Seven Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: DeAndre Jordan booed, Nets win

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It was one crazy day and night in the NBA — too big for five takeaways, so we’re going with seven (and still left some good stuff out). Here is what you need to know from a wild day around the Association:

1) Mavericks fans let DeAndre Jordan hear it, enjoy a side dish of revenge. If this were any other game in Dallas, we would be talking about Dirk Nowitzki‘s 31 points and how the veteran is shooting 55.3 percent (a career high) and hitting 51.6 percent from three so far this young season. But that’s not what this game was about in Dallas — this was the night that traitor DeAndre Jordan came back to town (that’s how they saw it in Dallas). As promised he was booed like the devil himself.

What Mavs’ fans enjoyed more was the 25 points from Wesley Matthews and the way he overpowered J.J. Redick much of the night. That and the 12-2 run late in the fourth that gave Dallas a quality win. It was pretty close to an ideal night for Mark Cuban and his team.

2) LaMarcus Aldridge‘s return to Portland was a very different experience. Unlike Jordan in Dallas, LaMarcus Aldridge was greeted with a mix of cheers and boos on his coming back to Portland.

Portland fed off the energy of the crowd, went on an early 14-2 run and led 18-10 early, but the relentless execution of the Spurs eventually overwhelmed them and by the middle of the second quarter the Spurs were in control. They never really pulled away, Portland made runs, but it just felt like the Spurs were going to get the win and they did, 113-101. The game was a perfect example of what Aldridge gained on the court by leaving: He had 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting, but he never had to just carry the load, it was a team effort (Kawhi Leonard had 20, Manu Ginobili 14). Midrange jumpers Aldridge had to take in Portland are now passes to an open Danny Green for a three (if not Green, someone else). Portland, even last year when it was deeper with talent, just never played that way

More bad news for Portland: Sharpshooting big man Meyers Leonard dislocated his shoulder in this game and is going to miss some time (how much is not yet known).

3) Kings win, DeMarcus Cousins drops 33, and George Karl is reportedly safe (for the season). So everything is just peachy in Sacramento now, right? Okay, maybe not. But it appears that for one night at least the Kings’ team meeting worked as they came out and played with some real fire and energy and that got them a nice win at home over Detroit. DeMarcus Cousins outplayed Andre Drummond, Boogie put up 33 points and played quality defense on the Pistons’ lynchpin all night. Rajon Rondo was solid and had a triple-double of 14 points, 15 assists, and 11 rebounds. It was the kind of effort and win the Kings needed.

GM Vlade Divac finally got around to backing his coach, saying George Karl will coach the Kings through the end of this season. None of this means all the drama is gone, or that next summer owner Vivek Ranadive won’t try to lure John Calipari or someone else in to take over the franchise, but the Kings needed a win for stability and they got one.

4) Stephen Curry is just flat our ridiculous. First he did this:

Then he did this. It’s just not fair.

5) Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis‘ game-winning shot overruled by replay. The fast-growing legend of Kristaps Porzingis in New York — he’s contributing more than expected as a rookie, and showing some real toughness — almost grew by leaps and bounds on Thursday when he appeared to hit a game winner to beat the Hornets in Charlotte — but replay showed he just didn’t get the ball off in time.

6) Game winners galore: Cody Zeller, Nikola Vucevic, and Kenneth Faried each drop one. There were huge game-winning shots everywhere you turned on Wednesday night. We’ll start the tour in Charlotte — since Porzingis’ shot was late, this one by Cody Zeller is your game winner.

The Lakers visited Orlando, Kobe Bryant sat and D'Angelo Russell looked the best he has all season, but the Lakers couldn’t execute with the game on the line. Los Angels got the ball in a tie game with 25.5 seconds left, tried to take a late shot, but the play of Lou Williams in isolation led to a shot that didn’t even it the rim and a shot clock violation. That left 1.5 seconds for Nikola Vucevic to do this:

Denver drew up a final play that got Danilo Gallinari the last shot, and just like the Lakers’ Willaims he airballed his chance — but this is why you have to put a body on Kenneth Faried.

7) Nets win! Nets win! Theeeeeee Nets win! I don’t know if this model is sustainable for Brooklyn, but for a night they hit their threes (8-of-17), knocked down the midrange jumpers they take too many of, and played their best defense of the season. Of all the games they were going to get their first win of the season, on the road against a good Rockets team would not have been my prediction, but here we are as the Nets triumphed 106-98. Bojan Bogdanovic had 22 off the bench, Joe Johnson had an inefficient 16, and the Nets will take it. My guess as to what was different? Lionel Hollins shaved off his beard.

That leaves the Sixers as the only winless team in the NBA.

Watch Klay Thompson knock down 12 3-pointers, lift Warriors to win without Curry

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Stephen Curry was not in the building, the first of maybe a month of games he’s going to miss with a leg injury. Who would take charge of the Warriors’ offense with No. 30 out?

Klay Thompson.

Thompson knocked down 12 3-pointers and scored 42 points to lead the Warriors as they blew past the Thunder.

“It was a beautiful game to watch him play…” Draymond Green said of Thompson, via the Associated Press.”We needed it. It’s been a while since we had a blowout win. It’s good to get this one, especially first game with Steph out. It was good to start off on this foot and try to create some momentum.”

Jordan Poole is back in the starting lineup with Curry out, scoring 21 points with 12 assists (a career best).

All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 20 points. But this was Thompson’s night. And one for the Warriors.

NBA owners, players union agree to push back CBA opt-out date. Again.

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The NBA and players union are progressing toward a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Just not very fast progress. In December, they pushed the opt-out date for both sides — when either the owners or players could opt out and end the CBA on June 30 of this year — to Feb. 8.

They aren’t going to hit that deadline either so the two sides have agreed to push the new opt-out date back to March 31, they announced.

“The NBA and NBPA have mutually agreed to extend the deadline to opt out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) from Feb. 8, 2023, to March 31, 2023, as the two sides continue negotiations to reach a new agreement,” the sides said in a joint release. “If either party exercises the opt-out, the CBA’s term will conclude on June 30, 2023.”

There is one bit of good news in the talks, the owners have backed off the “upper spending limit” idea, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. At least some owners — troubled by the massive spending into the luxury tax of the Warriors, Clippers, and Nets  — pushed for an “Upper Spending Limit” for teams, which the players saw as a hard cap and a deal breaker.

As the sides pursue an early labor deal, a significant part of what has allowed discussions to progress has been the NBA’s willingness to soften from its original push for an upper spending limit on team payrolls — a de facto hard cap, sources said.

Still, expect changes to the luxury tax system to attempt to rein in the spending of some owners. There are a lot of economic concerns that will push toward a deal getting done, including this interesting note:

There are broader economic concerns looming for the league that are motivating factors in reaching a new labor deal in the coming weeks and months — including the potential bankruptcy of the Sinclair/Diamond Sports Regional Sports Networks, which is responsible for broadcasting 16 of the league’s teams on local deals. The longer labor talks linger, the more moderate positions among ownership can harden on financial issues and risk deeper difficulties on reaching a new labor deal.

The conventional wisdom has long been there would be no lockout and potential work stoppage because every side was making money again, the trajectory of the league was good, and nobody wanted to slam the breaks on that momentum. But there is always a risk, especially if the owners are fighting among themselves. Which is why a deal getting done sooner rather than later is best for everyone — especially fans.

Focus on body, conditioning has LeBron James on cusp of scoring record

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LOS ANGELES — LeBron James has prepared for this day since high school.

Maybe he didn’t envision this day exactly — the day he would break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time NBA scoring record, something he is just 36 points shy of heading into Tuesday night against the Thunder— but LeBron was preparing for playing at a high level deep into his career. A career that has seen very few injuries (in 20 seasons his only surgeries have been LASIK and oral surgery in the offseason), very little time missed, and a lot of points.

Through all the years, teams and tribulations, LeBron’s focus on preparing his body has never wavered.

“I’ve just learned more about my body and how to prepare my body. But I’ve been taking care of my body since I started playing basketball,” LeBron said earlier this season. “Like, even when I was younger — you can ask any of my best friends growing up — before I went to sleep I would stretch and as soon as I would wake up I would stretch. I was like, 10 years old. In high school, I was one of the few guys that would ice after the game. My rookie year I was icing after the game, as well.

“But, as I got older and older and older, I started to figure out other ways that I could beat Father Time by putting in more time on my game and on my craft. But mostly on my body and my mind. I feel like if my mind can stay as fresh as it possibly can through a grueling up-and-down NBA season — which it is — then my body is going to be able to try and perform at the highest level. So, I’ve always wanted to maximize even the most out of my career and squeeze the most juice I can out of my career.

That level of investment in his body — financially, but more importantly with time and energy — has made his fitness routine a legend around the league. It’s the reason he is still an All-NBA-level player when the rest of his draft class — Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, Kyle Korver, David West, Steve Blake, Kirk Hinrich — have hung up their sneakers.

“LeBron is taking care of himself so well that he’s been able to play a bundle of games for a lot of years. And that’s what he takes,” said Spurs legend Gregg Popovich. “But he gets credit for taking care of himself and being able to be out there. The way a lot of players don’t even come close to. His commitment to the game and to what he has to do, has allowed him to be in this position.”

LeBron has made fitness and recovery a core part of his daily routine. That commitment to his body means he works out at least five days a week even in the slow weeks of the offseason. Get close to the season and into the grind and it’s seven days a week.

These are not ‘I’m going to jump on the elliptical and get in a little cardio’ workouts, these are specially designed HIIT workouts with his personal trainer, Mike Mancias, that target on different days his core, legs, upper body and other areas, plus mixes in yoga and stretching, and then a recovery program. It is holistic and includes a diet low on refined sugars but with enough carbs to fuel his workout and play.

All that doesn’t even include his pregame stretching and workout routine.

LeBron puts his money into maintaining his conditioning — his business partner and friend Maverick Carter once said LeBron spends about $1.5 million a year on not just trainers and a personal chef, but equipment such as cryotherapy chambers, hyperbaric chambers, NormaTec leg boots, and much more.

Does LeBron have a go-to cheat? Wine. But he’s earned it.

Players don’t reach the NBA, or especially, stick around, without an impressive commitment to fitness. Plenty of players enter the league with bad habits that, by season three or four, they figure out they have to dump if they are going to stick around (and get paid). LeBron’s focus, consistency, and relentlessness is on another level, and it is what has him as the best player the league has ever seen in his 20th season, at age 38. Nobody has ever played this well, this long.

“I think he’s gonna have the greatest career of all time,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said of LeBron. “I think he’s already had it, you know, and I think Michaels the greatest of all time. But that doesn’t take anything away from LeBron. LeBron has had the greatest career.”

And he put in the work to get there.

On fringe of rotation, Sixers guard Korkmaz reportedly requests trade

NBA: JAN 17 76ers at Clippers
Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Last season, Furkan Korkmaz was a regular part of the 76ers rotation — he played in 69 games, started 19, and averaged 21 minutes and seven shot attempts a night.

With De'Anthony Melton added to the rotation this season, Korkmaz has played in 25 games (less than half of the team’s games) at 10.2 minutes a night when he does get in, and he averaged 3.1 shots per game. Korkmaz wants to be somewhere he is wanted and used and has requested a trade, reports Keith Pompey at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Sources have said the Turkish player has requested to be traded before Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline. Asked about it, Korkmaz would only say he “would not confirm nor deny it.”

Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey didn’t immediately respond to a text message asking if Korkmaz asked to be traded. But sources have said Korkmaz was informed the Sixers will try to package him in a deal.

Korkmaz is not the only 76ers whose name comes up in trade conversations, wing defender Matisse Thybulle also has drawn trade interest. The Sixers are looking for a backup point center for their playoff run.

Korkmaz, 25 and in his sixth NBA season, is a career 35.4% shooter from 3 at the guard spot, but his competent shooting has not made up for limited playmaking and poor defense at the NBA level. The Sixers went out and got an upgrade this offseason in Melton.

Korkmaz makes $5 million this season and has a fully-guaranteed $5.4 million on the books for next season. A fair price if a team believes the Turkish guard can help their guard rotation, but the market for him is likely limited.

Still, it’s another name to watch in Philadelphia as we move toward Thursday’s trade deadline.