Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Three Things to Know: Draymond Green is right, the Warriors do f****** suck right now

5 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) Draymond Green is right, the Warriors do f****** suck right now. There is no other way to put this, no sugar-coating for this reality: Golden State Warriors have looked flat-out terrible through two games.

How bad are the Warriors?

Give up 70 points and be down by 33 at halftime bad. Had the lead zero seconds so far this season bad. Get outscored by 51 points in your first two games bad. Give up at least 35 points in seven straight quarters bad. Have the worst defense in the NBA bad. Have the worst net rating in the NBA bad. Shoot 5-of-33 from three bad.

Draymond Green put it bluntly after a 120-92 loss to Oklahoma City on Sunday night:

“The reality is, we f****** suck right now. Hopefully, we’ll get better. We’ll continue to work at trying to get better, but we’re just not that good right now.”

Golden State’s issues start on defense. While Stephen Curry bombing from three and the beautiful game Golden State played on offense has drawn the spotlight, the Warriors dynasty has been built on a stifling, switching defense. That is the end of the floor where they have been the worst this season, with a net rating of 124.3 for two games (for comparison, the Cavaliers had the worst defense in the NBA last season at a net rating of 116.8). Oklahoma City essentially got whatever shot they wanted all game long.

On offense, the Warriors just can’t hit shots. They are shooting 26.7 percent from three this season, have the worst eFG percentage in the league, the third-worst true shooting percentage (48.9 percent, when the league average is a little above 55 percent), and they have a bottom 10 offensive rating.

Green is right in his postgame interview, those shooting and offensive woes start because the Warriors are not getting easy points in transition, a staple of the offense during their dynasty. Through two games, just 11.5 percent off their offense has been generated in transition, a number that was at 20.3 percent the last time they won a title. (Stat via Cleaning The Glass.)

Before the season, the Warriors were given “institutional credit” — we knew that Kevin Durant was gone, as were key role players such as Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, and we knew Klay Thompson was injured, and we knew the roster had major changeover and the talent level was down. But these were the Warriors, five straight Finals appearances, they still had Stephen Curry and Green and they added an All-Star in D’Angelo Russell. Much like the Spurs or the past couple of decades, we just assumed they would win.

No. Not even close.

It’s just two games into the marathon 82 game NBA season, it’s too early to shovel dirt on the Warriors dynasty. They have time to turn things around this season, and next season when fully healthy the Warriors could be a serious threat again.

But right now? They f****** suck.

2) Ja Morant would like to throw his name in the hat for Rookie of the Year after dropping 30 on Nets. On a podcast before the season, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports and myself debated this question: How many games will Zion Williamson have to play to still win Rookie of the Year? That question assumed two things. First, that Zion would return around Christmas and almost immediately look like the guy who was a dominant force in the preseason.

Second, that other rookies wouldn’t just step up and take charge of the award before Zion even got on the court.

Meet Ja Morant, the No. 2 pick in the draft. He dropped 30 on the Nets Sunday night and was putting up highlights.

But Morant was not all sizzle and no steak; when the game was on the line he blocked a Kyrie Irving jumper to force overtime.

In overtime, it was Morant with the assist to Jae Crowder for the Memphis win.

Morant isn’t the only rookie putting up early numbers, RJ Barrett has impressed in New York, Tyler Herro has looked good in Miami, and the list goes on. Whenever Zion gets back on the court, he is going to have a lot of catching up to do with the rest of his class. Morant in particular.

3) Tacko Fall made his NBA debut and the crowd went wild. It happened on Saturday in the Celtics blowout win over the Knicks, but we had to bring it to you: Tacko Fall made his NBA debut.

“The lead was 11, then 13, 15 … it got up to 20 and I was like, ‘it’s time,’” Fall told NBC Sports Boston.

Fall racked up impressive per-minute numbers with four points and three rebounds in 3:38 of playing time at the end of the game.

Fall — obviously a fan favorite, the Garden went wild with his every play — is on a two-way contract and will spend most of the season with the Maine Red Claws of the G-League. As he should, this Tacko needs a lot more seasoning.

But the 7’6” big man out of Senegal and Central Florida has his first NBA bucket, and nobody is taking that away from him.

Pelicans to ease Zion Williamson into NBA action, no backs-to-backs at first

Leave a comment

If you didn’t see this coming, you probably donated money to help out that poor Nigerian prince, too.

Zion Williamson is six weeks out from his knee surgery and has yet to start on-court work towards his return, signaling he likely will not make the original 6-8 week timeframe to get back on the court. Williamson is putting in the work and improving, but the fact the Pelicans were going to be “overly cautious” — to use coach Alvin Gentry’s words — with Williamson should not be a surprise, this is the franchise that let him play just one half of one game at Summer League.

Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin went on the Pelicans in-game broadcast recently to talk about the return of Williamson and the team. There he said Williamson is progressing and added the obvious — that there will be some load management of Williamson upon his return. As there should be.

“Yes, he very likely will not be asked to take the pounding of back-to-backs initially,” Griffin said on the team’s television broadcast. “There will be a sort of ramp-up for him to getting back to where you would call him full strength, but he’s certainly going to be playing, and we’re trying to win basketball games. And quite frankly, we’ve done a horrible job of that.”

The Pelicans are 6-16 with a bottom-five defense holding them back this season.

“Where we may be failing in terms of the short term, I’m very confident that we’re succeeding over the breadth of what we’re trying to do, which is build a sustainable winner,” Griffin said. “And we’re well on our way to that, despite the current record.”

Nobody should have expected instant success with this Pelicans roster, despite having Jrue Holiday, and the additions of J.J. Redick and Brandon Ingram. This was going to take time, even if Williamson had remained healthy. Projections of this as a playoff team were wildly optimistic to begin with.

It’s going to take time with Williamson, too. He should not be rushed, he is a physically unique player and must be treated as such.

Griffin is spot on — rebuilding this franchise is a long process and the Pelicans cannot skip steps. Do that and you’re the Knicks. New Orleans has stumbled out of the gate, but what will they look like at the end of the season and if the team has taken steps forward matters a lot more than what they look like now.

Ease your franchise player back into the fold, don’t force things, and the Pelicans will be just fine.

 

Knicks’ president Steve Mills reportedly on hot seat, too

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

David Fizdale is out as coach of the New York Knicks.

He also was just a part of the problem with the Knicks. Fizdale did a poor job as chef trying to cook up a decent meal, but he was also given a list of ingredients — the roster built by the front office — that would make a “Chopped” contestant wince.

It looks like the people responsible for putting that roster together — specifically the long-entrenched Steve Mills, who is currently the team president — are in trouble, too. Mills is on the hot seat, too, according to Frank Isola of The Athletic.

“[The Knicks 18 losses this season] go on Fizdale’s permanent record but the failed Fizdale experiment belongs to Steve Mills, whose days as a Teflon executive under Dolan are about to end.

Mills hired Fizdale over Mike Budenholzer, and [Phil] Jackson and without even considering [Jeff] Van Gundy. Mills looked at Fizdale as the hip young coach with connections to today’s young stars. The Knicks were all in on the free-agent class of 2019 and Fizdale was going to be the guy to get their foot in the door.

We all know how that went — the Knicks didn’t even get a meeting.

These last two seasons fall directly on Mills, who, according to sources, will either be reassigned or simply removed from the building. His expiration date is long overdue. The Athletic reported last month that Dolan will try again to pry Raptors President Masai Ujiri from Toronto. If that doesn’t work, maybe NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will point Dolan toward R.C. Buford, Sam Presti, Neil Olshey and Daryl Morey. The Knicks are in the early stages of another massive overhaul that will only work if Dolan gives his next executive savior full autonomy.

What happens to Mills is a bellwether to watch.

Not simply is he removed as team president (and before he can make trades to try to save his job at the deadline), but is he re-assigned to a new position with the Knicks — so owner James Dolan keeps his man in the building — or is he shown the door? It matters. A lot. As Isola notes, when Phil Jackson was hired he was told he would have full autonomy over the front office, but he wasn’t allowed to remove Mills or other entrenched figures (and when Jackson was let go Mills was promoted to his spot). Sources told me that other people considered for team president have asked for the power to clean out the front office and bring in their own guys, only to have that shot down.

This is the real test for Dolan. If he going to spend the money to hire Ugiri or some other big name, will he give that person the complete autonomy to overhaul basketball operations, like New Orleans did last summer with David Griffin? Then, is Dolan willing to be patient enough to wait years for it to all come together? The Knicks do not need another quick fix, another shortcut to getting back in the playoffs. They need to build a culture, a foundation that can succeed for years. That takes time. And the right guy steering the ship.

We’ll see if Dolan makes that step, or if the Knicks continue business as usual.

How Jaylen Brown snuck into Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton show and sat next to Kanye West

Leave a comment

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown has a huge contract extension and bright future.

But he isn’t a star yet.

That’s why Brown, despite his emerging presence in the fashion scene, didn’t get invited to Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton show last year.

Brown on All The Smoke:

I didn’t get invited to that one, but I wasn’t tripping. At the time, I’m second year in the league. My merit ain’t like that. I ain’t got the clout. But I’m like, I can’t miss that. They ain’t never had a person of color being a Louis V designer ever. It’s history. So, I’m like, I don’t got no ticket, but I’m going to pull up and just see what’s going to happen. The least I can do is say I tried. I’m from Atlanta, so you know.

So, I had photographers with me, and I had videographers and my manager is with me and stuff like that. So, I had a little group of people with me. So, I said, “This is what we’re going to do.” I said, “We’re going to get in the car. We’re going to pull up real fast, come to a stop real quick. Everybody jump out.”

“Everybody jump out quick. When we jump out, everybody open the door. Slam it open. The driver, you got to slam on the brakes. Rrrrrrrr. Everybody jump out, slam the door open, we’re going walk fast. ‘No pictures. No pictures. No pictures.’ We’re going to keep walking. We’re going to walk so everybody causing a commotion. All the people trying to take pictures. “Who is it?” Du, du, du, du, da. Then, we get to the front. I said, when we get to the front, there’s probably going to be a list.

“Look, there’s probably going to be al list.” I thought the whole thing out. So, I told my manager, I told her, I was like, “When they say they can’t find my name on the list, I need you to go crazy.” I didn’t even think she was going to be ready for it. I’m surprised, a little small. I didn’t even think she was going to be ready for it. I’m like, “When you see the list, just go crazy. Act like this is an outrage.”

She sold it.

She surprised me. So, we get to the list. She’s like, “You’re not.” “This is crazy! He should be on this list!” Du, du, du, du, da. And they’re like, “OK, OK, calm down, calm down, calm down. Calm down, calm down, calm down.” Just let them go in. And I ended up going in, and I ended up sitting right next to Kanye and Travis.

It’s crazy, right? I ended up meeting Diddy’s sons in there, just seeing them and saying, “What’s up?” Just walked in with them from the jump and just finessed my hole way in.

Look, I’m sitting right next to Kanye, Travis. I’m sitting dead across from Rihanna. When the show is over, Virgil came out and gave Kanye a hug. At the end, he was crying. I was on like, man, if I was in my right mind, I’d go out there and [hugging motion].

All The Smoke has the best stories.

Chris Paul calls out Jordan Bell for untucked jersey, wins technical that helps OKC force OT, win

Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images
4 Comments

This may be the ultimate savvy veteran play, or it was a guy winning by snitching. Either way, it’s very Chris Paul.

The Oklahoma City Thunder were down two with 1.1 seconds left and had just fouled Karl-Anthony Towns, who went to the free throw line with the chance to ice the game. When KAT missed the first free throw, Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders sent Jordan Bell into the game for Jeff Teague — but Bell’s jersey was not tucked in and Chris Paul called it out (you can hear him on the audio) and referee Scott Foster takes notice.

Chris Paul knew exactly what he was doing.

The untucked jersey led to a delay of game penalty on the Timberwolves and, since Minnesota already had a delay of game warning from earlier, a technical foul and free throw for Oklahoma City. Which they sank, so now it was a one-point game, but the Thunder still had no timeouts. If KAT had missed the second free throw intentionally, the scramble for the rebound would have forced a full-court heave by a Thunder player to win it. Instead, KAT sank the free throw, putting the Timberwolves up by two (still with 1.1 on the clock).

Then this happened.

The game went to overtime, where Shai Gilgeous-Alexander got hot and scored 11, and the Thunder pulled away for the 139-127 win.

CP3 may have just lost a few votes if he runs for players’ union president again, but he got the win.