Five Things We Learned in NBA Monday: Dwyane Wade owns a hot tub time machine

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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 you and your friend argue over which beer is better, Budweiser or Busch, to the point of pulling out a gun

1) Dwyane Wade jumped owns a hot tub time machine, traveled back to 2006. People haven’t given full credit to Dwyane Wade for his best season in years. One where the Heat needed him to step up in the absence of LeBron James, and he has. He fully deserved that All-Star Game invite. And even in that context Monday night was a crazy, throwback game. Wade had 16 points in the second quarter on 6-of-7 shooting and it pushed the Heat up by a dozen at the break as Miami just rolled Cleveland. Wade finished with 32 points on 13-for-18 shooting, the Heat moved the ball, defended, and out hustled the Cavs all game. Call it the second night of a back-to-back and just one of those games for the Cavs, but the Heat needed this to make a push for the playoffs.

2) Dallas has now beaten the Clippers and Thunder in consecutive games. Have we mentioned before the Western Conference playoffs are going to be a bloodbath. Like a Mel Gibson movie level of blood. A week ago Dallas looked like the weakest link in the Western Conference eight, they were struggling on offense, and some wondered if the Pelicans could catch them. Now in the span of a few days they have knocked off the Clippers handily, then ground out a win over a hot Thunder team 119-115.  Chandler Parsons was the big catalyst — he attacked, he created shots, and he ended up with 31 points on 18 shots for the night. He was 7-of-9 at the rim and 3-of-5 from three — notice no midrange shots, just good choices. They need more nights like this out of him.

3) Kyle Lowry drops triple-double, Raptors get much-needed win over Pacers. The Raptors had just won 2 of their last 12 games, but they had a plan for the stout defense of the Pacers: Run. Push the tempo. Kyle Lowry did that and with it had his best game in recent memory with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. He just seemed to do everything. Lou Williams added 24 points, DeMar DeRozan 22, and you got a win. Well, that and this was the best defense the Raptors have played in recent memory. The question now is can the Raptors build on this Wednesday against Minnesota and going forward? They still have a lot to get right before the playoffs.

4) Washington may have its groove back. Washington has now won four in a row, and that includes wins over Memphis and Portland — and the Trail Blazers didn’t rest everybody. Sure, Washington had a 25-point lead that dwindled down to one possession late, and Portland was on the second night of a back-to-back. Don’t spoil this for them. Washington has always been a team that could be dangerous come the playoffs because they can defend, and John Wall can put pressure on a defense with his speed. Both of those things happened Monday night. The Wizards covered the arc better (and Portland just missed some shots), and Wall finished with 21 points. The Wizards now head out of a four-game West Coast swing, but they do so with momentum. You know things are going your way when Nene is making this play.

5) Robin Lopez’s war on all mascots continues. This now is joining some of the all-time great feuds. Alexander Hamilton vs. Aaron Burr. Hatfields vs. McCoys. Stalin vs. Trotsky. Montagues vs. Capulets. Robin Lopez vs. NBA mascots.

Kings’ De’Aaron Fox: ‘I don’t crave to be in a big market’

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De'Aaron Fox was the breakout star of the Kings’ breakthrough season. The future looks bright in Sacramento.

But we’ve seen this story play out so many times. A young player excels in a small market then eventually moves to a more desirable destination. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George.

Will Fox be different?

Fox, via Corban Goble of ONE37pm:

“I don’t crave to be in a big market,” he says. “After last season, there was a buzz in Sacramento. Everyone in Sacramento is a Kings fan. If we start making the playoffs, or if we become a championship contender, the entire city is going to go nuts. That’s the difference between a big market and a small one.”

I’m glad Fox is happy in Sacramento. He had minimal say in getting there. The Kings picked him in a draft that gives teams massive control over top young prospects. That he landed somewhere he likes so much was largely coincidental. He could’ve easily wound up with Boston, Phoenix, Orlando, Minnesota or any other team picking in that range.

Some of this is Fox’s attitude. I suspect he would’ve found joy nearly anywhere. Now, he’s with the Kings and feeling positively about them.

They’ll have to continue to keep him happy as he approaches free agency. Unrestricted free agency is still several years away. A lot can change between now and then.

But Sacramento ought to feel good about Fox’s outlook now.

Damian Lillard on leaving Trail Blazers for super team: ‘We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?’

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Kevin Durant left for the Warriors for many reasons. LeBron James left for the Heat for many reasons. Anthony Davis and Paul George forced their way to Los Angeles for many reasons.

Those are life-altering moves. Nobody does something so consequential for a single purpose.

But whether or not it intended, each of those stars took an easier route to a championship. That’s just the reality.

Damian Lillard, on the other hand, has done so much to elevate himself then pull up the Trail Blazers with him. Lillard has often touted his loyalty to Portland. He showed it by signing a super-max extension that locks him in through 2025.

Lillard, via Adam Caparell of Complex:

“To leave, what did I invest all this time for just to leave, you know?” he says. “If I go play with three other stars, I don’t think that many people would doubt that I could win it. We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?”

I disagree with Lillard’s certainty about winning a title if he teamed with other stars. Not every perceived super team has won. A championship still must be earned. It’s not easy.

But it would be easier.

It also probably wouldn’t be as rewarding.

Durant has admitted winning a championship with Golden State didn’t fill the void he thought it would. Maybe for other reasons, but it’s easy to see the Warriors’ talent advantage as a reason. He joined a title contender and made it even better. He didn’t build that team. Perhaps, a championship with the Nets would mean more to him.

Lillard is less likely to win a title by staying Portland. I think he knows that. He enjoys the city, and the $196 million he projects to earn on his four-year extension doesn’t hurt, either.

But if Lillard ever wins a championship with the Trail Blazers, it would be so gratifying. That’s what he’s chasing.

Lillard made clear he’s not criticizing stars who chose an alternate path. He’s doing what’s right for him, just as they did what was right for them.

His quest should earn him plenty of fans. For everyone who disliked Durant joining Golden State because it offended their sensibilities of how a title pursuit should work, Lillard is a great foil.

Andre Iguodala recalls Draymond Green doubling Kevin Durant in practice: ‘he was mad … We was tryna win’

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Devin Booker complained to his opponents for double-teaming him during a pick-up game.

That has sparked a Great National Debate: Is it right or wrong to double-team during pick-up games?

Kevin Durant:

That’s a reasonable conclusion. The primary defender is missing an opportunity to work on his defense by getting help. But I also think it fails to address the main point. Booker wasn’t complaining to help the defender. Booker wanted the ideal training environment for himself, the offensive player.

How should the offensive player feel about it?

It’s a reasonably interesting question that’s getting taken far too seriously because the NBA is in a dead period. But to give it more juice, let’s add the Kevin Durant-Draymond Green relationship to the equation.

Andre Iguodala:

Durant:

It seems Durant can laugh it off now, but this story feeds into what so many people think they know about these players – that Green is a relentless competitor (accurate) and that Durant is soft (inaccurate).

NBA players spend so much time playing basketball. Sometimes, it’s helpful to face game-like conditions, where double-teams can happen at any point. Other times, it’s helpful to have more-relaxed conditions.

I don’t know enough about Booker’s pick-up game or the Warriors’ practice to say what was appropriate in each.

Report: Executives expect Thunder to say they are not trading Chris Paul (but they are)

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It’s all about leverage.

Right now the vultures are circling the Oklahoma City Thunder, hoping to get a free meal. Everyone knows the Thunder are moving into a rebuilding mode and want to trade Chris Paul for picks/young players, so other general managers — the vultures — are throwing out lowball offers hoping to get a steal of a trade. And by steal we mean making the Thunder throw in a first-round pick as a sweetener to get CP3 and the three-years, $124 million left on his contract off their books.

Oklahoma City’s response? Say “we’re not trying to trade him” and be patient. Here is how Brian Windhorst phrased it on ESPN’s The Jump (hat tip Real GM):

“Here’s what executives expect to happen: they expect the Thunder to put out a message that we’re not looking to trade Chris Paul…We want him to work with our young guys. Because they don’t want anybody to think they’re panic-trying to trade him, and they want to hope that somebody has something happen where they need Chris Paul,” said Windhorst.

Royce Young, who covers the Thunder for ESPN, added that he believed the Thunder would hold on to Chris Paul rather than surrender a draft pick.

This is the smart play. CP3 is still a top-flight point guard in the NBA, even if he has taken half a step back, and there are at least eight NBA teams going into this season thinking they have a shot at a title, and a few more looking at deep playoff runs. Some team is either going to realize they are not as good as they thought they were, or are going to suffer an injury, and be looking for an All-Star level player and replacement. Enter the Thunder and Chris Paul.

What this ultimately means is expect this to drag out. Not just through the summer and through training camp, but maybe all the way to the trade deadline.