Three things we learned on Monday: The New York Knicks know drama

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It was a light NBA schedule with just three games, so as not to distract from Clemson’s comeback, but the Knicks never give up the spotlight easily.

1) Derrick Rose goes AWOL, Phil Jackson doesn’t talk, and the Knicks are still the Knicks.
Drama — often unnecessary drama — just follows the Knicks around. They are their own reality series, throw in a “tribal council” and some tiki torches and you’ve got a hit.

Monday night the Knicks had a chance to snap their recent slide when they took on the Pelicans, but the news became about point guard Derrick Rose — he just didn’t show up for the game. He had been at shootaround Monday afternoon, but when he didn’t show up for the game the team was left scrambling. Team executives didn’t know where he was, they were calling him but to no avail. Nobody seemed to know where he went.

After the game, Rose’s long-time teammate Joakim Noah was able to get in touch with him and find out he was okay. Rose reportedly texted other friends he was fine as well, and the organization had some level of contact with him and told the media he had a “family situation.” The good news is that Rose is safe. However, “family situation” is vague (and something the media will be careful with, NBA players are people with real lives, and not all of that needs to be public). We don’t know what happened yet, the Knicks themselves don’t seem to know.

The reality is two possible things are going on here.

One, Rose did have some kind of family crises that required his attention (and reported return to Chicago). In his haste to deal with the situation, Rose didn’t bother to contact the team. While that is a fairly big oversight — it’s not just Rose who didn’t call the team, it was those close to him as well — it is possible. Even coach Jeff Hornacek said after the game the organization didn’t have enough information to say what had happened.

Second, Rose is frustrated and quit on his team. Rumors of Rose being frustrated with his role have been making the rounds in the league for weeks. Rose has put up decent numbers this season for the Knicks (17.3 points per game) and is moving better than he has in years, but don’t confuse that with him being so good he should be a key focal point of the Knicks offense — New York is 1-12 when Rose takes 17 shots or more. This needs to be Kristaps Porzingis’ team — he is their best player now. Rose was benched in the fourth quarter against Milwaukee Friday because the undrafted Ron Baker was playing better — and the Knicks came from behind to win that game. Rose and Hornacek’s relationship is reportedly getting tense because of how Rose is being used. Did Rose just decide to walk away in frustration?

If he did just walk, Rose needs to be done in New York. You can’t just walk away. His teammates and the organization should not tolerate that — lord knows Knicks fans won’t. Those people value effort and hard work.

Most likely it will be spun as the former, regardless of reality. Rose will be back playing point guard for the Knicks soon enough. However, between this, Rose missing training camp to deal with a civil rape trial (of which Rose was found not liable), plus his play this season, the entire situation has the feeling of a one-and-done with Rose and New York (he is on a one-year contract). The Knicks don’t need the added drama.

One other thought here: Where was Phil Jackson in all of this? On almost any other team the team GM/President — who was in the building — would at least make a statement to the media about what was going on, not just throw his coach out there to deal with it (Hornacek was busy coaching a game, he had little information about what was happening). Jackson went out and got Rose and Noah this summer — a win now move, rather than a slower build for the future around Porzingis — so this is his guy. Jackson should be the one addressing the situation.

2) Also in New York, Anthony Davis put up 40 and showcased his skills, while Carmelo Anthony got tossed. Rose’s disappearing act overshadowed Anthony Davis dropping 40 and looking every bit the top-five NBA player that he is. The Pelicans won 110-96, and it wasn’t that close, thanks to Davis.

Carmelo Anthony didn’t want to stick around for this disaster and got himself ejected.

3) Russell Westbrook outduels ailing Jimmy Butler to get Thunder win. This felt like it could have been a showdown, but it ended up being more of a showcase. Jimmy Butler wasn’t feeling well, and having Andre Roberson draped all over him certainly didn’t help matters — Butler shot just 0-of-6 from the floor. Without him, the Bulls didn’t stand a chance — not with Russell Westbrook doing Russell Westbrook things. He had 21 points, 14 assists, and nine rebounds, plus shot 50 percent from the field.

However, the real difference was in the front court — the Thunder were far more athletic and talented, outworked the Bulls frontline, and that decided the game. Steven Adams’ 22 points led the Thunder in scoring, while Enes Kanter came off the bench for 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting, plus he pulled down 11 rebounds. The Thunder were +24 points in the paint, they owned the inside, and that was the biggest difference Monday night.

Watch Jerry West’s emotional memories of trading for/his relationship with Kobe Bryant

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Jerry West has never understood why people thought he was brilliant for recognizing the talent of a 17-year-old Kobe Bryant coming out of high school. To him it was obvious.

If it had been obvious (and if that era had not frowned on the development that came with drafting high school players), Kobe wouldn’t have been a Laker, and NBA history might be very different.

For West, Kobe was not just another player, he was like a son. West talked about it on the well done TNT special commemorating Kobe Tuesday night.

What those neatly packaged TNT clip does not show is just how difficult and emotional it was for West to talk about Kobe.

West has had a life of incredible highs, but also more lows and pain than many — abused by his father and battling depression his entire life — and this is another emotional tax on the NBA legend.

Joel Embiid returns to Philadelphia rotation after nine-game absence

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When you saw the image of Joel Embiid‘s dislocated ring finger facing a direction no finger should face, you knew he was going to miss some time (even though he had it taped up and returned to that game). Embiid had surgery to repair a torn radial collateral ligament on the ring finger of his left hand. Ultimately he missed nine games while he recovered.

Tuesday night against the Warriors, Embiid will be back.

He will have a soft wrap on his left hand that has been cleared by the league.

Philadelphia went 6-3 while Embiid was out.

Ben Simmons stepped up — in his last five games (before Tuesday) he averaged 24 points a game on 70.6 percent shooting, plus 10 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game. Without Embiid in the paint or taking up touches, Simmons took over the offense and looked much more comfortable in his role.

However, the Sixers’ offensive rating in those nine Embiid-less games was 104.9, 29th in the NBA (even in the last five it was 103.2, still 29th in the league). Simmons may have been playing better but the offense was not.

When Simmons and Embiid share the court this season, their offensive rating is 106.7 — not great, but better than without Embiid playing.

Victor Oladipo returns to Pacers Wednesday, likely off bench with minutes limit

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Indiana has gone 30-17 this season and sits as the five seed in the Eastern Conference — and Wednesday they get their best player back.

Victor Oladipo — the former Most Improved Player and All-NBA team member who has been out for most of a year with a right quad tendon rupture — practiced with the Pacers on Tuesday and, as expected, will make his return to the court Wednesday night against the Bulls.

Coach Nate McMillan would not say how he planned to use Oladipo but, considering the minutes limit, off the bench seems the most likely move. McMillan said the team would revisit the minutes and role after the All-Star break.

While Milwaukee has separated itself atop the East, the next five teams — Miami, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Indiana — are all within 2.5 games of each other and could end up in any order. If Oladipo can return close to the All-NBA form he was in prior to his injury, the Pacers become a big threat to break out of that group. If nothing else, they become a much tougher out in the postseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo out for Bucks-Wizards (shoulder)

Giannis Antetokounmpo
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Giannis Antetokounmpo is on track to repeat as Most Valuable Player.

So, any game he misses is notable.

Bucks:

Expect to see more Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson. With the trade deadline approaching, this could even be a showcase game for Wilson.

Milwaukee is still favored over the Wizards. The Bucks have outscored opponents by 7.8 points per possession without Antetokounmpo this season. They’re deep.

Of course, anything can happen. It’s only one game in a long NBA regular season.

Which might something to do with Antetokounmpo sitting. Even if he plays in Milwaukee’s next game, vs. the Nuggets on Friday, he’ll get six straight days off. That’s a nice break.