PBT’s Sunday night NBA Winners/Losers: Durant and Rondo both looking healthy

5 Comments

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 watching the trailer for the new Terminator movie

source:  Rajon Rondo. That’s 31. Sometimes as fans we overemphasize the triple-double (it’s not always as impactful on the game as it sounds) but if you’re hitting that number consistently then you’re doing something right. Sunday was the second time this season and the 31st time in his career that Rajon Rondo hit that number. He’s doing something right. He wasn’t exactly efficient (he had 13 points on 17 shots) and he missed some key shots late (his floater was off) but he had 13 rebounds and 11 assists, which — along with Jeff Green’s 25 points — helped fuel the Celtics past the Wizards in a quality win.

source:  Kevin Durant. He’s still getting his legs back under him, he had an off night against Philly recently, but he bounced back and looked like the KD we know and the rest of the league fears on Sunday. Durant had 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting. He was Durant again, and that included hitting what ended up being the dagger three — with less than two minutes to go Detroit got caught on a bad switch and Durant drilled the three that put them up four and gave OKC the win. But it didn’t matter if Detroit defended well, earlier in the game Jonas Jerebko defended him as well as one could and Durant just scored over him anyway. Because when he’s on Durant can score on anyone. Which is more than we can say for….

source:  Josh Smith and the Detroit Pistons. Saturday they couldn’t beat the hapless, tanking Sixers (we’re going to have a new team on the bottom of the PBT Power Rankings Monday). At least Sunday they showed a little pride and had a shot at beating an Oklahoma City team still trying to get its feet under it with Durant and Russell Westbrook back. OKC was up two with 10 seconds left in the game when Westbrook missed a 16-foot jumper, Brandon Jennings got the rebound pushed the ball up the court looking for a chance to tie or maybe win the game for the Pistons. Jennings got into the lane but saw big men coming over to contest his shot (or more likely swat it into the third row) so he made a smart, quality pass to a wide open man — Josh Smith at the arc. He got a wide open, uncontested shot to win the game. Of course, Smith is shooting 25 percent from three this season, which is just below his career average, so what the Pistons got with the game on the line was a shot they want to avoid and every opponent would encourage them to take. The results were predictable. This is why they are the Pistons right now.

source:  Chandler Parsons. For some reason the Milwaukee Bucks kept leaving Chandler Parsons open and he made them pay — 28 points on 14 shots (4-of-6 from three) as the Mavericks toyed with the Bucks in an easy win. Parsons had nine uncontested looks according the NBA’s Sports VU cameras, he hit seven of them. This was the most comfortable he has looked in the Dallas offense (being wide open will do that), which frankly already was pretty powerful.

source:  Denver’s back court’s shooting. Ty Lawson was 1-of-10 from the floor. Arron Afflalo was 4-of-14. Gary Harris came in off the bench and was 1-of-8. Throw in an 0-of-6 night from Danilo Gallinari and the Nuggets were not impressive in their loss to Atlanta. It happens, guys have off shooting nights, but Denver had one of those nights when basically everyone they count on to create points was off. (Wilson Chandler, who had 29 points on 22 shots, was the exception to the rule, but it wasn’t enough.)

Did Hornets GM tell Kobe Bryant on draft night, ‘We couldn’t have used you anyway,’ as Bryant claims?

Andy Hayt/NBAE via Getty Images
3 Comments

Kobe Bryant spent 16 days as a Charlotte Hornet.

Long enough to develop resentment for the Hornets.

Charlotte drafted Bryant No. 13 in 1996 to trade him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac. Divac threatened to retire, but eventually relented on joining the Hornets. After the moratorium, Bryant went to Los Angeles, where he had a Hall of Fame career.

He hasn’t let go of draft night, though.

Bryant on the Knuckleheads podcast:

You get drafted, you get on the phone with the GM of the team that drafted you and all this stuff. So, I get on the phone with the Charlotte GM. He just tells me, “Hey, you know what’s going on.” Like, “Yeah. Yeah, yeah.” And you’ve got media in front of you and all that. And he goes, “Well, it’s a good thing we’re trading you, because we couldn’t have used you anyway.” You motherf. OK. OK. Alright. So, that’s what happened on draft night. So, I was already triggered. I was triggered. I was ready to go to the gym. Like f— the media. I don’t want to do any more interviews. I’m trying to – what are you telling me that for? I’m 17. What are you telling? OK. Alright.

The Hornets’ general manager was Bob Bass. He died last year, so he can’t tell his side of this story.

However, in previous tellings, Bryant said Charlotte coach Dave Cowens delivered that message. Cowens denied it.

Did Bryant forget whether he talked to the general manager or coach? Forget which position Cowens held? That’d be perfectly understandable decades later.

Or maybe both Bass and Cowens were on the call. Perhaps, Bryant initially thought Cowens said it and more recently learned it was Bass. That could explain Cowens’ denial.

But…

Stephen A. Smith of The Inquirer at the time:

On Wednesday, the Hornets took Bryant with the 13th pick of the NBA draft. Within minutes, there was talk of Bryant’s going to L.A. Dave Cowens, the Hornets’ new coach, was among those who raised the possibility, dismissing Bryant as “a kid” who would have a hard time playing for Charlotte.

That was a reasonable expectation. Bryant was just a teenager. Charlotte had veteran wings like Glen Rice and Dell Curry.

But Bryant was that special. He quickly became a contributor with the Lakers then developed into an all-time great.

In part because he fanned his competitive fire with perceived slights like this one.

Bryant is right: Who would say that to a 17-year-old? It just sounds cruel. Of course, Bryant would want to avenge being treated that way.

Here’s my guess: Someone from Charlotte – either Cowens or Bass – tried to comfort Bryant in a chaotic situation by saying the trade would work out for the best because the Hornets wouldn’t have played him much. It was supposed to be nice. Bryant took it as an insult.

But that’s just a guess. It was a private conversation many years ago. We’ll probably never know exactly what was said, let alone what was intended.

Report: Rockets signing Thabo Sefolosha

Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images
1 Comment

The Rockets’ minicamp has produced a signing – Thabo Sefolosha.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

This is surely for the minimum. It’s unclear how much is guaranteed.

Houston has just 10 players with guaranteed salaries, including Nene’s dud of a deal. So, there’s room for Sefolosha to make the regular-season roster.

Sefolosha should fit well in Houston. He’s a smart, versatile defender and can knock down corner 3s. James Harden and Russell Westbrook will allow Sefolosha to concentrate on his strengths in a limited role. The biggest question is how much the 35-year-old Sefolosha has left in the tank.

NBA to better define traveling rule, increase enforcement, explain rule to players, fans

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
9 Comments

Gather and two steps.

That is how the NBA has defined the traveling rule for many years now. A player can take a step if he is in the process of “gathering” a dribble or pass, then has two steps. Players such as James Harden have stretched that to the limit, frustrating opponents and non-Rockets fans, but it’s legal.

Now the NBA is looking to better define that “gather” step, then crackdown on enforcement of the rule. With that will come an education program for everyone from players to fans. All of this was approved at the NBA’s Board of Governors’ meeting in New York on Friday.

“One of the most misunderstood rules in our game is how traveling is interpreted and appropriately called,” Byron Spruell, NBA President, League Operations, said in a statement. “Revising the language of certain areas of the rule is part of our three-pronged approach to address the uncertainty around traveling.  This approach also includes an enforcement plan to make traveling a point of emphasis for our officiating staff, along with an aggressive education plan to increase understanding of the rule by players, coaches, media and fans.”

That “aggressive education plan” should be interesting.

At the meeting, the owners also made gamblers everywhere happy by saying that starting lineups now need to be submitted by coaches 30 minutes prior to the start of the game. In past years that had been only 10 minutes (and road teams complained that was not evenly enforced between home and road teams all the time).

This is a good bit of transparency by the league, as have been some of the recent changes in requirements of announcing injuries. But make no mistake, this rule change is all about gambling.

Under new anti-tampering rules, Adam Silver empowered to suspend execs, take away picks, void contracts

SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images
6 Comments

LeBron James publicly courted Anthony Davis. Many free agents seemingly struck deals before free agency even began. Kawhi Leonard‘s uncle/advisor reportedly sought prohibited extra benefits from teams.

The NBA finally reached its breaking point on tampering and circumvention.

After late apprehension, the league will enact stricter enforcement.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m not surprised this passed unanimously. NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted this to happen and wasn’t going to have owners vote unless he knew it’d pass. At that point, any protest-voting owners would just put themselves at odds with the commissioner. Not worth it.

We’ll see how long this crackdown lasts. I think that anonymous general manager represents many. If nobody is tampering, it’s fine not to tamper. But if some teams tamper, nobody wants to be at a disadvantage.

This could slowly creep back toward the old status quo. But if there’s a clear violator early, Silver will have an opportunity to send a message. We’ll see whether he takes it.

This should be less about which communication is or isn’t allowed. It’s about fairness.

That’s why it’s important the NBA has rules it will enforce and only rules it will enforce. That hasn’t been the case. If it is now, this will be a success.