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) Paul George narrates moving Clippers’ video tribute to Kobe Bryant; Lakers GM Rob Pelinka releases a statement. One of the first things Doc Rivers did when he took over the Clippers — a clever and smart move, one that irritates Lakers fans — is he had Staples Center cover up the Laker championship banners and retired numbers for Clipper games. To make it feel like the Clippers building (it’s really the L.A.King’s building, but that’s another discussion).
Thursday night, the first basketball game was played inside Staples Center since the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash. The Clippers did a classy thing, uncovering Kobe’s retired numbers. Then Southern California native Paul George narrated the Clippers tribute video.
Well done, Clippers.
Also on Thursday, Lakers GM and Kobe’s long-time agent Rob Pelinka released a statement. What follows is just a highlight, it’s worth checking out the entire thing.
“On Sunday, I lost my best friend and my sweet goddaughter. With that, there has been an amputation of part of my soul.
“Kobe was a force of nature, deep and obsessed with excellence. He was wise, determined, passionate. A visionary beyond measure. A dedicated and loving husband, and a “girl-dad” like no other. When he walked into a room, the energy ignited. He was high voltage, with a motor that had no limits. His mind had an infinite capacity to learn. He was, simply put, the most inspirational athlete of our time. What the world may not know, is that he was also the best friend anyone could ever imagine.
“Gigi was pure joy. Her smile brought comfort to any and every occasion. She was brilliant, kind and warm. And, like her dad, when she stepped onto the basketball court, she took on an entirely different nature, and boy could she play. Her basketball destiny was apparent, and the world knew it. She was also an extraordinary, loyal and supportive sister, and a wonderful friend to my children. My son and daughter always left time with Gigi feeling better about life itself. Everything Gigi stood for, I am so proud of.
2) All-Star Game format changed in part to honor Kobe Bryant; All-Star reserves named. The All-Star Game is a hype machine like no other, a showcase game of the biggest names in the sport putting on a display of athleticism and skill not seen on any other basketball court around the globe.
Except here’s the reality — the game itself sucks.
The actual All-Star Game is a boring exhibition. The skill and athleticism are undeniable, but everyone plays defense with the energy of traffic cones as they try not to get injured, leading to a boring scorefest.
The league office has been looking for a way to change that, and they have come up with this new format — and thrown in a Kobe Bryant tribute to boot. Here it is:
Each of the first three quarters will start with a 0-0 score. The two teams — Team LeBron and Team Giannis, chosen by their captains — will be playing for specific charities, and the team that wins each quarter gets more money for their cause. After three quarters, the teams’ scores will be added together to get a traditional score, then 24 points will be added to that to create a “target score,” and the first team to that number wins. No game clock, just play until one team gets to the target score. (The league chose 24 points to honor Kobe, as he wore that number.)
Confused? Can’t blame you, and just wait until you try to watch it all live. To help here’s an example: If after three quarters Team LeBron leads 150-145, then the “target score” becomes 174 and the first team to that number wins the All-Star Game. Team LeBron would have to score 24 points, but if Team Giannis can score 29 points first and get to 174 it wins. Get it?
Last week the All-Star Game starters were announced, yesterday it was the reserves as selected by a vote of the coaches. Here’s who they picked (in alphabetical order, but there are seven players per conference):
• Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat)
• Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat)
• Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
• Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans)
• Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
• Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
• Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)
• Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
• Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
• Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder)
• Domantis Sabonis (Indiana Pacers)
• Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers)
• Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
• Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets)
Who got snubbed? The big names are Paul George (L.A. Clippers), Devin Booker (Phoenix), Bradley Beal (Washington), Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn), Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota), and Jaylen Brown (Boston). Just remember, if you want to say one of those guys belongs in the big show it means removing one of the players from the same conference. It’s not as easy once you have to remove a deserving person.
3) Nuggets beat Jazz 106-101, which of these teams is better poised to challenge the Los Angeles teams in the playoffs? Both the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz have been up and down this season, and both ultimately will be judged on how they perform in April and May, not a random game in January, but…
It Utah really a threat to make a deep playoff run and push — or beat — either Los Angeles team?
The Nuggets looked more like it on Thursday night. Despite being down three starters due to injury, Denver went on a 27-1 third-quarter run, got 28 points and 10 assists from Nikola Jokic — who took over down the stretch scoring 11 straight, and he outplayed Rudy Gobert on the night — and went on to win 106-101. This was a quality win for the Nuggets.
For Utah… Donovan Mitchell shot 1-of-12 in what is their third-straight loss. This team still doesn’t have the offensive punch to overcome a sloppy defensive quarter like the third. Jordan Clarkson, brought in to add scoring to the bench, dropped 37 or this game would have gotten ugly.
Denver is 13-8 this season against teams over .500, Utah is just 9-12. There’s a lot of noise in those numbers, but on Thursday night the Nuggets looked like the team better poised for the postseason.Follow @basketballtalk