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Adam Silver: Pelicans playing Anthony Davis three quarters, sitting him in fourth ‘not a good solution’

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The Anthony Davis situation is undeniably complicated.

He requested a trade from the Pelicans. But the Celtics – the team with the best assets to offer – can’t realistically trade for him until the offseason, because both Davis and Kyrie Irving are designated rookie scale players until then. So, New Orleans kept Davis through last month’s trade deadline.

So, what happens to Davis the rest of this season?

He’s healthy and says he wants to play.

The Pelicans seemingly wanted to shut him down.

The NBA reportedly threatened to fine them if they did that.

So, the sides struck a compromise – Davis continuing to play, but seeing reduced minutes. He has played nine of the Pelicans 11 games since the deadline. He’s averaging 23 minutes per game, down from 37 before the deadline. Last night was the first time since the deadline he played at all in the fourth quarter, making a cameo to defend the final inbound pass in New Orleans’ win over the Jazz.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver at the Sloan Sports and Analytics Conference:

Some things don’t lend themselves to easy solutions. And playing him for three quarters then resting him in the fourth is not a good solution. And maybe we’ll get to a different place.

I get it. It’s a bad dynamic in New Orleans. And I hear, and people in this room are talking and writing. And it’s a bit of a mess, right?

When I hear people say, “Stay out of a team’s affairs. They should just be able to do whatever they want.” Frankly, that’s not how leagues operate. We have resting rules. We have tanking rules.

Any individual general manager or team, they’re doing everything within the rules to compete to win. And that’s fine. And sometimes, you could argue that they’re gaming the rules, and we’ve changed things, because we’ve realized they’re ahead of us or they figure things out through analytics, and we adjust. But the current set of rules, it’s their right to do whatever within the rules.

But then my job, and I think sometimes people misunderstand this – it’s obviously a zero-sum game in terms of wins and losses for our teams. So, my job is to look at all the other competition outside of the NBA.

This notion that sort of the Pelicans are just competing against the Knicks or the Lakers or the Thunder – they’re competing against every other form of entertainment out there in the world.

I look at the ratings. The interest in the team is still going to be greater with Anthony Davis on the floor than not on the floor. He is a top player in this league. People are paying to see him compete. If we had said, “Fine, somehow just shelve him, rest him going forward,” the people who are paying money to see him may say – or who thought they were paying money to see him – might say, “I want my money back now.” There’s two side of these issues.

I keep reading that it’s that we’re afraid that the union is going to challenge. I mean, honestly, at the end of the day for me, it’s less about – we work with the players association. We work with the players. It’s less to me that there’s a fear of a lawsuit. It’s that you have one of the best players in the league.

He broke our rules by publicly demanding a trade. Or his agent did and then he followed up by saying something at All-Star, which he shouldn’t have.

I’m watching their games. He’s playing, and he’s playing hard.

So, that’s the difficult dynamic we’re in right now.

Silver also brought up a hypothetical: Davis requesting a trade from the Pelicans, but doing so privately. Would New Orleans still want to mysteriously – to the public, at least – sit its best player to protect his health for an offseason trade?

It’s an apt question.

The answer: Maybe. Bad teams frequently sit helpful veterans in order to tank. The trade request adds a layer here, but the situation isn’t entirely unique. Tanking is the elephant in the room that must be addressed.

I also disagree with Silver that Davis shouldn’t have opened up about his trade request at All-Star Weekend. Davis was sharing his thoughts with fans eager to hear from him. He might have been confusing in the process, but he was generally being transparent. That’s good, not a problem. Same with Rich Paul communicating Davis’ trade request.

I agree with Silver on pushing the Pelicans to play Davis. He’s one of the NBA’s best players. Making him a healthy scratch for months would have been a black mark for the league.

I’d prefer clear rules require, or at least actually incentivize, teams to play their good players – even late in losing seasons. Silver enforcing resting rules on a case-by-case basis is problematic and too arbitrary.

But this was a case where the commissioner was right to exercise his broad power. Davis drives interest. It was important to keep him on the court.

Mostly, I appreciate Silver acknowledging the complexity of the situation. Silver even said the current, seemingly league-approved plan is “not a good solution.” It might be the best of all the bad solutions, though. Or maybe there’s a better one. It’s worth continuing to consider, and I’m impressed Silver is willing to do that openly.

I just wish he’d grant Davis and Paul the right to proceed with similar transparency.

LeBron James drops 31, leads Lakers comeback to beat Rockets

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HOUSTON (AP) — LeBron James had 31 points and 12 assists and the Los Angeles Lakers rode a big third quarter to a a 124-115 win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.

The Lakers bounced back after a loss to Orlando on Wednesday night that snapped their nine-game winning streak. The loss was the third straight for the Rockets, which ties a season high, and they have dropped four of five.

Kyle Kuzma scored 23 points, and Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each had 20 for the Lakers.

Russell Westbrook scored 35 points for his fourth straight 30-point game and James Harden had 34 for the Rockets, who also lost three in a row in late November.

Los Angeles didn’t lead in the first half but used a 32-point third quarter to take a nine-point lead into the fourth.

Houston used a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 10 with about seven minutes left, but the Lakers scored the next six points to extend it to 110-94 midway through the quarter. That sent many Rockets fans streaming for the exits and caused a large contingent of Lakers fans to start chanting, “Let’s go Lakers.”

The Rockets did not get closer than seven points the rest of the way.

The Lakers opened the second half with a 10-3 run to take their first lead of the game, 69-68, with about eight minutes left in the third quarter. James capped that run by making a basket and then added another one seconds later after JaVale McGee blocked a dunk attempt by Clint Capela. McGee beat his chest and screamed after in Capela’s direction after the play and received a technical foul for taunting.

There were about seven minutes left in the third when Westbrook and Anthony Davis, who missed the game with an injury, both received technical fouls for jawing at each other.

The Lakers led by three later in the third when Kuzma scored the first four points of a 9-2 run that stretched the lead to 85-75.

Houston had a chance to cut the deficit at the end of the third quarter, but Westbrook missed two free throws to leave the Lakers up 91-82 entering the fourth.

 

Watch Kawhi Leonard’s 39 points spark Clippers rally past Pelicans 133-130

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 39 points and the Los Angeles Clippers rallied to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 133-130 on Saturday.

Lou Williams scored 14 of his 32 points during a dominant fourth quarter for Los Angeles, which outscored the Pelicans 31-20 in the final 12 minutes.

Williams’ 3 with 31.6 seconds left, after Patrick Beverley had rebounded Leonard’s miss, gave the Clippers a 133-127 lead and sent numerous fans toward the exits.

But JJ Redick hit a quick 3, and after Leonard ran down the shot clock and missed a 3, New Orleans had 2.4 seconds to attempt a tying 3 that Redick missed off the back rim.

Montrezl Harrell scored 24 points for the Clippers, who trailed by 10 in the final seconds of the third quarter, but turned a steal into two free throws and then opened the fourth with an 8-0 run to tie it at 110.

After shooting 58.5% (38 of 65) in the first three quarters, the Pelicans made just 8 of 21 shots in the fourth as the game slipped away from them.

Lonzo Ball had 18 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for the Pelicans, who were seeking their 11th victory in 15 games despite the recent absence of guard Jrue Holiday, who has missed seven games with an elbow injury.

Derrick Favors had 22 points and 11 rebounds for New Orleans, while Brandon Ingram had 21 points and Redick scored 19.

The teams combined for 152 points in a fast-paced first half, during which New Orleans tied a franchise record with 80 points.

Favors made his first seven shots and had 15 of his points in the opening 24 minutes, when the Pelicans shot 63.6%, including 11-of-21 shooting from 3-point range.

Ball hit three 3s in the first half, his last giving the Pelicans an 80-72 lead that stood at halftime.

Leonard has scored at least 30 points in each of his last five games.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: NBA system wants you to flop, but ‘that’s not who I am’

Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden
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Giannis Antetokounmpo scores inside unlike anyone since Shaq.

Like with Shaquille O’Neal, Antetokounmpo has sparked a conversation about how much contacts he absorbs.

Antetokounmpo, via Eric Woodyard of ESPN:

“It’s kind of hard because in the NBA, the way it’s built, they want you to flop,” Antetokounmpo said of playing physically. “It wants you to be weak, kind of, because sometimes I think when you’re strong and you’re going through contact, they don’t call the foul. But when you’re flopping and kind of going into the contact and throwing the ball out, they’re just going to call foul, but that’s not who I am, that’s not what I’m gonna do.

“I’m just gonna try to power through contact. It’s going to be … where if a guy grabs me or pushes me, I’ve got to show it more, but I think I’ve done a better job of showing it more so the refs can see that the guys are holding me, pushing me and just being physical.”

James Harden and Antetokounmpo have traded barbs since last year’s MVP vote, which Antetokounmpo won over Harden. Was this another shot across Harden’s bow?

Harden isn’t the only player who flops. But Harden has earned a reputation as the NBA’s foremost flopper.

Antetokounmpo could do a better job of selling contact. But his tenaciousness sets a tone for the Bucks. His teammates see his determination and follow his lead. There’s a real positive effect to Antetokounmpo’s style.

Also, Antetokounmpo already averages 10.4 free throws per game. How many more fouls would he draw by flopping? Officials could be reluctant to give him even more whistles. Though each call should be evaluated independently, there can be a tendency not to call too many fouls.

Report: LeBron James views Jason Kidd as only living peer for basketball intelligence

LeBron James and Jason Kidd
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LeBron James is a basketball genius.

That somewhat explains why, since becoming a superstar, he has clashed with all previous his coaches – Mike Brown, Erik Spoelstra, David Blatt, Tyronn Lue and Luke Walton. Traditional roles make coaches the brains behind the operation. But what happens when LeBron is the smartest person in the room? At best, it creates complications.

So, of course there were questions about how LeBron would take to new Lakers coach Frank Vogel. Vogel is a coach. That’s enough.

But LeBron also previously spread word of his desire to be coached by a former player. Vogel never played professionally. However, one of his assistants was a Hall of Fame player with previous head-coaching experience – Jason Kidd.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

One of those primary assistants would be Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd, whom two sources have independently said James regards as the only person alive who sees the game of basketball with his level of clarity.

This is probably hyperbolic. But Kidd was an incredibly smart player. His court vision, defensive recognition and ability to find ways to contribute all over the floor were elite. I can see why LeBron would enjoy talking basketball with Kidd.

But that alone doesn’t make Kidd a good coach. Playing ability doesn’t always translate to coaching ability. His record with the Bucks and Nets leaves a lot to be desired. Interpersonal issues were glaring. Dated thinking became even more apparent when Mike Budenholzer succeeded Kidd and immediately guided Milwaukee to the next level. Kidd’s record of player development is mixed.

Still, that level of endorsement from LeBron carries major weight.

Kidd has been trying to become an NBA head coach again. He lobbied for the Lakers job while Luke Walton held it and interviewed for it before Vogel got it.

Vogel said he wasn’t worried about Kidd undermining him and acted as if he truly isn’t. The Lakers are 33-8, and Vogel is endearing himself in Los Angeles. To better understand how he’s doing it, I highly recommend reading Arnovitz’s article.