Associated Press

Five Takeaways from NBA Thursday: Tony Parker, Spurs’ bench spark win over Cavs

Leave a comment

We had the first in a string of games coming up between the NBA’s powerhouses — Cleveland at San Antonio. But if your significant other forced you to watch American Idol, I feel for you. We can help. Here is what you need to know from a Thursday night around the Association.

1) Cavaliers get off to fast start, but relentless San Antonio wears down Cleveland to get win, remain perfect at home. It’s hard not to try to draw conclusions from this game about what would happen if this were the NBA Finals matchup (a real possibility), even though six months from now these both will be different teams. This was more of a benchmark for where they are now — and at the start Cleveland looked great. Their combination of athleticism and free-flowing offense had them race out to a 12-2 lead to start the game. Seconds into the second quarter the Cavaliers led 35-20 after an Iman Shumpert jumper. That was as good as it got for them, the Spurs walked the Cavaliers down, passed them in the fourth and got the win. Here are the three things I would take away from this game and keep in mind for future meetings.

The Cavaliers got away from the ball movement they had in the first quarter (an improved Spurs’ defense had something to do with that). Cleveland had six assists on 13 baskets in the first quarter, and then nine assists on the 25 buckets they had the rest of the game. Combine the lack of ball movement with solid Spurs positioning on defense (and a guy like Kawhi Leonard, who can make LeBron James work for his 22 points), and you got a Cavaliers team that settled for jumpers rather than attack the rim (and draw fouls or get easier shots).

Tony Parker outdueled Kyrie Irving. I’m not sure if that’s sustainable — Irving is getting better each game still in his return from knee surgery — but if Parker can keep things close that’s good news for the Spurs. Remember that the Cavs were the last team to beat the Spurs in San Antonio and Irving went off for 57 in that game — he can swing these games by himself. Thursday night Parker played good defense on him (Irving had 16 points on 17 shots) plus had a team-high 24 points himself. This season San Antonio is asking Parker to do less than he did in the motion offense championship days just a couple of seasons back, and he is responding by looking less tired and coming through with big games when they need him.

David West sparked a Spurs bench that won the game. This is what you hope for from veterans such as West — the Spurs needed a spark off the bench and West had 13 points in 18 minutes. West hit some key fourth quarter buckets, and he led a bench that got the Spurs back in the game and helped them take the lead in the fourth. This is the one takeaway that might worry the Cavaliers looking ahead to a series — the Spurs have had arguably the best bench in the NBA this season and the Cavaliers will have to keep that gap close to win four of seven games. Cleveland couldn’t do that Thursday night.

2) Jimmy Butler drops career-high 53 to lead the Bulls past the Sixers in overtime. If you want to be negative — as some Bulls fans are prone to be — and say it’s concerning that Chicago needed an epic performance and OT to beat the lowly Sixers, go ahead. I would counter with two things. First, it’s a long season, the Sixers have played better of late, teams have flat nights, and you take the wins where you can get them. Second, just enjoy what Jimmy Butler did — the man was incredible. He played the game’s final 37 minutes straight because Fred Hoiberg couldn’t afford to take him out.

3) Mario Chalmers hit a ridiculous game winner to lift Memphis over Detroit. This end of game sequence may not be the most aesthetically beautiful thing you will ever see, but Mario Chalmers has never feared the moment (going back to Kansas), and he drained another big shot in a career full of them.

4) Stephen Curry threw down just his second dunk of the season. This, and a fond farewell to Kobe Bryant from the Oracle Arena crowd, were the only two things worth noting from the Warriors win over the Lakers Thursday night.

5) Rudy Gay game winner lifts Kings past Jazz. They have playoff dreams in Sacramento this season, but if the Kings are going to make the dance for the first time in nine years they need to beat the team they are trying to catch — like eight seed Utah. Gay made that happen with a good-look elbow jumper for the game winner. (The Kings are now just one game back of the Jazz for the final playoff slot in the West.)

Report: Lakers have interest in Joakim Noah

Getty
1 Comment

The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly interested in Dwight Howard. He has not yet been bought out by the Memphis Grizzlies, but a return to L.A. for Howard would be one of the most Lakers things of all time.

Howard infamously left Los Angeles under an auspicious circumstances in 2013 after things went south during the 2012-13 season between him, Kobe Bryant, and Steve Nash. He signed with the Houston Rockets that summer.

But Howard is not the only aging center under consideration by the Lakers. According to Shams Charania, Los Angeles is also considering adding Joakim Noah to their roster.

Via Twitter:

DeMarcus Cousins’ ACL injury has created a dearth of center depth for the Lakers, one that cannot be easily filled quickly. There aren’t a lot of available players left, and Los Angeles doesn’t have much to help facilitate a trade.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis need some help moving forward if they want to go deep into the Western Conference playoffs, and having only JaVale McGee playing at the center position won’t help them do that. They need to add somebody, but Howard or Noah being the answer to that is a scary proposition for a team with championship hopes.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar didn’t like how Bruce Lee was portrayed by Quentin Tarantino

Getty
2 Comments

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was friends with Bruce Lee before the actor’s tragic death in 1973. He was his teacher, pal, and co-star in in 1972’s Game of Death. Naturally, Abdul-Jabbar is protective of his friend’s legacy, and he’s not too happy about the way Lee was portrayed in Quentin Tarantino’s latest film.

Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is a meandering, beautiful, boring tribute to the film industry as it was changing at the end of the 1960s. It’s worth seeing just as a thing to look at, but the narrative — or lack thereof — is plodding, and the ending harkens back to a kind of transposed version of Inglourious Basterds that leaves you wondering what the point of making the film was in the first place.

Somewhere in the middle of its 2h 45m runtime, there’s an extended scene in Once Upon A Time where Brad Pitt’s character Cliff fights Bruce Lee. Why? Probably because Tarantino wanted to pay tribute to Lee being an important part of that era, and because Tarantino is so untouchable that nobody can tell him to leave extemporaneous scenes on the cutting room floor.

Instead, what Tarantino’s tribute scene appears to have done is angered Abdul-Jabbar along with members of Lee’s family.

In an article penned in The Hollywood Reporter this week, Abdul-Jabbar called Lee’s portrayal “sloppy” and “somewhat racist”.

Via THR:

Quentin Tarantino’s portrayal of Bruce Lee in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood does not live up to this standard. Of course, Tarantino has the artistic right to portray Bruce any way he wants. But to do so in such a sloppy and somewhat racist way is a failure both as an artist and as a human being.

The John Wayne machismo attitude of Cliff (Brad Pitt), an aging stuntman who defeats the arrogant, uppity Chinese guy harks back to the very stereotypes Bruce was trying to dismantle. Of course the blond, white beefcake American can beat your fancy Asian chopsocky dude because that foreign crap doesn’t fly here.

Lee’s family, including daughter Shannon, has also spoken up about how Lee was portrayed in the film. In an interview with The Wrap, Shannon Lee said that, “He comes across as an arrogant asshole who was full of hot air.”

Once Upon A Time is a forgettable movie wrapped in the trappings of modern prestige media, where viewers are either unable separate production value from content, or unwilling to do so. It is beautiful, and the people involved are heavy hitters. But halfway through, the viewer is left asking “What’s the plot of this movie?” and that question remains until the final 15 minutes, when the inevitable, telegraphed ending finally, mercifully closes the story and the end credits roll.

Meanwhile, in true Tarantino form, his indulgences have created a mini-storm around one of his films in the most unnecessary way. An ill-conceived and executed scene that added nothing but length to Once Upon A Time has turned into a grating talking point for people like Abdul-Jabbar and Shannon Lee.

Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor to host ‘NBA Countdown’

Getty
2 Comments

Things just keep getting better for NBA fans when it comes to national TV broadcasts.

It was announced in August that TNT would be doing away with the “Players Only” broadcast that appeared on NBA TV. Those broadcast crews were roundly criticized as being meandering and uninformed when it came to the product on the floor.

Now fans are getting more of what they want in the form of Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor.

According to a report from Richard Deitsch, Nichols and Taylor will be the hosts of ESPN’s pregame show, NBA Countdown.

Paul Pierce and Chauncey Billups Won’t return as analysts on the pregame show next year, leaving just Jalen Rose. That means there are a couple of spots open, and we don’t yet know who ESPN will fill them with. Nichols will reportedly continue to host her regular show “The Jump”.

As the league continues to get more popular, it makes sense that broadcast partners listen to the audience. Nichols is an NBA favorite, so having her be more visible makes a lot of sense.

NBA players roast Kyle Kuzma over outfit posted to Instagram (PHOTOS)

Instagram
2 Comments

Kyle Kuzma is going to be expected to have a big year for the Los Angeles Lakers. He thinks he can have the impact of a third star for L.A., a team that didn’t add Kawhi Leonard to go alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis this summer.

That’s big talk from Kuzma, but perhaps that talk has boosted his confidence a little bit. In a photo posted to Instagram this week, Kuzma could be seen wearing… whatever this is.

Via Twitter:

Twitter had a great time with Kuzma outfit, which looks like something pulled straight out of an early 2000s episode of TRL.

Kuzma’s contemporaries in the NBA thought he was getting a little wild with it, too, with several hopping onto the post to roast the Lakers big man.

Via Twitter:

I don’t know what this means for the upcoming Lakers season, but I’m sure it’s something interesting.