Five Things We Learned in NBA Monday: Atlanta’s not invincible but it is contender

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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 rewatching the Jimmy Fallon, Kevin Hart, Will Ferrell lip synch battle….

The Hawks are not invincible, but they are legit contenders. There was bound to be a night the Atlanta Hawks’ defensive rotations were a step slow, when the shots just wouldn’t fall, when things would just not go their way for once. That night was Monday in New Orleans. The Pelicans went on a 14-3 run to take the lead midway through the first and were in control the rest of the way, the Hawks 19-game win streak was over.

For some reason this led to people coming out on twitter (and other sites) saying the Hawks aren’t really as good as everyone says. Those people are just wrong. Like Pete Carroll on the one-yard-line wrong. Title contenders are teams that are top 10 in offense and defense, well the Hawks are fifth in offensive rating and sixth in defensive rating. They outscore their opponents by an average of 7.3 points per 100 possessions, tied for second best in the NBA (behind the Warriors, tied with the Clippers). The Hawks rolled through the best of the West last month, beating the Trail Blazers, Clippers, Grizzlies and Thunder. If you say they have no stars you really don’t watch enough Al Horford. Plus, they play that selfless, ball-moving game that seemed to work out pretty well for the Spurs last playoffs, as I recall. Can the Hawks beat a peak Bulls or even peak Cavaliers team in a seven-game playoff series? I think they can, it may be tight (and maybe they fall), but I guarantee you it would be a seven-game bloodbath. The Hawks are a legit threat to come out of the East and will be no pushover in the Finals.

We should never forget Anthony Davis is a flat-out stud. Consider this your weekly reminder that Anthony Davis is still very good at basketball. The Pelicans guards were knocking down shots but that team only works when Davis is being one of the best players on the planet. He did just that on Monday, scoring 29 points on 2-of-23 shooting, 13 rebounds, a couple of blocks… and frankly that doesn’t do his performance justice. He plays such a smart game and impacts it in so many ways. This day it was too much for the Hawks.

Ricky Rubio is back and that means highlights with Andrew Wiggins.

Grizzlies help out Pelicans, Thunder. Memphis trailed Phoenix on the road by seven points with less than two minutes to go, when the Grizzlies went off on an 8-0 run to win the game. A win sealed with Marc Gasol’s block of a Markeiff Morris shot as time expired. That was a painful loss for the eight-seed Suns because it comes on a night the Pelicans surprised the Hawks and Oklahoma City picked up a win with Kevin Durant out. The Suns are now just one game up on the Pelicans and three up on the Thunder. This race is going to go down to the wire (both the Suns and Thunder have heavy home schedules). OKC and New Orleans play a home-and-home Wednesday and those games will be huge for teams trying to make the playoffs.

Dion Waiters is no Kevin Durant — but he can do a pretty good impression for a night. Durant missed a couple games with that sprained big toe but returned to action Saturday night against Memphis, then promptly shot 5-of-16. Monday night they decided it still wasn’t right, and he needed more time off, so Waiters got the start. He performed well, scoring 24 on 9-of-15 shooting. This was his best game in a Thunder uniform, he was attacking the rim early on that got him confidence, which meant his jumpshots were falling later.  This Waiters, who shows up on random nights, is the guy who could really help the Thunder make the playoffs.

Wembanyama encore: 36 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks against Ignite

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Victor Wembanyama is for real.

And I don’t mean real tall, although he is that, too. Check out this image of him next to Rudy Gobert, who is a legit 7’1″.

Wembanyama is for real like a genuine generational talent — in his second game against the G-League Ignite he had 36 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocked shots.

That comes off his 37-point performance in the first meeting where he hit 7-of-11 3-pointers and had five blocks.

To be clear: That is 73 points, 15 rebounds, nine blocks, shooting 9-of-18 from 3 (and 22-of-44 overall) across two games against a good talent level. And he is 18 years old.

Everyone in and around the NBA has been trying to come up with player comps — Kristaps Porzingis, Ralph Sampson, Tim Duncan — but the reality is Wembanyama is one of one.

Scoot Henderson — the G-League guard projected as the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft — played just five minutes in this game after bumping his knee while guarding Wembanyama. He was taken out of the game and X-rays found a bone bruise, he did not return. He is officially day-to-day the team announced.

Wembanyama and his Metropolitans 92 got the win in this rematch, 112-106.

Draymond Green not expected to miss any games, Warriors to handle discipline ‘internally’

2022 NBA Summer League - Golden State Warriors v New York Knicks
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Draymond Green is not expected to miss any games for punching teammate Jordan Poole during an altercation during practice, Warriors GM Bob Myers said Thursday.

That’s not to say he is escaping any punishment, it will just be handled internally, Myers said.

Green showed up at Chase Center and apologized to the team and then left, he did not practice with the Warriors, reports Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“Draymond apologized to the team this morning, Jordan was there in the room, I was there in room with the team, the coaches, the players and we heard that,” Myers said.

Whatever punishment the Warriors are handing down to Green, it will not include missing games, Myers said.

Coach Steve Kerr added, “I expect [Green] to return on Saturday and get back at it.” That implies a couple of days suspension, likely with a hefty fine.

Kerr was also quick to shoot down the rumors of Poole having an “attitude” around camp as he comes up on a massive contract extension. Stephen Curry echoed that, saying those reports are “absolute BS.”

The Warriors have seen their fair share of Draymond Green incidents over the years, and as a locker room and franchise they know how to move on from it. While this made headlines, the Warriors will shrug it off and move on.

Miami, Milwaukee have their eyes on Jae Crowder

NBA 2022 Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks
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The Heat and Bucks don’t just have interest in the same player. They’re looking to replace the same player.

Two years ago, P.J. Tucker helped Milwaukee win their first championship in a half-century. Last season, he helped Miami lock up the top seed in the East and make the Conference Finals.

With Tucker in Philadelphia, both the Heat and Bucks are looking to fill the void with a different lockdown enforcer that can stretch the floor.

Jae Crowder and the Suns agreed that he won’t participate in practice as the team looks to accommodate his trade request. In a recent ESPN+ article, Zach Lowe made it clear that both Miami and Milwaukee are interested in pursuing a trade for Crowder.

“The Bucks have internal interest in Crowder as that Tucker replacement after getting into the recent Jerami Grant and Bojan Bogdanovic discussions, sources say. They will search all season for one more piece.

“The Heat have interest in Crowder too, sources say, but finding matching salary is tough until Dewayne Dedmon, Caleb Martin and Victor Oladipo become trade-eligible in the winter. Martin might start, and the Heat are optimistic Oladipo can play a huge role.”

Grant and Bogdanovic were traded to Portland and Detroit, respectively. The Heat may struggle to find a trade that works since Phoenix probably won’t want to take on Duncan Robinson’s contract. Dedmon, Martin and Oladipo will become trade eligible on January 15th.

Crowder has a history with the Heat, as he helped them make the NBA Finals in the bubble. He helped Phoenix make the NBA Finals two seasons ago and then helped them finish with the best record in the NBA last season.

LeBron says Wembanyama is an ‘alien’ and a ‘generational talent’

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There was a time when LeBron James was the “it” kid coming for the NBA — a freakish athlete like nobody in the league had seen. A player the size of Karl Malone with the quickness and skills of an elite point guard.

Now the “it” guy is Victor Wembanyama, the 7’4″ mold-breaking big out of France — and LeBron is impressed.

“Everybody’s been a unicorn over the last few years, well he’s more like an alien,” LeBron said after the Lakers’ preseason loss to the Suns in Las Vegas. “I’ve never seen, no one’s ever seen anyone as tall as he is, but it’s fluid and as graceful as on the floor…

“His ability to put the ball on the floor, shoot step-back jumpers on the post, step-back 3s, catch-and-shoot 3s, block shots. He’s for sure a generational talent. And hopefully he continues to stay healthy, that’s the most important for him personally, and as you could tell he loves the game. He was smiling a lot while playing the game last night. I think it was the two best players in the draft on the floor last night and they both did their thing.”

Wembanyama is projected to be the No.1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, just ahead of point guard Scoot Henerson, who scored 28 points with nine assists of his own leading his G-League Ignite to a win over Wembanyama’s Metropolitans 92. Wembanyama scored 37 points in the game, hit 7-of-11 shots from 3, had five blocks and a few other shots changed because of his length (7’11” wingspan) and the threat of his block.

Wembanyama and Henderson face off again tonight in a second game between the Ignite and Metropolitans 92 just outside Las Vegas in Henderson (9:30 p.m. ET on NBATV).

Wembanyama will play, with his agent telling ESPN there are no plans to shut the No.1 pick down to avoid injury and protect his draft status. “He’ll never agree to that. He wants to compete and get better,” Bouna Ndiaye said.

LeBron looked back on his time as the “it” player and said simply, “thank got there wasn’t social media” at the time. It’s a different world now, but game still recognizes game.

And LeBron recognizes it in Wembanyama.