Monday NBA grades: Celebrating the beautiful game of the Spurs

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while drinking at the 20 best college bars in America (allegedly)….

source:  San Antonio Spurs. Take a step back and marvel at this team. No, not the 18 wins in a row after they beat the Pacers Monday, or at least not just that. Rather, marvel at the precision with which this team plays the game — if you are a fan of basketball you need to appreciate the Spurs. Their ability to recognize something simple — that Tim Duncan has sealed Roy Hibbert and with two quick passes they can get him a layup (and they did, Tony Parker passed from the wing to Boris Diaw at the elbow, who hit Duncan) is a thing of beauty. They play to their strengths. They move the ball and move off the ball. When they set a screen they get a piece of the defender then roll or pop. They are selfless and as Gregg Popovich has instructed they give up a good shot for a great one. In a couple years they are going to break this team up and we will all be the worse for it.

source:   Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs. This shoutout isn’t for a vintage Duncan performance (9 points on 10 shots is not impressive, although his defense on Roy Hibbert). However, with a dunk in the game he passed Patrick Ewing for 19th on the NBA’s all-time point scoring list.

source:   LeBron James, Miami Heat. Miami moved into first place in the East with a win over the Raptors in the kind of game we have see too much of from the Heat this season: No Dwyane Wade. No Ray Allen. No Greg Oden. No Michael Beasley. No Shane Battier. So LeBron took over and scored 32 points, pulled down7 rebounds and had 8 assists. With that the Heat beat the Raptors 93-83 and moved percentage points ahead of the reeling Pacers.

source:   DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings. No doubt Anthony Davis is one of the up and coming stars of the NBA, a 21-year-old with a great future ahead of him. DeMarcus Cousins completely outplayed him. In a “you guys should have picked me for the All-Star Game not him” kind of way. Cousins had 35 points on 13-of-18 shooting, 14 rebounds, three assists, two blocks. He seemed to be everywhere, he was physical and he took control of the game at points. Impressive performance.

source:   Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. This is what the Knicks need out of ‘Melo at this point. You knew the Hawks were going to pick up a win against the Sixers (what, you expected a Philly winning streak?) and the Knicks couldn’t afford to lose ground. Doesn’t matter if it’s the second night of a back-to-back, the fifth game in 7 days, New York had to win. They did, thanks to two things: 1) Utah is a terrible basketball team; 2) Carmelo Anthony. Utah had nobody who could begin to contain him and so ‘Melo torched his defenders for 34 points, eight rebounds and three assists. The next highest scoring Knick was Tyson Chandler with 15. Great job by Anthony putting the team on his shoulders.

 

LeBron James finishes Rajon Rondo alley-oop to close out half (VIDEO)

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
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One of the reasons LeBron James leads the league in assists — other than the fact he can do anything on the basketball court he wants — is that he was the Lakers’ only quality playmaker to start the season. He had to set guys up.

Until Rajon Rondo returned recently from injury.

Now Rondo is setting up everyone — including LeBron for this monster alley-oop just before the half Tuesday night.

LeBron can still finish with the best of them.

Just don’t ask him about doing the dunk contest.

 

New Orleans spoils Carmelo Anthony’s Portland debut in 115-104 Pelicans win

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jrue Holiday had 22 points and 10 assists, Brandon Ingram added 21 points, and the New Orleans Pelicans spoiled Carmelo Anthony’s Portland debut with a 115-104 victory over the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

Anthony finished with 10 points while Portland leading scorer and four-time All-Star Damian Lillard missed his first game of the season with back spasms.

Starting at forward and playing across the street from where he led Syracuse to the 2003 NCAA championship over Kansas, Anthony scored the Blazers’ first points of the game on a 3-pointer from 26 feet out. However, he wound up missing 10 of 14 shots in what was the first game of his 17th NBA season.

Ingram looked spry in his return from right knee soreness that sidelined him four games, particularly on an authoritative, driving, one-handed dunk that got the crowd roaring in the opening quarter.

J.J. Redick hit 4 of 9 3-pointers and scored 14 points for New Orleans, which has won two straight and three of four. Kenrich Williams, who got the start at forward, filled the stat sheet with hustle plays, grabbing 14 rebounds to go with three steals and a blocked shot. He also scored eight points.

Holiday highlighted his night with a spinning dribble around Nassir Little for a driving dunk. In the second half, he scored on an unusual play in which he remained under his own basket, re-tying his shoes while his team advanced 4-on-5 into the offensive end. Holiday then came sprinting down court, took a handoff from Nicolo Melli near the 3-point line and exploded toward the rim for a layup.

C.J. McCollum led Portland with 22 points, while Hassan Whiteside added 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Anthony wasted no time getting his first shot off. His miss from 20 feet came within the opening 30 seconds and was Portland’s first shot of the game. Anthony also took Portland’s second shot, hitting his first of two made 3s.

But when Anthony tried to rise for a two-handed dunk in the first half, he was met with resistance by a member of the NBA’s rookie class when eighth overall draft pick Jaxson Hayes rejected the attempt.

Hayes closed out the half with his third block, swatting away a driving floater by Anfernee Simons to keep Portland’s lead at 54-53.

New Orleans seized momentum in the third quarter, going up by 13 on a sequence that began when Melli hit a 3 and then got the ball right back in a largely vacated Portland back court after Nickeil Alexander-Walker dove to swipe the ball away from McCollum. Melli went straight in for a dunk that made it 83-70.

Portland responded with three quick 3s — two by Kent Bazemore — during a 9-2 run that trimmed New Orleans’ lead to six before Alexander-Walker, who had hit 11 3s in his previous two games, ended the period by banking in a straightaway 3 to make it 88-79.

Watch Carmelo Anthony’s first bucket as a Trail Blazer

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That Carmelo Anthony started the first game he played for Portland speaks to why they signed him in the first place — this team is so shorthanded along the front line that the guy they just signed got thrown into the fire.

Anthony responded with a solid level of play. His first bucket was a wing three where both defenders went to CJ McCollum and left ‘Melo wide open.

Anthony played 12 minutes in the first half and had 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block, and three fouls. The team was looking to keep him at around 20 minutes for his first game back.

Portland led New Orleans 54-53 at the half.

How a single computer folder and dogged HR official exposed former Kings executive’s $13.4M embezzlement scheme

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
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Just how close did Jeff David come to getting away with embezzling $13.4 million from the Kings while working for them? He already secured a new job with the Heat and was in the process of moving from Sacramento to Miami.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

On this Monday, walking through the Davids’ new front door is a dizzying procession of cable guys, utility workers and movers. Amid all of this, Jeff receives a phone call from a former co-worker with the Kings. Her name is Stacy Wegzyn, and she works in HR. Jeff last remembers sitting in her office in Sacramento just months earlier, being told that the Kings were going to eliminate his position. After a few pleasantries, she gets down to business. She tells Jeff she’s been going through his old files, and in doing so she found one labeled “TurboTax” that references an entity called Sacramento Sports Partners.

“I was just curious what that is and if those are documents that should go to somebody else,” Wegzyn says.

It’s a seemingly innocuous inquiry from an HR lifer. But it’s one that will dictate the rest of Jeff David’s life. If he knows that — or senses it — he doesn’t let on.

“No, no, no,” Jeff responds. “That was a … man, this is taking me back. Maybe 2015?”

Wegzyn presses on. She asks Jeff whether the documents contain anything that anyone with the Kings needs to see. Jeff assures her they can trash them because the entity isn’t around anymore. A few minutes after he hangs up, his mother-in-law, Nancy, is standing at the front door when an FBI investigator appears, asking to speak to Jeff.

If you like the NBA or true crime – let alone both – I HIGHLY recommend reading Arnovitz’s full piece. It’s riveting!