PBT’s Monday Night NBA Winners/Losers: Memphis stakes claim to being best in NBA

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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 wondering why seals have sex with penguins (well, it was 2 a.m. and nobody else was in the bar)….

source:  Memphis Grizzlies. Houston had not looked good the last couple games (the Rockets scored 69 points against the Thunder) yet they squeaked by with wins and had a 9-1 record heading into Monday night’s showdown. However, play poorly against 9-1 Memphis and they embarrass you — which is what happened. Memphis jumped out to a 34-16 lead after one quarter, helped by the Rockets 15 first half turnovers, and never took their foot off the gas. The Grizzlies have one of the best defenses in the NBA and they clamped down, holding the Rockets to 8-of-34 shooting from three and an offensive rating of 94.7 points per 100 possessions. Meanwhile Memphis shared the rock — seven guys in double figures and they shot 53.5 percent as a team. It’s early in the season, but he Grizzlies showed they are the best team in the NBA 10 games into the season.

source:  Anthony Davis. He is a beast. And he continues to show it nightly He went against Portland’s strong front line and had 31 points on 20 shots, pulled down 11 rebounds, blocked three shots and was generally one of the top five players in the NBA. He had the Pelicans in position to pick up a key win on the road until…

source:  Tyreke Evans/Jrue Holiday. These guys suddenly forgot it might be a good idea to run the offense through Anthony Davis and as a result Portland got the win. In the final 6:30 of the game Holiday was 0-of-7, while Evans was 0-4. Davis? He got just one shot (until he took a desperation three on a rebound in the lat 30 seconds). Evans and Holiday were 10-of-37 on the night, and when you throw in a 1-of-5 night from Austin Rivers it got worse from the guards. Run the offense through the best player on your team in crunch time guys. It’s pretty simple.

source:  Morris twins. Goran Dragic had the key plays late, but the Suns were in it because Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris combined for 43 points on 19-of-29 shooting. The Suns owned the Celtics in the first half behind 23 points, 6 boards, and 6 assists from the twins. Markieff led the way with 30 points, seven rebounds and even four steels, looking like the guy who got consideration for Sixth Man of the Year last season. Good road win for Philly.

source:  Los Angeles Clippers. No Derrick Rose. No Pau Gasol. Yet it was the Bulls went on a 51-18 run from late in the second quarter through the start of the fourth to take control of the game. The Bulls have an identity, they know who they are and they play hard in that system regardless of who puts on the uniform and suits up. Which is pretty much the opposite of the Clippers. The biggest problem remains L.A.’s perimeter defense — when Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick were on the court together Jimmy Butler morphed into Jimmy Buckets and was just making plays to the tune of 22 points and 8 assists. It forced Doc Rivers to put Matt Barnes back in late in the fourth and sacrifice shooting. However, the Clippers problems go beyond just that — there is a clear chemistry issue on this team, guys are not playing hard, their defensive rotations are slow and there are going to be more ugly losses as long as that continues.

LeBron James rips AAU workload, “AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid”

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Last week, during the pointless debate about Kawhi Leonard missing a game for load management, the most salient point came from former Suns coach Earl Watson.

He echoed a must-read story (from Baxter Holmes at ESPN) that reverberated around the NBA this summer (but for many fans got lost in the shuffle of player movement): How NBA team medical staffs — as well as just doctors working on young athletes — were noticing the extreme wear and tear on the body of AAU basketball players. The volume of games, often without enough training and conditioning to properly strengthen their young bodies or let them recover, sets young players up for injuries later in their playing career. NBA teams and doctors, with their load management techniques, are trying to make up for damage that started long before.

LeBron James, with two sons playing AAU ball right now, is in full agreement.

LeBron ripped the volume of games played in the youth basketball culture, speaking to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

“These kids are going into the league already banged up, and I think parents and coaches need to know [that] … well, AAU coaches don’t give a f***,” James told Yahoo Sports. “AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid and what his body is going through…

“I think [AAU] has something to do with it, for sure,” James told Yahoo Sports. “It was a few tournaments where my kids — Bronny and Bryce — had five games in one day and that’s just f- – -ing out of control. That’s just too much… So, I’m very conscious for my own son because that’s all I can control, and if my son says he’s sore or he’s tired, he’s not playing.

“Because a lot of these tournaments don’t have the best interest of these kids, man. I see it. It’s like one time, they had to play a quarterfinal game, a semifinal game and a championship game starting at 9 a.m., and the championship game was at 12:30 p.m. Three games. I was like, ‘Oh, hell no.’ And my kids were dead tired. My kids were dead tired. This isn’t right. This is an issue.”

It is an issue. A big issue. The NBA can talk about reducing the number of games — they are, and they should, the season is too long, but cutting the number of games becomes a complex financial issue — but it goes beyond just the NBA level.

There needs to be fundamental changes in youth basketball in the NBA, down to the AAU level. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has talked about this.

“So, where historically it’s been an area, particularly AAU basketball, that the league has stayed out of, I think these most recent revelations (from the NCAA scandal) are just a reminder that we’re part of this larger basketball community. I think ultimately, whether we like it or not, need to be more directly involved with elite youth basketball,” Silver said a couple of years ago. Since then, the league has taken steps in that direction.

However, like shortening the NBA season, there are a lot of competing interests in a complicated situation. A lot of people are making money the way things are now and don’t want them to change.

For the health of players, it needs to.

 

Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton to miss 3-4 weeks with thigh contusion

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Khris Middleton, coming off a summer with Team USA, has quietly continued his All-Star level play this season — an efficient 18.5 points per game, shooting 39.3 percent from three but also finishing well at the rim, and the Bucks offense is 3.3 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court.

However, he’s not going to be on the court for a few weeks due to a deep thigh bruise, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

In the third quarter of the Bucks win over the Thunder Sunday, Middleton suffered the thigh bruise, which sent him to the locker room. While he returned to the bench, he did not return to the game. Afterward, in the locker room, Middleton didn’t seem to think it was that serious.

It turned out to be a little more than that, it has to be a deep bruise to have him out for up to a month.

Kyle Korver would be next in line to get those minutes, but he sat out Sunday with a “head contusion.” Behind him look for smaller lineups with Pat Connaughton, Donte DiVincenzo, Sterling Brown, and Wesley Matthews to get more minutes, plus maybe a little Thanasis Antetokounmpo.

After 0-6 start, Raptors coach Nick Nurse celebrates successful challenge like he won a championship (video)

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After the Raptors won the 2019 NBA title, Toronto coach Nick Nurse hugged Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry and Masai Ujiri.

Some of the hug recipients changed, but Nurse’s celebration didn’t look that different last night.

Nurse missed his first six coach’s challenges then finally got one right during the Raptors’ win over the Lakers. He responded by hugging everyone – including a Los Angeles fan – around him.

This was a long time coming. Even after a couple early failed challenges, Nurse sounded exasperated.

Michael Grange of Sportsnet:

Maybe Clippers coach Doc Rivers, a noted challenge critic, will eventually experience this euphoria.

Report: Gordon Hayward to have surgery on left hand

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How good would Gordon Hayward be if he could just stay healthy?

Hopefully we will find out someday, but probably not for the next couple of months after his agent told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Hayward will have surgery on his non-shooting hand to repair a broken bone.

There will be no official timeline for recovery until after the surgery, but after going under the knife Hayward is likely out at least six weeks. Stephen Curry is out three months after surgery on his non-shooting hand (that is a different injury, but it shows how long the timeline can be).

The play where the injury happened was innocuous.

Even so, it has left Boston with some big questions to answer through New Year’s Eve, or whenever Hayward returns. Hayward was having a bounce-back year, averaging 18.9 points per game, shooting 43.3 percent from three, pulling down 7.1 rebounds and dishing out 4.1 assists per game. He’s been a critical playmaker for the Celtics.

For Boston, this likely means a lot more Marcus Smart, Semi Ojeleye, and maybe Javonte Green.