PBT’s Sunday NBA Winners/Losers: Luol Deng loving life in Miami

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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 spending your hard-earned money on Derek Jeter dirt

source:  Luol Deng. He’s fitting in very well in Miami, thank you very much. The Heat went into American Airlines Arena — the one in Dallas, not the one in Miami — and beat the Mavs behind a big game from Deng: 30 points on 13-of-19 shooting, five rebounds and four assists. On the season he’s averaging 15.6 points a game on 55.7 percent shooting. The Heat are 5-2 and look like a team with real cohesion and chemistry led by Chris Bosh, getting solid play from Dwyane Wade nightly and playing the space and pace system well.

source:  Los Angeles Lakers. They got one. And they played better defense to get it (well, that and Charlotte’s lack of shooting was exposed as they were 3-of-14 from three). Kobe Bryant did what he does and had 21 points on 20 shots, but the Lakers got an offensive boost from Jeremy Lin who had 21 points on 12 shots, hitting 3-of-6 from three.The Lakers got really hot in the second half, hitting 64.1 percent of their shots overall — Carlos Boozer was 5-of-6, Ed Davis 3-of-3 and even Robert Sacre made both his shots. Good win for the Lakers, who needed this one because the schedule gets really tough for the next couple weeks and there are not a lot of obvious wins on the horizon. After the game there were a lot of “Charles Barkley can eat” jokes on twitter (he joked about going on a hunger strike until the Lakers won), and Ed Davis got in on the action.

source:  Charlotte Hornets. It’s not just the loss to the Lakers, it’s the lack of offense highlighted in that loss and the rest of the season that is an issue. The Hornets were counting on continuity plus adding Lance Stephenson to boost what was a dismal offense last season, but so far this young season the Hornets offense is 4.3 points per 100 possessions worse than last season. They desperately need outside shooting, hitting just 29 percent from three as a team. They also are heavy on the midrange shots (fourth most in the NBA) and are shooting just 39 percent on those. All of that has the Hornets just 3-4 this young season. There’s plenty of time to turn it around, but this is a disappointing start for a team expected to take a step forward this season.

source:  Toronto Raptors. It’s not the win over the Sixers Sunday, it’s that the Raptors are off to a fast 6-1 start and are on top of the Eastern Conference. Part of that winning is the top 10 defense they have been playing this season. But more impressive is the top five offense led by DeMar DeRozan, at 22.7 a game. Plus DeRozan is doing this.

source:  Denver Nuggets. Coming into the season they were a team a lot people thought could get it together and compete for a playoff spot in the West, but after their loss to the Trail Blazers they are 1-5 to start the season, tied with the Lakers for the bottom of the West. I spoke to Kenneth Faried last week and he said the slow start was just so many guys coming back from injury and missing time in camp, they are just not all on the same page yet on either end of the floor (they are ranked 22nd in both offense and defense using points per possession). He also said the team understands that in the West they have to get it together sooner rather than later.

All Cedric Maxwell got for winning NBA Finals MVP was this janky watch (video)

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Just two NBA Finals MVPs who are eligible for the Basketball Hall of Fame haven’t been selected for induction:

  • Cedric Maxwell (1981 Celtics)
  • Chauncey Billups (2004 Pistons)

Andre Iguodala (2015 Warriors) could join them, but he at least has some Hall of Fame chatter surrounding him. Billups is absolutely a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate, even if not enshrined.

Maxwell, on the other hand, wasn’t on that level. He never even made an All-Star team. He was just a good player who had an excellent six games against the Rockets in the 1981 NBA Finals.

Really, it’s a neat distinction to be the lone NBA Finals MVP who was never a star. Maxwell can cherish that.

And this watch, which he reveals in this entertaining video.

NBPA reaching out to players, getting feedback on return scenarios

Michele Roberts
David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images
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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been in information gathering mode since the day he was forced to shut the league down. He’s gathered information from medical experts on how a return would work, talked to owners and GMs about the financial end and what they hope to see, and had conferences with the league’s broadcast partners.

Most of all, Silver wanted to know what the players thought. With the NBA closing in on a return strategy — Friday Silver and team owners will have a conference call that could lead to a decisive plan — players’ union executive director Michele Roberts is taking the return plans to the players for feedback, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

It looks like the NBA will return to play in Orlando, with training camps starting in late June and games in mid-July.

The questions to be answered are:

• Do all 30 teams report to Orlando to play a handful of regular season games, getting teams over the 70 game threshold?
• Do just the top 16 teams report with the league jumping straight to the playoffs?
• If the league does go straight to the playoffs, how will that impact player pay, which is tied to the regular season?
• Will there be a play-in tournament for the final playoff seeds?
Should the NBA do a 1-16 seed playoff format, or keep the traditional Eastern/Western conference format?
• Will each playoff round have seven games, or will the first round (or two) be best-of-five?

Everything option is still on the table (as officials will be quick to say). However, the buzz around the league has grown louder that just the top 16 teams will go to Florida, and there will be seven-game series for every round, as the league tries to squelch any asterisk talk.

We may know a lot more on Friday. And the players will have their say.

Michael Jordan on tape saying he wouldn’t play on Dream Team with Isiah Thomas

Pistons guard Isiah Thomas and Bulls guard Michael Jordan
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
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In “The Last Dance,” Michael Jordan was asked to react to Isiah Thomas’ explanation of the Pistons’ infamous walk-off. Jordan replied immediately:

I know it’s all bulls—. Whatever he says now, you know it wasn’t his true actions then. He’s had time enough to think about it. Or the reaction of the public, that’s kind of changed his perspective of it. You can show me anything you want. There’s no way you can convince me he wasn’t an a—hole.

Maybe there was some projection in that answer.

For years, Jordan has denied any involvement in Thomas not making the Dream Team. Rod Thorn, who was on the selection committee for the 1992 Olympics, has backed Jordan’s version of events.

But Jordan once revealed a different story.

Jordan on Jack McCallum’s “The Dream Team Tapes:”

Rod Thorn called me. I said, “Rod, I won’t play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.” He assured me. He said, “You know what? Chuck doesn’t want Isiah. So, Isiah is not going to be part of the team.”

Yes, the Pistons were being poor sports when they left the floor without shaking the Bulls’ hands in the 1991 playoffs. But that neither began nor ended the story.

The Bulls repeatedly disrespected the Pistons while finally overcoming Detroit. That particularly bothered the Pistons, because, on their way up, they paid deference to to the Celtics and Lakers. So, while the walk-off was – even according to Thomas – regrettable, it happened for a reason.

Jordan carrying his vendetta to the Dream Team only escalated matters. Yet, unlike the Pistons for not shaking hands, Jordan receives minimal scorn for his poor sportsmanship. Threatening not to play if a rival player is also included is the antithesis of what people want the Olympics to stand for.

And Jordan is now on published audio admitting that’s exactly what he did. You can listen to him for yourself.

As the best player and marketing giant, Jordan had the power. Thomas felt the consequences.

In 1992, Thomas was a marginal choice for the Dream Team. He wasn’t clearly better than the players who made it on current ability. He wasn’t as great as the players – Magic Johnson and Larry Bird – who made it on career accomplishments. It would’ve been fine to select Thomas. It would have been fine to omit him.

But it’s a shame he never got proper consideration on merit.

It’s also a shame Dream Team coach Chuck Daly, who coached Thomas in Detroit, is no longer alive to give his account. Did Dally really tell Thorn not to put Thomas on the Olympic team? Did Thorn really tell that to Jordan? Jordan and Thorn are just so untrustworthy on this matter.

Kendrick Perkins: LeBron James-Paul Pierce rift stems from Pierce spitting at Cavaliers bench

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In 2004, Celtics forward Paul Pierce got fined for spitting at the Cavaliers bench during a preseason game.

Why did Pierce do that?

Apparently, LeBron James.

Kendrick Perkins, via ESPN:

When LeBron was coming into the league, he was getting a lot of heat from players. “Oh he’s not going to do that to us. The Chosen One. Wait til he play against grown men.”

So, Paul is talking noise to the bench, right? He’s talking big noise to the Cavs bench. And they’re sitting over there. Bron and them, they’re all sitting over there.

Paul actually spits over there at the bench, right? The ultimate disrespect, OK?

It ended up turning up. After the game, both teams were meeting in the back. Guys was ready to fight. We had to hold people back. It went up from there.

Ever since that moment, LeBron James and Paul Pierce hate each other. They don’t speak to each other.

This was entering LeBron’s second season, not his rookie year. But Pierce was still the established star, LeBron the riser trying to prove himself. As we’ve seen since, Pierce is very protective of his place in the game.

The feud deepened over the years as Pierce’s Celtics battled LeBron’s Cavaliers and Heat in the playoffs. Pierce took other shots at LeBron, even indirectly. Most recently, Pierce named a top-five list that didn’t include LeBron.

But spitting? That’s low.

There’s just something about Boston players from that era.