NBA names Hawks’ starting lineup January Eastern Conference Player of Month

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The Hawks went 17-0 in January, an incredible feat.

Atlanta is a deep and balanced team. Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Al Horford are All-Stars but not superstars. Kyle Korver isn’t far behind. DeMarre Carroll is an excellent role player.

The NBA, in its infinite wisdom, decided those five players were better than any individual Eastern Conference player in January. Or something like that.

NBA release:

The Atlanta Hawks’ starting five and the Houston Rockets’ James Harden were today named the Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month, respectively, for games played in January.

 

The Hawks finished the best calendar month in NBA history with a 17-0 record, outscoring opponents by an average of 11.9 points and showing the offensive balance that has defined their surge to the top of the East. All five Atlanta starters averaged double figures in scoring, ranging from 12.3 points to 18.3 points.  This marks the first time in league history that a team has gone undefeated in a month with at least 10 victories and had all five starters average double digits but none at 20-plus points.  Paul Millsap (18.3 ppg in January), Al Horford (17.1 ppg), Jeff Teague (16.6 ppg) and Kyle Korver (13.4 ppg) all started each of the 16 games they appeared in for the month, and DeMarre Carroll (12.3 ppg) started all 14 of his games. Millsap paced the Hawks in rebounding (8.0 rpg), Teague led them in assists (8.5 apg) and steals (1.81 spg), Horford ranked first in blocks (1.38 bpg) and Korver was the team leader in three-point percentage (56.7).

Other nominees for Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month were Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, Detroit’s Greg Monroe

I hate this. That’s not what the award is, and it’s a cheap way to avoid making a decision. Someone – some ONE – had the Eastern Conference’s best month and deserved the honor.

Irving or Monroe (or LeBron James, who did more in just 10 games than many players do when fully healthy) were robbed. For that matter, maybe Horford or Millsap were.

It’s relatively insignificant basketball-wise to pick the best player for each month, but it’s an easy way for the NBA to generate publicity and sell a sponsorship. So, in that sense, it’s hard to get too outraged over a pointless award.

But if the NBA is going to have the award, have it. Pick a player.

The Hawks’ team-wide success is rewarded in the standings. That’s enough.

This an affront to the integrity of the Eastern Conference Players of the Month, which is just a ludicrous thing for me to type. But the fact that I’m even covering this award – one we typically ignore at PBT – shows the NBA got it right.

Former Celtic Guerschon Yabusele fined for not looking at flag during Chinese national anthem

Guerschon Yabusele
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Guerschon Yabusele washed out with the Celtics.

So, now the former first-rounder is playing in China – and running into trouble.

The Chinese Basketball Association fined him for not looking at the flag during the national anthem:

Though Yabusele is French, this comes amid heightened tension between the NBA and China. Most Americans will probably find it ridiculous that looking at the flag during the national anthem is required in authoritarian China.

Meanwhile, let’s ostracize anyone who dares not to stand for the Star Spangled Banner.

Portland reportedly applies for disabled player exception after Rodney Hood injury

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Rodney Hood‘s season coming to an end because of a ruptured Achilles was a real blow to Portland — he had become a critical part of their rotation. That has led to a lot of speculation about already shorthanded Portland jumping into the trade market soon looking for someone to absorb those minutes, as well as hitting the buyout market hard next February.

Portland is now looking for a little more money to spend to bring someone in, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The “disabled player exemption” allows a team over some space to go after a replacement for a player lost due to injury. This is a fairly standard process and likely will be approved. Portland can use that money on a free agent (Iman Shumpert is available again) or someone bought out by another team.

Portland is 10-16 on the season, set back in part due to injuries to the front line. The Blazers knew Jusuf Nurkic would miss most of the season, and he was vital to them, but they were counting on Zach Collins to step up and absorb those minutes. Then he needed shoulder surgery. Portland eventually turned to Carmelo Anthony to help along the frontline, and he has performed well enough for them to guarantee his contract for the season.

Portland is going to be active, both looking at free agents and on the trade market. Just don’t expect a Kevin Love deal (he may want it but his contract makes that nearly impossible).

Rumor: Dwight Howard and Chris Paul stated intent to join Mavericks until Howard backed out

Chris Paul and Dwight Howard
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The Mavericks went from winning the 2011 NBA championship to missing the playoffs within two years.

Somewhat by choice.

Of course, they wanted to remain competitive. But they were willing to accept a lower floor to maintain financial flexibility. They let key players – most notably Tyson Chandler – leave in order to chase bigger stars.

Dallas was repeatedly linked to Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, who could’ve become free agents in 2012 but opted in. They finally hit the market in 2013, but once again spurned the Mavericks. Paul re-signed with the Clippers, and Howard left the Lakers for the Rockets.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

I really think that they, Chris and Dwight, basically wink, wink said they were going to Dallas, from what I’ve heard, and that Dwight backed out.

Word on the street. But we hear a lot of stories. That’s one story I’ve heard.

This is the peril of making arrangements in underground free agency. They’re unbinding. That was especially true with Howard, who waffled through the Dwightmare with the Magic. The Mavericks might have proceeded in the smartest way, but it backfired. Dallas is only now re-emerging upward with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

This also creates a fun “what if?” How good would Dallas have been? Paul remained elite, but Howard and Dirk Nowitzki were slipping. Where would the Clippers have gone with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan but without Paul? Would they still have held the credibility required to lure Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer? Where would Houston have turned without Howard as the star to pair with James Harden?

Serge Ibaka says he nearly goaltended Kawhi Leonard’s iconic shot: ‘I would’ve retired’

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Kawhi Leonard hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history – a buzzer-beater that bounced, bounced, bounced, bounced in during Game 7 of last year’s second-round Raptors-76ers series and propelled Toronto toward an eventual title.

Raptors forward Serge Ibaka, via Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

“I didn’t think it was going in. I was under the basket trying to go for the offensive rebound. The ball was bouncing and one time I was so close to going [for it]. Thank God I didn’t because it could have been goaltending. That would’ve been bad. I would’ve retired. If that had happened I would have retired.”

In hindsight, that would’ve been catastrophic. It would have been been bad at the time, too – but only so bad.

The Bucks, Toronto’s opponent in the Eastern Conference finals, looked better than the Raptors. The Western Conference-winning Warriors were widely viewed as invincible. Few would have thought Ibaka’s goaltend would’ve cost Toronto a championship.

Thankfully for him and the Raptors, we now know better.