Five Things We Learned in NBA Tuesday Night: Anthony Davis, Pelicans deserve to be in playoffs

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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 dreaming about the best part of baseball season, the ballpark food

1) Anthony Davis and his Pelicans deserve to be a playoff team — and as of now they’re in. No doubt, Russell Westbrook has put up numbers this season. But so has Anthony Davis. From Day 1. Davis has averaged 24.4 points on 53.6 percent shooting, pulled down 10.4 rebounds a game and blocked three shots. He leads the league in PER (with a Jordan/Chamberlain-like number) and is fourth in win shares. He deserves MVP consideration.

And the Pelicans are playing like a team that deserves to be in the postseason. On Tuesday night, Davis scored 29 points, pulled down 10 rebounds, plus had four blocks and two steals to lead the Pelicans to a 103-100 victory over a Golden State team that wasn’t resting anyone. That win (combined with the Spurs routing the Thunder) makes New Orleans a playoff team, they are the eight seed half a game up on OKC. The Pelicans got there on Tuesday night because Davis got help: From Quincy Pondexter and his 20 points including 4-of-4 from three; from the officials with a bad call late. (The officiating in this game was shaky both ways.) However, it was the Pelicans playing hard and pushing the best team in the league that made them look like a playoff team. They’re not beating the Warriors in a seven-game series, but it would be entertaining. New Orleans deserves to be there.

2) Oklahoma City is going to need some help to make the postseason. The Spurs are making everyone look bad lately — just ask Steve Kerr and the Warriors — and following that trend San Antonio thrashed Oklahoma City 113-88 Tuesday night. It was a blowout from the opening tip. Gregg Popovich said it wasn’t a fair fight without KD and Ibaka, it didn’t look like it. This felt like the punch that could weaken their knees and bring down OKC’s playoff dreams crashing to the floor. As it is they are half a game back of the Pelicans — and New Orleans has the tie breaker. Meaning the Thunder are going to need a little help to get to the playoffs. Tuesday night, San Antonio did what it did because Kawhi Leonard tied his career record of 26 points — and he played just 24 minutes. All the Spurs’ shooters couldn’t seem to miss. OKC looked outclassed on the night the Pelicans stood toe-to-toe with the league’s best. Only one looked like a playoff team and they now have the upper hand.

3) Clippers move into a tie for three seed in West, but it’s not pretty. The Lakers played harder and frankly looked better than the Clippers for large swaths of Tuesday night. The Lakers seemed embarrassed by their Sunday performance — they should have been — and were looking to turn things around. The Clippers got enough from their starters — and nothing from their bench — to get a 105-100 win. Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick each had 27 points on the night. With that the Clippers moved into a virtual tie for the three seed in the West with Memphis. Those two teams play later Saturday and I would say that game could determine the three seed out West, but the Spurs (just half a game back of Memphis and L.A.) could have a say in that.

4) Miami stays alive in East playoff chase with win. Brooklyn has Brook Lopez playing like a guy who wants to get paid this summer. Indiana has the return of Paul George. Boston has real grit. And through it all the Miami Heat will not go away. Goran Dragic had 28 points, and Luol Deng chipped in 21 in a Heat win over the Hornets Tuesday night, another hard-fought victory. With that, Miami is just half a game back of Boston for the eight seed. Miami has Chicago and Toronto its next two games — those two tough games will determine their playoff chances.

5) Sim Bhullar makes some NBA history. The 7’5″ mountain of a man became the first player of Indian descent to play in the NBA. It wasn’t much to see, just 16 seconds, and it doesn’t mean the NBA is going to take the place of cricket in that country’s hearts. But it’s a step. And you change things one step at a time.

Dion Waiters shows off slimmed down physique on Instagram

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Suddenly the annual “he lost/gained 15 points and is in the best shape of his life” portion of the NBA summer is upon us.

The Miami Heat are known around the league for having one of the best conditioning programs, guys who go there almost universally get in better shape. Dion Waiters last season seemed to be the exception to the rule. Waiters wasn’t 50-year-old-suburban-dad-with-a-beer-gut out of shape, but coming off an injury where he didn’t get to train like he wanted, Waiters didn’t look like a guy in NBA shape either. Critics lit Waiters up on social media.

Waiters posted his response — he’s been hitting the gym.

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Last year when I came off 1 of the most depressing & frustrating times of my life. Coming off injury & not feeling like myself nor looking like myself I was in a dark place mentally & physically , Because the game I love so much was taken away due to season ending surgery. Now a days with this social media ran world they laughed at me made jokes etc not knowing what I was battling or going through everyday. So instead of me joining the circus I told myself you from (Philly) you’ve been through worst shit in your life than this. So I promise myself I would work my ass off & get back to where I was before the injury. I’m not done yet but I kno somebody in the world prolli needed to hear this. Stay positive block out the outside noise & grind. #Philly🧀 #stayTune

A post shared by 🔥🔥🔥🔥 (@waiters3) on

Good for Waiters.

Let the flood of NBA workout videos and shots of guys with their new physiques begin.

Philly fans will be hoping to see one from Joel Embiid.

Russell Westbrook trade to Houston official, Thunder praise him on way out door

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Whatever their long-term intentions, after Paul George was traded the Oklahoma City Thunder changed focus. General Manager Sam Presti sat down with Russell Westbrook and his agent, talked about the future, what the former MVP wanted, then worked on trading him where he wanted to go.

That was Houston.

The Westbrook to the Rockets trade for Chris Paul — with Oklahoma City picking up two first-round picks and two pick swaps — is now official.

In announcing the trade, the Thunder praised the greatest player in their franchise history on his way out the door.

“Russell Westbrook is the most important player in the brief history of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has left an indelible mark on this team, city and state,” Presti said in a statement. “None of us could have anticipated the player he has become, and we are all deeply proud of what he has contributed to the success of the franchise and to our community. Russell and his wife Nina, their three children, his brother and his parents will always remain part of the Thunder family. We wish them nothing but happiness and success in the future.”

“I have a great deal of respect for Russell and there is no way to adequately describe our appreciation for what he has meant to Oklahomans,” said Thunder Chairman Clayton I. Bennett. “His legacy here is immense, and he will be honored by the team for all he has done. We wish he and Nina and their family all the best. While this era of Thunder basketball now comes to an end, I’m confident our talented team of people will once again position the Thunder for success in the future.”

While Presti and the OKC front office are still working on a CP3 trade, they are entering a rebuilding phase.

The Rockets are banking on Westbrook and James Harden being able to work out any fit issues — and finding a way to defend with both of them on the court — to keep them as title contenders.

Anthony Davis dances around question about re-signing with Lakers

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After the drama around his push to get to Los Angeles, league executives and other sources around the NBA expect Anthony Davis to re-sign with the Lakers on a max contract next summer.

However, Davis has paired up with LeBron James, and rule one of the LeBron contract playbook (and agent Rich Paul’s, too) is to keep the pressure on a franchise. Make the team improve and keep itself in title contention.

So it’s not a surprise that when ESPN’s Rachel Nichols asked Davis about re-signing with the Lakers, he didn’t answer the question directly.

Nichols: You’re only signed through this season. Do you think you will be a pillar of the Lakers for years and years to come?

Davis: Honestly, Rachel, I’m just focused on this season. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I have one year here, so I’m going make the best of this year. And when that time comes around in the summer or, you know, whenever the season’s over — hopefully, around, you know, mid-June, after we just had a parade, and I need a couple days to think — then we can talk about that. But until then, I’m trying to do whatever I can to help this team win this year.”

That a well-handled scripted answer hitting all the talking points.

After the NBA summer we have just gone through (and continue to see with Chris Paul), nobody sane will say Davis would never leave the Lakers after one season. Cut to Kevin Garnett screaming “Anything Is Possible.”

However, he came to the Lakers to win rings (now and in the future), to take over as the face of the franchise when LeBron steps away in a few years, to get the kind of recognition and endorsements he felt were not coming his way in New Orleans, and ultimately to have his jersey up in the rafters with Wilt and Kareem and Shaq. That’s the plan. Which means AD will re-sign with the Lakers next summer.

He’s just not going to say that right now.

Kendrick Perkins: ‘Pelicans better lock Zion in the House’ because of great New Orleans food

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Zion Williamson‘s weight became a discussion point during Summer League.

The general consensus going into the draft was that Williamson would ultimately want to play a little lighter in the NBA than he did in college (but without losing his strength). Since then Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski came out and said the No. 1 pick was not in Summer League shape and should not have played. Some broadcast analysts said he looked heavy. In the hallways and behind-the-basket defacto meeting space of Summer League there was a lot of talk among league watchers about the Pelicans needing to get Zion with their trainers and dietitians to prepare him for the 82 game grind.

Kendrick Perkins warns that’s not going to be all that easy in the Big Easy.

As a wannabe foodie, let me just say that Perkins is spot on about the food in New Orleans. It may be my favorite food city in America, it is home to the ultimate comfort foods, and the portions are not small. From muffulettas to gumbo to po’ boys to fried every-kind-of-protein-you-can-name, New Orleans cuisine is both undeniably delicious and not the foundation of a healthy diet.

It’s going to take some discipline from Williamson, who also can afford his own chef now to keep the meals at home healthy and tasty. Then gumbo can be a splurge-day treat.