Five Things We Learned in NBA Monday: Good luck slowing James Harden down

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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 dying from an uppercut from Batman

1) James Harden is a force of nature. The Houston Rockets are now 8-4 with Dwight Howard sidelined getting his knee healthy; winning two-thirds of their games has been enough to hold on to the third seed in the West. The Rockets can thank James Harden for that; he has been a force of nature in this stretch. Monday night he started out slowly (he shot 0-of-7 to start the game) against the Timberwolves but by the time it was over Harden had put up 31 points on 20 shots, pulled down 11 boards and dished out 10 assists to record a triple double. He was why the Rockets held off the Timberwolves comeback and won. And he just abused Ricky Rubio on this play at the end of the third quarter.

2) Derrick Rose’s shooting woes are raising some eyebrows. Derrick Rose made his first shot Monday night, a three from the wing. He missed his next 12 shots. He is now 8-of-34 (23.5 percent) in his last three games. Rose had said after his rough shooting night last Friday he doesn’t worry about the missed shots, it’s the quality of shots he gets. I would suggest that when your shot chart looks  this you should start to be a little worried.

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To be fair, Rose has had some impressive stretches of play this season, but he is in a slump right now. One that has people wondering what is going on.

3) Isaiah Thomas stuck the dagger in his old team in Phoenix. You know he loved this. Isaiah Thomas has felt underappreciated at his first two NBA stops. In Sacramento they kept bringing in point guards to take his place, so he eventually bolted for Phoenix last Summer. But there the three-guard rotation (with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe) didn’t work so the Suns sent him off to cold and rebuilding Boston. So when the Celtics faced the Suns Thomas was looking for revenge — he scored 21 points and  dished out seven assists. More importantly, he had nine points in the final six minutes of the game to seal the Celtic win, which included this four-point play (and the dagger a couple possessions later).

4) On his 20th birthday Andrew Wiggins showed how he is developing into a star. Minnesota fell to Houston Monday, and while The Beard stole the show Andrew Wiggins put on one of his own. He was attacking (he shot 7-of-11 at the rim), was knocking down the midrange jumper (4-of-7) and finished with 30 points. His jump shot has developed quickly this season. He’s already a pretty good defender (although he was asked to corral James Harden most of Tuesday night, and that has been a struggle for everyone this season). His athleticism is off the chart. He’s going to win Rookie of the Year going away — in part because he’s the only guy still standing, but also he’s looking like a real star in the making. The kind of guy Cleveland may regret trading in a couple years (we’ll see how the Kevin Love thing plays out).

5) We said it yesterday, we’ll say it again: Don’t sleep on the Grizzlies. Memphis just beat Portland and the LA Clippers on both ends of a back-to-back. Two nights in a row they ground down two of the top teams in the West, completely controlled the tempo and got the win because it was their kind of game. You knew the Clippers game was going to be played in the Grizzlies’ style when the teams were 0-of-11 shooting combined to start the game. Memphis remains the two seed in the West and while we talk about Golden State and an up-and-coming Oklahoma City team as contenders in the West, do not sleep on Memphis. They can knock off anyone.

Clippers reportedly add Tyronn Lue to coaching staff

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Tyronn Lue will be coaching in Los Angeles this upcoming season, but it won’t be for the Lakers.

News broke on Tuesday that Lue had accepted a job on Doc Rivers’ staff with the Los Angeles Clippers. Lue is yet another big-name addition to a squad that already added players Kawhi Leonard and Paul George this offseason.

Lue was a championship-winning coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, and he has an innate understanding about how to deal with star players in the NBA.

Via Twitter:

It’s also important to understand what kind of culture Rivers, Steve Ballmer, and the rest of the Clippers front office is trying to build in Los Angeles. In addition to their proposed new stadium in Inglewood, the Clippers are trying to take over L.A. one big-name at a time. That includes everyone from players to coaches, even ones who won championships as the head honcho.

There’s no doubt that Los Angeles is striving for the Finals this season, and adding a guy like Lue to the bench is yet another reiteration of that fact.

Rumor: Stephen A. Smith is coming to ESPN’s NBA broadcasts

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National NBA broadcasts are about to get a little bit different this upcoming season.

We already got word that Michelle Beadle would not be on NBA Countdown on ESPN for the 2019-20 NBA calendar year. In her place will be Rachel Nichols, a favorite of most thanks to her work on The Jump, and Maria Taylor. And apparently ESPN’s studio show is about to get an analyst boost as well.

According to the big lead, Stephen A. Smith will be added to the analyst panel for ESPN studio show, likely on Wednesday nights. The bombastic First Take host will give his NBA takes either to the delight or dismay of fans nationwide.

Via The Big Lead:

Stephen A. Smith is in ESPN’s plans for NBA studio coverage this upcoming season, The Big Lead has learned from multiple people with knowledge of the situation. An ESPN spokesperson declined to comment on the news.

Our sources indicate that Wednesday night is the most likely time for him to be involved, but cautioned that plans are not yet set in stone.

People lost their collective minds on Twitter this summer when it was announced that ESPN had given another huge contract to Stephen A. to continue to do… whatever Stephen A. does. Namely, yell and act incredulous in a way so insincere it’s hard to believe anyone is entertained by it, much less could take it at face value.

No doubt Smith will fill the role, aesthetically, that Charles Barkley does for TNT. He’ll talk in big, wild soundbites that get Twitter all riled up, thereby allowing some VP at the network to pitch his superiors about “leverage” and “engagement” from Smith’s appearances.

Good luck to everyone watching the NBA on national TV this year. Maybe locate where the mute button is on your remote now so you know where it is come autumn.

Gordon Hayward says he’s feeling confident in his ankle for next season

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Gordon Hayward still wasn’t particularly good last season. He never really looked all that comfortable playing with the Boston Celtics, and Brad Stevens’ insistence on playing him led to some reported rifts in the Boston locker room.

But Hayward is expected to come back at full strength this year, and it could be just in time for him to shine in light of Kyrie Irving‘s departure to the Brooklyn Nets.

His severely dislocated left ankle is now long behind him, and it appears that Hayward has been putting in the work necessary this summer. Speaking to Mass Live, Hayward said that he is starting to get more confident in his game.

Via Mass Live:

“Reps is what gives you confidence, so being able to do things over and over and over and not worry about how my ankle’s feeling, or having to be cautious with it, has been really good, especially for my confidence,” Hayward said. “I think last year was a lot of hoping and not really knowing what was going to happen just because I didn’t have the reps… going into a summer training as hard as I want to, it’s a lot better for my confidence this year and expectations-wise as well.”

A healthy Hayward would really change the dynamic of the Celtics in the Eastern Conference this year. Losing Irving is huge, but Boston is going to have a real depth of talent on its hands if it can add Hayward to other wing talent Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart.

It seems cliche to point out at this point, but people have slept on how good Hayward was on both sides of the ball during his time with the Utah Jazz. He’s a complete player at the small forward position when healthy, and bringing back his superstar firepower could ease the pain of losing Irving to Brooklyn.

Royce White questions why Lakers have Jared Dudley not ‘Melo; Dudley, others defend move

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There are a lot of people surprised that this deep into the summer, with NBA rosters largely filled out, Carmelo Anthony isn’t playing somewhere. Whether on Team USA or training with new teammates for an upcoming NBA season.

Among those confused, former NBA draft pick Royce White, who was outspoken on the issue — and called out both LeBron James and Jared Dudley — in speaking with Fanatics View.

Dudley responded to this, not directly to White but to a retweet of this rant, and did so in Dudley’s calm, rational way. His Tweet has since been taken down, but it said:

“This isn’t Melo vs myself, That man is a 1st ballot HOFer… We all want to see him back in the league… Royce seems uninformed when he speaks and this situation in calling my name out. This league is not about who’s better then who it’s what’s players make for the best Team.”

Kendrick Perkins and Jameer Nelson had Dudley’s back.

Dudley/Perkins/Nelson are spot on here. The reason Dudley is on an NBA roster and Anthony is not is all about willingness to fit in and play a role. Dudley knows exactly how to do that, accepting limited minutes off the bench, staying ready, and when he comes in playing hard, being a pest, and knocking down threes. Anthony is unquestionably still a better scorer, but he was unwilling to accept a role in both Oklahoma City and Houston (and his game now is that of a role player/sixth man). Anthony says that’s different now, but GMs are risk averse in most situations. Teams that might have interest in ‘Melo are concerned about the possible distraction and disruption, and they wonder if that risk is worth what Anthony brings to the court right now. It was the same with Team USA.

Some team should — and one likely eventually will — give Anthony another shot. He deserves it. However, teams thinking about a deep playoff run tend to like their chemistry and are wary of disruptions, so nothing has come out yet. Even if Royce White and a lot of other people think it should have.