Stephen Curry had a game-high 22 points on 8-of-18 shooting in the Warriors blowout Game 1 win, plus dishing out seven assists. He was 4-of-8 from three but struggled a little inside the arc, shooting just 3-of-6 inside eight feet. Not a vintage performance but he drew the attention of Grizzlies defenders leaving room for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others to do their thing.
The Grizzlies seemed to have their best success with a no point guard lineup and putting defensive ace Tony Allen on Curry. Any success the Grizzlies had was relative, but it was something to try in Game 2 depending on the status of Mike Conley.
“He can shoot the ball pretty good and he got a nice handle,” Allen said when asked what makes Curry special. “But it ain’t nothing I ain’t never seen before.”
We’ll just ignore the double negative… actually, that’s a triple negative. Impressive.
To be fair, Allen also said Curry’s MVP was “well deserved,” but he may not have wanted to poke the game’s best shooter.
I disagree with Allen on these grounds: Who have we seen like Curry before? How do you answer the question “Curry is like player X?” Who is the comp? We’ve seen great shooters before, great ball handlers before, great floor generals before, but rarely in the same package. Curry’s skill set is perfect to run a modern NBA offense because he can work on or off the ball equally well, plus is a gifted passer. There are no good comps for him.
When you run into a player that is hard to compare to anyone else before, you know you have a special talent.
The Nuggets (30-13) are locked in a high-stakes battle with the Clippers (31-13) and Jazz (30-13) for the Nos. 2-4 seeds in the Western Conference. The No. 2 seed would get home-court advantage in the second round and avoid the Lakers until the conference finals. The No. 3 seed would avoid the Lakers until the conference finals. The No. 4 seed would do neither.
Nikola Jokic is now Denver’s only healthy center. Expect Jerami Grant to play the position more often. He’s versatile enough to do it, and he can be effective there in certain matchups. But the Nuggets lose selectivity in when to deploy Grant at center, a lineup they were already reluctant to use.
Denver has played just 24 minutes all season with Grant on, Jokic and Plumlee off. (The Nuggets are a not-encouraging -11 in that time).
The trade deadline is just over two weeks away. Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez already looked like prime trade candidates. Could this push Denver toward moving one of those youngsters for immediate help? The Nuggets shouldn’t overreact to losing a backup center who should return well in advance of the playoffs. But they also don’t want to overburden Jokic/slip in the standings over the next month.
The All-Star break begins in three weeks. If Plumlee is still sidelined, that’ll at least give him longer to recover without missing games. But with the trade deadline looming, Denver has bigger decisions to make before then.
Report: Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald buys share of Phoenix Suns
Now, he’ll have a more formal role within the organization.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Reporting with @AdamSchefter: Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has purchased a minority stake in the Phoenix Suns, becoming second active NFL player with an NBA ownership share, league sources tell ESPN. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has a stake in Milwaukee Bucks.
The NBA reportedly mandates that all new minority owners buy at least a 1% share. Forbes’ last estimate valued the Suns at $1.5 billion. That’d put Fitzgerald’s minimum buy-in at $15 million.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he got in cheaper, though. Widely panned Suns owner Robert Sarver can boost his image by aligning himself with the well-liked football player. Having a local sports hero involved can also help with things like getting taxpayers to fund arena upgrades.
At Summer League in Las Vegas, the Thomas and Mack was full but fans got just nine minutes of Zion Williamson, one half of basketball, before he was shut down following a knee-to-knee collision with another player. Zion was done for the summer as the Pelicans were overly cautious.
Wednesday night, Williamson finally makes his NBA debut, lacing up his Nikes against San Antonio at home in New Orleans.
What should we expect in Zion’s debut (with him likely on a minutes limit)? Here are three things to watch for.
1) Dunks. A lot of dunks.
Zion Williamson is an incredibly gifted athlete but right now his game is not filled with subtlety and craft — the manchild attacks the rim and finishes. With authority.
Look at Williamson’s shot chart from the preseason: He took just four shots outside the paint.
This is not a knock on Williamson’s game — the dunk is the most efficient shot on the court, f you can get it, take it. Williamson has skills — a crossover he uses in transition, an inside-out dribble, and more — that he uses to get to the rim, and he wants to finish every play the same way.
Which is exactly what the Pelicans need.
New Orleans has good shot creators — Jrue Holiday, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram — and they have shooters such as J.J. Redick. What New Orleans could use is a threat that goes to the rim and forces defenses to collapse a little, opening up space (Derrick Favors has provided some of that). The Pelicans could use a player who can draw fouls and attacks the rim. That’s Zion. He should fit in beautifully on offense.
One scout I talked to (and he wasn’t the only person to make this comparison) said Williamson’s early career could resemble Blake Griffin’s in this sense: When he entered the league, Griffin was a high-flying dunking sensation who got his points at the rim, but eventually he developed an outside shot and a passing game that made him a much more rounded, All-NBA level player. Williamson has work to do on his other skills, but the man is going to dunk the ball in his debut.
2) The start of a playoff push in New Orleans.
Williamson’s injury was not the only one that hit the Pelicans: Derrick Favors, E’Twaun Moore, Jrue Holiday, and Lonzo Ball have all missed significant chunks of time. Combine all of that with a newly formed roster, and the Pelicans got off to a dreadful start.
However, the rest of the bottom half of the West was equally dreadful. The result is that while New Orleans is just 17-27, Williamson’s return finds the Pelicans only 3.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the West. What’s more, the Pelicans have hit a groove going 11-5 in their last 16 with Ingram playing at an All-Star level to lead the offense and Favors providing a defensive anchor. Ball is starting to find a comfort zone in Alvin Gentry’s offense, which is allowing Holiday to work more at his natural two-guard spot.
One other thing in its favor: New Orleans has the easiest remaining schedule of any team in the Western Conference (only Atlanta is easier overall). Only one team New Orleans faces in its final 15 has a winning record — that’s a schedule set up for a closing kick.
With Zion back in the fold, the Pelicans are going to make a run at it.
3) How well do Zion and Brandon Ingram mesh?
This is the $168 million question for the Pelicans.
(It’s less expectation than a question, one that could be a five-year $202 million question if Ingram can play his way onto an All-NBA team this season, which may not be likely but certainly is possible.)
Ingram has played his way into that size max contract this summer and if the Pelicans don’t give it to him another team will (the most another team could offer is four-years, $125 million). David Griffin has talked about keeping Ingram, the team is expected to back up the Brinks truck for him, but that doesn’t change the question:
Can Ingram and Zion coexist on the court?
Before the season — and still in a lot of minds — there are doubts about how well the games of the slashing, attacking Ingram and Williamson would fit together. Could this be another version of the Ben Simmons/Joel Embiid concerns in Philly, where two elite players want to operate in the same space and it clogs things up?
Ingram has developed a reliable jump shot this season — 39.9 percent from three on 6.2 attempts per game — and that has opened up his game. It also means he should fit better next to Williamson. However, the Pelicans likely want to see how all this works before they pay Ingram all that money this summer.
Williamson and Ingram may become the cornerstones of an outstanding New Orleans team in the future, but the questions about fit will linger until the players answer them. Those are not questions that are going to be answered in Williamson’s debut, but it’s something to watch.
Officer suspended for shooting video of ex-NBA player Delonte West
One of two videos circulating on social media shows a thin, shirtless man with tattoos sitting on a curb with his hands cuffed behind his back. Police say that man is West and that an officer shot the video.
Prince George’s County Police said they learned on Tuesday that an officer shot video of West sitting on the curb and that it was circulating on social media. An investigation followed and the suspension was announced on Tuesday.
The other video shows a man being beaten in the middle of a road.
Police said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that they responded to a call about a fight near the MGM National Harbor casino, located just across the border from Washington. When officers arrived, they saw a man bleeding from the face and “made the decision to handcuff” West.
Police said they learned that West and the second man knew each other and that they had argued earlier that morning. The men refused medical treatment and refused to press charges, police said.