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 keeping your girlfriend away from soft plastics….
The Memphis Grizzlies’ guards. So far this season the Grizzlies have largely won in spite of their guards, not because of them. Not tonight, they keyed a come-from-behind win where they started out down 26. Mike Conley had 11 fourth quarter, points, Vince Carter finally showed up hit three from beyond the arc in the quarter,and then Courtney Lee made the play of the game.
Sacramento Kings. Tough loss. They didn’t lose this one on a last second tip play (although the Kings’ defense did break down on it) nor because of the officials on a close play. No, they lost this one when they led by 26 in the second quarter and 15 at the start of the fourth quarter and couldn’t hold the lead. Sacramento shot 38.9 percent in the fourth quarter, with Rudy Gay going 0-of-3 and Darren Collison going 1-of-4. This is a young team still learning how to win, and there are going to be rough patches. This is one of those.
Pau Gasol. He is playing the best basketball we have seen from him since the “I’m an All-Star and the Lakers are contenders” years. We saw it again on Thursday night as he put up 27 points on 19 shots plus pulled down 11 boards against the Raptors in a game where the Bulls looked like the best team in the East. Gasol was 9-of-13 inside 8 feet of the rim — Tom Thibodeau is using him like a post player, not trying to force him to be a stretch four like Mike D’Antoni too often did. Gasol also defended — the Raptors were 3-of-12 shooting at the rim when he was protecting it. He is a great fit for this team and after spending the summer with his friends on the Spanish national team you can see his passion for the game is rekindled.
Philadelphia 76ers. Hey Michael Carter-Williams, welcome back to the NBA. I think we all understand the strategy Sam Hinkie is employing. And maybe — maybe — we’ll look back on this in five years as worth it because the Sixers will have a team stockpiled with talent. But good lord are they atrocious now. They are the Medusa of the NBA, watch just part of their game and you’ll turn to stone. I feel for Sixers fans. Their team trailed Dallas 73-29 at the half — if Dallas had not scored the entire second half they still would have won the game by three (the final was 123-70). The Sixers shot 51.5 percent for the game — from the free throw line. From the field it was 29.9 percent. Ugly. Again, I get the strategy, but being this bad is just not good for the league and it’s got to just wear down the fan base.
Nikola Jokic was delayed in joining the Nuggets after testing positive for coronavirus in Serbia.
Gary Harris, Torrey Craig and Michael Porter Jr. apparently aren’t with Denver, either.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:
The Nuggets closed their facility two weeks ago after positive coronavirus tests. At least a week prior to that, a Western Conference playoff team reportedly had four positive coronavirus tests.
Are either of those events related to these absences?
The NBA has shown a disturbing lack of transparency around its restart.
When the season got suspended, Denver looked like a good regular-season team that’d face issues adapting to a playoff style. Now, who knows how the Nuggets will be when the season resumes? There’s so much roster uncertainty.
Harris is Denver’s starting shooting guard, and Craig and Porter have been rotation-level backup forwards. Both Harris (on smaller players) and Craig (on bigger players) have been defensive standouts with lackluster offense. Harris’ shooting struggles have been a major disappointment. For Craig, they’re an accepted limitation. Porter has shown flashes as a superb scorer, but he’s still raw.
Who knows if and when these three will join the Nuggets? Again, the lack of transparency has been frustrating. But Harris, Porter and Craig missing time would be a major setback for Denver.
Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Luc Mbah a Moute didn’t travel with the Rockets to Orlando for the NBA’s resumption at Disney World.
Westbrook says he tested positive for coronavirus:
It’s good that Westbrook is feeling well. And, once he had coronavirus, it’s good he tested positive before the team departed. He can quarantine in the comfort of his own home rather than a hotel room. He didn’t risk spreading coronavirus during the flight.
When will he join the Rockets? That’s tough to say. He must clear coronavirus first, and it’s unclear how long he has had it. Then, upon arrival at Disney World, he faces an in-room quarantine. The length of that can vary.
With Harden as the centerpiece, Houston has built its secondary attack around Westbrook’s aggressive style. The Rockets’ unique center-less approach is a direct response to Westbrook’s minus outside shooting. Empowered by spacing later in the season, Westbrook has really thrived.
He’d be a huge loss. Houston could go from a championship-contending wildcard to one-man show – or less.
This revelation also raises questions about Harden and Mbah a Moute, whose late arrivals haven’t been publicly explained.
Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard and 76ers star Joel Embiid expressed doubt about players following the NBA’s protocols in the bubble.
See Rockets forward Bruno Caboclo.
Tim MacMahon of ESPN:
Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
Players first arriving at Disney World is one of the most perilous times in the NBA’s plan. A player leaving his initial quarantine with coronavirus could undermine the whole operation.
The league has no practical choice but to be strict.
James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Luc Mbah a Moute didn’t arrive with the rest of the Rockets in Orlando. This makes four players who are behind in their ability to build chemistry and train with their teammates. At least Caboclo is just four days away from being four days away – major progress for him.
Houston has already clinched a playoff spot. But there’s some danger of slipping to the No. 7 seed and facing the powerful Clippers in the first round. So while they don’t have the most urgency for the seeding games, the Rockets are playing for something in the seeding games.
Missouri U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley sent out a press release complaining about the NBA’s list of approved social-justice messages for jerseys.
ESPN NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski replied to the email, “F— you.” (Wojnarowski did not censor the first word.)
Wojnarowski apologized. ESPN condemned his behavior and, according to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, suspended him two weeks.
Several NBA players have publicly supported Wojnarowski:
Lakers star LeBron James:
Clippers guard Lou Williams:
Clippers guard Patrick Beverley:
Nuggets guard Jamal Murray:
Heat big Bam Adebayo:
Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie:
Kings forward Harrison Barnes:
Pacers center Myles Turner:
Grizzlies forward Anthony Tolliver:
Wizards wing Troy Brown Jr.:
Trail Blazers guard Jaylen Adams:
LeBron’s message is particularly notable.
Obviously, he’s the NBA’s biggest star. His words carry weight.
Wojnarowski also has a long history of harshly criticizing LeBron. Here are just a few examples.
But if he can get over The Letter from Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, LeBron can probably get past anything written about him.