Nets double teams all night long by either making a quick move before the double got there or making the right pass out of it. The non-Brook Lopez version of the Nets can’t defend the post, they are about disruption and if you can get the ball on the block you can hurt them. Someone will in the playoffs. But Wednesday it was just Jefferson.

source:  Darius Miller, New Orleans Pelicans. If you just asked “who?” know that the Clippers were pretty much doing the same thing, but he was the guy hitting big jumpers late (he finished with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting) to lift the Pelicans over the Clippers. New Orleans has won three in a row and Miami and the Clippers are two of those — well done Pelicans. Well done indeed.

Chris Paul on 2020 Olympics: My wife wants to go to Tokyo

Chris Paul
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Chris Paul feels great starring for the Thunder.

So great, he might even take on extra workload.

Paul – who helped Team USA win gold medals in 2008 and 2012 but didn’t compete in 2016 – said he’s “very serious” about playing the 2020 Olympics. Paul:

I’m excited about the opportunity. My wife is sort of calling the shots on this one. She said she wants to go to Tokyo.

I’ve been blessed and fortunate to play in 2008. I had no kids then. In 2012, my wife couldn’t come, because, four days after the gold medal game, she had my daughter.

We often hear about players missing international tournaments due to personal reasons. But that can go both ways. Paul might compete due to personal reasons.

Paul faces steep and deep competition for making the team at point guard: Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Russell Westbrook, Kemba Walker, Mike Conley, Malcolm Brogdon, Derrick White. Trae Young didn’t even make the list of finalists.

USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said players who’ve previously represented the U.S. will get favorable consideration. So, that’ll help Paul.

If he plays, Paul – who turns 35 in May – would be Team USA’s third-oldest Olympian:

Chris Paul

Age for Team USA’s first game or, in 2020, first game of the tournament

Did John Beilein’s methods lead to Dylan Windler’s season-ending injury?

Former Cavaliers coach John Beilein and Dylan Windler
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John Beilein gave the Cavaliers problems mentally.

Did he also give them problems physically – especially Dylan Windler, who’s missing his entire rookie year?

Shams Charania, Jason Lloyd and Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

Warning signs for Beilein could be traced to the Cavs’ Summer League schedule, when the rookie coach ran a collection of (mostly) G Leaguers and non-roster invites through extended practices, multiple times a day. This is precisely what Beilein would have done at Michigan, especially with an entirely new batch of players, this early in a season calendar. But players not only complained about the work, they also were drilled in games by opponents who were clearly well-rested. And this was in Summer League.

There was at least one player, though, involved in those early summer workouts under Beilein who was expecting to make a major contribution to the Cavs this season. Rookie Dylan Windler, a late first rounder, was supposed to compete with Cedi Osman for minutes on the wing. But he never played a game this season because of a stress injury in his left leg — which could be traced back at least in part to being overworked during the summer.

Would Windler have missed the season under a different coach? It’s impossible to say. Counterfactuals are complex.

But there was legitimate reason to be concerned with Beilein’s approach. Teams have learned the importance of rest. Fatigued players are more susceptible to injury.

Beilein’s longest college season was 41 games. He coached 54 games in Cleveland – and left with much of the season remaining.

Handling the grind of the NBA season was always going to be an adjustment for the long-time college coach. It probably got understated amid concern about him relating interpersonally to his players.

The Cavaliers needed practice time. They needed work to develop. That’s clearly what Beilein prioritized.

But they also needed to limit the physical toll, and it’s reasonable to question whether Beilein did enough there. Even if he was learning that the NBA is more marathon than sprint, the several months Beilein coaches the Cavs were enough to cause issues.

Bucks’ minor-league coach suspended two games for rant (video)

Bucks minor-league coach Chase Buford
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Chase Buford, who coaches the Bucks’ minor-league affiliate, went on an epic rant after the Wisconsin Herd’s latest loss. He singled out referee Matt Rafferty as a “f—ing clown” and said the officials were “bad and biased and unfair and illegal and cheating.”

Ryan Rodig of WFRV-TV:

G League release:

Wisconsin Herd head coach Chase Buford has been suspended for two games without pay for a direct and extended public attack on the integrity and credibility of the game officials.

I can’t recall an NBA coach ever getting suspended for something he said during a press conference.

I also can’t recall an NBA coach ever saying something so inflammatory during a press conference.

In 2005, then-NBA commissioner David Stern threatened to ban Jeff Van Gundy from the NBA after the then-Rockets coach criticized officiating. That incident still led to just a $100,000 fine. Twice as large as any previous fine for a coach. But still just a fine, nonetheless.

Watch entire Kobe Bryant memorial service (video)

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The public memorial for Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant featured several unforgettable moments, including:

But I can’t overstate how well done the entire event was, how heartfelt the speakers and performers were. If you missed it yesterday and are in the right headspace, it’s worth watching to get a more complete understanding of Kobe and Gianna.