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Three Things We Learned Monday: DeMar DeRozan putting up 35 a game without threes

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It’s still very early in the NBA season — we’re still watching small sample size theater — but we are starting to learn some things. Here is what we learned on Sunday while deciding maybe not to hand out those last couple packets of Skittles to the little kids because damn, they are good…. 

1) DeMar DeRozan is averaging 35 points a game — and has yet to hit a three. Toronto held off Denver north of the border Monday night in a game that required 33 points from DeMar DeRozan and 29 from Kyle Lowry — the Raptors gold-medal, All-Star backcourt just keeps getting it done, and the Raptors are 2-1 (with the only loss a close one to Cleveland).

DeRozan is averaging 35 points a game through three this season and is doing it old-school — he has yet to hit a three, and he has dished out only four assists. Brook Lopez has attempted more threes than DeRozan. He’s just putting his head down and getting to his spots — and it’s working. For now. He’s shooting 53.8 percent through three games with an impressive (and career best) true shooting percentage of 59.6. Look at his shot chart and you see a guy finishing at the rim (12-of-15 inside the restricted area) and in the midrange on the right side of the court.

DeRozan shotchart

It works because most modern NBA defenses want to protect the rim, run opponents off the three-point line, and try to contest but give up the midrange. DeRozan is old school and can just beat you from there. And we do mean old-school.

Can DeRozan keep these numbers up? It’s tempting to say no on the face of it, but last season he made a three about every other game and averaged just four assists a night (he’s at 1.3 a game now) — he’s done this before. That scoring average is going to come down a little this season, but on the whole, he can likely keep this up.

At least until the playoffs start.

2) Eight players from the 2013 NBA draft got rookie contract extensions. Monday at midnight was the deadline for teams and players from the 2013 NBA Draft Class — one of the weaker classes in years — to get extensions to their rookie deals. In the end, eight did, and here are the numbers, all of them four-year deals:

C.J. McCollum (Portland): $107 million
Rudy Gobert (Utah): $102 million
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee): $100 million
Steven Adams (Oklahoma City): $100 million
Victor Oladipo (Oklahoma City): $84 million
Gorgui Dieng (Minnesota): $64 million
Dennis Schroder (Atlanta): $62-70 million
Cody Zeller (Charlotte): $56 million

Best deal for the team may be the Bucks getting Antetokounmpo for a little less than the max — but to do that they did not give him (or get him to take) a fifth year. That means he’s a free agent a little sooner, something the Bucks could regret. Gobert also took a little less and could have pushed for more.

Remember, most of the guys who did not get an extension will be restricted free agents next summer — their teams have the right to match offers. Teams only are likely to lock up true cornerstone players (Antetokounmpo, Gobert, etc.) or guys they can get on what they see is a good deal (Dieng, Zeller).

The No. 1 pick in the 2013 Draft was Anthony Bennett, who is getting another shot with the Nets this season but who was never in consideration for an extension (he is in consideration for worst No. 1 pick ever, which is one of many reasons Chris Grant is no longer the Cavaliers GM). The next highest pick without an extension is Otto Porter in Washington, the Wizards are wisely going to let the market set his value. Same with the Sixers and Nerlens Noel — maybe they want to keep him, but they need to see how he fits with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and the rest of their young front line. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope wanted more than $20 million a season from Detroit, Stan Van Gundy likes him but wisely didn’t agree to pay that. Caldwell-Pope is now playing for his payday next summer.

3) Paul Pierce as Rick James is the best NBA Halloween costume.
There is no debate — he wore it on the Clippers’ bench during the game.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.

How corrosive is tension between James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston?

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Golden State is not going to be contending for a title next season. Sorry Stephen, but you’re just not.

That throws open the doors to the West crown and, eventually, the NBA title, and teams will be lining up to take their shots. The Lakers just added Anthony Davis to go with LeBron James. Denver should improve and is looking for wing help. Utah feels just one playmaker away. The Clippers are big game hunting, and if they land one they become a threat.

Houston, however, should be at the front of that line… if they don’t shoot themselves in the foot. Contract extension talks with coach Mike D’Antoni are stalled, and at ESPN Tim MacMahon put together a fascinating inside look at the tension between at his isolation-heavy and at his peak James Harden and the intense but declining Chris Paul.

But Paul noticeably lost a step last season, as evidenced by analytics and the eye test. Paul pushed for more plays and sets in the Houston offense, more screening and deception, despite Harden being in the process of putting together a historically dominant individual offensive season.

“Chris wants to coach James,” says a source familiar with the stars’ dynamic. “James looks at him like, ‘You can’t even beat your man. Just shut up and watch me.'”…

It has reached a point, team sources say, where Paul cherishes the chance to play without Harden on the floor. On several occasions, according to team sources, Paul barked at D’Antoni to keep Harden on the bench while he was running the second unit. Harden simultaneously would lobby — or demand — to check back into the game.

There’s tension there, but is it corrosive to the point of the team unraveling? Or, as GM Daryl Morey and everyone else with the Rockets says, is this just blown out of proportion? Time will tell.

Two things to point out.

First, tension between two stars and alpha personalities is far from new in the NBA (or any other professional sport), and it does not mean a team is in trouble. These things can be worked out, they just flared up more in the wake of the round two loss to the Warriors.

Second, these guys are stuck with each other. Obviously, the Rockets aren’t trading Harden. They would be open to trading CP3, but at age 34 and owed $124 million over three more seasons, there are no takers (unless the Rockets want to throw in a sweetener, which they don’t). The players around them may change, the coach could change, but Harden and Paul have years left together.

This team is so close to a title, it’s hard to envision them really coming apart at the seams next season. These guys are too professional for that… although in wild NBA crazier things have happened.

Report: Bucks trying to trade Tony Snell or Ersan Ilyasova with draft-pick sweetener

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Coming off their best season in decades, the Bucks will send four quality players into free agency – Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic.

How will Milwaukee keep its core intact?

Maybe by unloading Tony Snell ($11,592,857 salary next season, $12,378,571 player option the following season) or Ersan Ilyasova ($7 million salary next season, $7 million unguaranteed the following season).

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

With Bird Rights for Middleton, Brogdon and Mirotic, Milwaukee faces no salary-cap restrictions on keeping just those three. The only cost is real dollars, including potential luxury-tax payments.

It’s trickier with Lopez. Giving him the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (which projects to be about $9 million) – the most they can pay without opening cap space – would hard-cap the Bucks at a projected team salary of about $138 million. That could be a difficult line to stay under.

Unless Snell or Ilyasova are off the books.

Neither player has a desirable contract, which is why Milwaukee is shopping them with a draft pick attached. But both can still contribute. Ilyasova is a smart veteran power forward who shoots well from outside and takes a lot of charges. Snell is also a good outside shooter, and though his all-around game is lacking, there’s a dearth of helpful wings around the league.

The Bucks have the No. 30 pick in Thursday’s draft. They could select on behalf of another team then trade the draft rights. The Stepien rule applies only to future drafts.

Beyond that pick, Milwaukee is short on tradable draft picks. The Bucks have already traded two protected future first-round picks and their next three second-rounders. Dealing another first-rounder would require complex protections. Perhaps, a distant second-rounder is enough.

It’s important for Milwaukee to figure this out. Giannis Antetokounmpo likes this core group, and everyone is watching his level of satisfaction with the Bucks as his super-max decision approaches.

Toronto police: Shots fired at Raptors championship parade

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Latest Update: via the Toronto police:

Update: Toronto police:

 

 

The Raptors’ championship parade was interrupted by a scary situation.

Toronto Police:

Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star:

Especially in large crowds like this, chaos and confusion can spread quickly. Hopefully, everyone is OK.

The scene was quite strange, as speeches were interrupted while people in sections of the crowd fled:

The Raptors are continuing their speeches now.