Five Takeaways from NBA Tuesday: Sixers set new record for futility

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Is all your Christmas shopping done? Me neither. So I fully understand if you were hitting the shops rather than watching NBA games on Tuesday night, but we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know from a Tuesday night around the Association.

1) Philadelphia sets record for worst 30 game start in NBA history. The 76ers have deflected some of the heat and criticism of their play this season — and the rebuild process that has them worse in the third year of the rebuild than the first — by hiring Jerry Colangelo to make decisions (ones such as putting Mike D’Antoni on the bench or interviewing veterans to help the locker room be more professional). But all that is for optics in the short-term, they don’t want to get too good too fast. The Sixers have a lot of picks coming — they likely have three, maybe four first rounders this June, depending on the lottery ping-pong balls — and they don’t want to start suddenly winning a lot of games and hurting their lottery odds. Not to fear.

With their 104-90 loss to Memphis on Tuesday, the Sixers are 1-29 on the season, the worst 30-game start in NBA history. This far into the season, every team had won two games. Every other team had won three by 46 games, so the Sixers have some work to do before setting a new milestone.

2) Kobe Bryant decides it should be throwback Tuesday, drops 31 on Dallas in Lakers win. Bryant had missed the previous Lakers’ game due to a shoulder injury and was considered a game-time decision on Tuesday, but you wouldn’t have known it watching him. Bryant was living in the midrange but knocking it down from the left side of the floor, he attacked and got to the line 11 times, he hit 9-of-16 contested shots, and seemingly every time the Lakers needed a bucket he was there. Los Angeles won 111-107 against Denver.

3) Coach Rick Carlisle rips Mavericks after they lost to the Raptors. Dallas has been one of the surprise teams of the NBA season, with Dirk Nowitzki finding the fountain of youth and the team around him playing better than expected. Yet they are still basically a .500 team (15-13), and Carlisle didn’t like the mental vacation the team took against the Raptors up in Toronto and let his team have it postgame. From James Herbert of CBSSports.com’s Eye on Basketball:

“We got our asses kicked at the beginning of the game,” Carlisle said. “We knew they were going to come out hard. They did the exact same thing in Dallas. They’re coming off a tough loss. They’re very aggressive by nature. We really knew it, we talked a lot about it and we didn’t handle it well. And it was, frankly, it was embarrassing.”

A reporter asked Carlisle if he was unhappy with the starters, and Carlisle essentially threatened to have them traded.

“Do I look happy?” he said. “I mean, would you be happy? Look, it was a 24-minute, take-you-to-the-beach, kick-your-butt, kick-sand-in-your-face type deal. And then, hey, we come in at halftime and we’re finally pissed, I get on their case and we decide to bust our ass in the third quarter. And we played a hell of a third quarter. But, look, if it’s going to be like that, these guys aren’t going to be Mavericks very long. I can promise you that.”

We’ll see if the message gets through and how Dallas plays in Brooklyn on Wednesday night.

4) Apparently it was highlight dunk night in Miami. The Heat put on a show with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Justise Winslow all throwing down big dunks on the Pistons.

5) Miami put up the highlights, Detroit will take the win. Early on this game had the look and feel of a Miami Heat game of a few seasons ago. Cristiano Ronaldo was sitting courtside, the Heat raced out to a quick 18-point lead, and the Heat players were filling the highlight reels (see above).

But Detroit came back from that deficit with some big second quarter runs, got 18 points out of Reggie Jackson, Andre Drummond had his league-leading 25th double-double, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had seven points in the fourth quarter, and the Pistons got the victory. That’s a quality road win for Detroit.

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
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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.