Five Things We Learned in NBA Sunday: Sleep on the Spurs at your own risk

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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 trying to figure out how to sign up for Mr. T’s home renovation show

1) San Antonio thrashes Atlanta, reminds everyone just how good they can be. Spurs East looked like a pale imitation of the original Sunday — the game of the day became a clinic in San Antonio basketball, with the Spurs opening the game on a 20-4 run and never looking back in a 114-95 victory. These are the moments the Spurs remind everybody just who seemingly unstoppable they can be. Early on it seemed they could not miss — at one point they hit 10 consecutive shots — but even when the shots stopped falling the Spurs controlled the game. The Spurs did that with a physical, long, aggressive defense. We can come up with excuses for the Hawks (teams are often flat on first game home after a road trip, adjusting to Kyle Korver’s return, just an off night) but they looked like a Neil Diamond cover band playing a summer concert in the park Sunday — fun in their own right but nothing like the real thing. Because the real thing has players such as Kawhi Leonard making plays like this.

2) While Atlanta stumbles, LeBron James and Cavaliers keep on rolling. We can pick apart the Cavaliers — in their last 15 games they have given up 103 points per 100 possessions, 20th in the NBA (and it’s gotten worse lately). But LeBron James and the Cavs’ offense cover up a world of mistakes right now. LeBron was in vintage, control-the-game-at-both-ends form, with 28 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, and five steals. He got help from J.R. Smith Sunday — 23 points on 11 shots, the rare efficient game from Smith. When the Cavs are playing like this on offense, you can see them in the NBA Finals.

3) Russell Westbrook got the triple-double, but it was really the Enes Kanter show. Russell Westbrook is playing so well right now that he can rack up a triple-double, and the instinct is to say it wasn’t that great of one — he shot 5-of-16 and had six turnovers. Still, there was 12 points, 17 assists, and 10 rebounds. However, the real story in OKC was the return of Enes Kanter, who returned from one game off and dropped 27 points and 12 boards. The other thing of note, this was the best the OKC defense has looked in a while.

4) Pelicans’ playoff chances setting like the Suns. While the Thunder keep winning, the Pelicans keep on stumbling to the finish line — they fell to the Clippers 107-100 on the road. While that may be an expected result the Pelicans are now three games back of OKC for the final playoff spot in the West, a very difficult to overcome deficit to overcome with just a dozen games left. The loss dropped them half a game behind the Suns and into 10th in the West.

5) The Rooster is crowing again in Denver. Back a couple years ago when the Nuggets won 57 games for George Karl, Danilo Gallinari was their leading scorer. A knee injury and a botched surgery set him back, but under Melvin Hunt The Rooster seems to be back — Sunday he had a career high 40 points on 12-of-21 shooting, both knocking down threes (six) and getting to the free throw line (11 times). If Hunt stays on as coach Gallinari could be a real fantasy steal for your team next season.

Pistons buy out Markieff Morris, who’s reportedly most likely to join Lakers

Potential Lakers target and former Pistons forward Markieff Morris
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The Pistons are dismantling.

They traded Andre Drummond and bought out Reggie Jackson. Now, they’ve bought out Markieff Morris.

Pistons release:

The Detroit Pistons and Markieff Morris have reached an agreement to buy out the veteran forward’s contract. The Pistons have requested waivers on Morris.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Morris was owed $940,113 beyond the waiver period and had a $3.36 million player option for next season. It’ll be interesting to see whether he declined the option as part of his exit or will receive some of that money.

Morris wouldn’t really move the needle for the Lakers. They already have more big forwards than they know what to do with – LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma. There’s no obvious fit for Los Angeles’ open roster spot, and Morris is talented. But it’s hard to see him making much of a difference there.

Heat retiring Dwyane Wade’s No. 3 in weekend-long celebration

Dwyane Wade
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MIAMI (AP) Dwyane Wade says that whenever he would hear the national anthem play before Miami home games, he would take a moment and look to the rafters.

“I always imagined my jersey being up there,” Wade said.

He will no longer have to imagine the sight. After this weekend, it’ll be there for good.

Wade will become the fifth Heat player to get his number retired by the team, joining Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal and Chris Bosh. A three-day celebration of Wade’s time in Miami starts on Friday, a weekend highlighted by his No. 3 formally going to the rafters on Saturday night when the Heat play host to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Wade spent 16 seasons in the NBA, 14+ of those with the Heat. He was one of two players to be part of all three Heat championship teams – Udonis Haslem, whose No. 40 will almost certainly be retired by the team one day, is the other.

It was never a question of whether Wade’s jersey was going to be retired by the Heat, only a question of when. He’s the franchise’s all-time leader in points, games, assists and steals and is probably going to keep most, if not all, of those records for a very long time. Consider: He scored 21,556 regular-season points with the Heat, and Alonzo Mourning is second with 9.459.

Earlier this season, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers – like Wade, a Chicago native who went on to play at Marquette – said he believes Wade doesn’t get enough credit for what he did as a player, especially in the NBA Finals.

“He’s been underrated his whole life,” Rivers said. “He didn’t get recruited very highly. Took Marquette to a Final Four. He still didn’t go as high as he should have in the draft and then he took the Miami Heat to NBA championships. That’s just who he is.”

Wade was the 2006 NBA Finals MVP, was selected to 13 All-Star Games in his 16 seasons, was an All-Star MVP in 2010 and won an Olympic gold medal.

“Every time I look up to the rafters and see your (hash)3 hanging there, I’ll think of the impact you had not only on this organization, this city and this league, but on my life,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra wrote in an open letter to Wade that will be part of the team’s game-night giveaway program for fans on Saturday.

The weekend also includes a night of tribute speeches on Friday and a showing of a documentary about Wade on Sunday.

Report: NBA executives believe 76ers more likely to trade Joel Embiid than Ben Simmons

76ers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons
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The 76ers have spent years building around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Supporting players come and go. Embiid and Simmons remain, even amid a sometimes-awkward fit.

But chatter has increased about Philadelphia trading one of its top two stars.

So, would Embiid or Simmons be the one to go?

Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

There is no consensus, but league execs think that if the Sixers do explore a trade, Embiid is more likely to be moved — health being the determining factor in building around Simmons.

When a team is looking to trade one of two players, people frequently predict the less-valuable player will get dealt. It’s not logical. Other teams also know about Embiid’s health concerns. That’ll lower Philadelphia’s return.

I wonder whether these executives know something or are just conveying how they’d handle the situation.

The latter doesn’t mean much. The 76ers have their own view and, less than a year ago, owner Josh Harris called Embiid “our most important player. He’s clearly our future.”

Perhaps, Philadelphia’s stance has changed. Trying to line up trade trade proposals, the 76ers might have tipped their hand.

The mere possibility of that scenario makes this worth watching.

Former John Beilein-coached Michigan player in NBA: Cavaliers players don’t value winning

Former Cavaliers coach John Beilein
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The Cavaliers tuned out John Beilein then tuned their music to songs about thugs.

Beilein lasted less than a season as Cleveland’s coach.

But one of his former players at Michigan is sticking up for him.

Sam Amico of Sports Illustrated:

Even under the cloak of anonymity, that’s a harsh way for an NBA player to talk about fellow NBA players.

Who said it? There are nine suspects:

Whoever he is, that player lacks full context.

None of those players were on a clear NBA track when arriving in Ann Arbor. They all developed under Beilein’s tutelage. Beilein’s message lands differently when you’re already in the NBA – especially when you’re a proven player like Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson. As I said when Beilein was hired, there was going to be a race between Beilein convincing his players he could help them and them believing they could walk all over him. He lost the race. In Ann Arbor, in part because of his power over his less-heralded players, Beilein repeatedly earned buy-in first.

None of those players were on Beilein’s first Michigan team, which went 10-22. Beilein has typically come into a new job preaching fundamentals. That sets a foundation for future winning. But in the short term, the lack of focus on games can lead to plenty of losing. Beilein’s first season with the Wolverines was exhausting, and the end was a welcome respite. Everyone returned for year two better prepared, and Michigan took off. But the NBA season is far longer. The Cavs already endured 54 games under Beilein’s first-year approach. Another 28 was asking a lot.

Maybe Cavaliers players would have been better off in the long run if they accepted Beilein’s teaching. But it’s on Beilein to earn their trust, and he never did.