Five Things We Learned in NBA Thursday: Doc Rivers the coach should be mad at Doc Rivers the GM

8 Comments

If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while clearing your schedule for the Saturday Night Live marathon

1) Doc Rivers the GM is making it very hard for Doc Rivers the coach. I thought this season the Clippers would take a step forward. Last year they built a foundation, this season they would build on that and move into to true contender status. I was wrong. At least so far. The Clippers are not a bad team by any stretch — they’re 26-13 with two of the top dozen players in the world — but they have not looked the part of contender. One issue is defense, specifically consistency of effort on the defensive end.

But the other issue is depth and lack of good play from the three spot. Which is why the trade the Clippers finalized Thursday makes no sense — they traded two wing players (Reggie Bullock and Chris Douglas-Roberts) plus a draft pick to get a combo guard in Austin Rivers. Is Rivers an upgrade over Jordan Farmar? I would say it’s a wash, save that Rivers is younger and maybe can be developed into something. But GM Doc Rivers traded away two players at a position of need — not great players, but players — for one lateral move at a position where they were okay. Outside of nepotism I don’t see any logic behind this. Even if the Clippers round out the roster with free agents such as Nate Robinson and Tayshaun Prince, that doesn’t make this trade logical. Doc Rivers the coach should be pissed at Doc Rivers the GM.

2) James Harden wants your MVP vote. This was more than James Harden reminding Sam Presti and Thunder fans what they are missing, this was Harden making his MVP case on the big stage of a Thursday night, nationally televised game against another contender. Harden had 19 points in the first quarter (the Rockets had 40) and finished with 31 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds. Harden can always attack and get to the line, but when his three is falling — he was 6-of-8 — you can’t defend him. Harden was also 7-of-10 on contested shots, he just could not miss. Most observers have Stephen Curry and Harden as the top two people on their MVP ballot at the midway point, Harden just came out and made his case Thursday.

3) It’s still fun to watch Kobe Bryant and LeBron James go at each other. We’re not going to get to see nights like this again for very long, where two of the greats of the game go at each other head-to-head, jawing with each other through it all. And with a smile on their face the whole time. LeBron and Kobe put on a great show (the Cavs won), we need to savor these moments when they happen.

4) The Phoenix Suns just make smart little pickups. Out of today’s Austin Rivers’ trade Phoenix picks up Reggie Bullock for next to nothing. That is the kind of move a smart team makes. Bullock is in his second season and hasn’t been able to really crack the Clippers rotation, but he has shown promise. Last season he was raw and not ready, this season his shooting numbers improved (including 38.5 percent from three) and he continues to show flashes of what he can do as a defender. Doc has the Clippers in a win-now place and just couldn’t give the minutes to develop. The Suns can give him some run (in a more open system) and he could thrive there and become part of their rotation. Oh, and he’s still on his rookie contract.

5) Knicks are horrid no matter what continent you put them on. Carmelo Anthony was back — he wanted to be on the big international stage and he played fairly well putting up 25 points (although the rust showed on the eight turnovers). That doesn’t change the fact the Knicks are just hard to watch. With this game in London Knicks highlights should have the Benny Hill theme “Yakety Sax” as a soundtrack. The Bucks kept moving off the ball on offense and lost their man all game, the Knicks just watched them. The Bucks trust their system and are growing to trust their teammates. The Knicks… tear it down to build it back up. Phil Jackson did the right things with these recent trades, it’s a better plan than the quick fix option we have seen there for so long. But that doesn’t make this team with 16 straight losses any easier to watch.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
Rob Carr/Getty Images
0 Comments

It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
0 Comments

Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.