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Three Things to Know: Is it time to be worried about the Utah Jazz?

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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) After an ugly 1-4 road trip, is it time to be worried about the Utah Jazz? Coming into the season, a number of pundits and prognosticators picked Utah to have a chance to compete with the big boys in the West for a title (*sheepishly raises hand*). With a lock-down defense anchored by two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, the continued growth of Donovan Mitchel, and the additions of Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic, this team all the pieces to compete.

Except…

•  That feared defense is actually 11th in the league for the season, and in the last 10 games they have fallen to 16th in the league giving up 4.9 more points per 100 possessions than they averaged last season. To be fair, Gobert was out for some of those games (and without him, the Greek Freak got to the rim at will and dropped 50 on Utah).

• The offense has never clicked and is currently ranked 23rd in the league.

• Mike Conley is shooting 37 percent on the season.

• The team just suffered ugly road losses, being down 40 at half to Toronto, then on Monday night losing to Philadelphia 103-94 in a game that wasn’t that close, the 76ers led by as many as 26.

After those ugly road losses to close out their road trip it feels like it’s time to ask:

Should we be worried about the Jazz?

Worried is a relative term, this is still a 12-9 team that sits as the six seed in the West and seems destined for the playoffs. Gobert is once again playing fantastic defense and has to be in the DPOY conversation (the Jazz got worse around him, but he is still playing brilliantly). Donovan Mitchell has stepped up after his summer with Team USA and is averaging 24.5 points per game with increased efficiency, and he looks like an All-Star player this season. The Jazz have not been bad.

They also haven’t looked anything like potential contenders, either.

Which is the concern. The Jazz always needed a lot of things to go right to be a big threat in the West, and so far it seems few of those things have gone according to plan, particularly on offense. This is a team that has the highest percentage in the league of offense that comes in the halfcourt (via Cleaning the Glass), meaning they just don’t get many easy buckets.

The struggling offense could have GM Dennis Lindsey looking to make a trade at the deadline to get a power forward this team needs (Danilo Gallinari would make sense with the Jazz). Utah may need a shake-up to contend.

Jazz fans shouldn’t be freaking out, but this team has not lived up to the hype or its potential yet. There’s a lot of season to go, but more than 20 games in it’s time to be a little bit worried.

2) Giannis Antetokounmpo, brother Thanasis power Bucks past Knicks to 12th straight win. This game was never in doubt — Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 29 points and 15 rebounds and didn’t even have to play 22 minutes on the night. He just overpowered the Knicks. Literally. Look what he did to Julius Randle.

That’s not fair.

The Bucks won 132-88 to extend their win streak to a dozen.

Last summer, the Bucks signed Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ brother, in a clear attempt to suck up to the superstar and keep him happy (remember, Giannis will have a supermax offer from the Bucks on the table next summer and the franchise is doing everything it can to keep him).

This is the kind of game where Thanasis gets run, he had 10 points in 12 minutes of play. That brings us the stat of the night:

The Antetokounmpo brothers outscored the Knicks starters 39-37.

3) Carmelo Anthony was named the NBA Player of the Week. The narrative of Carmelo Anthony’s triumphant return to the NBA continues to morph into legend (and as with most legends, the facts start to get blurred a little to fit the narrative).

After a three-game week where he averaged 22.3 points and 7.7 rebounds a game, a week where the Trail Blazers went 3-0, Anthony was named the NBA’s Player of the Week.

It is validation for ‘Melo and makes a great story (even if nobody cares about this award most weeks). Don’t mind the fact that those three wins came because Damian Lillard returned to the lineup and he’s Portland’s best player (plus the Blazers played the struggling Bulls twice). We’re telling a story, so the fact that last week Karl-Anthony Towns, Luka Doncic and Anthony Davis all averaged more points, rebounds and assists per game than ‘Melo doesn’t matter, it doesn’t fit the narrative (the Player of the Week award has always been more about story than numbers).

To be fair, Anthony has played well in his return, giving a shorthanded Portland team a boost. It’s a small sample size (100 minutes), but Portland is +15.4 per 100 possessions when Anthony and Lillard share the court together. Six games in, picking up Anthony has worked for the Trail Blazers.

So make Anthony Player of the Week. It’s a good story. For my money, it will be interesting to watch how Anthony and Portland fare this week against the two Los Angeles teams — those are real tests.

Former Celtic Guerschon Yabusele fined for not looking at flag during Chinese national anthem

Guerschon Yabusele
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Guerschon Yabusele washed out with the Celtics.

So, now the former first-rounder is playing in China – and running into trouble.

The Chinese Basketball Association fined him for not looking at the flag during the national anthem:

Though Yabusele is French, this comes amid heightened tension between the NBA and China. Most Americans will probably find it ridiculous that looking at the flag during the national anthem is required in authoritarian China.

Meanwhile, let’s ostracize anyone who dares not to stand for the Star Spangled Banner.

Portland reportedly applies for disabled player exception after Rodney Hood injury

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Rodney Hood‘s season coming to an end because of a ruptured Achilles was a real blow to Portland — he had become a critical part of their rotation. That has led to a lot of speculation about already shorthanded Portland jumping into the trade market soon looking for someone to absorb those minutes, as well as hitting the buyout market hard next February.

Portland is now looking for a little more money to spend to bring someone in, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The “disabled player exemption” allows a team over some space to go after a replacement for a player lost due to injury. This is a fairly standard process and likely will be approved. Portland can use that money on a free agent (Iman Shumpert is available again) or someone bought out by another team.

Portland is 10-16 on the season, set back in part due to injuries to the front line. The Blazers knew Jusuf Nurkic would miss most of the season, and he was vital to them, but they were counting on Zach Collins to step up and absorb those minutes. Then he needed shoulder surgery. Portland eventually turned to Carmelo Anthony to help along the frontline, and he has performed well enough for them to guarantee his contract for the season.

Portland is going to be active, both looking at free agents and on the trade market. Just don’t expect a Kevin Love deal (he may want it but his contract makes that nearly impossible).

Rumor: Dwight Howard and Chris Paul stated intent to join Mavericks until Howard backed out

Chris Paul and Dwight Howard
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The Mavericks went from winning the 2011 NBA championship to missing the playoffs within two years.

Somewhat by choice.

Of course, they wanted to remain competitive. But they were willing to accept a lower floor to maintain financial flexibility. They let key players – most notably Tyson Chandler – leave in order to chase bigger stars.

Dallas was repeatedly linked to Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, who could’ve become free agents in 2012 but opted in. They finally hit the market in 2013, but once again spurned the Mavericks. Paul re-signed with the Clippers, and Howard left the Lakers for the Rockets.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

I really think that they, Chris and Dwight, basically wink, wink said they were going to Dallas, from what I’ve heard, and that Dwight backed out.

Word on the street. But we hear a lot of stories. That’s one story I’ve heard.

This is the peril of making arrangements in underground free agency. They’re unbinding. That was especially true with Howard, who waffled through the Dwightmare with the Magic. The Mavericks might have proceeded in the smartest way, but it backfired. Dallas is only now re-emerging upward with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

This also creates a fun “what if?” How good would Dallas have been? Paul remained elite, but Howard and Dirk Nowitzki were slipping. Where would the Clippers have gone with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan but without Paul? Would they still have held the credibility required to lure Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer? Where would Houston have turned without Howard as the star to pair with James Harden?

Serge Ibaka says he nearly goaltended Kawhi Leonard’s iconic shot: ‘I would’ve retired’

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Kawhi Leonard hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history – a buzzer-beater that bounced, bounced, bounced, bounced in during Game 7 of last year’s second-round Raptors-76ers series and propelled Toronto toward an eventual title.

Raptors forward Serge Ibaka, via Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

“I didn’t think it was going in. I was under the basket trying to go for the offensive rebound. The ball was bouncing and one time I was so close to going [for it]. Thank God I didn’t because it could have been goaltending. That would’ve been bad. I would’ve retired. If that had happened I would have retired.”

In hindsight, that would’ve been catastrophic. It would have been been bad at the time, too – but only so bad.

The Bucks, Toronto’s opponent in the Eastern Conference finals, looked better than the Raptors. The Western Conference-winning Warriors were widely viewed as invincible. Few would have thought Ibaka’s goaltend would’ve cost Toronto a championship.

Thankfully for him and the Raptors, we now know better.