Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Some things change, some don’t for Philly

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If you’re a League Pass addict like me, you’ve heard Clippers’ announcer Ralph Lawler mention “Lawler’s Law” — the first team to 100 will win the game. But I wondered during last night’s close Clippers game how often that is true? Turns out, there is a tracker and the first team to 100 wins 93.9 percent of the time. That’s just one thing to know from a Monday around the NBA.

1) Trust the process… or entrust the process to Jerry Colangelo, who takes over as the guy with the final say for Sixers. It was one of PBT’s 51 questions asked before this NBA season: “How long will 76ers owner stay patient with rebuilding?” Apparently the answer was until about two weeks ago. That’s when all the losing from the past couple years broke owner Josh Harris and he — with an assist to Adam Silver — reached out to former Suns owner/president and the current USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo. Monday, Harris officially gave Colangelo a spot in the organization above GM Sam Hinkie. Harris said he wanted to see the process move a little faster than it has been.  

While this signals a change in the vaunted “process” Hinkie talked about, it’s big picture right now. This is not likely to mean any short-term changes on the ground — the Sixers will still be terrible this season and hope the lottery is kind to them. They likely will have three and maybe a four first round picks this year (depending on pick protections and the draft order). If the Sixers get another top three pick, they are going to keep it and add to the growing stockpile of talent. However, Colangelo is more likely to try to turn some of those picks into trades for solid veteran players. He is going to spend money on more veteran free agents to teach the young stars how to be professional and win some games. These new players are not going to be franchise cornerstone guys — those Jahlil Okafor level guys still need to come through the draft for now in Philly — but they will be players who will help speed the process along and get more wins.

2) Colangelo or no, the Sixers pain isn’t over — they fall by 51 to the Spurs. The Spurs rested Tim Duncan, had Kawhi Leonard out with the stomach flu, and still set a franchise record for the largest win, 119-68. It was a reminder that while there may be changes at the top in Philadelphia, it’s going to be a while before the impact trickles down to the roster itself. A change in the philosophy of the process doesn’t change the fact the Sixers are a 1-21 team with many players on the roster who will be out of the league in a couple of years. After the game coach Brett Brown was virtually speechless.

Meanwhile, the Spurs are the Spurs. They played little used Boban Marjanovic — the 7’3″ Serbian center who dominated Euroleague last season — and he stepped in and looked very Spursian, dropping 18 points. He faked Okafor out badly a couple times.

3) Suns score 42 in fourth on the second night of the back to back, defeat Bulls on buzzer beater. For a Suns team that had lost four in a row but were within five points in the final five minutes in all of them, this was a sweet bit of revenge. After a 10-point third quarter, they fought back with a massive fourth quarter to come from behind and beat the Bulls on Mirza Teletovic‘s offensive rebound and game-winning shot.

For the Bulls, this loss seemed a punch to the gut. Jimmy Butler talked about how the team lacked a killer instinct. The fluctuation between a great defensive third quarter and an abysmal fourth speaks to a lack of identity, and with that a lack of consistent energy by the team. This was a new low point for the Bulls this season.

4) Chris Paul, J.J. Redick return for Clippers in win, but all anyone will talk about is Garnett dunk. If the Clippers are going to find their way back into the elite of the Western Conference and be a real playoff threat, they have some work to do — and they needed to get Chris Paul (rib injury) and J.J. Redick (ankle) back on the floor. They did that just in time to pick up a close win over Minnesota on the road Monday night.

But all anyone will remember from this game was this dunk by Kevin Garnett.

5) Byron Scott decides to bring D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle off the bench, start Lou Williams. I have made the argument more than once that Lakers’ coach Byron Scott needs to play his young trio — Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle — together more and away from Kobe Bryant as much as possible. Oh, and let the kids close games so they can learn to play in that environment.

Scott took a step toward staggering Kobe’s minutes from his young stars Monday, but in classic Scott style found a way to make it look like a punishment and demotion for the young players he is charged with building up. He benched Russell and Randle, starting instead Lou Williams and Larry Nance (who has had a nice rookie season so far but doesn’t have the skills nor ceiling of Randle, who he replaced). The staggering worked in the sense they didn’t play with Kobe a ton. Randle seemed to adjust better, with 15 points and 11 boards, while Russell had nine points on 11 shots, and as many turnovers as assists. 

Laker GM Mitch Kupchak hinted in an interview Monday he is not happy with the pace of player development so far. He shouldn’t be. But whether the Lakers do anything about it before next summer is another question entirely.