Three things to know: Jonas becomes Dirk Valanciunas, drains seven 3s in first half

New Orleans Pelicans v Los Angeles Clippers
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
0 Comments

Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.

1) Jonas becomes Dirk Valanciunas, drains seven 3s in first half, Pelicans upset Clippers

“The guys were calling him Dirk Valanciunas.”

That was coach Willie Green after the game, where Jonas Valenciunas went 7-of-7 from 3 in the first half and finished with a career-high 39. Green wasn’t the only guy impressed, a former teammate of JVs noticed.

The Pelicans have found a little groove with different players stepping up — remember Devonte' Graham draining a game-winning three in Utah just a few days ago — and have won three-of-our. That includes splitting a pair with the Jazz and now beating the Clippers, and they have a +6.4 net rating in those four games with a potent offense leading the way and some solid defensive moments. It’s a start — the Pelicans are still in the hole they created to start the season, but at least they stopped digging. With the return of Zion Williamson looming, there are reasons for optimism in the Big Easy.

Meanwhile, the strong Clippers defense can’t bail out a 25th-ranked offense forever — and the Clippers O has been four points per 100 possessions worse the past eight games. The biggest problem is the Clippers are not getting enough easy buckets in transition — they run a fair amount (11th in pace, 17.4% of plays start in transition), but they are 27th in the league in points scored per play in transition (stats via Cleaning the Glass). The Clippers keep trying to win grind-it-out low-scoring games, their shooting hasn’t been good enough for that, and it is coming back to haunt them.

2) Porter, Harris, Suggs: injuries mount up around the NBA

If, like my grandmother used to say, bad news comes in threes, the NBA got the injury bad news cycle all out of the way in one day on Monday.

First came the news that the Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr. is likely done for the season due to back surgery — his third before age 24. Fate is taking out its frustrations on the Nuggets, who have a title-contending team if healthy but lost Jamal Murray a season ago to an ACL and now this. Denver just gave Porter a five-year, $172 million max extension, they are all in on him and will bank on his return, but he fell down the draft because of red flags about his back and this is a troubling long-term sign.

Brooklyn will be without sharpshooter Joe Harris for at least a month, maybe two, after he had his ankle scoped to remove a loose body. Harris had missed six games because of a sprained ankle already, but it turned out to be more than that. The fact the Nets keep on winning despite guys being out — including one key guy keeping himself out — is impressive. Brooklyn is still a contender, it just has to get everyone on the court at the same time.

Finally, Magic rookie Jalen Suggs will be out for an “extended period” after fracturing his thumb Monday night against the 76ers. Suggs has shown flashes of potential as a rookie but has struggled to find his shot — he’s got a lot of development to do. Which is why time off to recover is not ideal, but hopefully he can use the time to step back, watch games and film with coaches/veterans in his ear, and it will all slow down for him a little and he will come back better. Suggs has a lot of potential.

3) Jokic Brothers come to Miami and… watch their brother win

The last time Nikola Jokic faced off against the Miami Heat, bodies went flying — specifically the body of Markieff Morris (who remains out due to whiplash from that hit… how did Jokic only get a one-game suspension again?). That led to the Jokic brothers starting a social media account just to troll Markieff’s brother Marcus.

The Heat and Nuggets were back at it in Miami Tuesday, and the Jokic brothers were in the house.

Of course, nothing was going to happen — the players are professionals, they move on. Same with the LeBron James/Isaiah Steward rematch Sunday. The Heat fans booed Jokic when he touched the ball, but Jokic had moved on and the players did their jobs.

Jokic returned to the court after missing four games with a sprained wrist and was instantly back to his MVP level — 24 points, 15 boards, 7 assists, 7-of-8 shooting in the first half.

However, the story of the game was the Heat fell behind because they could not make a bucket early (35.4% shooting as a team in the first half) and never could get out of that hole. Denver’s defense was solid, but Miami just looked dead-legged after a four-game road trip and seemed a little short, including the clean looks they were generating. It was one of those nights, and no Jimmy Butler on top of it.

Highlight of the Night: Kevin Porter Jr., get that triple-double

Rockets second-year point guard Kevin Porter Jr. got his first-ever triple-double Monday — but only because teammates made him come back and grab a rebound to get him there.

Porter finished with 11 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

Don’t look now, but the Rockets have won three straight after a 102-89 win over the Thunder.

Last night’s scores:

Philadelphia 101, Orlando 96
Denver 120, Miami 111
Chicago 133, Charlotte 119
Houston 102, Oklahoma City 89
Minnesota 100, Indiana 98
Cleveland 114, Dallas 96
San Antonio 116, Washington 99
Utah 129, Portland 107
New Orleans 123, LA Clippers 104

Anthony Davis ‘excited’ to be Lakers’ No.1 offensive option, LeBron pushing him to do it

0 Comments

Is Anthony Davis a No.1 offensive option on a championship team?

The Lakers made a massive bet in trading for Davis — both in good young players and picks — that he could help them win a title now and be the bridge to the future post-LeBron James. Davis was everything the Lakers hoped in the bubble and did win them banner No. 17. However, he has not stayed healthy or consistently played up to that standard.

New Lakers coach Darvin Ham is betting on Davis again and is going to run more of the offense through him this season. LeBron James reportedly backs Ham up. Can Davis stay healthy, find that form again and look like that bridge to the future? If he can’t, the Lakers have to reconsider their post-LeBron plans. That’s why there is pressure on Davis this season.

Davis is excited to prove he is ready for the role, he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. He added LeBron is pushing him to do it.

“I’m so excited that I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about this year,” Davis told Yahoo Sports this week. “I’m looking forward to a healthy year and doing what I know we can do.”…

Davis said James, 37, has been in his ear about taking over the reins of the team, while the rest of the roster would follow his lead.

The first step in Davis being that No.1 option: Staying healthy. He played 40 games last season and 36 the season before that. While some of that was due to fluke injuries, the history of Davis missing time is long.

When healthy, Davis is an unquestionably elite player — to use the bubble example, Davis was a defensive force in Orlando who knocked down midrange jumpers after facing up, averaging 27.7 points on a 66.5 true shooting percentage, plus grabbed 9.7 rebounds a game. That is the AD the Lakers need this season.

Which can be a lot of pressure, but Davis said he doesn’t feel that.

“But for me, I’m not putting any pressure on myself at all,” Davis said at media day. “I’m gonna go out there and play basketball, work hard, defend and do what the team needs to win basketball games. I’m not going to overthink and, you know, listen to what everybody else is saying and try to be this ‘whatever’ player they want me to be.”

“Whatever” the Lakers want Davis to be is the Top 10 player in the world he has shown for stretches in Los Angeles. If he can be consistent, that Davis helps the Lakers be more of a threat in the West. If Davis can’t be that guy, it could be another long season for Lakers nation.

 

Proud to be an American: 76ers’ Embiid officially becomes U.S. citizen

0 Comments

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Joel Embiid is an American citizen.

A native of Cameroon, Embiid said he was sworn in as a citizen two weeks ago in Philadelphia. The NBA scoring champion and Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center said his family – Embiid and his Brazilian girlfriend Anne de Paula have a young son – played a pivotal role in his decision.

“I’ve been here for a long time,” Embiid told The Associated Press Thursday at training camp at The Citadel. “My son is American. I felt like, I’m living here and it’s a blessing to be an American. So I said, why not?”

Embiid, who played college basketball for one season at Kansas, also has citizenship in France. He said it is way too early to think about which country he could potentially represent in international basketball.

The 28-year-old Embiid averaged a career-best 30.6 points in 68 games last season. The 7-footer also averaged 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists in helping Philadelphia reach the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight year. Embiid averaged 23.6 points and 10.7 rebounds in the postseason despite playing with hand and facial injuries.

Embiid had been announced as playing out of Kansas during pregame introductions at 76ers’ home games but switched around midseason last year as being introduced from Cameroon. He might try for a mouthful this season.

“We’re going to say Cameroon, American and French,” he said, laughing.

Tyler Herro says he’s better than players ‘that have gotten paid’

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat - Game Seven
Eric Espada/Getty Images
0 Comments

RJ Barrett signed a rookie contract extension for four years, $107 million fully guaranteed that could climb to $120 million with incentives. Several others out of the 2019 draft class — Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, Darius Garland — earned max contract extensions with their team.

Tyler Herro is still waiting on his extension with the Miami Heat.

And with that baked in Herro confidence, he said he is better than some players he has seen getting paid, he told Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

“I was active early in the summer,” he told the South Florida Sun Sentinel of the extension window that opened in July. “Then I realized it wasn’t going to get done, if it does get done, until later. So I just told my agent to call me when it’s ready. “So we haven’t really spoken much about the contract. Obviously, I tell him to call me when it’s ready. If it’s not ready, I continue to play my game and figure it out next summer…

“There’s players across the league that have gotten paid who I know I’m better than. So it’s got to be the right number,” he said, with the Heat continuing camp on makeshift courts at the [ Baha Mar resort in the Bahamas].

One reason an extension for Herro has not gotten done — and may not get done before the Oct. 18 deadline — is Herro is the Heat’s best trade asset to go after a big name. Once he signs an extension that is off the table, something Winderman and I have discussed in our weekly video/podcast on the Heat and NBA.

The other question on a Herro extension is what is the “right number?” Did the Knicks’ Barrett set the market with his extension?

Maybe Barrett is one of the players Herro “knows” he is better than, but that would not be the consensus of scouts and free agents around the league. Herro has hardware as the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, he puts up numbers averaging 20.7 points a game while shooting 39.9% from 3 last season, he can do some secondary play creation and has had big playoff games. He has real value.

However, as Winderman has pointed out, Herro has started just 33 games across three years, compared to Barrett’s 197 starts. More importantly, Herro’s defensive limitations limited how Eric Spoelstra could use him in the playoffs. Then there is the matter of load carried. Barrett was the No. 1 option for the Knicks last season (with Julius Randle falling off) and even with the signing of Jalen Brunson, Barrett is option No.1 or 1B for Tom Thibodeau. Herro is down the Heat pecking order behind Bam AdebayoJimmy Butler, and maybe Kyle Lowry depending on how he bounces back from a down year. The Heat don’t need Herro the way the Knicks need Barrett right now, which is one key reason Herro is available via trade.

Would Herro take a four-year, $105 extension? Would the Heat even offer it? If Miami is hoping for a trade at the deadline, it may wait on an offer and let the market set Herro’s price as a restricted free agent next summer. For Herro, that would give him a chance to prove he is a starter and that his defense has improved — that he is worth more than the Heat had been offering.

If the Heat and Herro agree on an extension, look for it to be in a couple of weeks, pushing up against that October deadline.

 

Lonzo Ball undergoes successful knee surgery, out ‘at least a few months’

0 Comments

Lonzo Ball underwent another arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Wednesday, and the doctors finally had some positive news.

They believe that they’ve “addressed the issue”, and there is “confidence” that he’ll be able to play this season. He’s still expected to miss “at least a few months”, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Charania added that both sides will monitor his progress over

After his first surgery in January, Ball’s knee didn’t respond well at all, and he was eventually ruled out for the season. During media day this week, Ball said that he couldn’t run or jump, so he couldn’t play basketball. Billy Donovan said that they had to think of Ball’s injury as potentially season-ending. So an update that says that he should play this season is considered good news at this point.

Chicago had a 22-13 record with Lonzo last season, but were just 24-23 without him. He averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.9 blocks, and 3.1 triples per game in his first year with the team.

They have other defenders like Ayo Dosunmu and Alex Caruso, but they don’t have anyone else that can both defend and facilitate the way Lonzo can. They’ll use training camp and the preseason to decide on a starting point guard between Dosunmu, Caruso, and Goran Dragic.

They’re one of the more talented teams in the East, but they may end up playing in the play-in tournament if they’re without Ball for the majority of the season.