Three Takeaways from NBA Thursday: When will the Warriors lose a game?

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Just three games on the schedule Thursday night, but if you were watching Rex Ryan get revenge then you missed a few things worth discussing, so here is a little wrap-up of three things to take away from the NBA slate of games:

1) When will the Warriors lose a game? Golden State is 10-0 after knocking off the upstart Timberwolves 129-116 Thursday. The Warriors aren’t just winning, they are dominating, having beaten opponents by an averaged of 17.1 points per game (17.2 points per 100 possessions). They have the top-ranked offense in the NBA and second-ranked defense (based on points per possession, stats via NBA.com). Stephen Curry has come back from his MVP season improved, and the Warriors’ team is not looking to coast through the early part of the schedule. It begs the question:

When will the Warriors lose a game?

Not this Saturday, when they host the lowly Nets. Probably not next Tuesday when they host Toronto (if DeMarre Carroll is back for the Raptors that game gets more interesting, but I’ll still take the Warriors). However, then comes a three-game stretch where I think the Warriors stumble for the first time.

Thu, Nov 19: at L.A. Clippers
Fri, Nov 20: Chicago Bulls
Sun, Nov 22: at Denver Nuggets

The Clippers are legit and — if Paul and Redick are healthy — they are capable of beating the Warriors on a given night. The Bulls still may be figuring rotations/chemistry out, but they are sixth in the NBA in defense, they have flashes of great offense, and with the Warriors on the second night of a back-to-back this could be the game. Denver has been middle of the pack on offense and defense, but they have shown flashes, and it’s the third game in four nights for the Warriors, plus this game is being played at altitude in Denver. That could lead to a one-off performance.

If they don’t stumble in those three and get to what would be 15-0, then it could be a little while as the schedule softens up. And at that point I’ll start entertaining a discussion of 70+ wins, not before.

2) Just a reminder that Stephen Curry is a basketball-shooting cyborg who cannot miss. Well, he does miss some shots — he was 15-of-25 on his way to 46 points Thursday — but that may just be part of the programming to throw us off, to make him look more human so we don’t get suspicious. Here are all his buckets from Thursday night, you be the judge.

3) Game summary: Blake Griffin got tossed for Clippers, Suns guards could not miss. Nobody should read much into the late TNT game regarding it being predictive. The Clippers started the night without Chris Paul and J.J. Redick, and that gave the Suns’ backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight a chance to take over. But there are two things of note from the Suns comfortable win over the Clippers, 118-104.

First, Blake Griffin got ejected, picking up two first-half technicals.

Doc Rivers and the Clippers didn’t like that call, saying the rule about if a player showing up an official is inconsistently enforced (he’ll get fined for that). My take on this is a little more nuanced (and has two parts): First, I don’t think what Griffin did in this specific instance was worthy of a technical, especially not a second one that sends him to the showers. Rivers is right that the rule about what constitutes showing up an official is applied inconsistently. This was a quick trigger — but the Clippers bring this on themselves. That’s the second part of this. No team in the NBA is as demonstrative at whining about calls game in/game out as the Clippers, and Griffin is at the forefront of that (with Rivers right behind him). Griffin’s incessant complaining pushes up against the “showing up the official” line nightly, so he should understand that he’s going to occasionally step over that line. More importantly, his behavior does not endear or make officials give him the benefit of the doubt — they are humans who get sick of being jawed at like anyone. Griffin wears on them nightly, and this is the occasional price. He shares blame here, even if you can say this particular instance was out of line.

The big takeaway: Griffin getting ejected did not decide this game. They were already behind when it happened. Without CP3 and Redick, Suns’ guards Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight took over this game from the start — they combined for 63 points and 13 assists. That’s why the Suns won this game; they got phenomenal guard play that the Clippers could not stop or match. Those two earned the Suns a quality win at home.

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.