Three Things to Know: Some players switching numbers away from 8, 24 to honor Kobe

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
0 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) Some players are switching numbers away from 8, 24 to honor Kobe. Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban made the first move, saying on Sunday that no Dallas player would again wear No. 24 in honor of Kobe Bryant. It was a decision made to honor Kobe in the wake of his death (along with his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash).

Now some players who have been wearing No. 8 or No. 24 are switching numbers for the same reason, a sort of unofficial number retirement. The first was Brooklyn guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who wore No. 8 but asked the league (and got rare in-season permission) to change to No. 26.

The next name we heard was Orlando’s Terrence Ross, who wore No. 8 but is switching to No. 31. New Orleans center Jahlil Okafor and Philadelphia guard Zhaire Smith are making changes.

Is that the best way to honor Kobe’s legacy?

Or, would it be to continue to wear his number but play with the passion, dedication, and pride that made Kobe special?

There is not a one size fits all answer to that question. Kemba Walker, who wears No. 8 for the Celtics, is grappling with that. (Walker wore No. 15 in Charlotte, but in Boston that number is retired in honor of Tommy Heinsohn.)

There were 30 NBA players this season wearing numbers 8 or 24, and they have a personal decision to make.

Personally, I like how Joel Embiid handled it.

2) 76ers Joel Embiid returns after a nine-game absence, wears No. 24 to honor Kobe, scores 24 points, leads Sixers to win. Joel Embiid was one of many NBA players hit hard by Kobe’s sudden and tragic death.

Embiid returned to action Tuesday after a nine-game absence and donned No. 24 for the night (getting permission from Bobby Jones, the number was retired in his honor), then went out and scored 24 points to spark the 76ers win against Golden State — yelling “Kobe” as he hit his final shot.

Philadelphia needed Embiid back in the lineup.

The Sixers did go 6-3 while Embiid was out — and Ben Simmons stepped up, he averaged 24 points a game on better than 70 percent shooting in the final five without Embiid. However, Philly’s offensive rating in the nine Embiid-less games was 104.9, 29th in the NBA in that stretch. Even in the last five it was 103.2, still 29th in the league. Ben Simmons may have been playing better but the offense was not, and on the road the team really struggled.

If the Sixers are going to make any run the second half of this season and into the playoffs — if they are going to prove the best of a crowded second tier in the East — they will need a lot more from Embiid.

3) Khris Middleton makes his All-Star case, drops 51 on Wizards with Greek Freak out. Giannis Antetokounmpo has a sore shoulder and the Milwaukee Bucks — with their comfortable eight-game cushion on top of the East — gave him Tuesday night off to get healthy.

Khris Middleton said, “I got this,” stepped up and dropped a career-high 51 on the hapless Wizards’ defense (worst in the league).

Middleton was an All-Star last year and wants to get back to the game this season, but he is in the mix with players such as Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo from Miami, Jayson Tatum from Boston, Domantas Sabonis of Indiana, and a lot of quality guards in the East who are deserving. There will be “snubs” when the All-Star reserves are announced Thursday night on TNT.

I would have Middleton on the roster, but its the coaches who cast that ballot.

Steven Adams inks two-year, $25.2 million extension with Grizzlies

Getty Photo
0 Comments

Steven Adams signed a two-year, $25.2 million contract extension with Memphis, which will keep him tied to the team through the 2024-25 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojanrowski broke the news on Saturday.

Adams has been crucial to the Grizzlies’ recent success. He’s coming off his first season with the team, where he averaged career-highs in rebounds (10.0) and assists (3.4). He also helped them lock up the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference and make it to the Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the eventual-champion Warriors 4-2. Despite the improved numbers, a lot of his value is from intangibles that don’t show up in the box score.

Adams spent the first seven years of his career with the Thunder before being traded to New Orleans in the four-team deal that sent Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Adams was moved again to Memphis in a package for Jonas Valanciunas.

Adams has found a new home with a young Grizzlies team that is looking to win a championship. The team is built around Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, but Jackson Jr. is expected to miss time after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot. Memphis will rely on Adams more than ever to begin the season.

Watch Curry, Klay in 3-point shooting contest in Japan. Yeah, they’re good at this.

NBA Japan Games Saturday Night
Jun Sato/WireImage
0 Comments

The NBA went to Japan to promote the brand, play a few games in a huge market — Japan specifically but Asia as a whole — and put on a show.

Is there a better show than Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson draining 3s? Here they are in a 3-point contest during a basketball exhibition (there were some pro dunkers) in Tokyo on Saturday.

Stephen Curry, was there any other possible outcome?

It’s preseason and they are the defending champs — they should be having fun, playing with some joy.

Thompson took part in the shooting contest but is not playing in either of the exhibition games in Japan as the Warriors ease him back into play this season. It’s a marathon of a season and the Warriors need the best version of Klay starting in April, not October.

Report: Pelicans, Nance agree to two-year, $21.6 million extension

0 Comments

Larry Nance has been a stabilizing influence in New Orleans since coming over mid-season as part of the trade for CJ McCollum. Nance is a versatile player who can play the four or the five, knocks down his threes, is very strong on the glass, can be a disruptive defender in passing lanes, and fits in — and he has the veteran attitude of work this team needs.

So the Pelicans have reached an extension to keep the 29-year-old around for two years past this coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a signing that should make Pelicans fans happy. Importantly, it makes CJ McCollum happy — they are tight and this is something McCollum wanted to see. The money on this deal seems fair, about the league average for a solid rotation player.

Nance is the kind of veteran this team needs considering its young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram (just turned 25), Herb Jones, and guys like Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and others. Nance compared it to the young Lakers teams he was on, but noted that team lacked the same level of veteran leadership this Pelicans team has.

We may see more Nance at the five lineups — small ball with Zion at the four — to close games this season in New Orleans, that could be their best lineup because Nance can defend but also spaces the floor for Zion on offense. Coach Willie Green has a lot of different players and matchups to experiment with.

And now he has the stability of Nance for a few more years.

Durant tired of talking Nets dramatic offseason: ‘I didn’t miss any games’

0 Comments

No team had an offseason quite like the Brooklyn Nets. First, they would not give a long-term extension to Kyrie Irving, which sent the star guard looking for a new team (but there were no offers that worked for everyone, so he opted in with Brooklyn). Then Kevin Durant asked for a trade, and to gain a little leverage reportedly threw down an ultimatum of him or the coach and GM. No trade could be found — how much the Nets wanted one is up for debate — so he is back in Brooklyn. And all that is not even getting into the return of Ben Simmons, a trade for Royce O’Neal, or anything else.

The Nets drama and how they move past it has been the talk of training camp. The only talk at training camp, it feels like.

When asked Friday if there were any inaccuracies in the reporting of the Nets summer he would like to clear up, Durant sounded weary of rehashing the summer.

The only thing that will start to move the conversation in a new direction is the Nets playing and winning games (they open the preseason Monday against the 76ers). And even those wins will have the shadow of the offseason cast over them. Durant and Irving made this bed.

Part of the fascination is the Nets remain the team hardest to predict in the league. They arguably have the most talented roster in the league and, if everything comes together just right, they can contend for a title. It’s also possible the wheels fall off early and by Christmas the Nets are looking to trade Durant again. Both things feel possible (even if reality most likely lands somewhere in the middle).

That uncertainty about the Nets’ future is the drama that will keep eyeballs on them — which also means more questions about this past offseason. Durant can choose not to answer them, but the questions aren’t going away.