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Three Things to Know: Here are your 2018 All-Stars… now let’s talk snubs, it’s more fun

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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) All-Star reserves selected, and there are some serious snubs (particularly in the West). As sports fans, we like to talk about who got screwed/left out more than who actually deserved something. We argue about who is 69th in the NCAA Tournament and should have gotten in, because that is more fun than saying “well, they had that mid-season slump, lost to good teams, and weren’t getting out of the first day anyway” even if that’s the reality.

This year’s NBA All-Star selections played right into that. There was no way to make the All-Star selections and not snub people — particularly in the loaded Western Conference. Last summer the NBA’s talent pool got in a covered wagon and headed West young man, to the point that even with injuries opening up spots (Kawhi Leonard) some guys were going to get left out.

NBA coaches picked the reserves, and those were announced Tuesday. Here are your 2018 NBA All-Star teams:

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Starters: Stephen Curry (captain), James Harden, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins.
Reserves: Russell Westbrook, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Jimmy Butler, LaMarcus Aldridge, Draymond Green, Karl-Anthony Towns

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Starters: LeBron James (captain), Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid.
Reserves: Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, Al Horford, Kevin Love

Remember that this year the captains — LeBron and Curry — will select the teams in a playground-style draft (first from the pool of other starters, then the reserves). They can choose whoever they want regardless of conference — if LeBron wants to fuel rumors he’s headed to Houston he can choose James Harden first. This draft would be an awesome idea — if it were televised. But to spare feelings, it will not be (the NHL did it with the players standing right there, and somehow they survived). The NBA blew that one.

Who got snubbed? The Clippers’ Lou Williams has had a career-best season and carried that team to the edge of the playoffs despite a rash of injuries.

Paul George deserved a spot. Russell Westbrook made his case.

Andre Drummond was the odd-man out in the frontcourt rotations in the East (the coaches went with four guards in the reserves).

A couple of those guys will get in when players who make the team bow out due to injuries in the next couple of weeks (the game is Feb. 18 in Los Angeles). It happens every year (the injuries are usually minor, but for veterans who have been there before a few times they are happy to stay home with their families and recuperate). But that’s not fun to talk about either, so who else do you think got snubbed?

2) Before he went off on All-Star selections, Russell Westbrook went off on Nets and hit game winner. Want a good test for which fans are not really paying attention to the NBA this season? It’s the ones that say, “The Nets suck, why couldn’t we blow them out?” The Nets are not deep with talent, but they are scrappy, play smart and hard, and do not go quietly into that good night. They give everyone trouble.

That’s what happened with the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday. The Nets battled, and it took a Russell Westbrook game winner to save OKC’s bacon.

Even then, the embodiment of the Nets Spencer Dinwiddie — a point guard who battled his way into the league, got his chance, and is not letting go — almost won it for the Nets.

Brooklyn has a lot of tough losses this season, which in itself is a moral victory. And they’ve racked up enough wins to piss off Cavaliers fans. Brooklyn — with injuries to D’Angelo Russell for most of the season and Jeremy Lin for all of it — have gotten as much out of their talent as could be hoped for this season.

3) LeBron James became the youngest player in NBA history to get to 30,000 points. Could he catch Kareem? Early in the Cavaliers ugly loss to the Spurs Tuesday — a game that had a stark difference in execution levels, speaking to all things wrong in Cleveland — LeBron James became only the eighth player in NBA history to pass the 30,000 point mark. It’s another milestone in an all-time great career (and he got a nice ovation from the hoops-smart San Antonio crowd).

Some are now asking, can he catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time points lead? If he wants to, yes. The question is how much does he want to. LeBron ended Tuesday night with 30,021 regular season points, which is still 8,366 behind Kareem. The last two seasons in Cleveland, LeBron has averaged just more than 1,900 points a season. If he can stay healthy and roughly keep up that scoring pace — he just turned 33 — it will take about four more seasons after this one to get near Kareem.

LeBron could get there, but the reality is he’ll have to play five more NBA seasons at an All-Star level racking up a lot of points (and again, staying healthy). He could do that, I have no doubt. Whether he will want to, or whether he will step away from the game before then, is the question. He has the drive to get there, but he’s also someone who will want to step away with his game near his peak, not fade into his later years and see himself as a role player. There’s a lot of factors at play, including his family and if he is contending for more rings (what really matters to him), but if he wants the record, he could get it.

Report: Kings, Hawks could pass on Luka Doncic if Suns don’t take him No. 1

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Luka Doncic or Deandre Ayton?

That’s the question many NBA fans are asking themselves, but according to one report it’s not the only thing several teams in the Top 3 of the 2018 NBA Draft are thinking about.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony says that while the Phoenix Suns may still be considering taking Doncic with their No. 1 overall pick, the Sacramento Kings (2) and Atlanta Hawks (3) are not.

The Kings and Hawks are reportedly leaning toward taking an American frontcourt player, which would point us toward guys like Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson, and Mo Bamba.

Via ESPN:

The growing consensus among NBA decision-makers in attendance at Stark Arena in Belgrade is that the teams drafting behind the Phoenix Suns at No. 1, the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks are likely to pass on European prodigy in favor of American frontcourt players. The question remains whether a team will trade up into the top three to snag Doncic, or if he will fall to the No. 4 (Memphis) or even the No. 5 pick (Dallas) after being heavily scouted in the Euroleague playoffs against Panathinaikos and mostly struggling.

The information we’re missing is whether the Kings and Hawks are turned off by Doncic specifically. Is it because they haven’t scouted him as much as the other guys? Is it because of perceived team need? Do they think Doncic has peaked already? Are they worried about less information being available from a Euro prospect? All are possible.

With all the hype around Doncic, it would be shocking to see him fall out of the Top 3. It’s happened before, but both Ayton and Doncic are the guys atop this draft that people are licking their chops to get.

Could we see a team trade up to get Doncic from the Hawks or Kings if Phoenix goes elsewhere? Is this just false information funneled to the media as a means of depressing the market for Doncic or for ferreting out a big trade offer?

The conference finals aren’t even over yet and here we are talking about the incessant drama of the NBA offseason. I love this league.

Larry Brown once told Trevor Ariza to never shoot

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Larry Brown is a legendary basketball coach, but he’s also been known to ascribe to a certain style. Brown’s regimen has sometimes rubbed players the wrong way, and likewise Brown has been overly attached to players which he likes.

For Houston Rockets wing Trevor Ariza, Brown’s staunch attitude almost ruined his career.

Ariza was a second-year player with the New York Knicks during the lone season Brown coached in the Big Apple in 2005-06. The UCLA product didn’t shoot well from the 3-point line in college or during his rookie season, so when Brown came to town he told Ariza to stop shooting from beyond the arc entirely.

Seriously.

Via Dan Woike and the LA Times:

More than a decade ago when Ariza was a second-year player, his coach with the New York Knicks, Hall of Famer Larry Brown, thought Ariza shouldn’t shoot from the perimeter. Like ever.

“He told me not to even look at the basket or shoot the ball,” said Ariza, 32. “I was definitely afraid to shoot. I just wouldn’t. I would not shoot.”

Woike’s story is pretty incredible, and goes on to detail how Ariza’s trade to the Los Angeles Lakers reignited his career and his confidence to shoot the ball. That’s obviously crucial for the Houston Rockets who need Ariza docked in the corner as Chris Paul and James Harden run pick-and-rolls and isolate.

Stories like this always sound wild, if only because they’re contextually being compared to completely different eras. Ariza was drafted in 2004, and has seen three different eras of NBA basketball (Iverson era, point guard PNR era, 3-point era) pass by during his time.

Larry Brown’s in the Hall of Fame but he whiffed on this one.

Stephen Curry goes berserk, Warriors beat Rockets by 41 in Game 3

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Stephen Curry had yet another big third quarter. Who could have seen that coming?

On the heels of the Houston Rockets’ 22-point win in Game 2, the Golden State Warriors decided to turn up the intensity as they returned home to Oakland on Sunday. The Warriors leapt out of the gate, scoring 31 points in the first quarter and playing monumental defense at the rim. Houston suffered from blown attempts in the paint for the entire first half, but it was their 3-point defense that stabilized their offense. The Rockets shot just 27 percent from beyond the arc in the first two quarters.

Then, perhaps expectedly, came the third quarter. The realm of 2-time NBA MVP Curry.

Golden State’s golden point guard failed to miss a single field goal in the quarter, helping the Warriors rally to start the half as well as fend off a Houston charge midway through the period. Curry completely took over with around six minutes left, dropping five of the Warriors’ next six made baskets.

It was enchanting, and everything we’ve come to expect from Curry when he’s at his best. After a made bucket, there was a shimmy. After a follow-up layup, a defiant stance on the baseline as he yelled to the crowd about Oracle Arena being his house.

Indeed, it was.

Curry and the Warriors did not let off the gas in the fourth quarter, finally burying the Rockets that both sides called a truce with 5:11 left, subbing out their big stars.

Houston was led by James Harden, who scored 20 points with nine assists and five rebounds, although he turned the ball over four times. Chris Paul had 13 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists. Eric Gordon helped with 11 points off the bench. The Rockets turned the ball over 20 times, allowing 28 points off turnovers to the Warriors.

For Golden State it was Curry’s 35 points and six rebounds as the big story. Kevin Durant added 25 points, six rebounds, and six assists. The Warriors shot 41 percent from 3-point range as every starter scored in double-digits. Golden State was also able to limit its turnovers to just eight.

Game 3 exemplified the stratification between the two teams. Houston was arguably the best team of the regular season, with the caveat being that Curry was out for huge swaths of time due to injury. With Curry back on the floor and playing at full tilt, Golden State again looks unbeatable.

Steve Kerr was able to counter the Game 2 strategy from Mike D’Antoni, who ran everything during Houston’s win directly at Curry on defense to tire out the recently-returned star. Kerr’s tweaks resulted in a complete eruption from Curry, one Houston was powerless to stop. Coupled with the continuous pounding from Durant and the incessant, extra pass 3-pointers, the Rockets didn’t have a counterstrike option.

Game 4 is in Oakland on Tuesday at 6:00 PM PST. We’ll see if D’Antoni can work his magic and come up with another new strategy to try and slow the Warriors.

Marcus Morris: II did a s–t job defensively against LeBron’

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The Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t dead. Not yet, at least.

LeBron James helped lead his team to a victory over the Boston Celtics on Saturday, 116-86, to set the series at 2-1 with the Cavaliers trailing.

James was efficient, scoring 27 points on 8-of-12 shooting while adding 12 assists, five rebounds, two blocks, and two steals. As a team Cleveland shot an impressive 50 percent from 3-point range, dwarfing their marks from Games 1 and 2 in the series.

Meanwhile, the team-first strategy implemented by the Celtics finally got its first big test of the Eastern Conference Finals. A top defensive team, Boston was embarrassed by how it played in Game 3 and they weren’t afraid to admit it. Four of its five starters were double-digit minuses in the box score, including Marcus Morris, who many were touting as a LeBron stopper (or LeBron slower).

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Morris gave his honest opinion of how he played vs. LeBron. Meanwhile, Jaylen Brown said he was embarrassed.

Via Twitter:

Sounds about right.

Because you play the same team over and over again, by the time you get to the conference finals it’s all about finding counters to your opponent’s counters. The game-by-game strategy changes so much, and out of necessity.

The Cavaliers finally found their sweet spot, not only from beyond the 3-point line but in limiting the offensive contributions of both Morris and guys like Al Horford.

How Brad Stevens counters Ty Lue’s Game 3 strategy should be fun to watch, and reciprocal changes in the coming games will be the story of the series. Boston still has the edge, but the Cavaliers aren’t letting someone take The King’s crown without a fight.