Five Things We Learned in the NBA Monday: Tom Thibodeau is not a happy man

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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 reading about the home Muhammad Ali grew up in

The Chicago Bulls are not playing Thibodeau-level defense. For the past few years, through all the injuries and challenges, the Bulls at least played good defense. But not lately. Monday they let the Cavaliers — who has played better in their now three game winning streak — score 108 points, which translates into 116.1 points per 100 possessions. In their last five games the Bulls have allowed teams to score 113.6 per 100 — that’s 29th in the NBA in that stretch. The Bulls are not defending or rotating with energy, evidenced by the Cavaliers taking 49 of their 90 shot attempts in the paint. The Bulls have lost 6-of-8, Derrick Rose is more than irritated, and Tom Thibodeau is losing it in post-game press conferences saying “enough is enough.” The Bulls offense has not been pretty of late either, but Chicago has gotten away from its identity as a defensive power. If that doesn’t change, the dream of making the NBA Finals will fade faster than Thibodeau’s voice.

James Harden doesn’t care how good your defense is, he will score on it. At will. The Indiana Pacers are still a top 10 defense this season. James Harden doesn’t care. He scored 45 points on 12-of-18 shooting (he got to the free throw line 15 times). The beard can flat out score.

The Knicks can win a game. Break up the Knicks. Sure, it took playing a Pelicans team without Anthony Davis or Jrue Holiday playing on the second night of a road back-to-back, but so what. The Knicks got a win. Carmelo Anthony had 24 points and 9 boards but most importantly played selfless, smart basketball in the final minute. However, the star of the show was Langston Galloway. If you just said “Who is that?” the answer is the guy who put up 21 points and can do this.

The Dallas Mavericks can beat a good team. Coming into Monday Dallas was 1-8 against Western Conference playoff teams, while Memphis was 10-3 against that same group. So consider this your daily reminder that the Western Conference playoffs will be a bloodbath. Dallas took an early lead then, when it was tight late, they got great play out of Dirk Nowitzki and some key buckets from Rajon Rondo to get the win. Memphis was 3-of-22 from three and had just one bucket in the final four minutes as Dallas is playing better defense of late. Dallas was 10-of-25 from three and will be much more dangerous if they keep shooting and hitting from deep.

The Cleveland Cavaliers can play defense. This game was the best we have seen Cleveland play this season. Sure, LeBron James was doing LeBron James things, J.R. Smith was raining threes, and the return of Kevin Love brought better movement and passing to the Cavaliers offense, but that’s not the most impressive part of the game for them. No, the real story is the Cavaliers played good defense. The Bulls shot just 37.5 percent in this game and the Cavaliers contested 51 of the Bulls 80 shot attempts. Timofey Mozgov was strong in the paint, taking away easy looks. This was the best the Cavs have defended this season and if they keep this up they will get a lot closer to fulfilling their promise. But they have to start doing this consistently.

Joel Embiid out for 76ers-Knicks, evaluations ongoing

Joel Embiid
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Joel Embiid left the 76ers’ loss to the Cavaliers last night with a shoulder injury.

How much time will he miss?

Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

With Ben Simmons already sidelined, Philadelphia faces a talent deficit against many teams. Maybe not the Knicks. But many teams.

Of course, after getting routed by Cleveland yesterday, the 76ers can’t take any victory for granted.

More than anything, Philadelphia needs time for its somewhat-ill-fitting players to gain chemistry together ahead of the playoffs. That can’t happen with Embiid and Simmons sidelined. It’s getting late, but it’s not too late – depending on Embiid’s and Simmons’ eventual diagnoses.

Even if Al Horford plays better at center without Embiid and Tobias Harris plays better at power forward, the 76ers will face disruption when Embiid and Simmons return to full strength. Or, worse, Embiid and Simmons won’t return to full strength this season.

Estimates on NBA players using marijuana: 50%-85%

Marijuana enthusiast and former NBA player Stephen Jackson
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Even as marijuana becomes increasingly legalized around the country, the NBA still bans the drug.

Why hasn’t the players’ union fought harder to eliminate draconian penalties for weed?

Maybe because so many of its members just use marijuana, anyway.

Tom Haberstroh and Monte Poole of NBC Sports:

Six different NBA players, who did not want to be identified, estimated that the percentage of active players using marijuana in some form – buds, edibles, concentrates, CBD oils, lotions, patches – was at least 50 percent and as high as 85 percent.

We don’t know how often players get caught violating the NBA’s marijuana program. The first (no penalty) and second ($25,000 fine) violations aren’t announced. The third violation (five-game suspension) is announced but not as specific to marijuana. I found just five suspensions in the last three years that match a marijuana violation.

Any discussion of the NBA’s marijuana policy ought to include a question: Why ban the drug?

Some want to present a clean image to fans. Some want to set a trap for players who are irresponsible enough to get caught.

But it’s hard to make the case this is about actually keeping players off marijuana. If so, the policy is drastically failing.

That survey was part of Haberstroh’s and Poole’s deep dive into marijuana in the NBA. I recommend reading it in full. The story of the one time Stephen Jackson – who said he smoked marijuana his whole NBA career – tried pain pills is particularly memorable.

Celtics assistant coach hit with 15-year show-cause penalty by NCAA

Celtics assistant coach Jerome Allen
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Celtics reportedly suspended assistant coach Jerome Allen about two weeks after he pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe while at Penn.

Now, Allen will have a tougher time if he ever wants to return to college basketball.

Allen was hit a 15-year show-cause penalty after he accepted $300,000 in bribes to get a wealthy Florida businessman’s son into the University of Pennsylvania.

The Quakers, out of the Ivy League, also were slapped by the NCAA with two years of probation, fined $5,000 and given recruiting punishments. Allen’s show-cause penalty is meant to limit a coach’s ability to work in college sports after breaking NCAA rules.

“While Penn Athletics and its men’s basketball program accept the penalties handed down by the NCAA, it is unfortunate that this process did not fully differentiate wrongdoing for personal gain versus wrongdoing for competitive gain in penalizing the institution in addition to the involved individual,” Penn said in a statement. “he University of Pennsylvania was harmed by the actions of its former head coach and the men’s basketball program received no competitive advantage. We are hopeful that this case will lead to changes in how the NCAA processes similar situations moving forward.”

Allen played for the Quakers between 1992–95 and coached the team from 2009–15. He went 66-104 with the Quakers. He was hired by the Boston Celtics in 2015 and remains on the coaching staff.

Allen was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay a fine last July in the college bribery case. Allen received a lenient sentence after testifying for prosecutors against Philip Esformes in a $1 billion Medicare fraud trial. Esformes was convicted in April of 20 counts including money laundering and obstruction of justice and awaits sentencing.

Allen testified that he accepted Esformes’ money to help the businessman’s son, Morris, gain acceptance as a “recruited” basketball player at Penn.

Rumor: Pistons told Lakers that Derrick Rose was unavailable in trade

Pistons guard Derrick Rose vs. Lakers
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The Lakers were interested in trading for Derrick Rose.

Why didn’t the Lakers land the Pistons guard?

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

From what I understand, when the Lakers called the Pistons and expressed an interest in trading for Derrick Rose, the Pistons said, “Hey, we appreciate you calling. But we’re not trading him. Dwane Casey likes him. We think he’s going to be important for us next year.” It’s not even about what the Lakers offered, it wasn’t enough. He wasn’t available.

The Pistons definitely had a high asking price for Rose, who’s locked up for a reasonable $7,682,926 next season. Rose is Detroit’s biggest draw and has a strong bond with Pistons executive Arn Tellem.

If the Pistons absolutely refused to trade Rose, that was an error on their part. They’re going nowhere this year, and it’s far from certain Rose will maintain his production at age 32 next season. Even if he does, the lacking rest of the roster probably won’t create a winner. The trade deadline might have been the time for Detroit to maximize its return from Rose. At the very minimum, it was worth seriously exploring.

But there are several possibilities that should stop you from blindly accepting this report at face value:

  • This might have been a negotiating tactic by the Pistons. Though that approach would have also made it more difficult to negotiate a satisfactory Rose trade, it could have pushed the Lakers into a great offer.
  • Maybe Detroit just didn’t like Los Angeles’ limited collection of tradable assets. Kyle Kuzma isn’t for everyone. What the Lakers interpreted as Rose being unavailable might have been more specific to them than they realized.
  • Perhaps, the Pistons – with Rose still in the fold – leaked this to show their commitment to him. That’d make them look bad in some corners for their stubborn loyalty to an aging veteran. But it’d sure make Rose feel appreciated.
  • Perhaps, the Lakers – who made no in-season trade – leaked this show their commitment to chasing a championship. This shows they tried and paints Detroit as unreasonable. Negotiating trades can be difficult (especially after Kobe Bryant’s untimely death). The Lakers have made only one real trade with Rob Pelinka running the front office, for Anthony Davis. That saga was full of complications. In the end, Los Angeles got Davis, but the Pelicans secured maximum return. If the Lakers look back and regret not adding a helpful player, this report pins blame on the Pistons rather than Lakers management for not getting a deal done.