Three Things to Know: LeBron James talks to Lonzo Ball and that means… nothing

8 Comments

Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) The Cavaliers beat the Lakers… but who cares because LeBron James talked to Lonzo Ball. Everyone loves a good mystery. Apparently to the point of obsession. Thursday night the NBA got its big unanswered question to obsess over:

What did LeBron James tell Lonzo Ball after the game?

Somehow overshadowing the fact LeBron had a triple-double in leading the Cavaliers past the Lakers in an actual basketball game that counts, the topic of discussion has been LeBron pulling Lonzo Ball aside after the game on the court to talk to him, with LeBron wisely pulling his jersey up over his lips to foil lip readers.

This video will be analyzed like it was the Zapruder film.

When asked what he said, LeBron answered: “None of y’all business.” Good. It’s not.

LeBron is one of the few people on the planet who has been in Ball’s shoes — overhyped coming into the league, drafted and instantly thrown into the role of franchise savior. LeBron has lived up to the hype over his career, he’s been through the wars, and he has advice to pass along. LeBron also has praised Ball’s level-headedness and said he liked what he saw in the rookie’s game. Ball had 13 points and 11 assists Thursday to push a Lakers’ team that did not roll over for the Cavaliers, another game where Ball is showing improvement this season. LeBron likely said some variation of what he’s said publicly — “You have the talent kid, just put in the work, honor the game, and ignore the circus around you.”

That will not stop the speculation, rumors, and conspiracy theories. If the political world has proved one thing in the past year or two, it’s that logic and facts will not stop people from believing what they want to believe.

The “LeBron will come to the Lakers” rumors run so rampant that the man himself skipped talking to the media after shootaround or before the game Thursday just to avoid the ridiculousness. The rumors persist despite reports that call it a “longshot.” They persist despite logic — LeBron (and his agent Rich Paul) have made it clear that winning and chasing more rings will be the priorities in deciding where LeBron plays next season, and even if the Lakers could land LeBron and Paul George they are the third best team in the West right now. “But he bought a new home in Brentwood! He’s coming!” Ugh. One thing is for sure: LeBron is not basing his decision based on anything he saw in a December regular season game.

Still, the postgame conversation was fuel for the conspiracy theorists. Whatever. At least some on Twitter just had fun with it.

2) Kristaps Porzingis leaves Knicks game after tweaking knee, to be examined Friday. The scariest injuries are non-contact ones, so when the Knicks’ star forward Kristaps Porzingis went to the locker room Thursday night with one Knicks’ nation held its breath.

The good news after the game is that Porzingis was standing on his leg without a brace or crutch. Both he and coach Jeff Hornacek said it was not serious. Porzingis will be examined Friday and said he felt a little pain when his knee buckled, so the team is being cautious. Hopefully, this really is nothing, but don’t be shocked if Porzingis is out Saturday when Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder come to Madison Square Garden.

By the way, the Knicks beat the Nets behind 27 points from Courtney Lee.

3) Kevin Durant goes off for 36 points, 11 rebounds in another Warriors’ win.Stephen Curry? We don’t need no stinkin’ Stephen Curry.”

Okay, the Warriors aren’t exactly saying that, but they also are 4-0 without the point guard who was having a monster season but went down with a sprained ankle. The main reason is Kevin Durant. (Well, that and a more focused defense.) Durant went off against the Mavericks, taking control of the offense as he has done since Curry went down, scoring 37 points plus grabbing 11 boards and dishing out 7 assists. The Warriors won comfortably 112-97.

That makes eight straight wins for the Warriors, who statistically are on pace for 67 wins according to Ben Falk’s Cleaning The Glass (if you just extrapolate out the Warriors current record it’s “only” 65 wins).

Celtics assistant coach hit with 15-year show-cause penalty by NCAA

Celtics assistant coach Jerome Allen
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Celtics reportedly suspended assistant coach Jerome Allen about two weeks after he pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe while at Penn.

Now, Allen will have a tougher time if he ever wants to return to college basketball.

Allen was hit a 15-year show-cause penalty after he accepted $300,000 in bribes to get a wealthy Florida businessman’s son into the University of Pennsylvania.

The Quakers, out of the Ivy League, also were slapped by the NCAA with two years of probation, fined $5,000 and given recruiting punishments. Allen’s show-cause penalty is meant to limit a coach’s ability to work in college sports after breaking NCAA rules.

“While Penn Athletics and its men’s basketball program accept the penalties handed down by the NCAA, it is unfortunate that this process did not fully differentiate wrongdoing for personal gain versus wrongdoing for competitive gain in penalizing the institution in addition to the involved individual,” Penn said in a statement. “he University of Pennsylvania was harmed by the actions of its former head coach and the men’s basketball program received no competitive advantage. We are hopeful that this case will lead to changes in how the NCAA processes similar situations moving forward.”

Allen played for the Quakers between 1992–95 and coached the team from 2009–15. He went 66-104 with the Quakers. He was hired by the Boston Celtics in 2015 and remains on the coaching staff.

Allen was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay a fine last July in the college bribery case. Allen received a lenient sentence after testifying for prosecutors against Philip Esformes in a $1 billion Medicare fraud trial. Esformes was convicted in April of 20 counts including money laundering and obstruction of justice and awaits sentencing.

Allen testified that he accepted Esformes’ money to help the businessman’s son, Morris, gain acceptance as a “recruited” basketball player at Penn.

Rumor: Pistons told Lakers that Derrick Rose was unavailable in trade

Pistons guard Derrick Rose vs. Lakers
Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Lakers were interested in trading for Derrick Rose.

Why didn’t the Lakers land the Pistons guard?

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

From what I understand, when the Lakers called the Pistons and expressed an interest in trading for Derrick Rose, the Pistons said, “Hey, we appreciate you calling. But we’re not trading him. Dwane Casey likes him. We think he’s going to be important for us next year.” It’s not even about what the Lakers offered, it wasn’t enough. He wasn’t available.

The Pistons definitely had a high asking price for Rose, who’s locked up for a reasonable $7,682,926 next season. Rose is Detroit’s biggest draw and has a strong bond with Pistons executive Arn Tellem.

If the Pistons absolutely refused to trade Rose, that was an error on their part. They’re going nowhere this year, and it’s far from certain Rose will maintain his production at age 32 next season. Even if he does, the lacking rest of the roster probably won’t create a winner. The trade deadline might have been the time for Detroit to maximize its return from Rose. At the very minimum, it was worth seriously exploring.

But there are several possibilities that should stop you from blindly accepting this report at face value:

  • This might have been a negotiating tactic by the Pistons. Though that approach would have also made it more difficult to negotiate a satisfactory Rose trade, it could have pushed the Lakers into a great offer.
  • Maybe Detroit just didn’t like Los Angeles’ limited collection of tradable assets. Kyle Kuzma isn’t for everyone. What the Lakers interpreted as Rose being unavailable might have been more specific to them than they realized.
  • Perhaps, the Pistons – with Rose still in the fold – leaked this to show their commitment to him. That’d make them look bad in some corners for their stubborn loyalty to an aging veteran. But it’d sure make Rose feel appreciated.
  • Perhaps, the Lakers – who made no in-season trade – leaked this show their commitment to chasing a championship. This shows they tried and paints Detroit as unreasonable. Negotiating trades can be difficult (especially after Kobe Bryant’s untimely death). The Lakers have made only one real trade with Rob Pelinka running the front office, for Anthony Davis. That saga was full of complications. In the end, Los Angeles got Davis, but the Pelicans secured maximum return. If the Lakers look back and regret not adding a helpful player, this report pins blame on the Pistons rather than Lakers management for not getting a deal done.

Collin Sexton puts Josh Richardson on skates for 20 feet (video)

Leave a comment

The 76ers just can’t keep their top players on the floor.

Ben Simmons hurt his back. Joel Embiid hurt his shoulder. And Josh Richardson… got sent flying right off the court by Collin Sexton.

Sexton finished with 28 points in the Cavaliers’ 108-94 win over Philadelphia last night.

Three Things to Know: Joel Embiid goes down, no “next man up” in Philadelphia

Jason Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday during the NBA regular season we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) Joel Embiid goes down, no “next man up” with Philadelphia 76ers. Now for a live look at the state of the Philadelphia 76ers:

Philadelphia went into 16-win Cleveland on Wednesday night and lost in a way that has summed up a disappointing season.

That started with some bad luck: Ben Simmons already was sidelined for at least a couple more weeks with a nerve impingement in his lower back, then on Wednesday Joel Embiid sprained his shoulder when he got tangled up with Cavaliers’ big man Ante Zizic.

Embiid did not return to the game after this, an MRI on Thursday will provide details and a timeline for how long Embiid may be out.

Injuries and bad luck hit every team over the course of 82 games in the NBA, but the elite teams respond. With the best teams, there is a “next man up” mentality that works.

The next man up for the Sixers should have been Al Horford — Philadelphia signed Horford last summer as Embiid insurance. Except Horford scored 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting, continuing a season that has seen him struggle with his shot and not be nearly as effective in general as he had been in Boston (and Atlanta before that).

All the guys that were supposed to step up didn’t: Horford, Tobias Harris, and Josh Richardson combined to score 30 points on 12-of-35 shooting (34.3 percent), including 4-of-14 from three. Shake Milton was the only Sixer getting things done.

Philadelphia lost to Cleveland 108-94, the Sixers seventh straight road loss (they are 9-21 away from home now). The Sixers remain the five seed in the East, unable to catch the stumbling Heat to even get home court in the first round.

Some of that has been bad luck but, on teams like Boston (keep reading down to No. 2 on this list), when one or two players go down, others step up. That has not been Philly this season.

There are more than six weeks before the playoffs start, these are the dog days of the season, and one could make the argument that there is plenty of time for the Sixers to get healthy, get on a little run, and enter the playoffs a dangerous team. But if you’re making that argument right now, you look like a dog, sitting at a table, in a burning house.

2) Meanwhile, Boston is coming together, beat Utah, and went 3-1 on a trip out West. If there’s a team that looks like it can cause problems for Milwaukee in the East — and that remains a big “if” — it feels more and more like that team is Boston.

The Celtics are without their All-Star starter Kemba Walker but, unlike in Philly, they have their next man up in the form of Jayson Tatum. He scored 33 points in a shootout duel with Donovan Mitchell, leading Boston to a 114-103 win in Utah

Boston had its other guys step up: Jaylen Brown had 20 points, Marcus Smart had 17 and keeps making shots in the fourth quarter, and Daniel Theis and the rest of the Celtics’ big men held their own against Rudy Gobert inside (Gobert has not played like his All-Star self of late, but that’s another topic).

Boston just went 3-1 on their West Coast swing, the only loss being a close game against the Lakers at Staples. The Celtics are coming together at the right time, and more than winning things just feel cohesive with this team. Our own Keith Smith summed it up well.

3) Trae Young blocks Mo Bamba’s shot at the rim. Trae Young is 6’1” and — to put it very kindly — is not exactly known for his defense.

Orlando’s Mo Bamba is 7’0” and was drafted to be the future at center in Orlando.

Watch Young block Bamba at the rim (by going behind him, but it’s still a smart play).

Good on Trae Young for the hustle, but this sums up a whole lot about Bamba to me.