PBT’s Sunday Night Winners/Losers: Anthony Davis is playing like an MVP

13 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 being glad you didn’t get surgery to look like Kim Kardashian….

source:  • Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans. Nobody has an answer for Anthony Davis this season. You would think the streaking Oklahoma City Thunder might, as they have Serge Ibaka in the paint and a handful of other defensive-minded bigs to throw at him. Nope. Sunday night Davis was too much for everyone and put up 38 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a New Orleans win. He did most of his damage at the rim but also was 5-of-8 from the midrange and it didn’t matter if the Thunder defended him will — he was 8-of-11 on contested shots. This season he has been the best player in the NBA, hands down. A lot of voters will only seriously consider a player for MVP if his team is doing well (almost all the winners come from top 4 teams that year) but Davis’ play has to merit serious consideration this season. And when he gets help — like from Jrue Holiday playing good defense on Russell Westbrook — the Pelicans do win. I just wish New Orleans would keep going to him down the stretch, rather than having their guards decide to try to take over.

source:  • Kobe Bryant. He said after the Lakers loss to the Thunder Friday he was tired and feeling it in his legs. Kobe was 8-of-30 shooting against the Kings Sunday night (scoring 25 points), is 11-of-45 (24.4 percent) over his last two games and 33-of-113 (29.2 percent) in his last five games. Byron Scott has got to give the man a night or two off to rest, then run some sets for other guys even when Kobe is on the court. But that will really be up to Bryant as he has all the power in the organization (why do you think when the Lakers needed a game winner against the Thunder a clearly exhausted Kobe got his number called for an isolation set).

source:  • DeMarcus Cousins. The Lakers simply had no answer for the physicality of Cousins in the paint, and down the stretch the Kings leaned on him virtually every time down (New Orleans, this is what I’m talking about). The Lakers tried Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre, going small and then eventually doubling — which is when Cousins kicked the ball out to shooters, the reason Ben McLemore had a career high of 23. Cousins had 29 points and 14 rebounds. When he is playing like this the Kings are a dangerous team. No matter who is the coach.

source:  • LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers. That is a quality win. The Cavaliers had little trouble with one of the best teams in the NBA so far this season, dismissing the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday behind 25 points from LeBron James. (To be fair, no Zach Randolph or Tony Allen for Memphis). Again it was all about the Cavaliers offense which carved up a usually stout Memphis defense and shot 60.5 percent overall and hit 7-of-14 from three.

source:  • New York Knicks. Did you know that after Sunday’s ugly Knicks loss to the Raptors (118-108, and it wasn’t that close) and the Sixers win over the Magic, the Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers are tied in the standings? It’s true. At 5-25 the Knicks are 18 games back of the conference-leading Raptors, and so are the 3-23 Sixers. The Knicks are percentage points ahead of the Sixers in the standings, but that shouldn’t obscure the fact they are terrible.

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
2 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
8 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.