NBA free agency has already been pretty weird and it’s only July 1st. Things have wavered when it comes to LeBron James heading to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Philadelphia 76ers are pursuing Kawhi Leonard, and now it appears that one young star isn’t too happy with his front office after a recent roster move.
Phoenix Suns star guard Devin Booker reportedly is upset with team brass after Phoenix waived guard Tyler Ulis.
Ulis and Booker are very good friends (the two played together at Kentucky and have known each other for a while) and while Phoenix makes way for salary cap absorption they didn’t see space for the former Wildcats point guard.
If history tells us anything in the NBA, it’s that players playing favorites toward guys they like isn’t a viable way to make your team better. Just look at just about every roster LeBron James has played on. Putting undue influence on a team to keep a player you are friendly with regardless of skill-set or roster contact is a bad look.
Booker sort of has the Suns over a barrel, especially given how well he has played and is projected to grow over the next couple of years. Phoenix has had a hard time signing or trading for a big star, something it seems they are always rumored to be in the works for. In the meantime, the Suns have a lot of dead weight along with Booker and Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick in 2018.
Then again, Booker isn’t necessarily good enough to make a demand that a friend be kept on the roster. Few NBA players actually are. For now this seems like NBA drama being aired openly, potentially to gain leverage later. There’s no worry that Booker will turn down any kind of max deal from Phoenix this early in his career. At least, not yet.
CLEVELAND (AP) — James Harden scored 55 points – 20 in the fourth quarter – and Russell Westbrook added 23 points as the Houston Rockets withstood an unexpected scare from Cleveland and held on for a 116-110 win Wednesday night over the free-falling Cavaliers, who have lost eight straight and 14 of 15.
Harden matched Kyrie Irving‘s arena record for points in a game, and his fourth with 50 or more this season bailed out the Rockets, who allowed the Cavs to score 24 straight points in the second half.
Cleveland was still up 108-107 when Harden, who came in leading the NBA in scoring at 38 points per game, dropped a floater in the lane. After a turnover by Cavs guard Jordan Clarkson, P.J. Tucker hit a 3-pointer from the corner and Clint Capela had a dunk following another Cleveland miscue.
The inexperienced Cavs crumbled in the final minute, making three turnovers.
Capela added 13 rebounds for Houston, which figured to have an easy time with the Cavs, who are struggling under first-year coach John Beilein.
Cleveland, though, came to play and was led by rookie Kevin Porter Jr.‘s season-high 24 points. Collin Sexton added 18 and Kevin Love had 17 points and 11 boards.
Harden connected on a pair of 3-pointers during a 16-2 run in the third quarter when the Rockets, who were sleepwalking through long stretches of the first half, appeared to take control.
But Houston relaxed, and Cleveland went on a jaw-dropping 24-0 run – all without Love, who was on the bench with a head laceration – over a 4:43 stretch bridging the third and fourth quarters to a take a 99-88 lead on Porter’s bucket.
We may have a new Dunk of the Year.
Memphis rookie Ja Morant is an athletic freak, one confident enough in his skills to go right at a big switched onto him. Say Phoenix’s Aron Baynes. On a critical fourth-quarter possession.
RIP Aron Baynes.
Memphis won the game 115-108.
“But he’s still a ways away.”
Those are not the words Pacers fans want to hear about Victor Oladipo. Their team is playing well — 15-9 with a top-10 defense — but they are not a real postseason threat without their best player, who is recovering from a ruptured right quadriceps tendon. Before the season, Pacers president Kevin Pritchard said he was “hopeful” Oladipo would be back in December or January.
It looks like it’s going to be the back end of that timeline. At best. From J. Michael of the Indy Star, speaking to coach Nate McMillan.
Oladipo will have to be eased back in when he does return, he’s not going too hit the ground running at 40 minutes a night.
The Pacers look like a lock playoff team in the East even without Oladipo, they can afford to bring him along slowly. The hope would be to have the All-Star up to speed and integrated into the offense when the playoffs do start. If that happens, the Pacers become that team that the elite squads want to avoid early.
As has gotten a lot of publicity this season, the Lakers have one of the best defenses in the NBA, sixth in the league in defensive rating coming into Wednesday night. Their combination of length and activity has thrown teams off their games.
Less well publicized, the Orlando Magic have been bad on offense this season, fifth-worst in the NBA.
What happens when the immovable object met a very soft force on Wednesday night, well…
Orlando shot 4-of-21 in the first quarter, missing all six of their threes, plus turned the ball over four times just to make things a little worse. It’s not that the Lakers were exactly tearing it up, as a team they shot just 35.7 percent in the first quarter (Orlando is a good defensive squad), but Anthony Davis saved their bacon with seven points plus three assists (all for threes, so 16 points generated by him in the first).
The Lakers stretched that out to a 24-point lead in the second quarter before a combination of Orlando stepping up their play and the Lakers taking their foot off the gas a little led to an 18-3 Orlando run that cut the lead to 13 at the half. LeBron James had 16 points to lead the Lakers.
By the middle of the third, Orlando had made a game of it.