PBT’s Wednesday night NBA winners/losers: Golden State may earn contender status

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Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while wishing you were as good a photographer as this 9-year-old….

source:  Golden State Warriors. Four games is a small sample size — I need to see them do this over a longer stretch of ground — but I’m thinking the Warriors should be moved into the title contenders category. They looked the part in thrashing the Clippers Wednesday night. My question coming into the season wasn’t if new coach Steve Kerr would improve their offense — he has them running vastly superior, more complex sets that use Stephen Curry and their talent better than Mark Jackson did — rather it was would they still be the same defensive team that was top three last year? Yup. Again, four games in but they have the best defense in the NBA. Again, they need to keep this up, but the Warriors may be the best team in California. They looked it Wednesday.

source:  Los Angeles Clippers. It speaks to how much talent is on this roster that they could play this inconsistent, disinterested style of basketball for five games and still be 3-2. It caught up with them on Wednesday when the Warriors looked like the cat just toying with the mouse/Clippers. Count me among those that thought the Clippers would build off last season, come in this year ready to take the next step. So far they’ve looked more like a team ready to take a nap. Their offense and defense have been unimpressive so far and they have played without passion. Doc Rivers is rightfully frustrated. It’s early but there is a lot of work to do here.

source:  Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz. Sure the Cavaliers are struggling, this is still a quality win for a young Jazz team that has played hard all season. And for Gordon Hayward, well, this is what max players do:

source:  John Wall. The Wizards point guard put up an impressive line — 31 points, 10 assists, six rebounds — and he remains the guy that makes the Wizards offense work. Despite the Wizards leaning more on Paul Pierce in crunch time, Wall had seven points in overtime to make sure the Wizards beat the Pacers. That said, Wall was guarding the Pacers’ Donald Sloan and he lit up the Wizards for a career high 31. He needs to bring it on both ends.

source:  Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The Raptors stars combined for 58 points on 42 shots, plus nine rebounds and four steals, and together the Raptors stars keyed a nice win over Boston. Lowry was the real show here, he had a monster night (or last three quarters really) while having the longer Rajon Rondo on him. He looked like the All-Star he wants to be.

source:  DeMarcus Cousins. The Sacramento Kings’ big man had by far the best line of the night: In 22 minutes he scored 30 points, grabbed 11 boards — and he fouled out. That is just hard to do. The Kings scored 40 in the first quarter on their way to a 131-109 win over Denver to improve to 4-1 on the young season — the Kings are going to be the new Phoenix Suns in the West.

LeBron likes Instagram of Kyrie Irving in Lakers jersey, Internet goes berserk

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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.

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I like how this feels

A post shared by Savage Season 365 (@cuffsthelegend) on

(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: Milwaukee security guard asked for my pass to Raptors team bus

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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.

PBT Podcast: What’s next for Boston, Philadelphia, Denver? (And some playoff talk)

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Will Kyrie Irving stay in Boston? If not, what is Plan B?

Is Jimmy Butler back in Philadelphia next season? If he is will Tobias Harris be back?

What are the next steps to turn Denver into a contender?

I get into all of those things with the wise Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (and Celtics Blog, and Real GM), we break down those three teams recently turned out of the playoffs. We also start off talking about teams actually in the playoffs, particularly Toronto’s comeback in the Eastern Conference Finals, and how those teams can take advantage against the Warriors with Kevin Durant out.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Nikola Jokic’s All-NBA first-team selection shows his meteoric rise

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Just four years ago, Nikola Jokic was a second-round pick still playing in the Adriatic League. Just three years ago, he was battling a struggling Jusuf Nurkic to be the Nuggets’ main center.

Yesterday, Jokic made the All-NBA first team.

Jokic has risen incredibly quickly. Before this season, he had never even been an All-Star.

That makes Jokic the first non-rookie in NBA history to make an All-NBA first team without a prior All-Star season (including ABA All-Stars).

The No. 41 pick in the 2014 draft, Jokic is just the fourth second-rounder to make an All-NBA first team since the NBA-ABA merger. The others: DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol and Marc Price.

For most players not immediately deemed to hold first-round talent, it takes a while to build stature in the NBA. Jokic made the All-NBA first team in just his fourth season. That’s way sooner than Gasol (seventh season), Price (seventh season) and Jordan (eighth season):

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The Nuggets didn’t wait for this honor to make Jokic their franchise player. They gave him a near-max contract last summer, and by leading them into the second round of the playoffs, he triggered incentives to reach a max salary.

Denver has built a young supporting cast – mainly Jamal Murray and Gary Harris – to grow with Jokic. The Nuggets also signed veteran Paul Millsap, whose defense complements Jokic’s offensive-minded game.

So much is coming together so quickly for Denver, and Jokic’s honor is just the latest example.