Five Takeaways from an NBA Sunday: Paul George is all the way back

2 Comments

The NBA season is crawling into its third week, and Sunday’s five games conveniently were spread from afternoon to evening, and featured a couple huge comebacks. If you were too busy needlessly freaking out about Starbucks’ holiday cups, here are five things you should know from an NBA Sunday.

1) Paul George looks like his old All-Star self again. But the Pacers still lost. Paul George had a couple good games this past week but Sunday he showed he is all the way back — he went head-to-head with LeBron James and held his own. George put up 32 points Sunday against James and the Cavaliers, meanwhile defending LeBron on the other end (LeBron had 29 points on 23 shots). It was an entertaining game thanks of those two, who had great clashes back in the Eastern Conference Finals and Sunday renewed that rivalry —and you could sense the mutual respect. Ultimately too much Kevin Love (22 points), a fourth-quarter 7-0 run, and a couple of LeBron free throws late sealed a Cavs win.

In the two games prior, George put up 36 and 26 points. He has shown he’s back to the All-Star, top 12 NBA player he was prior to his freakish injury playing for Team USA. What’s most interesting about this three-game run? Indiana had gone back to a larger lineup, moving George back to the three. After all the hype about the Pacers going small and George at the four (he’s spending time there still), he’s thriving back at his traditional position.

2) Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson powered the best comeback of the season. In the third quarter Sunday, the Portland Trail Blazers were up by as many as 18 on the Pistons, and were still up 13 entering the fourth quarter. They seemed in control. Then Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson took over — the Pistons went on a 20-0 run at one point and won the fourth quarter 41-11, making it look like a comfortable 120-103 win when the final buzzer sounded. Drummond had 29 points and 27 rebounds in the game — that’s three 20-20 games for Drummond this season, the rest of the NBA has one. And he wasn’t even the best Piston on the floor in the fourth. After an unimpressive first three quarters (14 points on 15 shots), Jackson had 26 points on 10-of-11 shooting in the fourth

In limited run last season, Jackson and Drummond showed real chemistry. Last summer Stan Van Gundy bet on that giving Jackson an $80 million contract that was mocked in some quarters. Nobody’s laughing now. So far this season when Jackson and Drummond are on the court together the Pistons have an offensive rating of 108 points per 100 possessions, and they are +18.8 points per 100. Late in games the Pistons’ offense is essentially a Drummond/Jackson high pick and roll with shooters spacing the floor, and those two look like one of the best P&R combos in the league. Maybe SVG knew what he was doing after all.

3) Dwyane Wade passes Scottie Pippen on the all-time scoring list. He’s not exactly at the top of this list — with this bucket Dwyane Wade is now 51st all-time in the NBA in scoring. Still, he moved past Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen on Sunday (in an impressive Heat win over the Raptors), and in the next couple weeks he will track down and pass Dale Ellis and Reggie Theus.

4) Kobe Bryant may have played his last game in Madison Square Garden. The first time Kobe Bryant stepped on the court in Madison Square Garden it was 1996, and he was coming off the Lakers’ bench as a rookie. Since then he has had some of his most memorable games there, like dropping 61 on the Knicks back in 2009. Kobe had averaged 30.7 points a game in MSG coming into Sunday. The reality of where he and his Lakers are right now was on full display Sunday — Bryant had 18 points on 6-of-19 shooting, he was 2-of-10 from three, and the Lakers lost 99-95. Sunday felt like the end of an era for Kobe and his trips to NYC (he’s not coming there as a free agent next summer, just stop talking about that nonsense).

5) Kevin Durant looked good, dropping 32 on the Suns in a Thunder win. Kevin Durant does not want to talk about his pending free agency. He doesn’t have to; everyone else will do it for him. And 29 other teams will covet him so long as he keeps scoring like he did against Phoenix Sunday.

Report: Trail Blazers trying to extend Grant (with no luck), open to trade of Hart, Nurkic

Portland Trail Blazers v San Antonio Spurs
Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

The Trail Blazers maxed out Damian Lillard last summer and promised to try and build a contender in the West around him. It hasn’t worked out that way, the Trail Blazers are 23-25 and sitting 12th in the West with a bottom-10 defense.

Which has pushed them to be possible sellers at the trade deadline — but not with Jerami Grant, who they are trying to extend, reports Jake Fischer at Yahoo Sports. Grant, however, can get more from Portland as a free agent.

Jerami Grant became eligible for a contract extension with the Trail Blazers earlier this month, and Portland has offered the athletic forward his maximum possible deal of four years, $112 million, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Grant has not accepted the offer, sources said, largely because the Blazers can extend him a larger contract with an additional fifth year once free agency begins June 30.

While Fischer notes that this summer the Trail Blazers could max out Grant (five years, $233 million) he’s not getting that contract either. Maybe the middle ground is in the five-year, $160 million range, but whatever the number is Grant isn’t looking to bolt the Pacific Northwest. Look what he told Jason Quick of The Athletic:

“I definitely like it here; love it here,’’ Grant said. “The guys have been very welcoming, it’s definitely a family environment, everybody is super cool, got good guys on the team, great organization — Joe, Chauncey, everything. I’m definitely enjoying it here…

“I ain’t really plan on leaving,” he said.

Two players who could be leaving — via trade — are Josh Hart and Jusuf Nurkic. They are drawing interest as Portland considers shaking things up, Fischer reports.

Portland has given rival teams the impression that it is open to discussing the majority of its players, particularly Josh Hart and Jusuf Nurkic, sources said, as the franchise remains committed to building a playoff contender around Lillard. Portland has engaged teams with an eye toward size with athleticism, plus wing-shooting defenders, sources said. Hart has become one of the buzzier names among league executives this week, as he’s expected to decline a $12.9 million player option for the 2023-24 season.

Hart is a front-office favorite around the league — at least on his old contract — and is seen as a versatile role player who has become a plus defender, can hit some 3s (33% from deep this season but 37.3% last season), and can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He could fit in a lot of teams’ rotation, there will be interest, but with him on an expiring contract, the offers will not be high.

Nurkic, who signed a four-year $70 million contract last summer, is averaging 14.1 points per game, is shooting 38.5% from 3 and is grabbing 9.7 boards a night. He’s also averaging a career-high 2.6 turnovers a night (one of the culprits of the Blazers’ sometimes sloppy play), and while not a negative defender has not been the kind of anchor the Blazers hoped for this season.

Portland needs to do something. Lillard has returned from injury to play at an All-NBA level — even dropping a 60-spot the other night — but even after all their summer moves this is the same old Portland team with not enough around Lillard to threaten the top teams in the West.

Watch Curry score 35, help Warriors pull away in fourth to beat Raptors

0 Comments

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Stephen Curry had 35 points and 11 assists, and the Golden State Warriors beat the Toronto Raptors 129-117 on Friday night.

The high-scoring affair was close until the Warriors pulled away with a 31-point fourth quarter, securing a sweep in the season series.

“It feels like we took better care of the ball tonight,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “When Steph plays like that, the whole game opens up. The whole floor opens up.”

Klay Thompson added 29 points, knocking down six 3-pointers despite beginning the night 0 for 5 from beyond the arc. Though Thompson played in the Warriors’ 126-110 victory in Toronto on Dec. 18, the game Friday was his first time facing the Raptors at home since he tore his ACL in his left knee in the deciding Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals won by Toronto in Oakland.

Kevon Looney returned to the starting lineup and had 12 points and eight boards as six Warriors players scored in double figures.

The Warriors have won consecutive home games after dropping four straight at the Chase Center.

“We’ve been teetering on either side of .500 for a very long time. I’m kind of sick of it at this point,” Curry said. “(We’ve) got to figure out how to keep moving in the right direction and stack wins no matter how we can get ’em.”

Golden State’s bench outscored Toronto’s 39-26, highlighted by 15 points from Jonathan Kuminga. The 20-year-old missed his first three shots from deep before making four straight 3s in the final three minutes of the third quarter, giving the Warriors a 98-94 lead they did not relinquish.

“He just showed another element to his game that some might have doubted,” Thompson said. “To get on the hot streak he did was very impressive, and for that man, the sky’s the limit for his talent.”

Donte DiVincenzo had a career-high 11 assists and the Warriors outscored the Raptors by 24 points in his 33 minutes off the bench.

“We knew what we were coming up against, and we’ve had fairly good success guarding and executing, and tonight we just didn’t do it,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “We missed a lot of communication, we just got beat physically.”

Fred VanVleet had 28 points and 10 assists for the Raptors, who began their season-high, seven-game road trip 1-1. Scottie Barnes had 24 points and Pascal Siakam had 21, while Gary Trent Jr. added 17.

Precious Achiuwa contributed 17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.

LeBron, Grizzlies, NBA world reacts to death of Tyre Nichols

Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves
David Berding/Getty Images
0 Comments

Hours after the excruciating video of Memphis police fatally beating Tyre Nichols was released, the Memphis Grizzlies chose not to open their locker room and not speak to the media about it — it was too raw, too painful.

“The senseless loss of life for Tyre Nichols has really hit us hard,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said pregame in an interview with local broadcast partner Bally Sports (via the Associated Press). “It’s been tough being on the road, not being home. I wish I could extend my arms through this camera right now to the family. They’re going through a lot.”

The Grizzlies weren’t the only ones who felt that way around the NBA, emotions were high around the league Friday (as they were around the nation). Miami, Atlanta, Cleveland, Minnesota and Milwaukee released states echoing what the Grizzlies said.

LeBron James used his platform to make a statement, as he has in the past.

Statements were released from the NBA, WNBA, players, the players union and more.

“This is just crazy,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said unprompted to open his press conference, discussing the video and incident.

Nichols, 29, was pulled over in a traffic stop by Memphis police officers on Jan. 7 and was beaten to death by five officers. The bodycam footage shows Nichols being brutally beaten as he calls out for his mother and is defenseless. Nichols died in the hospital three days later. The five officers involved have been fired and charged with second-degree murder.

Dolan says he he has no plan to sell Knicks, retire, but he loves facial recognition

Celebrity Sightings In New York City - October 06, 2022
James Devaney/GC Images
0 Comments

Knicks owner James Dolan has been better in recent years about staying out of the way of the front office and staying out of the media spotlight — both of which are good for the Knicks and their fans’ sanity.

However, he stepped back in the spotlight the past couple of days — doing an interview on “Good Day New York” on Fox 5 Thursday then WFAN sports talk radio on Friday — and reminded everyone why it’s best when he stays out of it. Here are the highlights of these interviews.

• Dolan isn’t going anywhere, saying to WFAN he is not selling the team, nor does he plan to retire. Via Fred Katz at The Athletic:

“I have no plans whatsoever to sell at this point. I’m not retiring anytime soon. It’s a family-controlled asset, so someone in the family will eventually own it.”

That was a bit of a pipe dream for Knicks fans, there had been no rumors of a sale. With the value of NBA franchises rising rapidly and Dolan enjoying being the owner of one of the biggest brands in the sport, there has been little chance of a sale.

• Dolan defended Madison Square Garden’s controversial use of facial recognition technology to ban attorneys from firms involved in lawsuits against the Knicks or MSG from entering the property (or other Madison Square Garden properties, such as Radio City Music Hall).

“At Madison Square Garden, if you’re suing us, we’re just asking of you — please don’t come until you’re done with your argument with us. And yes, we’re using facial recognition to enforce that…

“If someone is suing you, that’s confrontational. It’s adversarial. If you’re being sued, you don’t have to welcome that person into your home.”

Except, it isn’t a home, it’s a public building where sports and entertainment events take place for which tickets are sold. Also, there are fans saying they have been banned from the building because of social media posts critical of Dolan.

• This policy has created a considerable backlash, including from the New York Attorney General, who said the policy could violate anti-discrimination laws in the state. Lawmakers in the New York state assembly introduced a bill prohibiting sports venues — such as Madison Square Garden — from refusing entry to attorneys or others involved in lawsuits against the organization.

• Dolan said on FOX 5 that the State Liquor Authority reached out to the Madison Square Garden company saying the use of facial recognition technology in this manner could lead to a suspension of their liquor license.

“This isn’t going to bother me because I’ve been sober 29 years. I don’t need the liquor.”

Dolan even hinted he could do a dry New York Rangers game on Fox, but he backed away from that idea the next day speaking on WFAN.

• Dolan reiterated his support of current Knicks decision-maker Leon Rose.

Dolan also went on to say he expects the Knicks to make the playoffs this season, however, there is no timeline for the team to contend for a ring.