Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Tristan Thompson saves Cavaliers’ night

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If you missed everything in the NBA Monday because you were bathing in beer at a spa, we understand. We’ve got you covered, here’s what you need to know from a Monday around the Association:

1) With the game on the line, the Cleveland Cavaliers turn to… Tristan Thompson? It worked Monday. This was not a game that left viewers with the sense the Cavaliers have found their groove again — their offense down the stretch was far too much isolation and leaned too heavily on LeBron James, their defense seemed scrambled at times, and it certainly wasn’t pretty. It’s the kind of grinding game good teams find a way to win, however, and the Cavs blue-collar worker Tristan Thompson came through when needed. He had 10 points in the fourth quarter and he put the Cavaliers up two with a little four-footer off a LeBron assist with 39 seconds to go. Then when George Hill tried to drive to tie up the game on the Pacers’ next possession, it was Thompson again to save the day.

Cleveland had a late 7-0 run to secure the 100-96 win. LeBron had 33, Kyrie Irving had 22, and the Cavaliers got a needed win.

2) John Wall puts up 37 to make sure Wizards get a win over Sixers, stay in the playoff chase. Chicago, Charlotte, Indiana, and Detroit are all in a virtual tie for the final three playoff spots in the East — one of those teams is going to be left out of that party. Right now, the Wizards are trying to crash that party and force a couple of teams to be left out — they are 1.5 games back of those four, but Washington has the easiest schedule in the NBA the rest of the way. They just have to make sure they win those “easy” games. Monday night that meant John Wall going off 16 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, helping spark a 16-0 Wizards run in the final frame to help the Wizards come from behind and get the win over lowly Philadelphia. Right now for Washington, a win is a win and they shouldn’t apologize for any of them.

3) That’s the Bucks we hoped for this season: Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Parker all go off in Milwaukee win over Houston. This is the kind of step forward we’d been hoping to see from Milwaukee all season. Jabari Parker: 36 points (a career high), 5 assists, 4 rebounds. Khris Middleton: 30 points, 5 steals, 4 assists. Giannis Antetokounmpo: 18 points, 17 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 steals (we’ll see if the NBA’s reviewed stats let the Greek Freak keep the triple-double, it took his last one away because of some generous hometown scorekeeping as to what qualifies for an assist, and that may have happened again). The Bucks handled a Houston Rockets team that needs wins badly 128-121 and it felt like this was just a sample of what the Bucks could do nightly in the future. Milwaukee answered every scoring barrage James Harden and Dwight Howard could throw at them. It was fun to see — I just hope this wasn’t a one-off and we get to see a lot more of these Bucks down the line.

4) DeMarcus Cousins keeps his cool (barely); Russell Westbrook and Thunder get the win. Stephen Adams was trying to instigate — it’s what he does. He tried to get under players’ skin, and DeMarcus Cousins almost got suckered in by it and did something foolish — he cocked back his arm to throw a punch — but thought better of it and walked away. Adams was called for a penalty, although the Kings got a “delay of game” out of this and I’m not exactly sure for what. Still, good on Cousins for walking away (he did have a technical on the night already, his 14th this season).

In the end, the Thunder’s stars were too much. Kevin Durant had 27, Russell Westbrook finished with 20 points, 15 assists, and 13 rebounds, and the Thunder picked up a win in Sacramento 131-116.

5) The Clippers’ halftime show: Unveil strange new mascot, have Steve Ballmer dunk. Top this, Red Panda. The Los Angeles Clippers, at halftime of their eventual win over Brooklyn, first unveiled their new mascot Chuck The Condor. Which I’m not sure really looks like a condor, or much of anything else.

Not long after this, Chuck dunked off a trampoline.

Then 59-year-old Clippers’ owner Steve Ballmer dunked off a trampoline.

Let’s see Jim Buss top that.

Thunder rookie Holmgren trying to focus on learning NBA during rehab

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren is experiencing the rehab process for the first time.

The No. 2 pick in the 2022 NBA draft suffered a right foot injury during a pro-am game in August while defending as LeBron James drove to the basket on a fast break. He had surgery, and the Thunder declared him out for the season.

“I’ve never had a serious injury in my life, so I didn’t really know, I had nothing to base it off of and compare to,” Holmgren said Thursday. “So when it happened, I had to get it looked at and see how serious it was. I didn’t imagine anything like this.”

Holmgren, a versatile 7-footer who had great moments during summer league, is dealing with being sidelined as the Thunder start training camp this week.

“Definitely something that I really had to put my mind to and spend some time to think on,” he said. “And kind of come to some conclusions on things and really settle my mind so I could kind of stop focusing on what happened and focus in on what’s going to happen, what I’ve got to do to get where I need to be.”

Even without practicing, he has already left an impression on his teammates.

“He’s a great guy,” guard Lu Dort said. “I can already feel a connection with me and the rest of the team. He’s a pretty vocal guy, too. He talks a lot, and that’s good for the team.”

Holmgren said his only workout limitation is that he can’t put weight on the injured foot. So, that forces him to focus on other aspects of the game. Coach Mark Daigneault said Holmgren has been working hard on film study.

“It just comes down to putting my mental energy towards it, learning how to really be a professional in areas off the court,” Holmgren said. “I’ve dedicated so much time to really hustling at my craft on the court. Now, this event is making me step back and kind of rework how how I do things. And one of those ways is to become professional with watching film and speaking with coaches, trying to learn, watching what’s happening and really being engaged, in trying to get better with different avenues.”

Holmgren has spoken with Joel Embiid about his injury. Embiid, the reigning NBA scoring champion, was the No. 3 pick in 2014 before missing his first two seasons with foot issues.

Holmgren hopes he can recover as well as Embiid.

“What I’m trying to do right now is just kind of soak up all the knowledge of how things are done around here, how they’re going to be done going forward,” Holmgren said. “So when I’m ready to get get back in there, I can just kind of seamlessly plug myself in.”

Holmgren is expected to be ready for the start of next season. He said he’s trying to keep his thoughts positive.

“It all comes down to keeping a level head because there’s so many ups and downs,” he said. “Unfortunately, this is a down. But I’ve got to keep my head level and focus on getting better. And no matter what the circumstances are, that’s the goal.”

Daigneault believes Holmgren’s mindset will net positive results.

“We’d like him to be out here,” Daigneault said. “But since he’s not, we’re certainly going to make a lot of investments, and the thing that makes me the most optimistic about that is the approach that he takes.”

Houston acquires 2025 2nd-round pick in eight-player trade with Thunder

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ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski described this as a “cap-centric deal” since it helped the Thunder get around $10 million below the luxury tax, while Houston added a 2nd-round pick by taking on $1 million in cap space.

The Rockets acquired Derrick Favors, Ty Jerome, Moe Harkless, Theo Maledon and a protected 2025 2nd-round pick from the Hawks and sent David Nwaba, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke and Marquese Chriss to Oklahoma City.

The 2nd-rounder from Atlanta is protected 31-40, and it will become the second best 2026 2nd-round pick between the Mavericks, Thunder, and 76ers if it doesn’t convey in 2025.

A tweet from Jackson Gatlin of Locked On Rockets indicates that Houston will also receive $6.3 million in cash from the Thunder.

Previous reports indicated that Derrick Favors was unlikely to remain with the Thunder this season, while Ty Jerome wasn’t participating in training camp as his representatives worked with the team to find an exit strategy for him. Kelly Iko of The Athletic reported that Houston plans to waive Jerome. Harkless was traded for the third time this summer. He was dealt from Sacramento to Atlanta in July as part of the Kevin Huerter deal, and then was shipped to OKC for Vit Krejci earlier this week. Hopefully he’ll be able to settle in with Houston this season.

As he enters his seventh season, this will be the sixth team that Nwaba has suited up for. The journeyman has had a few solid seasons, including averaging 9.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.0 steals for Houston during the 2020-21 season. Among the players in the deal, he’s the most likely candidate to carve out a role on his new team next season.

Brown, Burke, and Chriss were already traded once this summer as part of the deal that said Christian Wood to Dallas. Now, they’ll be depth pieces in Oklahoma City if the team decides to keep them around.

Daily Thunder’s beat writer Brandon Rahbar pointed out that the trade wouldn’t have been possible without the Disabled Player Exception that the Thunder received because of Chet Holmgren’s injury.

Spurs’ Josh Primo out for preseason with left knee MCL sprain

Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs
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Josh Primo is going to get his chance this season. The Spurs are rebuilding — even Gregg Popovich says not to bet on them to win the title — and Primo, entering his second season (and still 19), is one of the most promising young players on their roster, someone with the chance to be part of whatever will be built in San Antonio the future. He just needs more experience.

Unfortunately, he’s going to start this season half a step behind after missing most of training camp due to a sprained left MCL, the team announced Thursday. He is expected to return in time for the season opener, according to the team.

Promo, the No. 12 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, got into 50 games for the Spurs last season and averaged 5.8 points a game but wasn’t very efficient with his shot yet. He also spent a lot of time in the G-League (but then had to miss this past Summer League due to COVID).

With Dejounte Murray now in Atlanta, there is not only a starting spot open but also opportunities to run the offense — Primo is going to get a chance to show what he can do with that. It’s just not going to be for a little while due to his knee sprain.

Anthony Davis ‘excited’ to be Lakers’ No.1 offensive option, LeBron pushing him to do it

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Is Anthony Davis a No.1 offensive option on a championship team?

The Lakers made a massive bet in trading for Davis — both in good young players and picks — that he could help them win a title now and be the bridge to the future post-LeBron James. Davis was everything the Lakers hoped in the bubble and did win them banner No. 17. However, he has not stayed healthy or consistently played up to that standard.

New Lakers coach Darvin Ham is betting on Davis again and is going to run more of the offense through him this season. LeBron James reportedly backs Ham up. Can Davis stay healthy, find that form again and look like that bridge to the future? If he can’t, the Lakers have to reconsider their post-LeBron plans. That’s why there is pressure on Davis this season.

Davis is excited to prove he is ready for the role, he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. He added LeBron is pushing him to do it.

“I’m so excited that I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about this year,” Davis told Yahoo Sports this week. “I’m looking forward to a healthy year and doing what I know we can do.”…

Davis said James, 37, has been in his ear about taking over the reins of the team, while the rest of the roster would follow his lead.

The first step in Davis being that No.1 option: Staying healthy. He played 40 games last season and 36 the season before that. While some of that was due to fluke injuries, the history of Davis missing time is long.

When healthy, Davis is an unquestionably elite player — to use the bubble example, Davis was a defensive force in Orlando who knocked down midrange jumpers after facing up, averaging 27.7 points on a 66.5 true shooting percentage, plus grabbed 9.7 rebounds a game. That is the AD the Lakers need this season.

Which can be a lot of pressure, but Davis said he doesn’t feel that.

“But for me, I’m not putting any pressure on myself at all,” Davis said at media day. “I’m gonna go out there and play basketball, work hard, defend and do what the team needs to win basketball games. I’m not going to overthink and, you know, listen to what everybody else is saying and try to be this ‘whatever’ player they want me to be.”

“Whatever” the Lakers want Davis to be is the Top 10 player in the world he has shown for stretches in Los Angeles. If he can be consistent, that Davis helps the Lakers be more of a threat in the West. If Davis can’t be that guy, it could be another long season for Lakers nation.