Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: Warriors keep rolling, so do Spurs

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If you didn’t watch the NBA’s slate of games Wednesday because you were trying to solve the rash of cheese thefts in Wisconsin, we get it. We got you covered. Here’s what you need to know from a Wednesday around the NBA:

1) It was Klay Thompson’s turn to have a big night, drops 45 on Dallas in Warriors’ win (and 72-wins doesn’t sound crazy). Stephen Curry had just 14 points. Draymond Green had zero points in the first half and 10 for the game. It doesn’t matter against the Warriors, all that just meant it was Klay Thompson’s turn to go off — 45 points. It was the second time this season he topped 40. Thompson had 26 points in the first half while the rest of the Warriors seemed to be napping, and for the game was 14-of-20 shooting. He was the very model of efficiency — seven of his shots came at the rim (hitting six), and 12 of his shots were from three (he made seven), just one shot was in the “midrange” and even that was in the paint near the elbow.

With the win the Warriors are 42-4, they need to go 30-6 the rest of the way to tie the 95/96 Bulls’ record of 20 wins. While the schedule does get tougher and there is a long way to go, that could happen.

2) San Antonio goes home, gets comfortable, destroys Houston by 31. The Spurs team that got blown out by the Warriors Monday was unrecognizable — when was the last time you saw a San Antonio team lose its poise and get sucked into the other team’s style of play like that? The Spurs went back to San Antonio (where they have yet to lose a game this season), took a shower to wash off that loss, then came out and dismantled the Houston Rockets, 130-99. San Antonio looked like itself again. The Spurs put up a season-high 69 points in the first half and owned this one from the start. LaMarcus Aldridge put up a game-high 25 points, plus had 10 rebounds and five assists, while Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green each scored 18 points. Houston couldn’t get stops, which let the Spurs get back and set their defense, and with that, it was all over fast.

3) Karl-Anthony Towns knows how to finish. Oklahoma City won the game (by three), but the leading Rookie of the Year candidate had the highlight of the night — he finished a dunk through Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. That was impressive.

4) Tyronn Lue (all of 2-1 as a head coach) and Gregg Popovich are your All-Star Game coaches. Both of these became official in the past 24 hours — the coach of the team with the best record in the conference come Feb. 1 gets to coach the All-Star Game. In the West, that best record belongs to the Warriors, but Steve Kerr did it last season so the job falls to the coach of the team with the second-best record, and that is the Spurs. This will be Popovich’s fourth turn at the All-Star coaching chair.

Out East, the Cavaliers have the best record. It doesn’t matter that David Blatt coached the team to a 30-11 record — he was fired, he’s not the coach of an NBA team right now. Tyronn Lue is the Cavs’ coach, and while he’s done nothing but say Blatt deserves this honor it is Lue who gets to be the coach in Toronto. It’s a little awkward and strange, but welcome to coaching in the NBA.

5) The Cavaliers put on a show and one of their youngest fans loved it. Cleveland toyed with Phoenix on Wednesday and put together some highlights for SportsCenter in the process. Specifically, LeBron James and J.R. Smith were a highlight machine. First, there was this:

Then came LeBron returning the favor — and one young Cavaliers fan loved it.

Suns, Crowder agree he will sit out training camp while they seek a trade

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Jae Crowder wants out of Phoenix and the Suns have been looking for a trade to accommodate that.

It hasn’t come together, so the Suns and Crowder agreed he should sit out training camp while they find one (this team does not need another distraction in camp).

We knew this was coming because Crowder himself announced it a couple of days ago. While he deleted the Tweet, nothing ever completely disappears online.

Two quick thoughts on this news.

First, it means Cameron Johnson will start at the four, something that was likely anyway as the Suns look to add shooting to help space the floor.

Second, this news does not help the Suns’ leverage in getting a trade. It’s understandable that Crowder didn’t want to be in camp and that the Suns didn’t want the distraction, but now everyone knows the pressure on the Suns to get a deal done and they will lowball their offer.

There are a few potential landing spots out there. Crowder hinted online he would welcome a return to Miami, and the Heat need help at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly. The Heat would base a trade around Duncan Robinson, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig or after Jan. 15  — and that seems unlikely.

Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Boston (but it’s tough to make the salaries match up), and even a team like Minnesota could work. The challenge is the Suns are a win-now team and will want a player who can help them this season and all those teams are in the same space. Right now there may not be an offer available. As camps open and teams start to understand what they do and don’t have, a deal could come together.

Crowder will be home waiting for that to happen, not with the Suns team.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says Stephen Curry is the best player in the world

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the top of pretty much every “best player in the world” list right now.

Except his own.

For Antetokounmpo, the best player in the world is the one that leads his team to the title, so today, it is Stephen Curry (hat tip to Lance Allen of NBC Milwaukee).

It’s easy to see where Antetokounmpo is coming from, but basketball is a team game. The best player may not be on the best team, despite his skill set, and that team may not win. Curry was spectacular in leading the Warriors to their fourth banner since he arrived, he’s near the top of the best in the world list, but it’s not all about winning.

The takeaway from what Antetokounmpo said is how much he wants to win — he wants a second ring.

The Bucks enter the season as one of the favorites to win that ring, but it’s going to take a lot of things going right for that to happen.

Including Antetokounmpo showing he is the best player in the world.

 

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

Pregame of Philadelphia 76ers vs Miami Heat
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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.

 

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.